Marsha Graef, coach, administrator, and mentor, dies at age 61

In nearly 30 years at Bates College, Marsha Graef was head coach of volleyball and women's basketball, an assistant women's lacrosse coach and assistant athletic director.

LEWISTON, Maine — Professor Emerita of Physical Education Marsha A. Graef, a coach and administrator in the Bates College Department of Athletics for nearly 30 years, died on Nov. 16, 2015, at age 61, after a nearly three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Marsha joined Bates in September 1985 as an assistant professor of physical education, head coach of volleyball and women’s basketball, and assistant coach of women’s lacrosse. She retired in December 2013 as an assistant director of athletics for physical education, club sports, intramural sports, and recreation.

Marsha’s record as volleyball coach was extraordinary. Her teams won 416 matches — including 51 straight from late in the 1988 season to early in 1990 — and lost just 144. Her undefeated 1989 team (36–0) won one of the program’s two ECAC titles in an era when NESCAC teams could not participate in NCAA championships. Marsha received the 1990 National Coach of the Year Award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

In 1998, Marsha moved from coaching into the administrative position of Bates’ coordinator of physical education and club sports, in which she excelled at encouraging and supporting many student-athletes.  A certified strength coach, she was instrumental in the design and implementation of the Davis Fitness Center.

Marsha’s friends and family were awed by her unfailing courage and spirit after her diagnosis with cancer. She made numerous trips, for instance, both abroad and to her native Missouri to visit family. “She’s incredibly optimistic and positive — the quintessential ‘glass half-full’ person,” said Kevin McHugh, Bates athletic director, in her 2013 retirement video.

Marsha was inducted into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society in 2013, and was honored as much for her winning spirit as her winning record as a coach. Her citation noted that Marsha was “singularly focused” on helping Bates students, whether varsity, recreational, or in-between, have an “outstanding collegiate athletic experience.”

Survivors include her mother, Irene, and her brother, Stephen, and his significant other, David, all of St. Louis.

Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at East Auburn Baptist Church, with services to follow at 11 a.m.