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Joe Famellette is a highly deserving recipient for the Joseph Holland Lifetime Achievement Award. He served Rockland Community College with distinction for 50 years and made an indelible impression on RCC’s athletics program.

Coach Famellette was fresh out of Springfield College when RCC Athletic Director Ed Greene hired him as a physical education instructor. Joe was hired part-time in the fall of 1960, RCC’s second year, to coach the first soccer team, and he became full-time in the spring. He first coached soccer and wrestling, and later added men’s tennis, bowling, golf, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. He also started the women’s tennis program and designed a personal fitness course. Appropriately, the college’s fitness lab is named in his honor.

Joe attained the title of professor of physical education and was one of the longest-serving faculty members in RCC history, retiring in 2010 after a half-century with the college. His teams won more than 10 Mid-Hudson Conference and Region XV championships. The first regional championship was in men’s bowling. Thereafter, Joe had exceptional success coaching the Hawks’ tennis teams. The men’s tennis team won five conference titles and two regional crowns while posting undefeated seasons in 1968, 1973 and 1976. The women’s team won the regionals and was undefeated in 1981. Spanning 20-plus years, RCC individuals or teams qualified for and played in eight NJCAA national tennis tournaments. Joe also coached nine All-America athletes, five in soccer and four in wrestling.

Giving Back to RCC, SUNY Orange

Joe and his wife, Judy, who is deceased, started three scholarship funds for RCC students: the Heinz Ahlmeyer USMC Scholarship, the Jerry Donnellan Veterans Scholarship, and the Joseph and Judith Dryer Famellette Scholarship. The latter scholarship is awarded to incoming students who maintain a high academic standing and participate on an RCC athletic team.

Joe was also involved in charity work for the RCC Foundation.

At SUNY Orange County Community College, from which he graduated in 1958, Joe co-funds a $500 scholarship, the Joseph and Judith E. Dryer Famellette and Thea D. Fry Scholarship, awarded to an entering student who played varsity sports, and is a nursing major or a veteran with demonstrable financial need. [Judy Dryer Famellette taught biology at Suffern High School and RCC.]

Joe was inducted into the RCC Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, and into the SUNY Orange CC Hall of Fame in 2018. At SUNY Orange, Joe was named the college’s Athlete of the Year in 1958 after participating in tennis, wrestling and basketball. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education at Springfield College.

Joe had served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1953 to 1956 before embarking on his post-secondary education. He started in the engineering program at SUNY Orange but later switched to physical education. His first position in education was as a student-teacher at Suffern High School, prior to his arrival at RCC.

A Lifetime of Fitness Pursuits

Joe has prided himself on maintaining healthy fitness throughout his life, both for recreational and competitive pursuits. In 1995, he competed for Team USA in the World Biathlon Championships in Mexico. In 2008, he and his partner placed fourth at the National Senior Olympics. He remained an avid and successful runner, cyclist, racquetball and squash player well into his 70s. Joe, who turns 89 in August 2023,

has lost his sight and, since a recent bout with Covid, walks at a slower pace. He was continuing to work out three times a week at a local fitness center until the gym suspended operations due to the coronavirus outbreak. He makes use of a manual treadmill at home to stay active.

Joe received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, in 2016 and underwent a stem-cell transplant operation in February of that year at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. He began to receive regular immune therapy infusions at White Plains Hospital. In 2021 Joe contracted Covid and received effective medication to arrest the illness. At the same time, his bone cancer became inactive and has remained so. He is now off the cancer medication and undergoes checkups to monitor his condition.

Joe lives with his life partner, Thea Fry, in their home in Katonah in northern Westchester County. [The land was once the ox lot of the John Jay Homestead.]

Joe’s four children all attended RCC.