BANGOR, Maine — John Winkin spent a little more than a decade coaching baseball at Husson University. That is less than half the time he spent coaching from 1954 to 1973 at Colby College in Waterville or the University of Maine, where he spent 23 years.
The former coach was honored Saturday as if he’d spent his entire career at Husson and Winkin, now 90, acted as if he was coming home.
The baseball coaching legend and Sue Ann Allen, who played basketball at Husson from 1994 to 1997, were inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame at an alumni association dinner Saturday night. The event was part of the university’s homecoming activities.
Winkin suffered a stroke in December 2008. He is paralyzed on his right side and used a wheelchair Saturday. He sometimes struggled to get his words out, but his love for the institution and his joy at being honored filled the G. Peirce Webber Campus Center.
“I really enjoyed working at Husson,” he said. “What a great place. What great human beings I encountered here. You people saved my life when I was really in trouble. It couldn’t have been a better fit.”
Winkin was named a Husson Fellow for Sports Leadership in 1996 after the University of Maine did not renew his contract. He became head baseball coach at Husson in 2003. Winkin sold a camp he’d had for many years and donated the money to Husson to build the school’s baseball facility that is named for him.
Former students, alumni, staff and faculty surrounded Winkin at the reception before the dinner. He reached out to each of them, clasping one of their hands or arms with his good left hand. He recognized them all and greeted each with the same enthusiasm and hearty, “Hey, how’re ya?”
Paul Dostie, 29, of Sabattus was one of the alumni who came to honor his former coach.
“He’s very special to me,” Dostie said after the dinner. “He recruited me to play for Husson when I was in high school. He’s someone I’ll always look up to.”
A graduate of Cony High School in Augusta, Dostie now works for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. He earned his undergraduate degree in business in 2003 and his Master’s in Business Degree in June from Husson.
Dostie said Winkin influenced him on and off the field by helping him mature as an individual.
“He saw what I was capable of and what tools I had,” the former pitcher said. “I was able to develop those skills because he helped me recognize them. I would not have been able to do that if I had not had the opportunity to have him as a coach.”
Dostie said that since graduating from Husson in 2003, he has played baseball in Portland but took off this past summer.
“Coming here and seeing coach made me realize how much I’ve missed it,” he said. “I really want to play again.”
Allen, 34, of Corinth served as team captain in her senior year and made the Dean’s List every semester. Now, a stay-at-home mother of five children, she was the oldest of eight and the first in her family to go to college when she came to Husson from Central High School in Corinth.
“Husson prepared me for life,” she said Saturday. “The college helped me believe in myself.”
Allen also thanked her young children, who attend the event with her husband, John Allen, for “not fighting” during dinner.
She graduated in 1997 with a degree in education and is home schooling her three eldest children.