Lindquist leaves a legacy
Posted on: Jun 14, 2018
After 31 years teaching, coaching and managing activities of all kinds for Delano students, Mike Lindquist is retiring at the end of the month. (Lindquist is on the right in the photo here, along with fellow retirees Joe Schleper and Tom Berggren.)
Though the activities administrator has earned a break after countless “26-hour days” in the words of school board member Al Briesemeister, and though a capable replacement is in line to accept the baton, Lindquist made an enduring impression during his leg of the relay race heading up the district’s activities program.
“His dedication and devotion to this school district will not be forgotten, as he has established the standard for excellence in activities for generations of students to come,” said Superintendent Matt Schoen.
“People like Mike come around once in a generation,” said Briesemeister, who coached alongside Lindquist for decades during his own teaching career at Delano Public Schools. “As a coach, and as an art teacher, he was a rare person.”
Coming to Delano
Lindquist graduated from Esko High School, then earned his Bachelor’s Degree in education from Dickinson State University in North Dakota in 1983. When considering career paths he pursued his favorite subjects in school, art and physical education. His first job was in Lake Park, where he taught art and PE while coaching football, girls basketball and the swing choir, serving as the yearbook advisor and helping the drama department with set design and construction.
He became the casualty of a school merger in 1987, however, and found his next job as an art and PE teacher at Delano Middle School later that year. Before arriving he wasn’t sure Delano would be his last stop, but that soon changed.
“There was just an overwhelming welcoming feel in Delano,” Lindquist said. “It was just a really inclusive environment. I enjoyed the community of Delano, and the school district had a really good reputation for academics and the fine arts. Athletically it was part of the Wright County Conference, so it was very well established.”
Mentors like Greg Johnson, Jerry Litfin, Merrill Pavlovich, DHS Principal Ted May and DMS Principal Dick Rominski helped Lindquist develop professionally, and he stepped right into head coaching for track and field and soccer.
Lindquist continued his own education as well, earning his master’s degree from St. Mary’s University in 1995 and his administrative licensure from Hamline University in 2010. That same year he became the activities administrator for Delano Public Schools.
After five years as head coach of the boys soccer team Lindquist began organizing a girls team as well.
“He would call around and arrange games with referees who would do the games for free. He lined up other schools to meet so our girls could play against other kids,” said DHS Principal Steve Heil.
It was a process, but ultimately one that was successful.
“There was no girls soccer before. He built that program,” said Briesemeister, who succeeded Lindquist as head coach of the boys soccer team. “Mike was very creative and he was an innovator. The program thrived after he got that started and was the head coach. I was proud of Delano for giving Mike the opportunity to start a girls program, and proud of how well he did with it.”
Lindquist was named the Class A Girls Coach of the Year for track in 2000 by the Minnesota State Coaches Association, and was the section coach of the year for girls track in 2000 and girls soccer in 2001.
Other new programs instituted during Lindquist’s time heading up the activities department included hockey for girls, tennis for boys and lacrosse for both boys and girls.
“If you look at how athletics and activities have grown under Mike Lindquist, you can see that his approach was the same in the classroom or as an administrator. He’ll do anything,” said Heil. “He’ll do anything to benefit the kids and showcase their talents.”
Facility improvements were also a focus for Lindquist, both for athletics and the arts.
“There isn’t one field or athletic facility that does not have his indelible imprint on it. I can’t tell you how many times Mike has organized volunteers and fundraised to improve our facilities in so many different ways,” said Schoen.
Over the years Lindquist worked to improve the auditorium and to help develop the new Performing Arts Center as well. He acknowledged that retiring at the same time so many facilities improvements are occuring is difficult, “but I also feel excited for the person that’s coming in and the community members who can enjoy our facilities now,” he said.
While an activities administrator must keep a broad view of many moving pieces, colleagues said Lindquist never lost the focus on relationships that characterized his teaching and coaching days.
“Relationships are a huge part of his personality and he likes to see everyone working together for the success of any program,” said Tiger Activity Center Coordinator and tennis coach Kim Finn. “He wants everyone to have a memorable experience in whatever they try.”
After transitioning to an administrative role Lindquist said the thing he missed most was the direct contact with student athletes and the camaraderie of the coaching staff, but he also enjoyed the opportunity to work with all of Delano’s coaches and his colleagues from other schools around the region.
“When he became the activities administrator I thought he was the perfect fit, because most of the people in the conference already knew Mike, and he knew them,” said Briesemeister, adding that Lindquist always made a point to be an active member of associations and professional organizations for coaches.
Lindquist also thanked the high school office staff and particularly the two activities assistants he has worked with, Teresa Spurzem and Julie Strobl.
“They’re just such a foundational part of running the programs in the office and truly have their hearts in what’s best for our Delano programs. They go the extra mile,” said Lindquist. “Somebody in my position would have a really difficult time without teammates like that.”
Lindquist said one of the biggest changes he has observed over the years is the rise of youth sports associations and organized athletic leagues separate from the schools.
“We used to have 30-some kids in seventh-grade basketball, and most of those kids had never played organized basketball before,” he said. “In the ’90s and 2000s there started to be a lot of opportunities for kids to try those organized sports earlier instead of going home and getting together with the neighbor kids to play football or basketball or baseball.”
A benefit to that change is the opportunity to try many different activities, but Lindquist said some students can be reluctant to try an activity again if they don’t have a positive experience while young, and fatigue is a factor.
“Sometimes if kids end up selecting one sport to focus on too early they end up not doing anything later on,” he said. “We don’t have as many two- and three-sport athletes as when I started, so I really admire those kids who are three-sport athletes and the parents who promote that.”
Asked about career highlights, Lindquist said it has always been about relationships, both with students and with staff.
“The people here at the school, as professional colleagues and then as friends, that’s what really stands out,” he said.
In retirement Lindquist plans to spend more time with family, and to refresh some of his art skills that he has had little time to foster in recent years, particularly with welding projects. Extra free time might take some getting used to.
“Mike’s dedication is unprecedented,” said Finn. “He is often here before 6 a.m. and most times he is the one that turns the lights off in the evenings. Mike is in touch with everything that is happening on this campus. It is a big job, and he fills the shoes entirely. From Saturday dance competitions to Friday night games, Mike would be that one constant that everyone would see. Mike bleeds black and orange.”
Briesemeister said he would remember Lindquist’s ability to make those around him better.
“Anybody who did things with him learned a lot, and whatever they were doing was improved by doing it with Mike,” he said.
Heil said Lindquist’s selfless approach won’t soon be forgotten by those who benefitted from his efforts.
“Mike has spent a lot of years here and cares very deeply about Delano Public Schools and cares very deeply about the community of Delano. You can see that in his work,” he said. “Not only will Delano Public Schools notice he’s gone, but the community of Delano is going to notice he’s gone. It’s a pretty big legacy he’s going to leave.”
* Ryan Tool was hired as Delano’s new activities administrator earlier this year. Look for more information later this summer.