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Joanne Fitts Memorial Scholarship Fund
By Jean Cohoon / September 7, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...

“She was passionate about sports of all kinds and often said that all of life’s important lessons could be taught in sports: teamwork, respect, self-discipline, leadership, perseverance, and how to win and lose gracefully. The goal was to have fun. She always played to the last point, never giving up,” says Patricia Burbank, of her late wife Joanne Fitts, a longtime coach and teacher in North Kingstown

Joanne played to the last point in life as well as sports, teaching and coaching through two bouts of cancer, including leading the North Kingstown High School boys volleyball team to a state championship in 2014, her final season of coaching. It was one of 10 state championships her boys and girls volleyball teams earned.

A 1976 graduate of Northeastern University, Joanne built her career in the North Kingstown School Department, teaching physical education at Hamilton Elementary School and coaching not only volleyball, but also girls basketball and softball, at North Kingstown High School. Pat shares that Joanne also was dedicated to working on a drug-free program for athletes in the North Kingstown schools.

“She was an amazing person, a big part of the community, and was absolutely known for her hugs. She gave the best hugs that you’ve ever, ever received,” recalls Pat.

Her players’ tributes illustrate how Joanne exemplified the late John Wooden quote, “A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.”

In a video tribute, Ben Shola, a senior when the NKHS volleyball team won the 2014 state championship, explains, “Coach Fitts was a second mother to me. She cared about each and every one of us. It wasn’t just about volleyball with her...She taught me how to be grateful for each moment we have here on this earth.”

This fund will continue to change North Kingstown athletes’ lives through college scholarships that will be awarded to volleyball players, male and female. Of the decision to establish a scholarship fund, Pat says, “She always emphasized the academics of her athletes. And we know the Foundation will be good stewards of the money.”

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