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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Legendary URI coach Tootell’s granddaughter plays for women’s basketball team

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 11, 2005 -- University of Rhode Island student - athlete Justine Boisvert trains hard to excel, but athletic excellence can also be found in her family tree. Justine is the granddaughter of Fred Tootell, legendary coach and athletic director here at URI.

“Growing up, I knew that my grandfather was the athletic director here and that he coached track and won a gold medal in the Olympics,” said Justine, a sophomore member of the Rhody women’s basketball team. “I never met my grandfather, so he is kind of like a stranger to me. I do feel a connection though, because I am proud to be related to him and there is a building named after him (the Tootell Physical Education Center).”

Besides being a gold medal Olympian, track coach and athletic director, Tootell was also a friend to his students. “My father was very respected by the students as well as the faculty,” said Karen Boisvert, Justine’s mother. “When he came to Kingston after the Olympics, he was really the first physical education teacher on campus.”

It has become somewhat of a family tradition to attend URI. Justine’s mother, Karen, her aunt and her sister Stephanie are all URI graduates. Stephanie was also very involved in athletics, as a member of the soccer team. “Stephanie was a very good athlete and we went around and looked at 22 schools,” said Karen. “A number of schools were really interested in her. She went to visit URI and fell in love with it. She even got offers to go to other schools, but she just really loved URI.”

“Justine didn’t want to go far from home,” said Karen. “She had schools interested in her, but she was focusing on URI.”

She chose URI because it enables her to stay close to home and play basketball. Justine is majoring in physical education. “I wanted to stay with sports and I like helping young children,” said Justine. “I love kids.”

The Ponaganset High School graduate averaged 26 minutes per game in the 2004-05 URI season, averaging 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds. The URI women’s basketball media guide says her favorite sports memory is winning the state high school championship.

At Ponaganset, Justine also played soccer and competed in track.

“My grandfather was one of the first here to build athletics,” said the Glocester resident. This wasn’t surprising, especially considering his impressive list of athletic accomplishments. In 1922 he was voted the All New England tackle in football from Bowdoin College and was also voted All New England. The following year, he set the American and world record in the hammer throw, and won the gold medal at the Olympics in Paris.

Tootell began working at URI in 1925, when Frank Keaney hired him to become part of the best two-man coaching staff in the nation. Not only did the two of them coach and train the athletes, they also tutored them as well. Tootell spoke five languages and he and Keaney use to yell to each other in Greek from across the fields.

Tootell retired from URI in 1964 after 39 years as a professor of physical education and nine years as athletic director and chairman of the Department of Physical Education because of illness. He died on his last day of teaching.

The hard work paid off in the life of Fred Tootell, and the same work ethic seems to have been passed down through the generations. Now, Justine Boisvert continues the tradition her grandfather started so long ago.


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Justine Boisvert, of Glocester, poses in front of the Tootell Physical Education Center, which is named after her grandfather Fred Tootell. URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography