For 30 years, Walter "Doc" West was a familiar face at Minnetonka High School. He taught Physical Education, was the Athletic Director, football and basketball coach, and was Department Chairman of Physical Education. Many students joked that the West Gym was even named after him.
During his tenure – both on and off the field – he impacted countless students and colleagues. Not just those who met him, but those who feel his legacy today though his advocacy for physical education, athletics and especially for girls' sports before Title IX.
When he passed away on April 11, 2012, the guest book was filled with fond memories from former students, colleagues and friends. Many aspects of his warm, caring personality shine through in their words. Coach West is remembered for his sense of humor, passionate commitment to fitness and his overall warmth and compassion towards others.
Many peers credit him with inspiring them to become Physical Education teachers. Jeff Renlund, a P.E. teacher and coach in Minnetonka, wrote "He was an inspiring teacher and coach of mine at MHS. His energy and enthusiasm for life was so contagious. He strongly influenced me to become a teacher and coach."
Allie Cronk, another colleague inspired by Coach West, reminisced that he "was a champion for instilling the importance of physical education for the students and the entire Minnetonka community. He left a legacy as a caring compassionate teacher, coach, department leader and athletic director."
Laurence Smith said that "His heart was golden and his professional career was devoted to the students he served. His contributions in the early seventies and eighty's when I was at MHS were superlative -Walt made a significant contribution to the school and community."
Some of Coach West's career highlights include:
- In the 1960's there were no physical education teachers in the elementary schools, so he traveled to each school and taught classes.
- He was the football coach from 1963-1971.
- He was named the Minnesota Secondary Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 1984-85.
- He introduced an independent study program into the physical education curriculum.
- He continued coaching 10th grade basketball and assisting in football. After retiring, he volunteered as quarterback coach for the sophomore team.
- His teaching philosophy: You have to teach the fundamentals of any physical activity if you want to succeed at it.