Richard A. “Dick” Ernst

Inducted: 2017
Died: 2016
Dick Ernst, a Cranston native, has served more backhands and slap shots, than the number of cars that ply route 95 on any given day. His rise to prominence (and dominance) began in his hometown high school tennis courts and hockey rink in the mid-1950’s where he became an all-state high school selection in both sports in 1956. Dick eventually starred in both tennis and hockey at Providence College.

Some collegiate stars walk away from their early careers as the demands of life take over, only playing pickup games as a hobby or a way to stay in shape. Not Dick. If anything, his competitive zeal soared even higher along with his humorous one-liners that seemed to take the edge off the ever-serious sportsman.

Before his PC diploma was in his hand in 1961, Dick was amping up his forthcoming career. He participated in amateur games at the net and around the goal throughout New England, sometimes sleeping in his car to save time and money and make it all work. In the tradition of baseball’s Tim O’Neil, Dick organized leagues at all levels anywhere there was a need. He had Dublin, Ireland in 1971. He participated at what would become the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame, and at an exhibition match at the Providence Civic Center featuring Australian tennis great Rod Laver, both in 1975.

As Dick got older (he’ll never admit it)–or should we say matured–the siren call of coaching took over his life. He has guided approximately 100 schools, both secondary and college teams (male and female), in his favorite fields–and even found the time to coach a couple of cross country teams as well. His coaching stints included long stops at Providence College, Cranston High School, and Rhode Island College, among many. When all was said and done he coached hockey at the high school level for over fifty years, longer than anyone in the state’s history. And, regardless of the decade, Dick still stayed in shape pulling out tennis wins and rankings against much younger players. The ball and puck are also all in the family. Dick Ernst, probably the most prolific tennis and hockey player and coach in the annals of Rhode Island, raised three sons Bobby, Gordie, and Andy. Their achievements, records, and prizes in those arenas fill more pages than an academic resume. Their dad even coached them at times. Dick’s wife Rollie also attained championship caliber as a tennis star and coach. Both husband and wife guided each other’s teams against one another on several occasions at Rhode Island College and Roger Williams University. You’ll have to ask them about the winner in those contests!

Dick’s induction into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame is a fitting capstone to a lifetime of unimaginable activity, sportsmanship, and dedication to others. He is a true champion not only on the court and rink but in the game of life!

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