MIDDLEBURY — John Illig, Middlebury College’s men’s and women’s squash coach, died Sunday evening of catastrophic injuries sustained in a fall in his Lincoln home Saturday night.
In an email to the college community, Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz called Illig “a generous, thoughtful and fun-loving man.” Illig began leading Middlebury’s squash programs in the fall of 2007, when he also became the school’s first varsity men’s coach.
“John was an outstanding squash coach, but a better person with a huge heart and a passion for squash and his players,” said Middlebury Director of Athletics Erin Quinn. “He was a gentle soul and will be greatly missed by many. He has left an indelible mark on his program at Middlebury.”
During his seven years at Middlebury, Illig had a combined mark of 210-121. He was the NESCAC Coach of the Year in 2009. Before coming to Middlebury, he spent 11 years at Bates College and five years at Colby College. All told, in 23 years of coaching, he amassed 619 career wins (545 in squash, 74 in tennis). His former players have gone on to serve as head coaches at Princeton, Columbia and Wesleyan.
In a message to the Middlebury squash team from Trinity squash coach Paul Assaiante, a friend and mentor of Illig’s, he wrote, “I know that he cared deeply for each and every one of you. He tried to stimulate your imaginations, your passions and challenged you to be better both on and off the court ... I implore you to not let those principles pass with John, but rather let them live on in your actions.”
Illig was a passionate adventurer. He is among the small number of people to achieve the “Triple Crown” by hiking America’s three premier mountain-range distance paths — the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. The trilogy of books he wrote about those hikes recounted the personal valleys and peaks that he encountered along the way.
Illig is survived by his wife, Lolly Otis. Consistent with his generous spirit, he asked that his organs be donated to help extend the lives of others.
A memorial service will be held in the fall.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Middlebury College.