Countless New Milford High School students from 1953 to 1987 knew Russell Devin as a dedicated, inspirational teacher. He also took those attributes and more and ran with them as coach of Green Wave track & field and cross country.
His remarkable won-lost records, litany of league and state titles and earned awards are legendary. Yet of greater importance, his tenure at NMHS proved a positive influence in the lives of many student-athletes who looked to him as a role model, as a motivator, and as a guiding force in their lives.
The tribute written about Russell Devin when he was inducted into New Milford High School’s Hall of Fame included this quote:
“He brought to the classroom and the athletic field a level of dedication of intensity, integrity and challenge surpassed by very few of his profession. Any student, whether in the classroom or on the athletic field, who was willing to meet his high level of expectation, was rewarded many times over. Average students became outstanding. Average athletes became champions.”
Russell Devin is widely regarded as the patriarch of New Milford High cross country and track & field, even for contemporary runners who annually challenge for and often win state laurels. New Milford has been known for more than a half-century as a running town, and that all goes back to Russell Devin.
His 16 seasons at the helm of Green Wave cross country produced a 131-11-1 record, state championships in 1959 and 1984, and 10 titles in the old Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League and Western Connecticut Conference.
His 28 seasons as head coach of Green Wave track & field resulted in at 168-40-1 dual-meet record, including seven undefeated seasons and 14 HVSL and WCC league titles.
NMHS’ first three state championships were coached by Russell Devin: 1959 boys’ indoor track, 1959 boys’ cross country and 1984 boys’ cross country.
The former Maine high school pole vault champion was honored in 1987 as national high school cross country Coach of the Year, and was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1986 and into the New Milford High School Hall of Fame in 2001.
Art Cummings, a 1965 NMHS graduate who had Russell Devin as a chemistry teacher and as a coach in both cross country and track & field, recalls the impact the legendary mentor had on so many student-athletes:
“As a coach, he used all sorts of motivational tools – hugs, stares, praise, criticism, high expectations, teaching by example – to get the most out of his athletes. The results were duly impressive.”
From the NMHS Class of 1962’s yearbook dedication to Russell Devin: “With this dedication we attempt to express in part, at least, this great appreciation, not only for the Class of ’62, but on behalf of the countless number of students who, during his many years at NMHS, have benefited from his experience, his expert instruction and sincere advice… the personal time devoted to aiding students and constant self-improvement stand as a monument to this member of that unique and noble breed, the true public servant.”