Roanoke College

Lacrosse alum and former coach honored

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  • Lacrosse alum and former coach honored

  • 05/09/11
  • Celebrating the rich tradition of Roanoke College Athletics, the Maroon family honored John Pirro '77 as the College's inaugural 'Walk of Inspiration' icon on Family Weekend. During a ceremony, Pirro was joined by family, former teammates and players, and members of the College community as a bronze bust of the former lacrosse star and coach was unveiled at the walkway from the Bast Center leading to Kerr Stadium. 

    Scott Allison '79, Roanoke's Athletics director and a former teammate of Pirro's, noted the significance of those few, special Roanoke Athletics icons who have inspired others by their example and selfless devotion to the ideals of intercollegiate athletics during their tenure at Roanoke College. 

    "We think of John as one of those truly special people who have inspired others to achieve new heights while bringing significant positive recognition to Roanoke College," Allison said.

    Pirro played lacrosse at Roanoke College from 1974-77.  During his career, Pirro earned first team All-American status on three separate occasions and earned the NCAA Division II-III Defenseman of the Year Award in both 1976 and 1977. After graduation, he played for the Long Island Lacrosse Club, where he was chosen first team All-USCLA.  In 1978, the Huntington, N.Y. native was elected to the Long Island Hall of Fame.

    Pirro returned to Roanoke College in the spring of 1979 as an assistant coach to legendary Roanoke Lacrosse Coach Paul Griffin. Pirro assumed the head coaching role in 1982. His 1983 team advanced to the NCAA Division III National Championship game. That same year, Pirro was selected as the NCAA Division III National Lacrosse Coach of the Year by the Hero's Lacrosse Association. Over his five-year tenure as Roanoke's head lacrosse coach, Pirro's teams never lost an Old Dominion Athletic Conference game. A year after his retirement from coaching at Roanoke in 198, Pirro was voted into the Roanoke College Athletic Hall of Fame.

    Pirro, 55, was diagnosed with Huntington's disease in his mid-40s. Huntington's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline. There is no cure for HD. Full-time care is required in the later stages of the disease, but there are emerging treatments to relieve some of its symptoms. Pirro resides in his hometown of Huntington, N.Y.  He lives with his sister Jo Ann while he receives daily care.

    The Walk of Inspiration - which features a bust of Pirro with his legendary ponytail - was an idea conceived out of love and deep admiration.

    Said Allison, "It is intended for lacrosse players in the spring- and other athletes - to walk by and be inspired by John, perhaps touch his head."

    The bust was created by Roanoke sculptor Betty Branch.