PORTLAND – Jack Dawson of Portland has been the master of ceremonies at countless testimonial dinners over the years.

He’s handled those duties for years at the annual Maine Baseball Hall of Fame banquet and is probably best known as the face of the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy banquet where he serves the dual roles of dinner chairman and master of ceremonies.

Now Dawson, the director of admissions at Cheverus High and a former head football coach at Cheverus and Westbrook, will be receiving praise instead of delivering it. Friends of Dawson will gather to honor him at a testimonial dinner Sunday, Oct. 14 at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland.

Dawson said he was reluctant at first. “Who would come?” he asked.

“I told them there must be a lot of other people who would attract a better crowd,” he said.

Organizers Dick Robbins and Art Smith pressed on.

“Jack is very modest about it,” said Smith.

“When we told him we wanted to do a testimonial for him, he said the same thing: ‘Who would come?’ We told him … we’ve talked to a lot of people and they all thought it would be really fitting,” Smith said.

Said Dawson: “It reached a point where I was beginning to feel I was being ungrateful for their efforts and the spirit of it.”

In actuality, the testimonial should bring a large crowd for Dawson, who has been involved in many endeavors and touched hundreds of lives. At 78, he’s still working while also running his family business, “Dolan Flavoring Company,” which he inherited from his grandfather, Harry Dolan. Dawson is married and has five children and nine grandchildren

On the biography that Smith submitted on Dawson, one sentence sums it up best: “A friend and mentor to so many of us for so many years.”

At an age when his contempories have long since retired, Dawson still has plenty of zest for his job and life. He likes to be active. He played organized baseball into his 60s, served on the Portland City Council for 10 years and was Mayor in 1995-1996.

“I don’t feel any different than when I was 48,” he said.

“This is a very invigorating job. The academic, social and athletic energy at Cheverus is incredible. I love coming to work. This school has meant a lot to me in my life.”

It’s where Dawson prepared for Boston College, where he majored in English. Dawson played football, track and baseball at Cheverus and in college.

Mike Holovak, Dawson’s football coach at BC, was a strong role model and the main reason Dawson became an educator and coach.

Holovak recommended Dawson for his first job as the head football coach and teacher at a small Catholic high school in Monterey, Calif. He stayed one year before returning to Boston College to earn a master’s degree in education and serve as a graduate assistant for the football team.

A year later, Dawson was back at Cheverus as a teacher and assistant football coach. He became the Stags’ head coach, holding the post for five years.

Howie Vandersea, the former head coach at Bowdoin College and Springfield College head coach, called Dawson “a man for all seasons.”

“I have known Jack since 1963 when I worked as one of his assistants at Cheverus,” said Vandersea.

“Jack displays the qualities we expect from our best — a lifelong teacher, counselor, mentor, coach and his service in the Portland community as a councilman and mayor. He also runs a business and for over three decades has been the heart and soul of the Fitzpatrick Trophy,” he said.

Since 1970, the Jack Dawson Sports Camp has been a popular summer activity for children ages 7 to 13.

Dawson is an author. His book “Football Backbone Defense” is about how to stop the Wishbone offense. The book was the result of his conversation with Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian. The foreword was written by Holovak.

Dawson knew Parseghian because one of his players at Cheverus, Peter Thornton, had played at Notre Dame. Paraseghian became the Irish coach in Thornton’s second year and Parseghian called Dawson to ask about Thornton.

A few years later when Dawson was coaching at Westbrook High, an assistant coach, Mickey Dolan, wrote Parseghian to tell him he should take a look at Dawson’s defense against the Wishbone. Dawson had used it against Biddeford.

Notre Dame was facing Texas, which ran the Wishbone, in the Cotton Bowl that season. The Irish had lost to Texas in the game a year before.

Parseghian told Dawson that Notre Dame gets 300 to 400 letters a year from coaches offering advice. Paraseghian asked Dawson about the defense in a phone conversation and told him Notre Dame was already using it.

“We talked for over an hour,” said Dawson.

“I turned on the TV for the Cotton Bowl and I couldn’t believe it. They were doing exactly what we were doing.”

Dawson’s and Parseghian’s collaboration went national with a story in Sports Illustrated.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: TomChardPPH