By Bill Burt
---- — While Leon Modeste’s nickname — “Coach Mo” — at Phillips Academy probably won’t change, his job title will.
Modeste is poised to become the prep school’s next athletics director and chairman of the Physical Education Department. The appointment will take effect July 1 for a six-year term.
He will be taking over the reins of the athletics department from Mike Kuta, who has served in the position since 2007.
It’s a job Modeste is very familiar with. He was the school’s AD from 1990 to 2000.
Rather than keep one person in the position over the long haul, Phillips rotates the AD post among veteran staffers every few years or so.
“I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to serve a second term as Andover’s director of athletics,” Modeste said. “It is a very exciting time at Andover, and I am delighted to be part of it.”
The appointment, made by Head of School John Palfrey and Dean of Faculty Patrick Farrell, caps off an exciting year for Coach Mo. After returning from a nine-month sabbatical in August, the legendary football coach led the Andover football team to an undefeated season and championship victory.
In addition, he was named the recipient of the Independence Teaching Foundation, in recognition of his work as a teacher and advocate for students and student-athletes alike.
Modeste joined Phillips Academy in 1986 as a physical education instructor. Over the years, he has served as a house counselor, head coach of varsity football and basketball and assistant coach of varsity lacrosse. He also enjoyed great success in his previous tenure as PA’s athletic director from 1990 to 2000, during which he oversaw the expansion and improvement of the school’s athletic facilities and offerings, including the addition of life fitness options.
“I am fortunate that both of my predecessors will be around to help me and that our faculty, staff, students, administration and alumni have all been so supportive,” Modeste said. “The kind words of support I have heard since the announcement have been quite humbling and have warmed this old coach’s heart.”
Modeste holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Springfield College and a Master of Education from Cambridge College. Prior to joining the Andover faculty, he served as the athletics director and basketball coach at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he founded and served as director of its Summer Program. He also was an assessment and advisement counselor in the Choice III program at the YMCA in New York City.
“The many of us who have worked with Leon over the years know he is passionate about our efforts to educate the whole student,” Farrell said. “He’s been an inspirational leader on the field and in the classroom, and a staunch advocate for our athletic program throughout his tenure.”
In addition to praising Modeste’s qualifications for the job, Farrell offered high praise to Kuta for the work he has done during his seven years as athletic director.
“Mike oversaw major improvements to the life fitness programs while continuing to support an interscholastic program that brought home many championship banners,” Farrell said.
“He took on the challenges represented by sports specialization and recruitment of young athletes, and answered them while staying true to the philosophy of Phillips Academy.”