Clifford J. Gillespie Jr.
1932 - 2021
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Lifelong Educator and Coach, 88, died peacefully at home on Sunday, February 21, 2021, surrounded by his loving family and caregivers after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
Born in Revere, Massachusetts on December 7, 1932, to Clifford J. Gillespie, Sr. and Viola (Sylvester) Gillespie, he was the second of five children. He graduated from Weymouth High School in 1950 where he was a star right guard in football and won Division I State Championships with his team. The first of his family to attend college, he went to Tufts University where he was co-captain of the freshman football team before enlisting in the Air Force in 1951. He completed jet school in Las Vegas and was the youngest to achieve the rank of staff sergeant.
Under the G.I. bill, he enrolled at the University of New Hampshire and majored in chemistry, graduating cum laude in 1959, and completed his master's degree in science teaching in 1964. While at UNH, he played varsity football, and also two years of semi-pro football, before being introduced to the game of lacrosse by the legendary coach, A. Barr "Whoops"' Snively. Whoops was his greatest mentor and role model and instilled in Cliff a true love of the game. Cliff received honorable mention for the All-American Intercollegiate Lacrosse Team while playing at UNH.
In1959, Cliff moved to Proctor Academy in Andover, NH, with his new bride, Alina, where he taught math and science, coached, and was dormitory head. He led the varsity football and junior varsity hockey teams at the school before starting the lacrosse program, at first scrounging for sticks, helmets and other equipment, before the sport became officially recognized there. Following his five years at Proctor, he joined the faculty at St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, with his young family, where he served as a science teacher, then Chair of the Science Department, later Dean of Students, and ultimately Interim Headmaster before retiring from the school.
During his tenure at SPS, Cliff gained a reputation as a dedicated and disciplined teacher and mentor. He was instrumental in launching a new science curriculum at the school, helping to integrate computers into the classroom, and designing the Lindsay Center for Math and Science on campus. He also taught organic chemistry as part of the Advanced Studies Program for high school students during summers. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics from the National Science Foundation as well as the Certificate of Excellence from the Whitehouse Commission of Presidential Scholars for his teaching and contribution to the field of education. While on sabbatical, Cliff and Alina enjoyed travel to several European countries including Austria, England, Greece, Poland, and Switzerland. They also toured Asia extensively while representing St. Paul's when he was headmaster.
In 1973, Cliff assumed the reins of the SPS lacrosse team and crafted his unique brand of coaching, which led to five consecutive league championships. He inspired his team to three straight undefeated seasons in 1980-1982 with a string of forty consecutive wins. He was known for his strict conditioning regimen including running "The Loop," which many will remember, and for his philosophy of lacrosse as a way of life—requiring character, teamwork, loyalty, and desire—which he instilled in his players. Among other honors, he was named the Independent School League's Coach of the Year four times; voted the Independent School Lacrosse Association's Man of the Year in 1993; and, in 1994, became the first ever recipient of the Carroll Jr. Exemplary Coach of Year Award from the US Lacrosse Association. Later, he was inducted into the New England Hall of Fame for lacrosse where there is a bronze statue bearing his name. Affectionately nicknamed "The Rock," Cliff had a commanding presence but compassionate core and always led by example, never expecting more from his players than he asked of himself.
In addition to his vocational passions, Cliff embraced other activities beyond the classroom and sports fields, earning a second-degree black belt in karate; restoring antiques bought with family at auctions throughout New Hampshire; studying ceramics under the renowned potter, Peter Sabin, of Warner; and crafting stone walls at their Dunbarton cape house. During retirement, Cliff and Alina joined St. John's Episcopal Church in Dunbarton serving in the vestry under the Reverend Kelly Clark, former headmaster at St. Paul's School. Cliff was also a member of the Board of Trustees of The Governor's Academy in Byfield, MA for 10 years, served on the Board of Directors of NH Child and Family Services for 3 years, and was a Dunbarton town representative on the School Superintendent search committee.
