Gerard J. Hart ’69
Cross Country, Track & Field
Inducted in 2019
Jerry Hart embodied the Peddie spirit of hard work, transformation and the “highest quality of citizenship.”
School records indicate that Hart played baseball when he came to Peddie as a seventh grader in 1963. Sometime during his early Peddie years, legendary coach Bob “Bullet” Lawson got a hold of the young and wiry boy. By the end of Hart’s eighth-grade year, records show his “key interests” in athletics as track and wrestling – and the rest is history.
Hart’s story captures the essence of what it takes to become a champion – to go a little harder than everyone else and separate the best from all the rest. Hart’s most memorable career race came in 1968 at the penultimate event of the New Jersey Prep Championships, the mile run. As the gun went off at Lawrenceville’s oval, the prohibitive favorites from St. Benedict’s and the host school set the pace early. The infield, already buzzing with activity, suddenly focused on the race. Hart found another gear and mounted a gutsy comeback as he surged past the two front-runners to claim the title and establish a new meet and school record of 4:24.9. His teammates stormed the track in celebration and hoisted him on their shoulders for a victory lap. Hart and his teammates captured the State Crown while upholding an unblemished dual meet mark.
After a distinguished career at the University of Virginia and in service to the nation – which included winning the U.S. Army Europe Mile Championship – Hart returned to his alma mater to assume a position in the alumni and development office and later in technology. He jumped at the opportunity to coach cross country and track.
“Coaching at Peddie had always been one of my dreams,” Hart said. He won two Coach of the Year awards, and under his leadership, countless runners earned First Team County and state honors. The Mid-Atlantic Prep League Cross Country Championships are named in his honor. The lessons learned at Peddie in becoming a runner became the lessons Hart brought to his teams and his students.
Hart’s passion for running and support of the student-athlete left a profound imprint on the Peddie community. To honor Hart’s indomitable spirit and contributions to the sport, a Jerry Hart Cross Country Invitational was established in 2013.
Competing in an era when tracks were mostly cinder or asphalt and long-distance running was not a popular activity, Hart’s body of work and talent speak for themselves and stack right up there with the best in Peddie’s history. Jerry Hart made athletic excellence the cornerstone of his life and inspired other athletes and coaches to greatness on and off the track along his journey.