MANCHESTER, N.H. – Saint Anselm College Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator Donna Guimont will retire at the end of the academic year, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joseph Horton and Director of Athletics Kelly Higgins announced Thursday.
“Donna’s contribution to Saint Anselm College athletics is nothing short of legendary,” Horton said. “Her role in the development of women’s athletics and, of course the women’s basketball program, has inspired scores of Saint Anselm female athletes to achieve excellence in many aspects of their lives and careers. I wish to thank Donna on behalf of the entire college community for her several decades of service to the Saint Anselm College athletics program.”
Guimont arrived on the Hilltop in September of 1976 and never left. The Manchester, N.H., native served as the head coach of the women’s basketball, volleyball and softball teams, in addition to her duties as the athletic trainer, assistant director of intramural and recreational sports and equipment manager in her first year at Saint Anselm.
In 1992, Guimont was promoted to assistant director of athletics, remaining the head coach of the women’s basketball team until she retired from the coaching ranks in 1996. She then became a full-time administrator, holding titles of assistant director of athletics, compliance director and SWA. She also took over as the liaison for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a role she served in until this fall. Guimont was elevated again to Associate Athletic Director in 1999.
“Retirement has been something that I have given a lot of thought to and the decision has been a difficult one because this place has been a huge part of my life and has become part of my identity,” Guimont said. “While the process was hard, I’m happy with my decision because it is time to do other things I enjoy, such as boating and traveling, with the people outside of the Saint Anselm community that I consider friends.”
“But,” Guimont added, “I’ll always be a Hawk and I’ll always be an Anselmian.”
Though she has served as an athletic administrator for the past 20 years, it was as the head women’s basketball coach that Guimont made her greatest mark. She is one of the winningest coaches in the history of Division II basketball as she holds a 336-165 record for an impressive .671 winning percentage that ranks 43rd all-time.
Guimont won 20 games on seven occasions and produced 17 winning seasons during her tenure. She guided her 1990-91 squad to the Northeast-10 Tournament Championship and made NCAA Tournament appearances in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1995. The 1989-90 Northeast-10 Coach of the Year, Guimont produced seven All-Americans and has seen a number of former players move on to the coaching ranks themselves.
Guimont has also been recognized in a number of halls of fame. She became the first woman, first coach and first non-graduate of Saint Anselm to be inducted into its Anselmian Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1995, Guimont was enshrined in the Manchester, New Hampshire Queen City Hall of Fame and became a member of the New Hampshire Union Leader “Parade of Champions” two years later. In 2003, Guimont and her 1990-91 women’s basketball team were inducted into the Saint Anselm Anselmian Athletics Hall of Fame, becoming the first team to receive that honor. Guimont was also inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, housed at the University of Rhode Island, in 2004. Finally, in 2007, she was Saint Anselm’s first inductee into the Northeast-10 Conference Hall of Fame.
“Donna is a legend of Saint Anselm sport,” Higgins said. “She has been an important part of the lives of Hawk student-athletes for 36 years and I am very thankful she decided to stay on through this academic year as she has been a great resource to me in my first year at Saint Anselm, as well as the student-athletes and all the new coaches we have on staff. My hope is she will continue to find a way to be a part of this department for many years to come after she steps away from her full-time duties.” Higgins also added that the department will plan a celebratory event to honor Guimont during the spring semester, with details to come.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1972 with a degree in Physical Education, Guimont worked for five years in Manchester public and parochial schools, while also playing basketball, field hockey and softball in New England women's leagues. She also had a two-year stint as the assistant girl’s basketball coach at Trinity High School.
Guimont then took the reins of the Saint Anselm women’s basketball team in 1976 and led the team to a 9-1 mark her first season. After going a combined 22-21 record the next three seasons, Guimont kicked off a seven-year run of dominance that saw her teams average 19-plus wins from 1980-81 through 1986-87.
Following just the second losing season in her first 12 years on the job in 1987-88, Guimont returned Saint Anselm to the top of the Northeast-10 as her teams averaged 23 wins the next three seasons, including back-to-back 16-2 conference marks and NCAA Tournament berths in 1989-90 and 1990-91. After losing to Bentley by eight in the conference championship game in 1990, Guimont brought the title to Saint Anselm the following season as she avenged the previous year’s loss with an 81-76 victory against the Falcons.
Despite suffering only her third and final losing season in 1991-92, Guimont once again bounced back by averaging 20 wins and making two more NCAA Tournament appearances over the final four years of her coaching career.
At the same time that Guimont was becoming the winningest head coach in school history and creating one of the region's most respected programs, she was wearing many other hats for the Hawks, as well. In addition to the duties she tackled in her first year, Guimont also held positions as facilities coordinator and women's athletics coordinator at one time or another.
Guimont was a fixture on the Hilltop through four athletic directors – and seven U.S. Presidents – and held every position in the athletic department except for athletic director and sports information director. Of all her roles, there were two in the later part of her career that held great importance to her.
As the SWA – the school’s highest-ranking woman in athletic administration, which is mandated by the NCAA – Guimont was responsible for the department's compliance with Title IX and gender equity issues. The role is intended to encourage and promote the involvement of women in decision-making, enhance the representation of women’s experiences and perspectives, and support women’s interests in intercollegiate athletics.
Guimont felt that her athletes were her family during her coaching career, which is why she enjoyed working with SAAC. Guimont was able to extend her family with the committee made up of student-athletes assembled to provide insight on the student-athlete experience. SAAC also offers input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives on NCAA member institution campuses. In addition, Guimont and SAAC have put together numerous initiatives that raise funds and awareness for special causes. Saint Anselm has been the single greatest donor to the Make-A-Wish Foundation multiple times on Guimont’s watch.
“I did not graduate from Saint Anselm College, but I am an Anselmian,” Guimont said. “It is a word I've chosen to live by and something I will continue to live by as I expand into another phase of my life. It has provided me with a sense of community, with respect for my colleagues and the monastic community, as well as respect that I believe I earned from them. It has given me a lot of compassion with which to do my job.”
As if being a jack-of-all-trades at Saint Anselm were not enough, Guimont also served on the NCAA Division II women's basketball national selection committee from 1989 to 1995, the last two of which were spent as chairperson, which also made her director of the NCAA Tournament. Guimont also served as the regional chairperson for women's soccer and as a member of the NCAA Division II women's soccer national selection committee from 1998 to 2001.
In addition to coaching basketball, Guimont also officiated it. She was a fully-accredited NCAA Division I women’s basketball official and was the first woman to ever be an IAABO-certified official in New Hampshire, which allowed her to referee high school boy’s varsity basketball games.
Guimont, who was tabbed as the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NHIAA) first president of softball umpires, was the first ever woman to umpire an ASA men’s softball regional tournament. She also umpired the ASA women’s softball national tournament after previously qualifying for the tournament as a player.
Now, after a career that has seen her accomplish just about all there is to accomplish in the world of collegiate athletics, Guimont will step away from the courts and fields at Saint Anselm that she has called home for the past 36 years. Guimont will be back, however, and learn to serve in a new role – as a fan.
“It will be nice to come back for some games and just enjoy them, without having to manage them.”
But Guimont will most likely be spending the majority of her time at her home in Laconia, where she will be on her boat on Lake Winnipesaukee.
“Boating is my other passion and it has been for a while,” Guimont said. “It’s why I moved to the lakes region. I’ve had many people visit me over the years and I never visit them. I always say, ‘Wait until I’m retired and I’ll come visit you.’ And now payback is coming for me.”
“But,” she continued, “Saint Anselm College will remain so very special to me. Not only for the opportunities I have had, but mostly for the people that will remain so important in my life.”