Throughout his life, Cliff believed in striving for excellence; giving freely and willingly of one's time to others; playing tough but with fairness and compassion; and remaining true to oneself. His pursuits were inextricably tied to his students both in and outside of the classroom. For him, working hard was its own reward. In all of his endeavors, he was supported and encouraged by Alina, who embodied similar values. Cliff's role, put simply, was that of a catalyst in the growth and development of adolescents. He was wholly committed to the life of the School and those associated with it. His reach extends well beyond the limits of the campus to those around the globe whose lives he has touched, and by whom he was touched in return. The family expresses its heartfelt thanks for the continuing support, outreach, and love from his former students, players, parents, and friends throughout the years and through his illness.
In honor of his life-long commitment to education, the Clifford J. Gillespie Medal was established by trustees at St. Paul's in 1997 in recognition of Cliff's 33 years of dedicated service to the School as teacher, coach, and Interim Rector. It is awarded each year to the student who best embodies the qualities that characterized his career: honesty, integrity, and an eagerness to undertake the tasks, great and small, that make the School a better place. The Anderson-Gillespie Lacrosse Trophy was also established at Governor's Academy in 1991 by Peter Bragdon, then headmaster and a long-time friend, to honor Cliff's coaching success and his personal devotion to the game of lacrosse. For Cliff, his most prized possession was his iconic red Ford pickup truck presented to him by the SPS Board of Trustees upon his retirement.
He leaves his beloved wife, Alina, of 63 years, of Rumford, Rhode Island; his cherished daughters: Dede Moubayed, her husband, Peter, and their son and Cliff's treasured grandson, Zander, of Rumford, Rhode Island, and Susie Gillespie, of Providence, Rhode Island; his brother, Robert Gillespie, and his wife, Debbie Wheeler, of Northfield, New Hampshire; his sister-in-law, Donna Gillespie, of Mount Dora, Florida; his brother-in-law, Malcolm Wiley, of Biddeford, Maine; and his many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his eldest brother, Wesley Gillespie, and his wife, Edna; his brother, John Gillespie; his sister, Wilma Wiley; and his dear friend, Bruce Van Ness.
A memorial service will be held at a later date with notification to follow.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 245 Waterman Street, Providence, RI 02906. Condolences may be left on the Monahan Drabble and Sherman Funeral Home website at

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Published in The Providence Journal on Mar. 7, 2021.
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Memories & Condolences
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4 entries
March 13, 2021

I was a young woman when I began my SPS employment as the science laboratory technician in 1979. Cliff Gillespie was my supervisor and Denny Doucette was the Head of the Science Department then. Both Cliff and Denny treated me as an equal member of the Science Department and like family. This is something I will always treasure! In my 20 years of employment there, I only witnessed this same treatment to the staff members who worked in the Rectory when Alina and Cliff lived there during his time as Interim Rector. I attended Scudder dinners, after dinner parties, a winter retreat to design a new curriculum, had an equal voice at the table and was included in Harvard site visits as well as years of meetings to design Payson's renovation and addition.
Cliff was my boss, mentor, life coach, office mate as well as a supportive, caring, compassionate and trusted friend who lived the life he taught. He forever shaped my work ethic.
Alina was Cliff's ROCK. Her generous sharing of her time with Cliff to others enabled him to live the life he was passionate about; generously giving his time and mentoring thousands of students. His life mission was to mentor others and give back which he did daily.
Cliff was fair, just and consistent in his decisions and discipline. He had an open and honest style of communication. As a new hire, Cliff wanted me to have the same chemistry foundation as the science students. He assigned me chemistry courses and he selected some male students to be my lab partner. Imagine the horror for those boys! Of course, they knew they were expected to treat me with respect. I attended classes, did lab experiments, turned in assignments, took tests, and was graded with the same high standard as his other students.
