Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Dayton native and Marion Center educator Don Seanor to have gymnasium named in his honor
By JOE RHOADES
The green and gold colors that represent Marion Center High School along with its unique “Stingers” mascot are likely the two identifiers most synonymous with the district and its athletic programs. Yet, some might contend that Don Seanor, a 55-year employee of Marion Center Area School District, could stake his own claim to even more notoriety than a set of colors and a moniker.
The former coach, physical education teacher and champion for several camps and revolutionary sports programs over his tenure, received word on Monday that he will receive an honor fitting of his contributions and accomplishments.
School board members met earlier in the week for a special session to hear a proposed petition to name the high school gymnasium after Seanor, something that had been gaining steam due to swelling support by residents. In what is assumed to have been an easy decision by the nine-member committee, the suggestion was granted. Seanor’s name will now be attached to a facility that housed the athletic efforts and accomplishments involving thousands of young men and women who achieved such due in large part because of its soon-to-be namesake.
The Dayton High School and Kent State University graduate first came to Marion Center in 1967 — and despite a brief attempt to enjoy the relaxing waters of retirement after 47 years of service — has not left since.
“I guess this is home,” Seanor said. “You learn sometimes that the grass isn’t always greener. I got so used to being around all the teachers and being around the kids — and that’s just something I loved. So I came back and it has been a real joy.”
“It is kind of amazing to think how long I’ve been at Marion Center. Of course things have changed physically. There wasn’t a middle school there or the administration building, but a lot of times I pull into the school and I can still remember the very first day I went to work. I was in a bad automobile accident, they had a job open for a PE teacher, so I took it,” Seanor said. “The funny thing is the gymnasium is pretty much the same. I mean we’ve changed a lot inside the building itself, but the outside doesn’t look all that different than it did when I was coming in from Dayton to play against Marion Center. I remember my last game and walking out of there after we beat Marion Center, mind you — but never in my dreams did I think I’d be back there, certainly not like I have been. But that’s how things work out — it’s funny like that sometimes.”
More recent generations recognize Seanor for his role as the William A. McCreery Middle School physical education teacher, or his current position as the assistant athletic director. Those who knew of him prior to that can recall the coach who led the boys’ basketball program to its best record in school history, and a force for the school’s athletic programs and student-athletes.
Seanor’s ahead-of-its-time thinking led to many programs, camps, and sporting implementations at Marion Center that are now commonplace throughout the country. Seanor insisted on creating a culture around athletics that emphasized inclusion. One key area where he focused his energy was in establishing an environment where resources were as accessible to female students as they were for their male counterparts. This forward thinking paid off greatly by the time his daughter, Allison Seanor, was a varsity athlete at Marion Center during the mid-1990s.
The younger Seanor carved out an interscholastic career that few could rival. She earned five medals at the state track & field meet, including three championships. On the hardwood, she posted 1,724 points and 1,115 rebounds en route to a 114-12 career record that included a 73-game win streak along with 163 straight conference contest wins in a time during the program’s history that could be considered the golden age of girls basketball in Stinger Land. Additionally, Allison Seanor contributed to district championship teams in volleyball and cross country before heading off to Harvard University where she played on the women’s basketball team. She was one of several female athletes who would go on to compete collegiately at large postsecondary institutions, including Mindy Young-Gagliardi.
The wide-reaching success of so many athletic programs on the girls’ side can be traced back to the humble start that was sought after by Seanor, yet his push for inclusion didn’t just stop at gender. Educating over 6,000 students during his career, he realized early on that not all of his students would take to sports or physical activity with the same zest he did during his own youth. As a result, Seanor’s classes and lessons were sometimes unconventional at the time and included coursework in horseshoes, bowling, and various dance types. Not to be forgotten, he implemented an obstacle course that drew the interest of almost anyone, as it offered tasks throughout for people of varying abilities and skill sets.
“I’ve known him for over 30 years now. It started when he was my teacher for health and physical education class. My mom was actually one of his students the first year he started at Marion Center — the connection goes back a ways,” current Marion Center varsity football coach Adam Rising said. “Even back then, you knew and could see how big of an advocate he was for his students to go out for sports, because he had his own experience and knew the benefits. He wanted you to see yourself be the best you could be. Mr. Seanor isn’t the kind of guy that is going to tell you those kind of things for his own benefit. He puts his heart and his soul into the kids. It doesn’t matter what extracurricular you’re in, he wants to see you do well.
