A legendary soccer coach and revered professor emeritus, the late Ernest B. Luongo made a difference on the field and in his classroom. Professor Emeritus Harry Nash and former player Dan Scaia ’68 have joined with the Luongo family to ensure his legacy is preserved at Oswego with the Ernest B. Luongo Memorial Scholarship.
A 2008 Oswego Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of the 1970 Oswego Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award, Luongo passed away Oct. 4 at the age of 88.
“He inspired a lot of young guys to do well in soccer and at the same time to do well in school,” said Nash, who assisted Luongo as a volunteer coach in the 1960s and became a lifelong friend. “He was a good motivator and … a kind, strict disciplinarian.”
Scaia, who with Nash and the Luongo family is helping endow the scholarship, was one of those athletes. “Coach Ernie” believed in Scaia’s academic promise as strongly as his soccer skills and worked to get him admitted at Oswego despite a lackluster high school transcript.
“I don’t know where I’d be today if he hadn’t done what he did,” said Scaia, who graduated with a 3.2 grade point average and went on to a career in education and business. “He gave me the chance to focus my energy.”
The scholarship will be awarded annually to a student majoring in health and wellness or education who also has an interest in coaching or drug abuse education.
After leading the soccer program to what remains its only SUNY Athletic Conference championship in 1966, Luongo was appointed by then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to be chief of the Bureau of Professional Education for the Narcotic Addiction Control Commission in 1967.
A professor of health and physical education at Oswego until he retired in 1985, Luongo worked on drug abuse issues with parents and school administrators in local districts, Nash said.
“It’s time we begin to honor Ernie by contributing whatever we can to his scholarship,” Nash said. “If this scholarship can help a student to the point where he or she doesn’t have to worry every moment about finances, that student can spend at least a bit more time on studies that are interesting to him or her.”
Helen Luongo notes that her late husband was “very dedicated to the college and its programs” and that SUNY Oswego played an important role in the life of the entire family. Their children attended the Campus School in Sheldon Hall, just down the street from their home.
“Ernie would have been very proud and happy to know that students will benefit from the scholarship that has been set up in his name,” she said. “He was a very dedicated teacher.”
Nash, Scaia and Luongo are hoping to raise $10,000 to endow the scholarship, which is expected to provide for one award each year. For more information or to make a donation to the Ernest B. Luongo Memorial Scholarship, call 315-312-3003 or visit oswego.edu/givenow.
— Shane M. Liebler and Michele Reed