Saint Raphael Academy and its staff have been recognized with several awards from the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (RIIAAA). The Academy is being awarded the George Nasuti School of the Year Award, Principal Dan Richard is receiving the Administrator of the Year Award, and longtime coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award winners will be recognized at a special awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 5. The RIIAAA is the state organization that helps support administrators who are involved with school athletics.
This is the first time that these awards have been presented to the same school in the same year, and Saar is only the second Lifetime Achievement Award winner chosen by the RIIAAA. Award winners are often nominated by their schools and voted on by their peers in the RIIAAA, whose members include administrators from schools in nearly all cities and towns in Rhode Island.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Tom “Saar” Sorrentine has been an institution at Saint Raphael Academy for decades. In 1974, he began teaching physical education and was assistant coach for baseball and football and the freshmen basketball coach. Soon after, he became athletic director and head coach of boys basketball and baseball. He was head coach of boys basketball and baseball most of his time at Saints, leading those teams to more than 35 division and state championships over his career. He was also an assistant football coach for 14 years, helping them earn four state championships in the 1980s.
When he wasn’t coaching, he was often seen at other SRA sports events, lending his support to those teams as well. In the early 2000s, he retired from his athletic director position, and in 2019, he retired from coaching basketball. These days, you’ll still find him coaching baseball, and in the off-season, he ferries Saints sports teams to their matches all over the state in the famous “purple bus.”
He is well-loved by many SRA alumni. “He didn’t seek the attention, but he gave the attention to so many kids,” said Linda Michalczyk, longtime teacher and now the international student coordinator at Saints. “He’s affected many lives [over his long career].”
In explaining the new Lifetime Achievement award, RIIAAA Executive Director Elizabeth Penkala noted that George Gourley, the first recipient last year, was a consummate coach who served for decades. “The RIIAAA Awards Committee felt the same about Tom. As Erika Paiva quoted, ‘Tom will die in that purple SRA bus.’ Many in the room agreed, in that Tom is a main fixture at SRA.”
George Nasuti School of the Year
The George Nasuti School of the Year Award is given to a school in recognition of the success and quality of its athletic program, in addition to encouraging good conduct and sportsmanship among its athletes at events and outside of school. Substance awareness programs, community service and professional development are also taken into consideration.
Saint Raphael Academy offers more than 20 varsity sports for male and female students, as well as many junior varsity and freshman teams, that compete in the RI Interscholastic League (RIIL). Foremost, Saints emphasizes the student in student-athlete, and all students participate in community service projects as part of the curriculum. Saints won nine state championships over the last year, including four this fall in boys soccer, boys cross country, football and cheer. SRA athletics has helped support two student-athletes who won three Gatorade Player of the Year awards in the last three seasons alone. Saints athletes have received other recognitions such as All-State and All-New England awards, and their commitment has earned many of them athletic scholarships to the nation’s top colleges and universities.
“Athletics at the Academy, however, is about far more than winning,” wrote Athletic Director Erika Paiva in her nomination. “Our athletes gain lessons in character, discipline, accountability, and teamwork. They challenge their own limits and learn lessons that they take into the classroom and beyond.”
Administrator of the Year
The RIIAAA Administrator of the Year Award, according to the nomination criteria, is “designed to honor an administrator other than an athletic director who has demonstrated concern and support of high school athletics … and serve[s] as an advocate of the importance of athletics in an educational setting.”
Dan Richard has been involved with school athletics since his days as a high school student. An avid runner, he ran track for Westfield State University and Long Island University in his undergrad years, and then began his career in education. He served for 20-plus years in the U.S. Air Force, then retired and returned to New England. Mr. Richard led the ROTC program at Woonsocket High School and coached girls cross country and track there before coming to Saints in 2012.
As principal, Mr. Richard has been a strong supporter of all athletic teams at SRA and attends several games every week. One of Saints athletics’ biggest fan, Mr. Richard has volunteered to coach SRA runners, filled in for sick hockey coaches, and encouraged athletes to improve their academic performance, in addition to his many duties as a principal. He is committed to improving the high school experience for all students.
“I have been blessed to have two wonderful fellow administrators working alongside me during the last decade: Judy Baxter, Vice Principal of Academics, and Marc Thibault, Vice Principal of Student Life,” said Mr. Richard. “The faculty and staff at SRA have also been wonderful to work with during my tenure. Their commitment to the mission of the Academy truly makes Saint Raphael Academy a very special school!”
The RIIAAA is part of the national organization—the NIAAA—which promotes education-based athletics by offering professional development to administrators and providing support to the many athletic administrators’ efforts to provide quality athletic offerings for all students. Membership is voluntary, and Rhode Island has 97 members representing middle and high schools in the state.
The award winners will be recognized at a special awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 5, at the Crowne Plaza. The public is invited to attend; ticket reservations must be made by March 28 by emailing email@example.com.