Dartmouth Remembers a Beloved Coach, Sandra Ford-Centonze

News subtitle

Ford-Centonze was the Herbert & Marjorie Chase Head Coach of Women’s Track & Field for 28 years.

Sandra Ford-Centonze wtih a student athlete
The longtime head coach of women’s track and field died Dec. 14 after a battle with cancer. (Photo by Doug Austin)

Sandra Ford-Centonze, the Herbert & Marjorie Chase Head Coach of Women’s Track & Field, died Dec. 14 at the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care in Lebanon, N.H., following a six-month battle with cancer.

President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 notified the campus community of Ford-Centonze’s death in an email sent yesterday to faculty, staff, and students.

“A well-loved and respected Dartmouth coach, Sandy was one of the institution’s most loyal, marking her 28th season this year at the helm of the women’s program,” he wrote. “She was much more than a coach to the athletes who went through the program in the last three decades, serving as a mentor, too.”

Director of Athletics and Recreation Harry Sheehy said Ford-Centonze was “a wonderful colleague, but most importantly she was a great mentor and coach to hundreds of Dartmouth track and field student-athletes. The department and Dartmouth community will miss her greatly. Our sincere condolences go out to all Sandy’s loved ones.”

Ford-Centonze came to Hanover in 1992 after six seasons as head coach of women’s track at the University of Vermont. Prior to her time in Burlington, she worked as an assistant at her alma mater, Appalachian State University, from 1984-86. She was a standout during her time as a student-athlete with the Mountaineers, serving as a two-year captain of the team and being named the most valuable performer as a junior, when she was undefeated in the 400-meter dash in what was just her second year of track competition.

She received her undergraduate degree, as well as a master’s degree in athletic administration, from Appalachian State.

She coached alongside Barry Harwick ’77, the Herbert & Marjorie Chase Director of Dartmouth Track & Field and Cross Country, who started work at Dartmouth at the same time as Ford-Centonze.

“Coaching with Sandy for the last 28 years has been an honor and a privilege. Very few coaches have had such an inspiring impact on the lives of so many students,” he said. “Sandy was able to be tough and demanding, and then warm and caring, all depending on what one of our athletes needed. Her technical skills were outstanding, and it was exciting to watch the kids she worked with get better.”

Ford-Centonze is survived by her sons, Christian Centonze and Antonio Centonze, and a grandson, Ryker.

Hanlon wrote that Ford-Centonze “delighted in her new role as grandmother, which she had eagerly anticipated, having served as an honorary grandmother to several of her colleagues’ children.”

“In the past 30 years, few people at Dartmouth have touched the lives of their colleagues as Sandy did. Most everyone in her department knew Sandy by her smile, her optimistic outlook, and her devotion to making things better, not just for her teams but for all Big Green competitors,” Hanlon wrote.

Calling hours for Ford-Centonze are 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at Ricker Funeral Home, 56 School St., Lebanon, with a funeral service the following day at 11 a.m., at the funeral home. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2020, at Rollins Chapel.

Susan J. Boutwell can be reached at susan.j.boutwell@dartmouth.edu.

Susan J. Boutwell