Olympic Athlete Trained Multiple Generations of Yale Students
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Don Tonry, a 1960 U.S. Olympic Gymnast and long-time Yale Athletic Department staff member, passed away last weekend at the age of 78.
Tonry was the 1956 Big Ten and NCAA All-Around Champion at the University of Illinois and led his team to the NCAA championship. He went on to compete in seven different international competitions over the next 10 years, including the 1962 World Games in Russia. Tonry, who won gold medals at two Pan American Games, made the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team while serving in the military.
He was the 1962 USA All-Around champion who was a finalist for the Sullivan Award and won both the 1962 New York AAU Meritorious Award and the New York Athletic Club Veterans Award.
After competing in the Olympics, Tonry coached at West Point, where he met Yale Athletic Director Delaney Kiphuth and his father, swimming legend Bob Kiphuth, who convinced him to come to New Haven.
Tonry, inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, served on seven different gymnastics boards including the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Gymnastics Federation while also being certified as an FIG brevet gymnastic judge. He worked the AAU National Championships, the 1970 World Games and the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials. He was awarded the President's award by the National Gymnastic Judges Association and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the NCAA Coaches Organization.
A long-time Hamden, Conn., resident who grew up in New York City, Tonry was a gymnastics coach and a physical education instructor at Yale from 1962 to 1984 while also being a fellow in Calhoun College. During that time he earned a doctor of philosophy (Southeastern University) and a master of science (Southern Connecticut State) while earning a reputation as an inspirational mentor and leader of student-athletes. One of his Yale pupils, Russell Mills, won the 1964 national AAU title and the 1963 and 1964 NCAA gold medals in side horse.
Tonry, whose wife, Barbara, has been the head coach of the Yale women's gymnastics team since its inception in 1973, transformed the Yale Gymnastics Club into a varsity men's team that competed from 1974 to 1980 and went 33-9 and won three Ivy League championships. He was also Yale's Associate Athletic Director of Physical Education and directed the first sports camp for Yale.
Named a "legend" in the World Acrobatic Society, he won the McCoy Research Award for his master's thesis. Tonry was presented the Research Award by the National Association of Gymnastics Coaches for his Sports Illustrated book, Tumbling for Men and Women. He wrote additional publications for the famous sports magazine.