To the Williams community,
I write to share the sad news that on Saturday, November 17, Williams lost a legend with the passing of retired longtime coach Renzie Lamb, whose coaching career at Williams spanned 36 years. In addition to serving as head coach of men’s lacrosse throughout most of his tenure, he was head coach of women’s squash for a decade and assistant football coach for 30 years. He retired in 2004.
More than a celebrated coach, Lamb was a mentor, a parent, a friend, and an inspiration to generations of Ephs. The bonds he formed with student-athletes and fellow coaches extended well beyond their time together at Williams. Lamb’s former students often came to him years—even decades—after graduation seeking advice, which he offered wholeheartedly and without hesitation. As was his nature, he wanted Ephs to be true to themselves not only in sports but also in life.
Lisa Melendy, director of athletics and assistant professor in physical education, recalls working as assistant women’s squash coach alongside Lamb during her first two years at Williams. They remained colleagues for nearly two decades. “I remember the invaluable guidance he gave me, a young coach struggling to define myself,” she says. “He told me: ‘You need to be your authentic self. If not, they will know it and it will never work.’ It was good advice from someone who was always just that: his authentic, loveable self.”
Lamb grew up on Long Island in New York and graduated from Hofstra University in 1959 having lettered in football and lacrosse. He served in the U.S. Marines, and later coached football at Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and lacrosse at Manhasset High School on Long Island before coming to Williams in June 1968 to serve as an assistant football coach and assistant professor of physical education. He became head coach of the men’s lacrosse program in the spring of 1969.
With his signature look—a whistle around his neck and an unlit cigar between his teeth—Lamb was often described as unconventional and spontaneous. “The word unique is often overused, but it’s the perfect way to describe Renz,” says Harry Sheehy ’75, who joined Williams’ athletics department in 1983 as the men’s basketball coach, and later served as athletics director from 2000 to 2010.
A team practice with Lamb might include a recitation of the Star-Spangled Banner, or, if things weren’t going well halfway into a freshman football game, he might direct the offense to play defense and vice versa. Somehow, he made it all work. “He taught [players] the value of hard work, sacrifice, loyalty and leadership,” says Dick Nesbitt ’74, senior advisor to the dean of admission and financial aid, who played lacrosse for Lamb all four years as a student and coached the sport with him from 1989 to 1999. Among the lessons, Nesbitt says, were: “To love the game, to care about each other. To compete, but always with an abiding sense of fair play. And to exhibit bravery in the face of adversity: It’s just a game, so why be nervous?”
Lamb guided the lacrosse team 22 times to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Tournament, winning five titles, and finishing second nine times. Williams also qualified for 12 straight ECAC tournaments from 1986 to 1997 and captured six Snively League titles. In addition, the Ephs won 19 outright Little Three titles (Williams, Amherst and Wesleyan) and won nine consecutive outright titles from 1989 to 1997. Thirty of his players earned All-America honors.
Lamb was inducted into four Halls of Fame, including the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IMLCA) Hall of Fame, the Manhasset Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and the Western Massachusetts Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He was the first person so honored to have coached solely in NCAA DIII. Lamb also received the Lifetime Service Award in 2002 from IMLCA.
Two Williams athletic fields were named after Lamb, including Farley-Lamb Field, where he shares billing with legendary coach Dick Farley. “Renzie was a drill instructor, but he was also a father figure and a mentor,” says Farley, who coached Williams’ football team until 2003 and track and field programs for 44 years. “Alums would come back to see him at the big football or lacrosse matches. There were so many of them that you’d practically have to get a ticket and stand in line to get a few minutes with him.”
Lamb’s wife, Teresa Harron-Lamb, is planning a memorial service for Friday, November 30, at 11 a.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel, with a reception to follow. The community is also invited to share stories and celebrate Renzie Lamb’s life that evening, at approximately 5 p.m., at The Log. In the meantime, people are invited to share their remembrances on Twitter using #rememberingrenzie.
Our thoughts are with Renzie Lamb’s family and friends and the many alumni whose lives he touched.
Maud S. Mandel
Professor of History; Program in Jewish Studies