Ron Stolski ’62

2012 Distinguished Citizen Award

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Every August, thousands of boys around the country report for high school football pre-season. Every August, at Brainerd High School in northern Minnesota, head football coach Ron Stolski ’62 gathers his athletes and starts the season with two questions: What will you settle for, and how will you be remembered?

Those questions guide the team through each season, and that philosophy has helped Ron build an exceptional legacy in Minnesota high school athletics. Last fall marked his 50th year as a head coach, including 37 at Brainerd. Ron has more wins than any other coach in state history, with 337. In 2005, he received the most prestigious high school football coaching honor in the country: the American Football Coaches Association’s Power of Influence Award. He serves as executive director of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and is past president of that association, as well as past president of the Minnesota Athletic Directors Association. He speaks frequently at conferences and seminars around the country. He is in six Hall of Fames, including Macalester’s.

But despite all of the honors, achievements, and victories on the field, Ron’s success is rooted in a foundation that extends beyond the end zones. Early in his career, he began to hone in on the value of creating and maintaining an environment that people want to be part of—the focus of many of his speaking engagements now. “I developed that philosophy in the neighborhoods of north Minneapolis and at Macalester, where we learned to need one another and care for one another,” says the former English teacher, who was a quarterback and captain of Macalester’s team when he was a student. “The unique experience of a team is that, for a brief moment in our lives, together we become one heartbeat.”

For Ron and his staff, passing those lessons on to the students they coach is just as important as a team’s win-loss record at the end of the season. “We’ve been able to instill in our kids that we can all settle for our very, very best effort,” Ron says.