Teacher, coach, and mentor: these are just a few of the many roles that Mr. Martin “Rusty” Dunne plays in the East Haven community. For over twenty-five years, he has been a leading figure in EHHS athletics, guiding many students to grow tremendously over the course of their high school careers. On November 24, Seasons banquet facility will be hosting the annual East Haven High School Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, in which Coach Dunne will be one of seven individuals honored.
The Hall of Fame, started in 1986, highlights the greatest athletes and mentors within the East Haven community in an attempt to continue their legacy for many years to come. Mr. Steve Narracci, one of the heads of the association, approached Coach Dunne with the opportunity after having observed his impact on the football and track programs here in East Haven. “I was very appreciative. I ended up at [East Haven] and I think I was able to help out a lot of kids along the way. It was good timing in life; everything is about good timing,” says Coach Dunne.
Since he was in sixth grade, Coach Dunne aspired to be a physical education teacher. He was heavily involved in athletics as a child and continued this journey while in college. On top of playing football, Coach Dunne left Southern Connecticut State University with a major in Phys-Ed, a minor in Recreation, and a masters in Sports Medicine. While he held many coaching and teaching positions following graduation, it wasn’t until 1993 that Mr. Dunne kick-started his East Haven legacy. Previous athletic director, Buddy Amendola, had worked alongside Coach Dunne years prior and saw him best fit to fill the vacant football coaching position. “I had some East Haven ties, (guys I played with in college and East Haven graduates), so it all tied together,” exclaimed Coach Dunne when referring to how he ended up in town. As the years went on, Dunne became more and more involved with the school; he became the coach of both indoor and outdoor track and later landed various physical education and health teaching positions. Since his first year at EHHS, Mr. Dunne has coached ten scholar football athletes, won seven divisional track championships, and led 44 track athletes to reaching the All-state level- just to name a few!
If it wasn’t for Coach Dunne’s mentorship, many students would not be where they are today. Kisha Francios, a current junior at EHHS, has been working with him for over three years on both the indoor and outdoor track teams. With the help of her coach, she has already broken four school records and has been chosen for various all area teams. “Coach Dunne always makes sure that I’m getting all the help I need,'' said Kisha, “He wants everyone to do their best and he puts his best foot forward when coaching. His coaching has helped me to become a better athlete.” Former EHHS track athlete and current math teacher, Mr. Robert Belevich, was also heavily influenced by Coach Dunne. Mr. Belevich was always very inspired by the fact that his coach was able to help so many students reach the All-State level and have their names pictured on the banners around the gym. Mr. Belevich said, “He pushed me to be better. Seeing that he was able to get the best out of these athletes made me want to try hard to ‘add another one to the wall.’” Not only has Mr. Dunne’s coaching proved successful, but his teaching has guided many athletes, (on various teams), to strive for better. Taylor Salato and Ian Reynolds, two junior basketball players, went through his personal fitness course at EHHS to keep themselves in shape during the off-season. Ian stated, “He has gotten me stronger, faster, more flexible, and has really prepared me for this upcoming season.”
Coach Martin Dunne is one of many impactful individuals at EHHS that always works to keep his students driven towards success. If there is one thing that he preaches most, it is that “you have to stick with it.” At fifteen, he considered stopping sports altogether, but his high school football coach, Jim Guercia, kept him involved and essentially led him to where he is today. “Sports is a lot like life; it doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, a lot of things happen along the way, and you’re not always the best. It doesn’t always work out in your favor, but neither does life… You’ve gotta hang in there.”