NEWBURYPORT — Bob Welch enjoyed a career at Newburyport High School that spanned more than three decades, and now a group of friends and former colleagues are working to ensure that his name and legacy will be remembered for years to come.
The Friends of Bob Welch Committee is raising money so that the weight room at Newburyport High School can be renamed in his honor. Carl Beal, the committee’s chairman, said naming the fitness center after Welch would be a fitting tribute to a man who transformed physical education in Newburyport.
“Bob is an unusual physical education teacher in that he didn’t just go with the traditional physical education,” Beal said. “In fact one of the first ones in the whole area to start doing untraditional physical education was Bob Welch.”
Welch came to Newburyport in 1959 after graduating from Boston University and spent his entire professional career working in the school system. During his tenure, he pioneered new programs like Project Adventure while introducing activities like ropes courses, climbing walls and even cross-country skiing and winter camping.
He took students out on mountain hikes and other nature activities, and emphasized “lifetime sports” such as tennis, golf, archery and other leisure activities that students could use to stay in shape as they got older.
Welch also served as citywide director of intramural sports, organized a Boys Leaders club, built one of the first outdoor hockey rinks in Newburyport, established the first tennis program at Newburyport High School and also served as coach of the tennis, football, baseball basketball teams, earning Coach of the Year recognition twice. He was named to the NHS Wall of Fame in 2003.
Beal said he and his group, which consists of former Newburyport football coaches, athletes, teachers and other friends of Welch’s, initially wanted to name the high school’s physical education office after him, but then decided to go with the weight room after discovering that the school didn’t have a specific physical education office.