George C. McGinty, who was Towson University's first women's gymnastics coach and founder of the team, dies

George C. McGinty, Towson University’s first women’s gymnastics coach, who led the team to postseason competition and a national title, died Thursday at his Jarrettsville home from congestive heart failure. He was 85.

“As a coach, he knew the sport well, was very mechanical, and analyzed it to a great degree,” said Dick Filbert of Lutherville, who succeeded Mr. McGinty. “His gymnasts loved him, and he was just a good man.”

Candi Normile Klopp recalls being in the ninth grade at Ridgely Junior High School and seeing gymnastic equipment in the gym. After hearing an announcement the next morning about tryouts for the team, she went out and earned a spot on it for herself.

“And George was my coach,” said the Salisbury resident. “That was the beginning of the gymnastics program in Baltimore County.”

George Carroll McGinty, the son of H.S. McGinty, owner of McGinty’s Sports Shop, and Ruby Carroll McGinty, a homemaker, was born and raised in Chapel Hill, N.C.

After graduating in 1951 from Chapel Hill High School, Mr. McGinty began his college studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1955 in physical education.

Mr. McGinty taught briefly in Gastonia, N.C., before moving to Baltimore in 1956, joining the faculty of Carroll Manor Elementary School.

He later went to work in the physical education department at Ridgely-Dulaney Junior High School, where he developed through his students an interest in the sport of gymnastics, and in 1960, when Dulaney High School opened, he established the school’s first co-ed gymnastic team and subsequent teams that went undefeated from 1960 to 1966.

Mr. McGinty joined then-Towson State College in 1966 and founded the competitive gymnastics program. Under his leadership, the Towson team won the 1969 women’s national gymnastic championship, and through the years, two of his gymnasts, Candi Normile in 1979 and Wendy Foerster in 1981, were recognized as All-Americans.

“My senior year, George told me he he was leaving and going to what was then Towson State to start a women’s gymnastic team and said he wanted me to go there,” Ms. Klopp said. “I said OK and don’t even recall filling out an application. So, we became the original women’s gymnastic team.”

Mr. McGinty would drive his team in his station wagon to meets and along the way, wanted his team to visit historical sites or other places of interest.

“He was interested in making us better people rather than just winning meets. He was more interested in developing us into well-rounded young women and was a mentor to us. George was like a father figure to me and I trusted him,” she said.

“I remember him calling me into the office at Towson and telling me I was an All-American. I said, ‘What?’ and he replied, ‘You’re on the list,’ ” Ms. Klopp said. “Years later, I was inducted into the Towson Athletic Hall of Fame, and that was because of George McGinty.”

Mr. Filbert’s wife, the former Lynda MacDonald, was a member of the team in the mid-1970s.

“I was a phys ed major at Towson in 1971 and had been in his class, plus my wife competed with George’s teams,” Mr. Filbert said, “and my wife was the first woman to get an athletic scholarship to Towson.”

During his 14-year stint, Mr. McGinty and his Tigers team made five appearances in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’s post-season Championship Meet, winning the 1969 Division II national title.

He followed that with two fourth places, a sixth, and a 12th in subsequent AIAW appearances.

“To date, that title remains the only national championship for women in the history of Towson athletics, and was also the first national title for any Towson program,” according to a Towson University profile of Mr. McGinty.

“Over his career as Towson coach his teams compiled a 104-45 record as they paved the way for a program that has been recognized as one of the top 20 women’s gymnastics programs in NCAA Division 1. Despite Division II status, George’s teams regularly dispatched such opponents as Maryland, West Virginia, Penn State, North Carolina, Rutgers, Temple and U Mass,” reads the profile.

“George was the consummate teacher,” said his wife of 40 years and a Towson graduate, the former Vickie Boss. “He was organized but flexible; he held his students and gymnasts to high but reasonable expectations, and loved all aspects of coaching.”

“George was a soft-spoken man who looked into your eyes when he spoke to you. His athletes and gymnasts respected him, and he always had a smile on his face,” said Peter J. Schlear of Bel Air, former sports information director at Towson.

Mrs. McGinty played field hockey and lacrosse at Towson. “I came to run his meets because he found out my freshman year that there was a math major running around the athletic department. I got started then scoring meets for him,” she said.

In 1979, after leading Towson to a 20-3 record, Mr. McGinty was named Towson Coach of the Year, and in 1991, was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He was also named in 2018 to the Dulaney High School Hall of Fame.

After retiring in 1981, he moved with his wife and family to Chester, Vt., where he continued his gymnastic coaching at Northern Lights Gymnastics in Wilder, Vt., where he coached hundreds of competitive gymnasts.

In 2003, he returned and settled in Jarrettsville.

“When he came back, he came unto the workout room and told me he was incredibly appreciative for me keeping the program going, and that meant a lot to me because the program is his legacy,” said Mr. Filbert, who retired in 2010.

“He still came to meets and was so supportive and he appreciated that the program he created was still going strong,” he said.

“He took great pride in the program he built at Towson,” Mrs. McGinty said. “His greatest joy was to see his athletes grow into strong, capable caring women,” His wife said. “I think most of them would agree that he had a role in that.”

Mr. McGinty was an avid reader and history buff who maintained an interest in philosophy.

A Mass for Mr. McGinty will be offered at 11 a.m. April 1 at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church 2407 Laurel Brook Road, Fallston.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Kevin McGinty of Pylesville and Michael McGinty of Portland, Ore.; a daughter, Beth McGinty of Baltimore; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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