Harvard Headmaster, Hockey Player Dies at 51

Lawrence T. Piatelli ’75, a former member of the Harvard varsity hockey team and headmaster of the Berkshire School, died on the ice this Sunday after suffering an apparent heart attack while playing in an adult recreational hockey game. He was 51.

An economics concentrator, Piatelli played hockey throughout his time at Harvard, advancing to the NCAA Final Four in both his junior and senior years.

“Larry was extremely competitive but he was a gentle giant and a total gentleman,” said former teammate Leigh P. Hogan ’75.

“I played with him for 4 years and I never saw him loose his temper or raise his voice,” Hogan added.

After graduation, Piatelli continued to be involved in hockey through coaching as well as playing.

He coached hockey at the Fenn School in Concord, Mass., and then again while at Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass., before becoming headmaster of the Berkshire School.

And although he had lived in the Berkshire area for over three months, Piatelli drove an hour to play hockey with his teammates in Albany on Sunday nights.

Students at Berkshire, a private boarding school in western Massachusetts, were informed of the Piatelli’s death during an all-school assembly on Monday, after which all classes and activities were cancelled to allow for meetings with guidance councilors.

That night, over 300 students and faculty attended a candlelight vigil at Piatelli’s home. His wife, Jane, and their three sons—one of whom is a sophomore at Berkshire—quietly greeted their guests.

Jane Piatelli hugged many of those present, reminding them how happy her husband was at Berkshire and encouraging the students to carry on his legacy by making Berkshire the best school it could be, according to James Harris, director of communications at the school.

Piatelli’s death came as a great shock to his friends and family.

“We’re devastated,” Harris said.

“Words cannot convey the sense of loss felt here at Berkshire School today,” Assistant Head of School Phil Jarvis said in a statement.

Piatelli had only been headmaster of the Berkshire School for 3 1/2 months, succeeding Paul Christopher, who resigned as headmaster in June 2002 amidst sexual harassment allegations.

In his short time as headmaster Piatelli attempted to reverse the negative image of the school generated by the scandal. He intended to place greater emphasis on residential life and community service in order to raise the school’s positive profile in the larger South Berkshire area.

One of his first actions as headmaster was to move his office to the student center—which he called the “fishbowl”—in order to have more contact with students.

“He was very much in the thick of the action,” said Harris.

Piatelli also encouraged members of the school to engage in what he called gracious living by showing respect to all members of the school community.

A strong leader, Piatelli caused two administrators and two faculty members to follow him to the Berkshire school from their former positions at Albany Academy.

“He left a legacy of trust, care and giving,” Director of Student Life Peter Parisi, a close friend of Mr. Piatelli’s who had been his associate head at Albany Academy, told the stunned assembly on Monday morning according to a statement issued by the Berkshire School.

Friends waited in line for two hours last night to pay their respects to the family of the beloved headmaster.

Piatelli faced an uphill climb from his roots as a second-generation Italian immigrant to the headmaster’s office of a prestigious boarding school.

His friend and former roommate Gray Holmes ’75, described Piatelli’s life as, “a nice story to tell about an athlete that came from a modest background to dedicate himself to teaching and working with children.”

Piatelli is survived by his mother; his wife of 27 years; their three sons: Christopher, Gregory and Stephen; a sister, Linda Higgins; and four brothers, Paul, Mark, Jack and James Piatelli.

Funeral services will be held this morning at 9:10 a.m. at the Bell-O’Dea Funeral Home, at 376 Washington Street, Brookline. The funeral will be followed by a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Lawrence Church at 774 Boylston Street, Chestnut Hill.