CARIBOU, Maine — Robert “Bob” White never played soccer while growing up in Massachusetts but went on to work more than 1,000 games during his career as an official, as well as teaching countless other arbiters the rules of the game as an interpreter and clinician.
For that effort White, a fixture on the Maine soccer scene for more than four decades, will be one of two officials inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) High School Hall of Fame this summer.
White and Truman Owens, a multisport official for 50 years from Clinton, S.C., who is still active in football at age 80, will be inducted during ceremonies scheduled for July 11 in Nashville, Tenn. They will be inducted into the 30th class of NFHS hall of fame members along with four high school coaches, one high school speech coach, a former NFHS executive director and four athletes — including ex-NBA players Kevin Johnson and Fred Hoiberg and former Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan.
“I’ve been to their conventions in Kansas City and seen the pictures of Jackie Robinson and John Wooden and Jack Nicklaus [all hall of fame members],” said White. “To have my picture up there with them, I’m humbled.”
White has been a founding member of the Northern Maine Board of Approved Soccer Officials for 45 years, serving as an active official for 31 years before retiring in 1997 — a career spanning more than 1,300 high school, college and summer league games, including 17 high school state championship contests.
A 33-year charter member of the Maine Association of Soccer Officials, White also was the state’s soccer rules interpreter for 28 years, which included annually traveling some 2,000 miles each August to conduct soccer rules interpretation clinics for all high school officials and coaches statewide.
He was named the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association Referee of the Year in 2002.
White will be the second Mainer to enter the National High School Hall of Fame when the organization’s induction ceremony is held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center as the closing event of the 93rd NFHS Summer Meeting.
Houlton native Peter Webb, a longtime basketball official and clinician and the current Maine basketball commissioner, was a 2006 inductee.
“That’s something pretty great for Aroostook County,” White said.
White, 77, is retired from a 35-year career in education that began at Patten Academy in 1956 after his graduation from Springfield (Mass.) College and included stops at Houlton High School, Bridgewater Classical Academy and, from 1965 to 1991, in the Limestone school system.
He now works at the Caribou Shop ’n’ Save.
White serves on numerous boards of directors in his community and beyond, and remains secretary-treasurer of the Aroostook League, which organizes most interscholastic sports in The County. He also served as the Class C wrestling state meet director for more than a decade and for two decades was president of the Caribou Little League — the local Little League field is named in his honor.
White was a 1997 inductee into the University of Presque Isle Sports Hall of Fame and a 2005 inductee into the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honors. He received the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award in 1998, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame Outstanding Achievement Award in 2005 and the 2011 Larry Labrie Award for his contributions to the Maine Principals’ Association Interscholastic Division.
White has been married for 47 years to Karen White, vice president and academic dean at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, and they have two children: Mark White, athletic administrator at Presque Isle High School, and Susan White, principal of Caribou Middle School.
The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, performing arts coaches and directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and activity programs. This year’s class increases the number in the Hall of Fame to 398.
This year’s 12 individuals were chosen after a two-level selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders.
Nominations were made through NFHS member associations.
Gardiner retires as Brunswick boys soccer coach
One of the state’s premier schoolboy soccer coaches, Brunswick’s Peter Gardner, has decided to retire after 39 years with the Dragons.
Gardner took over a Brunswick program with just a one-year history at the club level and led it to six state championships and 12 regional titles. The Dragons won state crowns in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1999, with additional regional championships in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2007 and 2009.
Another mark of Brunswick’s consistency under Gardner is the fact the Dragons have been ranked among the top five teams in its division for all but one season since 1983.
Gardner has coached 15 All-New England players, six All-Americans and seven Maine Gatorade players of the year during his tenure.
The soccer field at Brunswick High School is named in Gardner’s honor.