by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – Former longtime Hazen Union athletic director John Sperry has returned to his post in an advisory role, bringing stability to the athletic program after the tragic passing of Jared Cushing last week.
Cushing, a standout baseball player at Blue Mountain Union and Husson University, was hired this past summer after Sperry called it a career after sixteen-plus outstanding years of service to the school and community. Cushing was hired in late June following a youth movement of newly minted A.D.s in their early twenties around the state, including Connor Bean (Craftsbury Academy) and Gabriela Silva (Peoples Academy). Cushing described the responsibilities of his new job as “what I was meant to do” and became Sperry’s successor as the youngest A.D. in the state. Last weekend Cushing took his own life; he was just 21 years old.
Athletic events were canceled on Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday during the Hazen boys’ soccer team’s Senior Day, there was a familiar voice coming from the microphone as Sperry led the crowd and both teams in a moment of silence in remembrance of Cushing before the match. Hazen Union principal Jason DiGiulio said Sperry was one of the first people in the building after news spread of the tragedy.
“When we saw him walk into school that day, it just felt like a huge weight had been lifted and that he was going to see all of us through this somehow. Our main objective is to make sure the students and the student-athletes are okay here at Hazen first and foremost. We also need to stabilize the construct of the athletic department going forward so that the kids have all of the opportunities they deserve the rest of the sports season. John has agreed to advise us and guide us until we find a long-term solution and we cannot thank him enough for what he has done for this school and community in what is a very trying time and tragic loss,” said Di Giulio.
Sperry had been consulting Cushing the last few months when called upon and thought he was growing into his new job and its responsibilities nicely. He can’t speak to what Cushing might have been going through outside of work, but called his new “dream job” a happy point that he looked forward to every single day.
“Losing Jared so young is just such a shame and huge loss,” said Sperry. “I thought the job itself was a real positive for him and he seemed to be looking forward to implementing some of his own ideas next season. When I heard the news, my first reaction was just to head to Hazen and ask, what can I do? I think that is just what any human being would do. I told Jason that I’m here and I’ll help as long as needed. I have a business to run and I coach on the side, but I’ll do as much as I possibly can and then see where they are at with their search for a more permanent solution. We’ve had a lot of tragedy run through this community the past few years and you can only hope that somehow something like this brings everyone together even more. The kids in this school and this community are good kids and they didn’t ask for or deserve any of this. Going forward we still have standards to be held to in our programs and I’ll help in any way to get us back to some sort of normalcy,” said Sperry.