By JEROD CLAPP
While his peers at New Albany still dreaming about how they’d spend their upcoming days off, Howard “Dutch” Vigar was up at 4:30 a.m. the day before Christmas break, ready to start his workday.
He arrived at the high school’s pool, changed into his swim gear and started his regular, threeday-a-week swim routine. After about an hour of swimming, Vigar changed into his work clothes and began his daily duties as the school’s interim athletic director.
Despite Vigar’s retirement from the school system two years ago, the 59-year-old works more today more than he ever did before he filed his retirement papers. He left the New Albany-Floyd County School Corp. after 30 years of teaching
“I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and sit in an easy chair,” Vigar said. “I found after a semester of retirement, coaching wasn’t enough. It’s kind of like eating steak: If you do it too much, you get tired of it.”
Before long, he found himself teaching biology at Indiana University Southeast. Although that was a short stint, Vigar took on three other jobs — teaching coaching certification courses for Indiana Youth Soccer, as an assistant coach for Indiana’s Olympic Development Program, and as director of Coaching for Soccer of Southern Indiana United.
Vigar said he began to feel a little of the irony of continuing to work so much after he left his position in the school system.
“I was actually working more than before I retired,” Vigar said. “I guess the saving grace was knowing that I didn’t have to do it.”
That wasn’t the only saving grace for Vigar, though. He attributes much of his vitality to the energy he feels when he’s around young people.
“Their minds are more active, their bodies are more active,” Vigar said. “To be around that gives me an energy, and it sort of becomes a competition for me to keep up.”
Along with scheduling referees for games, making sure facilities are available for competitions, keeping New Albany’s teams competitive and myriad other responsibilities within athletics, Vigar also helps with some of the other duties around the high school.
He has a hall patrol in the mornings to make sure students get to class on time, keeps watch over the lunchroom and helps students cross the street with his bus duties at the end of the school day.
On top of all that, Vigar also has to attend many of the sporting events in which the school’s teams participate.
“The thing that becomes demanding is attending so many of the extracurricular activities, and that makes for a lot of 12-hour days,” Vigar said.
But he said he doesn’t mind the juggling act, and as long as he can stay organized, he manages to not only do his job effectively, but still manages to enjoy it every day.
“The other thing that makes all of this so tolerable is that it’s not like work, it’s like play,” Vigar said. “I think it’s about kids, and that’s one reason I never got into administration, it’s about seeing those light bulbs go off, whether it’s in the classroom or in a sport. Seeing young people set goals and become successful is rewarding to me.”
Vigar said he feels a connection with students is vital to doing a good job with an administrative position, and he strives to make that a goal of his in his current position.
One student Vigar has made such a connection with is Dhruvil Brahmbhatt, a senior captain on the swim team.
Overweight and unable to swim, Brahmbhatt said he initially had no interest in the sport when he started high school. But when his friends convinced him it would be fun and Vigar, who was the team’s coach at the time, decided to give him a chance despite his lack of skills, he went for it.
“He couldn’t swim the length of the pool” in the beginning, Vigar said. “There are a lot of kids who need the sport more than the sport needs them.”
“The first time I swam a full-length, it took me a minute and one second,” Brahmbhatt said. “Now I’m down to 30, 31 seconds” for a 50-yard freestyle swim.
More importantly, Brahmbhatt said, was the impact swimming had on his health. In his first season, the student went from a size 38-inch waist to a 32.
“I always think that Dutch saved my life,” Brahmbhatt said. “If he didn’t let me join the swim team and I kept gaining weight the way I did, I’d probably be close to 300 pounds now.”
Vigar said Brahmbhatt was a big success story in his career, but he refuses to take all the credit.
“It’s hard for me to accept all the accolades for a person when they had to have the willingness to persevere,” Vigar said. “While he may not be our best swimmer, it’s almost like a miracle with what happened to him. … I helped to give positive guidance, but he made the decision to join the team.”
