Remembering Douglas C. Wilkins
Douglas Clare Wilkins died June 3, 2019, the day of his wedding anniversary, at the age of 77 in his home at Franciscan Oaks in Denville. He was predeceased by his wife of over 50 years Marjorie (July 2018). Surviving him are his beloved brother and sister, William Wilkins (Ruthann) and Jacquelyn Wilkins Estes, respectively, two daughters, Debra Wilkins Becker and Lisa Wilson (Stephen), a son, Gordon Wilkins (Thuy-An), and five grandchildren.
Doug was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Gordon And Alice Wilkins. He graduated from Roxbury High School, earned a BA in History at Moravian College in 1964, and an MA in Educational Administration and Supervision from William Paterson University in 1978. He spent his entire career with the Mountain Lakes School District, serving first as a Social Studies teacher and twenty-nine years as an administrator at the high school (athletic director & assistant principal) including serving as principal from 1987-1999. During his tenure as principal, the school district was consistently ranked among the top high schools in NJ, as well as being nationally ranked, with Doug being named Educator of the Year in 1994.
Doug served as head football coach at Mountain Lakes High School from through 2009, amassing a 328-105-5 record that ranked him fourth on New Jersey’s all-time victories list at the time of his retirement, as well the most wins in Morris County. The HERD won eight sectional championships, including back-to-back North Jersey, Section 1, Group 1 titles in his final two seasons, going 12-0 in both seasons, ending his coaching career on a 25-game winning streak. Doug received numerous accolades throughout his coaching tenure. He was named Coach of the Year by various media outlets, was elected into the NJ Coaches Hall of Fame, was the first active football coach in Morris County to be inducted into the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (2000), and was presented with the Robert M. Herbstman Award (2004) by Moravian College. The newly installed turf field in Mountain Lakes was named in his honor in October 2010, the season following his retirement.
Doug was a charter member of the Morris County Football Coaches Association, mentoring many coaches over the years to honor those who coached and mentored him early in his career, most notably coaching greats John Bauer Sr. (Randolph) and Bell Regan Sr. (Delbarton). Doug and his coaching staff created the HERD acronym (Hustle, Enthusiasm, Roughness, Desire/Dedication), unique to the school’s football program, as a philosophy of team bonding and unity to foster success and maximize players’ potential.
Doug had a great amount of trust, respect and faith in his players, coaches, students, and staff; he held them to high standards and challenged them, helping to get the best out of people. This went beyond the gridiron, as this was part of the Laker Pride initiative he embraced as principal. Doug’s legacy transcends the wins on the field and awards he earned. He considered his greatest accomplishments to be those of his children, grandchildren, players, students, teachers, and peers. He cherished the many letters, emails, visits, and souvenirs bestowed upon him from former players, students, and friends showing how they achieved their own success and applied his philosophy and motivation to their careers, family, and life.
Towards the end of his coaching career, Coach Wilkins had a vision of creating a group for the HERD Alumni. This group would eventually be formed by way of a series of meetings involving local alumni held at the home of HERD Alumnus Jamie Rodgers. The goals of the group were to provide a way to help former players in times of need and to provide funds for the HERD football program to supplement the budget provided by the Mountain Lakes Board of Education.
Following Coach Wilkins’ retirement, in the spring of 2010, an anonymous benefactor donated $50,000 to establish a scholarship in the names of Coach Wilkins and Coach Roche. The alumni group then decided to continue to fund that scholarship by means of an annual golf outing. Today it is known as the Wilkins-Roche Herdsman Scholarship, and the golf outing is a popular annual event that continues to raise money to fund the scholarships awarded to several graduating senior Herdsmen each year.
These fundraising activities eventually led to the official formation of the HERD Alumni Foundation, a 501(c) (3) corporation, to continue the work of Coach Wilkins vision. Since its inception in 2010 to the passing of Coach Wilkins in 2019, the HERD Alumni Foundation has distributed over $180,000 in scholarships to 37 graduating Herdsmen. In addition, thanks to the annual Pig Roast and donations from HERD Alumni, the foundation has also donated over $150,000 to the HERD program for items such as weight room equipment, new uniforms, turf blocking sleds, mechanical tackling dummies, and stipends for volunteer coaches. The Foundation depends on the continued support of the HERD Family to continue to fulfill Coach Wilkins’ vision.
Douglas C. Wilkins Memorial Fund
Donations in Doug’s honor may be made to the HERD Alumni Foundation, a 501(c)(3) established by Doug, where funds can be directed towards the Wilkins-Roche Herdsman Scholarship, upkeep of Wilkins Field, or the foundation’s General Fund. Thank you for your generosity.
*The HERD Alumni Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.