COLCHESTER, Vt. - Long-time Saint Michael's College Athletics administrator Zaf Bludevich is set to retire from his positions as the senior associate director of athletics and head athletic trainer on June 30, Director of Athletics Geri Knortz announced on Thursday. Bludevich has served the institution for 39 years in a multitude of capacities.
"I was hired in 1975 as the fourth full-time member of the Athletics staff, and I have been really fortunate to witness the growth and evolution of Athletics here," said Bludevich. "Early on, I was fortunate to meet some amazing people who touched my life and made a lasting impression. I also had great fortune to meet some amazing students, then and now, and that's really what I'm most proud of. I love watching them come in as first-years, see them develop and grow into seniors, graduate, and come back years later, and see them be successful in life. For me, it was always about the students."
Bludevich has been the department's senior associate director of athletics since 2004, and returned to a role as the head athletic trainer in 2013-14 after previously occupying that position between 1975 and 2003. Upon his hire for the 1975-76 school year, Bludevich became the College's first full-time head athletic trainer. Since then, he has also served as the associate director of athletics, summer camp director and intramural director at various times, and coached several sports.
"Zaf is one of the most compassionate individuals you will ever meet," said Knortz. "No matter what role he was in, he would bend over backwards to help those in need. He is well revered by students and staff alike."
During his tenure, Bludevich coached one of the College's first field hockey teams, in 1975, and coached the men's (1980-83, 1990-97) and women's (1980-87) cross country squads. In 1985 and 1986, his women's squad won Mideast Collegiate Conference Championship titles. Bludevich was a coach of the men's swimming & diving team during its first four seasons of existence (1975-76 to 1978-79). He was an assistant coach from 1976 to 1978 for club football, headed the club track & field program from 1977-78 to 1981-82, and assisted Lou DiMasi's men's lacrosse team in 1990.
Bludevich has witnessed an exponential growth of athletics at Saint Michael's, arriving when the College offered only 10 sports, and just three for women. The institution now has 21 varsity teams, including 11 for women. After arriving just seven years after the retirement and passing of George "Doc" Jacobs, the Father of Modern Athletics at Saint Michael's, Bludevich joined the staff prior to the passing of Title IX; before Saint Michael's had ice hockey but still fielded a club football team; and before Camp Johnson-owned land was home of the baseball, softball and field sports teams.
"I can honestly say that I leave Saint Michael's a better man than when I first got here, and that's because of the students, the faculty and the staff," said Bludevich. "For me, Saint Michael's was not a job; it was a way of life."
Bludevich has given selflessly to the College in an infinite number of capacities, positively affecting innumerable lives thanks as much to his professional skills as his desire to give athletic opportunities to as many students as possible. Bludevich is also widely known for "Zafisms", his love of punny jokes.
"Thank you to Zaf for 39 wonderful years and for leaving Saint Michael's with such a legacy of compassion, caring and, yes, a lot of bad jokes," said Knortz. "Zaf epitomizes the saying, 'people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.'"
Bludevich was honored by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) for his three decades as an athletic trainer by earning the 2009 Dr. Donald Grover Memorial Award. A 1993 Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Bludevich has served on numerous committees and received several awards for his tireless efforts and dedication to Purple Knights Athletics. He has been treasurer and secretary of the Vermont Association of Athletic Trainers, and been a member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules and Women's Championship committees and ECAC Cross Country and Track Committee.
A 1974 graduate of Norwich University, and a 2004 Norwich Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Bludevich received his bachelor's degree in physical education before earning his master's in education/athletic training from Norwich in 1975. In 1991, he received a degree in physical therapy from the University of Vermont.
Bludevich's departure will trigger changes in three Department of Athletics employees' titles: Associate Director of Athletics Chris Kenny '86, a College employee since 1987, assumes the role of senior associate director of athletics; Assistant Director of Athletics Meggan Dulude '07 is being elevated to associate director of athletics while also remaining the senior woman administrator; and Associate Head Athletic Trainer Renee Breault will become the head athletic trainer.