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Robert ‘Ed’ Novak Sr., McDonogh School athletic director and respected coach, dies

Robert Edwin “Ed” Novak Sr. was a member of the McDonogh School's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Robert Edwin “Ed” Novak Sr. was a member of the McDonogh School's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Robert Edwin “Ed” Novak Sr., a retired Baltimore City College coach who was later McDonogh School’s athletic director, died of heart failure April 18 at the Glen Meadows Retirement Community in Glen Arm. The former Parkville resident was 94.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Fort Avenue in Locust Point, he was the son of Franklin J. Novak Sr., a master ship’s carpenter, and his wife, Pearl. He was a 1944 graduate of Baltimore City College, where he played football, and immediately enlisted in the Navy. He attended recruit training and Navy Schools in Bainbridge in Cecil County and was assigned to the Pacific Theater during World War II.

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Mr. Novak served in the Navy’s amphibious forces as an electrician mate first class onboard USS LST 582 and USS LST 72.

After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also played football. He was recalled to military service during the Korean War in 1951 and served aboard an armed landing craft.

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He met his future wife, Phyllis Jane Shipley, a Dundalk resident, on a blind date. They married in 1953 at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church.

Mr. Novak joined Baltimore City Schools and initially coached athletics and taught at the Robert Poole Junior High School in Hampden and at Clifton Park Junior High School in Northeast Baltimore.

He was then assigned to Baltimore City College, where he coached swimming, track and field, and soccer.

He also was an assistant football coach under George Young. Among his players were former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger.

“He had a huge impact on several generations of Young men,” said Mr. Schmoke, the president of the University of Baltimore. “I had the great pleasure of being coached by him and Mr. Young. Ed was a fine teacher, too. Some of his coaching graduates went on to play in the National Football League.”

During that time the City College Knights were 6-2 against their traditional rival, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. His teams won six Maryland Scholastic Association championships and were ranked eighth in the country.

In 1965 Mr. Novak was tapped to become the first athletic director at Northwestern High School, a pioneering racially integrated school. He coached football, soccer, swimming and lacrosse for the Wildcats, winning the MSA football title in 1973 and 1975.

Among the students he coached who went on to play in the NFL were Tom Gatewood, John Sykes and Ara Person.

The Northwestern High School gymnasium is named after Mr. Novak in recognition of “his pioneering service to the school.”

In 1978 he became athletic director at McDonogh School in Owings Mills.

“Ed brought humility and dignity to McDonogh,” said William Mules, the school’s retired headmaster. “He was always proud of his roots in Locust Point when he came out here. He didn’t put on any airs and he added to the flavor of McDonogh."

Mr. Novak served at McDonogh for 13 years and was named an honorary alumnus. He was also inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

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Mr. Novak was named the Maryland State Athletic Director of the Year in 1989 and is an inductee into the Maryland State Athletic Directors Hall of Fame.

During his summers Mr. Novak managing the Hampton Pool on Hampton Lane in Towson. He coached and taught swimming for 21 years.

In 1961 he was one of the founders of the Free State Swim League and was recognized by the American Red Cross for his 30 years and 4,500 hours of volunteerism.

Mr. Novak spent decades in school athletics and sports administration. In 1948, he founded and coached an early youth soccer league in Baltimore.

Mr. Novak received the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame Service to Football Award in 1993 and the Baltimore Touchdown Club Service to Football Award in 1999.

He was a high school and college swimming and diving and track and field official for more than 40 years, and served as past president and commissioner of the Maryland Officials Club.

“My father loved the Navy, the Naval Academy and being in service to his country,” said his son.

Mr. Novak was a lifetime member of the Parkville American Legion Post 174 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9083. Mr. Novak and his wife were active in post activities.

He and his wife also planned and ran the USS LST 582, his World War II ship reunions for 25 years at various locations across the country. They volunteered at the Baltimore City Veterans Administration Hospital at Loch Raven for many years.

Survivors include his wife of 66 years, a homemaker who became a comptometer operator; a daughter, Deborah “Debbie” Glasgow of Glen Arm; and two sons, Robert E. Novak Jr. of Annapolis and Kevin B. Novak of Venice, Florida; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service and life celebration are planned for the summer.

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