Thomas O. "Tom" Meinhardt, a former teacher, coach and athletic director at Towson University, died of heart failure Feb. 17 at Heart Heritage Estates in Forest Hill. He was 84.
"Tom was a good person, a great administrator and very personable," said Carl Runk, who coached both the football and lacrosse teams at Towson, retiring in 1999.
"He was a true supporter of all Towson sports. He was so magnetic and really loved," said Margie Tversky, a former assistant athletic director who is now director of student services at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland, located in Bel Air.
"He was such a humble, gentle man who was so unassuming, warm and inviting," she said. "Even though he was older than me and had been at Towson for many years, he was not intimidating. I had such respect for him."
The son of Otto Frederick Meinhardt, a Railway Express worker, and Irene Elizabeth Meinhardt, a May Co. sales associate, Thomas Otto Meinhardt was born and raised in East Cleveland, Ohio.
He graduated in 1950 from Shaw High School, where he had played varsity basketball and tennis.
He obtained a bachelor's degree in 1954 in from Kent State University, and was voted the outstanding graduate from its School of Health and Physical Education.
After receiving a master's degree from Kent State and a doctorate from the University of Illinois, Dr. Meinhardt returned to Shaw High School, and was a coach and teacher there for a decade.
In 1964, he began coaching and directing the tennis team at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
When he came to what is now Towson University in 1970, he was the university's sixth athletic director, and held the position for nine years.
During his tenure, Dr. Meinhardt guided Towson's transition from an NCAA Division III school to Division II.
Other highlights included the Towson lacrosse team's victory in the College Division National Championship in 1974, and two years later, the football team contending for the Division III National Championship at the Stagg Bowl.
In a news release announcing Dr. Meinhardt's death, Towson University also noted: "Over two consecutive seasons in the late 1970s the men's basketball team compiled an impressive 53-7 record that included a final regular season No. 1 national ranking."
The years he served as athletic director also coincided with an expansion of the school's athletic facilities from Burdick Hall to the 24-acre complex now in use.
He was involved in the planning of the old Towson Center that could accommodate 5,000 spectators and opened in 1976. It closed in 2013 when it was replaced by the current SECU Arena.
Dr. Meinhardt also played a major role in the planning of Minnegan Stadium, now Johnny Unitas Stadium, which opened in 1978.
He began coaching the men's tennis team in 1977. In his first year of coaching the team, the Tigers won the Mason-Dixon Conference title, which was followed by 19 winning seasons as well as conference championships in three different leagues, four ECAS South Fall Invitational titles and seven league runner-up finishes.
Dr. Meinhardt's tennis team compiled a 24-2 record in 1988 that led to an East Coast Conference title. A decade later, his team won the American East crown and earned him the first of two Coach of the Year awards. He was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame in 2003.
In addition to his coaching, Dr. Meinhardt served as a member of the faculty and chair of the physical education department until his retirement in 1996. He continued coaching men's tennis until 2002. Over 26 years, the team compiled a 378-239 record.
"We all worked in a dual capacity," Mr. Runk recalled. "Because we were teaching and coaching we got to see both sides and became very close to the kids, which was a real attribute."
Dr. Meinhardt "was admired and held in high regard by his colleagues throughout his long tenure at Towson as well as within the coaching community of competing schools," said Ms. Tversky in an email.
"He was a fierce competitor who loved to win, but taught his players to be fair, honest and respectful of their teammates as well as their opponents. He always treated others with respect, and valued the contributions of each individual, making everyone he worked with — student or staff member — feel special," she wrote.
Ms. Tversky said Dr. Meinhardt advocated not only for his men's tennis team but also the women's team that worked on an adjacent court.
"He was ahead of his time in ensuring equitable treatment of both teams even though his charge was to develop a winning men's program," she wrote. "Often times coaches that have to share facilities and compete for resources are very territorial and self-centered."
It was a hallmark of Dr. Meinhardt that he was just as "inclusive, supportive and more than generous in dealing with the women's program," she said. After the men's tennis program was canceled by the university, Dr. Meinhardt became a regular spectator at the women's games, Ms. Tversky said.
The longtime Fallston resident enjoyed playing golf and tennis, and fishing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay.
Dr. Meinhardt was a member of Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, the former Judith "Judy" Simpson two sons, Timothy Meinhardt of Rockville and David Meinhardt of Phoenix, Baltimore County; a daughter, Melanie Kern of Washington, Pa.; two stepdaughters, Angela Youse of Parkville and Gina Kolb of Perry Hall; and eight grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Patricia Price ended in divorce.