Cliff appreciated everyone who did their best no matter what their job was. He raised the bar and challenged others to constantly improve and give their best. His praise carried you through tough times even if you were a stranger to him. Cliff and Alina attended my wedding. After the meal, Cliff went into the kitchen to thank the chef for a delicious meal. Thanking the chef and kitchen staff was a Rectory tradition, but it was an unexpected pleasure for this restaurant chef. Little did Cliff know how much his words bolstered the chef. Earlier that week, the chef has come home to learn his wife left him and took their children. The chef wanted to prepare our wedding meal to keep his mind and hands busy. Cliff's praises gave him and us a sense of pride and accomplishment when we met his high standards. Cliff believed excellence was the only solution.
Cliff was humble, modest and viewed himself as a laborer in the vineyard. Anyone who knew Cliff knew of his elevated level of integrity and discipline. I was blessed to also witness how much he loved life, how fun he was, his wonderful sense of humor and impeccable timing.
You will be greatly missed by many, Cliff. Your memory will be with me all my days. May God bless your beautiful and supportive family. Nancy Hostetler
Nancy Hostetler
March 11, 2021
Alina & The Gillespie family - so sorry to read about Cliff ("The Rock" as we used to call him with great respect). He was such a nice guy, hard worker, well respected, personable, and competitive while playing and coaching, as well as, just playing sports "for fun" with us when we worked together so early in our careers. In addition to my personal experiences with Cliff, I know from my friends who attended SPS during those years, what a mentor he was to so many. Just as Alina was in her career to many as well (I can say that first hand). It's been many years since we all spent a lot of time together, but those years still come with great memories. And I'm sure those great family memories will live on with you all, for generations to come. Just wanted to reach out and send my condolences to you. and family. All my best! Bob Nerbonne
Robert Nerbonne
March 8, 2021
I’m not sure where to startthe “Rock’s” beautiful obituary, as detailed and accurate as it is, still does not come close to capturing what he gave to the thousands of students he taught in the classroom and coached on the field. I was but one of those thousands and am deeply saddened by his loss. Many of us remained in touch with Cliff well after our time with him in the field and the classroom. He clearly created unbelievable talent that produced all-American lacrosse players, scientists, military leaders, lawyers and others who have gone on and done great things. For those of us more “average folks” he instilled in us life-long commitments to work hard, pay attention to details, be fair and a host of other characteristics that went years past our time in the classroom or on the lacrosse field with him. To follow the chain of emails since his passing one can see clear evidence that the Rock’s impact on folks lives, his lessons on integrity, leadership and teamwork were deeply felt and are being passed on to the next generationhis legacy will impact for many many generations to come.
For those who don’t know, understand that he was tough. While other New England Schools began their lacrosse practices in March inside because of snow, we did not. We wore green “packs” (heavy rubber winter boots) and practiced in the snow- all 2 plus feet of it one year. And yes we were even required to run the “loop” in the snow in our boots, a course mostly through the woods around the entire circumference of all the playing fields at SPS. And if you thought you might try and run in the tracks of others before you because it was easier- forget that- he’d be right out there running with you telling you to blaze a new trail. Exhausted, he would then pass the ball to you and expect a quick pass back, and all of this before practice even started. He was right though. He’d let us put our cleats on for the first game of the season and we did feel like we could fly.
Oh, and life was no easier in the classroom. He demanded precise calculations, measurements and recording in the science laband yes, he did not give full credit unless your penmanship was sharp, exact and tight to the lines on the graph paper. You have no idea how these lessons have helped so many lives in the years he taught. Most of us had no idea of the importance until many years later.
There are hundreds of “Rock” stories, some funny, some serious, all important.
My heart goes out to Alina and the entire family. Thank you Cliff.
Chris Pope
March 7, 2021
I knew Cliff as a coaching icon, and I "borrowed" his zone defense at St. Paul's for my own lacrosse teams at Providence Country Day and later at Pomfret School. The most respected voice at New England lacrosse coaches meetings. His son-in-law Pete Moubayed played for me and later coached with me at PCD.
Rod Eaton
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