MAKAWAO - After three decades of service to Seabury Hall, Steve Colflesh gave his final goodbye last weekend.
"I've been very lucky," he said last week during a ceremony at the 'A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center. "I worked with some great people over the years, great parents and kids and our board members are fantastic. I'm just lucky.
"I've never considered having a job; I've never gone to work."
During Steve Colflesh’s time as Seabury Hall athletic director, the school built the Erdman Athletic Center, and he helped spearhead the creation of multiple divisions for Hawaii prep sports, as well as the introduction of eight-player football.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
In celebration of the 65-year-old's career, the private Upcountry school held a May 31 gathering attended by about a hundred colleagues, coaches and former players. The evening's entertainment included skits and music recalling Colflesh's time with Seabury.
"This is way over the top," he said. "It's just like (my wife) Melissa said, 'You've given them a lot of material so expect to be roasted.' "
Moving from California to the Valley Isle in 1980, Colflesh took over as athletic director for one year before going back to the Mainland for another three. After conferring with his wife, though, he reclaimed his position with the school - this time permanently.
"It was a flashback," he said, referencing a video tribute created by longtime librarian Linda Lindsay. "They had a picture of my yearbook and I said I wanted to teach math and coach. I knew that was what I wanted to do."
Colflesh graduated from from Whittier College in California in 1969 with a degree in physical education, and minored in mathematics.
"That's what got me into the classroom, much to the chagrin of students that had me as a teacher," he said.
Middle school math teacher Debi Davis, who worked alongside Colflesh for several years, recalled a co-worker who was dedicated - and sometimes a bit unorthodox.
"Twenty seconds before class he would come to see me and ask, 'OK, so what's the plan for today?' " she said with a smile. "He remained true to his style and I had the distinction of telling Steve what to do every day for a year."
Colflesh held myriad other positions at Seabury: head dormitory resident, college counselor, director of the summer school, elderhostel and Mukogawa Japanese Program, physical education teacher and dean of students. He coached girls and boys volleyball, girls soccer, girls basketball, girls and boys track and the recently formed eight-player foot-ball team.
"He's just amazing," said boys volleyball coach Caleb Palmer, who was a player and student under Colflesh as well.
One of Colflesh's most celebrated achievements was the construction of the Erdman Athletic Center, which was completed in 1994.
"When we started we had that little gym down there and it wasn't long enough for a basketball court and wasn't wide enough for a volleyball court," Palmer said about the building adjacent to the center, which now serves as the school's band room. "It pretty much wasn't anything. He used to have meetings in there, but that's where he built the athletic program."
Among Colflesh's other accomplishments were helping develop Division II sports in the Maui Interscholastic League, a format later adopted by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, and spearheading the addition of eight-player football to the MIL - last fall the league became the first in the state to have the sport in official competition.
"Everything that Steve does comes from a place of integrity," said headmaster Joseph Schmidt. "You can trust that everything Steve has done at Seabury Hall has been for young people. That's always been his motivation."
Along with his work with students, Colflesh also was recognized for his treatment of coaches and staff.
"When I came out to interview I actually went up to have dinner at Steve's house in Kula," said fellow math teacher and former boys basketball coach Scott Winham, who was living in Vermont before joining the school in 2000. He replaced Colflesh as dean of students two years later, and now heads the Upper School.
"At that point I knew he was a pretty special guy," Winham said. "You could tell he did what he did for the right reasons and for the kids. I think that meant a lot to me and gave me the confidence to make the move out to Hawaii."
Retired girls basketball coaches Leland Parker and Philip Tongg, who combined to spend more more than 30 years at Seabury, credit Col-flesh with helping build their program and recruit players.
"In my time we didn't have Division II," Parker said."At Seabury, girls basketball was new. We had our ups and downs, but we competed with the Baldwins and Maui Highs. Steve was the guy that would ask, 'Who do you want for Sea-bury?' I'd give him a name and boom, they're here."
"He was great to work for because he always had the right advice," said Tongg, who was an assistant coach under Parker before becoming head coach. "I always felt that whatever shortcomings I might have, I was protected. I was able to function, learn and grow as a coach, without any external pressure, because of him."
Girls soccer coach Sumner Erdman was another of Col-flesh's former students.
"Knowing Steve for 30 years has been an absolute pleasure," Erdman said. "He was a great man to work for, he was a great man to be a student under and he was a great man to work with on the board. Steve was great in every aspect I've ever known."
Colflesh's successor is Rob-ert Dougherty, a former football coach at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.
"It's big shoes to fill for sure," Dougherty said. "It's nice to take over a job where somebody has done such a great job before me. I'm very happy and honored to be the next AD following Steve Colflesh."
Colflesh's time will now be occupied by golf and his three grandchildren. He said he wants to keep his distance from the school and avoid interfering.
"It'll be fun to watch the kids, but it's Robert's program now," he said.
Despite numerous accolades and championships, the man known for his high socks, old-school shorts and bright blue Seabury polo shirt declined to single out his greatest accomplishment last week.
"I don't have any great achievements," he said. "When you see kids who came through the program having a wonderful life and are involved in the community and being good citizens that's what the achievement is."
* Chris Sugidono is at firstname.lastname@example.org