Alex LaBella has earned a reputation for leaving everything he has on the field. An exceptional three-sport athlete, he shined for the Huntington High School boys’ lacrosse team in his final campaign in a blue and white uniform.
Mr. LaBella proved his value time after time for the Blue Devils. He was a superb, multi-position football player, a great sprinter and relay team member with the indoor track and field squad and an aggressive lacrosse player, where he especially shined on defense.
While he plans to play football at Hobart College, where he has already begun classes and gridiron practices, Mr. LaBella’s feisty style of play will never be forgotten by his Huntington lacrosse teammates and coaches.
The recipient of an assortment of honors over the years, Mr. LaBella was named the winner of the 2018 Donald A. Loughlin Founder’s Award. It is presented to the senior “who exemplifies the traditions of Huntington lacrosse,” in honor of the man who started the Blue Devil program 63 years ago.
The award was formally presented to Mr. LaBella during the 50th annual Blue Devil senior athletic awards banquet in Louis D. Giani Gymnasium before a crowd of more than 200. The teenager was given an attractive certificate and a $200 award stipend.
Blue Devil head coach Julian Watts paid tribute to Mr. LaBella’s talents both on and off the field. He developed many close relationships with his teammates and coaches and is well-liked by all of them.
“Mr. Loughlin wanted to sponsor this award because of the many opportunities that Huntington gave him as a teacher, assistant principal and lacrosse coach,” Mr. Watts said. “Past Blue Devil lacrosse teams helped establish a tradition of excellence and Mr. Loughlin was so proud of these accomplishments and wanted to recognize present players in our program.”
Mr. Loughlin left Huntington in 1968 to become the founding principal of Rush-Henrietta’s Sperry High School in suburban Rochester. He returned to Huntington High School on Homecoming Day in 2009 to participate in the Class of 1959’s 50th reunion weekend. He served as the class faculty advisor 56 years ago. He passed away on March 18, 2018.
Mr. Loughlin donated $4,100 to the district ten years ago to establish the Donald A. Loughlin Founders Award. “I am very grateful to have had opportunities as a teacher, administrator and lacrosse coach in the Huntington School District,” Mr. Loughlin wrote in a letter to the district which outlined his financial contribution and the parameters of the new award. An attractive plaque and monetary stipend accompany the award.
Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Donald A. Loughlin began his Huntington teaching career on September 3, 1952. His path to the district was a winding one. A 1941 junior high “graduate” of Belmont Boulevard School in Elmont and a 1944 graduate of Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, Mr. Loughlin worked his first “free” summer for Bell Labs in New York City as a messenger before finding himself embroiled in World War II in September of that year, serving in the U.S. Navy and rising to the rank of 3rd class fire controlman in the South Pacific theater.
The future Blue Devil lax founder served two years in the Navy, participating in the liberation of the Philippines along with the bloody invasion of Okinawa. Once discharged, Mr. Loughlin enrolled at Adelphi University, became active in the student government and joined the lacrosse team, a squad he eventually captained. He was also president of the Adelphi Athletic Association.
First Business, Then Teaching
After graduating from Adelphi with a Bachelor of Science degree, Mr. Loughlin worked as assistant to the president of Micro-Lite in New York City. He was later employed as a cost accountant for Standard Brands in Manhattan, a post he held until he began his teaching career.
Just when Mr. Loughlin probably thought his military service was forever in the past, he was recalled to active duty in June 1951 during the Korean War and served six months in Europe before a final discharge. Following a student teaching stint at Sewanhaka High School, he applied for a job in Huntington on April 12, 1952.
The Huntington School District saw something in the strapping 6-foot, 165 lb. military vet and former college athlete that they liked and he was hired to work as a business teacher at Robert L. Simpson High School, as Huntington High School was then known. The school was located on Main Street at the site of the current town hall.
Founded Lax Program in 1950s
Mr. Loughlin became a central figure in Huntington, first creating a lacrosse club with sticks and balls made available to students for use before and after school and during lunch periods and then launching an interscholastic team in 1955. He also served as vice president of the Long Island-Metropolitan Lacrosse Association. He was the Blue Devil head coach until 1959.
During his time in Huntington, Mr. Loughlin also did a stint as president of the Adelphi College Alumni Association, was appointed as alumni representative to the Adelphi Board of Trustees and was president of the Suffolk County Business Teachers Association.
After earning the respect of students, staff and the Huntington community, Mr. Loughlin was identified as holding the basic skills of leadership and organization needed for a successful career as a school administrator. With the opening of the new Huntington High School in late November 1958, the school board decided to create a second assistant principal position to handle the influx of about 400 freshmen added to the high school building.
When Mr. Loughlin was hired to fill the new administrative post, it forced him to give up his coaching position. His responsibilities included the areas of discipline, pupil activities, school budgets, attendance and new teacher orientation. The new position also required him to step down as director of the district’s adult education program.
Named Principal in Rochester Area
The value of education was something Mr. Loughlin clearly believed in, as he earned a master’s degree at Columbia University’s School of Business on June 1, 1954. By February 1960, he had completed another 30 graduate credits at Columbia.
During his time in Huntington, Mr. Loughlin married, became a father of two children and settled down in Northport. His career here ended at the same time Robert Cushman’s 18-year tenure as high school principal came to a close. Mr. Loughlin submitted a letter of resignation to Mr. Cushman, asking for it to become effective July 15, 1968 so he could assume his new duties as principal of Rush-Henrietta’s brand new Sperry High School.
One of the everylasting signs of Mr. Loughlin’s time in Huntington rests in the high school yearbooks in the School Heritage Museum’s collection. In the 1959 edition, there’s a photo of Mr. Cushman, Mr. Loughlin and Raymond A. Hettler, another assistant principal who later left to become a principal in Massachusetts, exiting the new high school building prior to its opening following a tour of the facility just days before students flooded into the school for the first time.