Abraham Wall of Excellence speech

Mark Abraham addresses the crowd at the American Legion on Sunday night during the La Crescent-Hokah School District 300 Foundation’s Wall of Excellence induction.

The La Crescent-Hokah School District 300 Foundation inducted Malcolm (Mac) Dahl and Mark Abraham—two of the most legendary figures in Lancer athletic history—to the district’s Wall of Excellence on Sunday night at the American Legion.

Dahl, who the La Crescent-Hokah High School gymnasium is now named in honor of, was what most longtime La Crescent citizens would refer to as the archetype Lancer. He was a history teacher, coach and athletic director for the district since it opened its doors in 1965.

Dahl passed away in 2012, so Steve Mau spoke on behalf of Dahl at the ceremony.

Dahl successfully led teams in football, golf and baseball, as well as being a dedicated basketball official. With the Lancers competing in the Coulee Conference throughout his tenure, Dahl managed the exhausting task of being the athletic director for a Minnesota school in a Wisconsin conference.

According to Mau, Dahl had a knack for solving disagreements between people, and did so with great leadership and patience. Dahl, who dressed each school day in a white shirt and black tie, was always organized and carried a small calendar book in his shirt pocket everywhere he went, which Mau said would be brimming with appointments and reminders.

After losing his father when he was just an infant, Dahl discovered various mentors in athletics, which he then spent most of his adult life paying back by being a role model himself. According to Mau, the students were always Dahl’s main concern, and the reason he continued to attend Lancer games long after he retired.

“Mac is the most humble person that I’ve ever met,” said Mau. “He was a truly honorable person, and the personal achievements that are listed on this sheet of paper don’t mean anything without the context of his relationships with students, teachers, coaches and the community.”

Along with his involvement in running Lancer athletics, Dahl was a dedicated member to the La Crescent Rotary Club, in which he served in every capacity from board and committee member to president. Dahl was recognized by the Rotary Club with a Lifetime Achievement in 2009.

The American Legion was also close to Dahl’s heart, and he served in the color guard into his 80s. Mau once asked Dahl why he insisted at his age on participating in street marches and gun firings on Memorial Day, and Dahl responded with, “Because they deserve it.”

Dahl’s children were in attendance to accept the award on behalf of their father, and his daughter Nancy Dahl shared how grateful the Dahl family was for the continuing support they receive from the La Crescent community.

“We’re just really humbled by the support and the love we get from this community that he loved so much,” said Dahl. “Now we get that chance, to say thank you so much. They say it takes a village to help you heal, and we thoroughly believe it. We’ve seen it, we’ve read it, felt it, eaten it — from the meals we’ve had delivered to the house, driveways shoveled, roses delivered, wreaths put on his gravesite by former students, and the cards, letters and emails. We’re so grateful.”

Mark (Abe) Abraham Mark Abraham was hired by Mac Dahl in 1984 as the head cross-country and assistant track and field coach, and is now head coach of both sports, just finishing his 34th cross-country season.

In his cross-country tenure, Abraham has led boys teams to 14 state meets and 16 conference titles, and girls teams to seven state meets and 10 conference championships. Individually, Abraham has coached eight all-state girls runners and 12 all-state boys, including two individual state champions in Zack Emery (2015) and Matt Steiger (2017). In track and field, Abraham has coached 65 all-state boy athletes and 88 all-state girls, including four individual state titles.

“Abe is a consummate strategist,” said assistant cross-country coach Larry Webinger, who said Abraham refers to his assistants as co-coaches, and always values their input. “Other coaches are well aware of this, and know that Abe always has a plan.”

Abraham can be credited with several systematic changes to La Crescent running programs, including the combination of junior and high school cross-country and track teams, and the idea to have jayvee and varsity cross-country runners race at the same time.

Along with his contributions to Lancer cross-country and track, Abraham has been a longtime substitute teacher in the district, as well as volunteer announcer at football games, voice of the Lancer marching band, member of the Activities Advisory Committee, contributor to the Lancer booster club, frequent contributor to the Houston County News and basketball official for more than 30 seasons.

Abraham used his acceptance speech to thank the strong women in his life, his mother and his wife, who were both in attendance Sunday night. When Abraham was in his late teens and between colleges (which he said was a recurring theme of his life), his family was managing a restaurant in his hometown of Houston. When his father, who was the City Clerk of Houston, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack, Abraham’s mother took over not only the restaurant, but the position of City Clerk as well. A year after that, she took on the role of financial secretary of the school district.

“So when you talk about excellence, I think about you, Mom,” said Abraham. “Thank you for being just an outstanding model of work ethic and how to get the job done.”

Abraham’s wife, Joan, came into Abraham’s life 43 years ago, and they married just two years after that. Abraham watched Joan fight and beat breast cancer, all while being a great mother to their two children, employee in the neonatal intensive care unit at Gundersen Lutheran, and a constant supporter of Abraham and his difficult coaching schedules.

A graduate from Houston High School, Abraham’s love for running sparked after the new basketball coach told players if they didn’t play football in the fall, they would run cross-country.

In the latter part of his speech, Abraham touched on how excellence to him means the personal impact you have on other people.

“When I think about what excellence is, the best that I can figure out, is that it’s how we use our own talents to try to make a positive difference in somebody else’s life,” said Abraham. “It’s the mom working three jobs so her kids can have a better life, and the pediatric nurse who after the death of a patient makes sure the next one gets discharged, or in some small humble way — working with kids that will never compete varsity, so you can help them achieve their own goals. I think if you can do that, you’ll be rewarded — and it doesn’t have to be a trophy or plaque or any kind if public recognition. Because the reward comes from the thank you’s, or a handshake or a hug.”

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