Brahmbhatt isn’t the only person to credit Vigar for positively impacting their life.
Vigar’s son, Ben Vigar — coach for New Albany High School’s swim team and a special education teacher at Highland Hills Middle School — said, “He’s a good role-model, not just for me, but all the kids he’s worked with for the last 30-some years.”
The younger Vigar said athletics played a big part in his childhood, and were a big part of his relationship with his father.
“I can remember growing up and walking around this pool deck with him for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I credit him with all the things I am today.”
For his father, teaching and coaching helped him stay connected to his son after divorce.
“It’s neat to have that connection,” the elder Vigar said. “Fortunately, since we have a lot of the same interests, we’ve been able to spend a lot of time together.”
Today, Vigar’s son is married with a child on the way and the grandfather-to-be is anxiously awaiting his new ‘job’.
Working to inspire young people and regular exercise both give Vigar the energy he’ll need to keep up with a new grandchild.
In an average week, Vigar swims about 12,000 yards, runs between 20 and 30 miles, and lifts weights twice a week.
He said exercise has helped him develop a mental motivation to keep going.
“I’ve always felt that everyone needs to set aside a certain amount of time to exercise every day because it’s so important for your well-being. To me, there are so many rewards from it, emotional, physical, and even a spiritual dimension.”
“You kind of get this sense of being one with all,” Vigar said. “I experience a calm, a peace of mind. It helps you feel complete and gives you a chance to meditate on those loving things.”
Without exercise, Vigar said he wouldn’t have the energy to do all that he does.
Despite his many jobs and tough exercise routine, Vigar said he rarely ever feels exhausted, even if the pace keeps him going seven days a week.
“Sometimes you do wish you could have a day off where you could kick back and relax,” he said. “But, I don’t need that much time off.”
Todd Satterly, a chemistry teacher at New Albany High School, worked with Vigar before he retired, and said he’s glad to see him back in the hallways every day.
“It was sad to think that he was going to retire a couple of years ago,” Satterly said. “I had that mentor for eight years, and then he was going to be gone. But then we needed him again and he came right back. I hope he’s around another 10 years doing something here.”
It’s unclear whether Vigar will continue in his position as the interim athletic director next year, but he plans on staying with teaching, maybe at IUS, if the position isn’t available.
Athletic Secretary Marlene Stephens said she’s glad Vigar’s in the office because he’s fun to be around and he’s good at what he does.
“He keeps his cool, he’s just a good time manager. He doesn’t let the trees get in the way of seeing the forest,” Stephens said. “He’s motivated, stays on task, and gets everything done. I think he was a good fit for this job.”
Brahmbhatt said he expects Vigar to be going full-speed long after he graduates this year.
“I was wondering if he might retire if he hits 100,” Brahmbhatt said.
Satterly said there’s “no shot,” adding, “Dutch loves life, and he’s gong to get every minute out of it he can.”
Vigar said he might cut back on work at some point, but doesn’t plan on it anytime soon.
“I guess retirement is a relative thing, as all things are, but I think I’ll always be involved,” Vigar said. “So maybe in some points of view, I’ll never retire, but I won’t always be working as much as I am.”
HOWARD “DUTCH” VIGAR
CAREER: 30 years of teaching and coaching in the New Albany-Floyd County School Corp., plus time as the interim athletic director at New Albany High School after retirement.
AWARDS: 2002-2003, nominated for teacher of the year, Hoosier Hills All Conference Coach for soccer in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002. In 1992, made Hoosier Hills All Conference Coach for swimming.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of science, secondary education with a major in biology from Indiana University. Master’s from IU Southeast in secondary education, and a Plus 30 in biological sciences.
SERVICE: Volunteer coaching and administration with Floyd County Youth Soccer, now Southern Indiana United.
FAMILY: Father of one son, Ben, who is now the coach for New Albany High School’s swim team, and his wife, Barbara.