UMass players, coaches fondly remember Dr. James Ralph, who died Thursday


Friday, December 22, 2017

AMHERST — Quite a few UMass players and coaches past and present headed into the holidays with a heavy heart Friday as word spread of the passing of Dr. James Ralph.

The 84-year-old retired Amherst resident died Thursday. Services are still being finalized.

From 1964 to 1997, Ralph, a native of Bennington, Vermont, was the team physician for the athletic department and had close relationships with several athletes and coaches. Even in retirement, he was still a season ticket holder and a regular in the stands at quite a few home events for a variety of sports.

UMass had a moment of silence in his honor prior to Friday’s men’s basketball game against Maine.

Former UMass men’s basketball coach John Calipari, who is currently the coach at Kentucky, has often mentioned Ralph as someone he looked forward to seeking out during his return trips to Amherst.

“Dr. Ralph and his wife, Edie, were such a big part of our time at UMass. They were friends and supporters along with being our team and our family doctor,” Calipari said in a statement. “They took care of my daughter Erin when she was at UMass and was always kind to Ellen. He always was ready with a smile and encouragement. Ellen and I will miss him and we will be praying for him and his family.”

Former women’s basketball player Kathy Coyner, who is now a surgeon working with UConn, was close with Ralph during her playing career.

“He was a wonderful mentor to me,” Coyner said. “As a gift for my college graduation he gave me my first and only stethoscope to get me started in medical school. Although as a surgeon I never use it, it still sits in my office and will always remind me of Dr. Ralph.

“He was an extremely special man, he loved UMass athletics. He made such an impression and impact on so many student athletes, he will live on in our hearts forever,” she continued. “For me personally he exemplified what it truly means to be a team physician in every sense.”

Former football coach Mike Hodges and current coach Mark Whipple had similarly warm feelings.

“It’s a huge loss for the UMass athletic family. You knew if Doc Ralph was there, they would get the very best care,” Hodges said. “He was my family physician for close to 20 years. I loved the man. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Whipple agreed.

“He was a great human being. He had a great personality and a tremendous air about him,” Whipple said. “Having him around gave you confidence. You knew you were going to be well taken care of.”

Dr. Pierre Rouzier, who took over when Ralph retired, maintained a close relationship with him.

“Dr. Ralph exemplified caring and giving; he was generous with both his time and contributions to UMass and the athletic department,” Rouzier said. “He was beloved by all he touched. At nearly every away football game when I met a former UMass football player they would tell a fond story of how Dr. Ralph helped them and would ask me to say hi to him.”

Retired former athletic director Bob Marcum emailed his regards.

“He was so devoted to our athletes,” Marcum said. “He was always there for all sports.”

Ralph, who is in the UMass athletic hall of fame, was presented with the UMass Chancellor’s Citation Award in 1991. The captains of the 1986 football team gave him a special award for his service to them and Calipari gave him a Final Four ring in 1996.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage