In Memoriam: Al Shields, Founding Father of Bentley Athletics and the NE10's First Commissioner, Dies at the Age of 80

In Memoriam: Al Shields, Founding Father of Bentley Athletics and the NE10's First Commissioner, Dies at the Age of 80



Boston Globe Obituary

WALTHAM, Mass.Elwood N. “Al” Shields, the father of Bentley University athletics and the first commissioner of the Northeast-10 Conference (Northeast-7 at the time), passed away recently at the age of 80. According to the family, the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s.

After coaching the basketball team during a non-varsity season in 1962-63, Shields was named the first athletics director and basketball coach at what was then Bentley College in 1963. He remained as basketball coach until 1978 and was the college’s athletics director until October 1991.

As athletics director, Shields guided the growth of an athletic department that began with five varsity sports during the 1963-64 academic year with no facilities.  By the time he left nearly three decades later, there were 19 varsity sports, including varsity football and hockey teams, along with a full-blown women’s athletics program.

In addition to building the Bentley athletics program, Shields was one of the founders, and the first commissioner, of the Northeast-10 Conference, which began competition in 1980 as the Northeast-7. He served as the conference’s commissioner until 1989.

“Al was the cornerstone of the Bentley athletic program,” said Bob DeFelice, who was hired by Shields as baseball coach in 1968 and has been the athletics director since 1991. “As basketball coach, his record speaks for itself. He established one of the premier programs in New England and it remains so today.”

During his time as athletics director, Bentley teams competed in NCAA championship tournaments in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, field hockey and men’s soccer, and was also represented in NCAA championships by individuals in golf, track and cross country. 

“I am very saddened by the passing of Al Shields,” said women’s basketball coach Barbara Stevens.

“I owe so much to Al – he was the one who hired me 31 years ago and gave me the great opportunity to coach women’s basketball at Bentley.  Even from the early stages, our basketball program was a step ahead of the rest with full scholarships to offer to our student-athletes, along with a staff of two full-time coaches.  Al was one of the very few Athletic Directors who had the vision at that time to fully support women’s basketball.” 

A baseball field was constructed as the college’s first athletic facility in 1970, two years after Bentley opened its Waltham campus, and the Dana Center was opened in 1973, giving the basketball teams an on-campus home for the first time.

Shields, in 15 seasons as basketball coach, led Bentley to a 258-106 record with five NCAA and two NAIA tournament appearances.  His tenure included 13 winning seasons, including records of 26-2 in 1971-72, 23-2 in 1974-75 and 24-3 in 1973. Shields’ career .706 winning percentage ranks 37th in Division II history.

A graduate of Northeastern University and a longtime resident of Burlington, Shields was inducted into the Bentley Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984, the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Northeast-10 Hall of Fame in 2006.

Information for this release provided by the athletic communications staff at Bentley

The NE10 is an association of 15 NCAA Division II colleges and universities located in New England and New York that is committed to supporting balanced academic and athletic opportunities for more than 6,500 student-athletes. 

Each year, 4,500 of those student-athletes compete in conference championships in 24 sports, making the NE10 the largest DII conference in the country in terms of sport sponsorship. Leading the way in the classroom, on the field and within the community, the NE10 is proud of its comprehensive program and the experience it provides student-athletes.