I was fortunate enough to get hired right around the time he retired back in 2009. He moved to Florida and we would still stay in touch and talk on the phone. I’ll never forget the day he called me and said that he was thinking about coming back to Pennsylvania. I asked him if he was going to miss those 85 degree days in the winter and golfing, and he laughed. But it didn’t take long before he was back here as the assistant athletic director. Having him since then has been incredible. I’m still learning from him. He’s a fantastic mentor, teacher, and I’m just glad he’s here so that my kids, who are in school know who Mr. Seanor is.”
Often, Seanor was selected by the Marion Center student body to suffer the lighthearted consequences of charity events. These playful punishments ranged from having to shave his head multiple times, to having to kiss swine. Thousands of dollars were raised through these fundraisers, and never was he unwilling to endure these tasks on account of their philanthropic results.
“I always try to remember that things could be worse. I’m not perfect by any means. I’ve made my own fair share of mistakes and have bad days like anyone. But I’ve been very blessed and having the right attitude goes a long way in life. If I could help kids by shaving my head or kissing a pig, I did it,” Seanor said. “I don’t know, maybe everyone just liked having fun [at my expense], but I can make fun of myself — we all should be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes and remember that we’re not perfect — and if you can do something positive and help someone in the process, you do it.”
Notwithstanding the countless memories he cherishes and can categorically recount, some of the more painful moments remain fresh regardless of the fact that decades have elapsed since. One that stands out to the 78 year-old, who can remember it like it happened 43 days ago instead of 43 years, occurred during his time as Marion Center’s boys head basketball coach. During one of his five seasons at the helm, the Stingers fell to Girard High School in the PIAA Western Semifinals by the narrowest of margins, 78-77. He believes that Marion Center was destined for its first state title that year, and contends that they had the inside lane had they gotten past Girard. That elusive team state championship drought would go on to last until 2018. Fittingly, Seanor was front and center with carte blanche and a microphone in hand for “Stinger Cross Country Day,” which was held at the county courthouse in Indiana County. As the case has been for decades during alumni games and events of the such, he was given the opportunity to turn on his public address voice as he announced each athlete who helped secure the PIAA title to government employees and officials on hand.
Possessing the competitive nature you would expect from someone who has lived the life that he has, Seanor admits that digesting defeat has never come easy. Yet, he speaks of its importance when it comes to character, and how one responds to the shorter end of the stick. It is from these lessons that Seanor points out sports’ unmatched ability to teach lessons about life, off the field of play.
“Don Seanor taught me the difference between being an all-star and being a champion, and that has served me better than any lesson in life in business and success,” Jim Bothell, Marion Center’s all-time leading scorer and player under Seanor said upon his induction into the Indiana County Sports Hall-of-Fame. “An all-star is an individual but may never win a championship, and a champion may never become an all-star, but they can be very successful in life because they understand what a champion is.”
Having his name assigned to Marion Center’s gymnasium is far from the first high honor that the Armstrong County native has received over his decades of service to the community. He was named an All-American as a member of the Kent State basketball team, and was inducted into the Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame for his acumen on the court in 1982. Later, he received entry into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 for his coaching career and impact off of the hardwood to go along with numerous Coach of the Year awards from numerous publications and organizations.
The most recent homage paid to Donald Dean Seanor by the school he loves so dearly seems to hit differently for the Marion Center staple when speaking of what it means. His personal trophy case and laundry list of accomplishments could supply someone several lifetimes over. But like any good leader on the court or field of play, his goals were never based on personal success, and have always been team-oriented. His quiet hope and ambition to change a culture and curate a deeply-rooted standard as he evidently has makes this honor more than words applied to a wall or mounted to any structure. It is the awareness that his sincere intentions made a difference, and that will now carry on like the name on the building, for all of time.
“Sports can teach you an awful lot. I think for some people, that is hard to understand. Some people just have the idea that win or lose, it is no big deal. The sun will come up in the morning and that’s how things work — but athletes don’t think that way,” Seanor said. “To some, winning is important and the work and what you have to do to win becomes important. If you can learn to think that way in life and have that same kind of determination in a job, or raising a family, or anything else that’s important, then you’re winning at life. There’s a lot of people who wouldn’t be successful in life if not for sports — maybe I’m one of those people. The person who is taking more shots or putting in work in the weight room is usually the same person who is thinking that same way in the other important parts of life. It teaches you how to lose, which some people never learn how to do so gracefully. That’s how I taught and how I coached. If I was telling you something in class or on the court, I had more than just the sport in mind — I was thinking about how I could teach life lessons and try to show things that hopefully are with you when I’m not there telling you anymore.”
The district will host an official naming ceremony on May 21. Further information about the event will be released at a later date by organizers and school officials.