Here's a "Sondo Stumper:" What former longtime Sharon-area sports broadcast color man and trivia buff has sailed (or is it swam?) into retirement after 11 years as Sharon High School athletic director?
The correct answer is in this story.
The days of Sharon High students earning free drinks from the athletic department's soda machine ended last week when Robert Sondheim passed the Eagles baton to William Martin, who had been a department coordinator, physical education and health teacher, and coach at Shepherd Hill Regional High School.
Sondheim's "Sondo Stumper" trivia questions were posted on a bulletin board outside the gym.
But, students may not know that Sondheim created the challenge while doing sports broadcasts with former Sharon Recreation Director Dave Clifton. The duo did more than 300 broadcasts together, Sondheim says.
"I was the color man. So, I figured it was something I would try and develop, that people would listen for and be challenged. Because, I love trivia," Sondheim said during a recent interview in his office.
"It really stuck. It carried through to the school. I figured, unless people complained, (I'd) give them a free drink from the soda machine if they get the answer."
Sondheim was the answer to the question "Who will succeed Richard Corbin as Sharon High athletic director?" in 2001.
Sondheim was finishing 26 years with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, last 10 to 12 of those years as statewide transportation coordinator.
He had also coached Sharon High's swimming teams from 1996 to 2001.
And he was active in town, including serving on the finance committee from 1980 to 1986.
"I enjoyed coaching. I may still go back to coaching. But, I was pretty dead-ended in my job after 26-and-a-half years, working for a boss who had been demoted. I'm a guy with ideas. And he was a guy just looking to play out the string," said Sondheim, who moved here in 1979.
“I’m visible. I had done a lot of things. People knew me. And I said, 'Gee, this would be really nice.' Instead of going in on the train all the time, I had a chance to do a job that I knew I would like. I always liked athletics."
Eleven years later, Sondheim said he had "mixed feelings" as his days at Sharon High wound down.
“There are people you’re saying goodbye to that it's quite emotional. It's the finality of doing something you enjoy doing, that you wish you had more time to do. And yet, I'm making the right decision, financially and otherwise, that it's time to move on," he said.
"I also feel very good because I feel it's left in very capable hands for Bill Martin to take over. I think he'll do a fine job. He’s a good communicator. And I think he knows a lot of what he’s getting into. Certainly, from the MIAA perspective, he’s very, very experienced. I think that will stand this program in good stead.
"All the work you’ve done, try to do, over 11 years, you want to try to pass the torch. So, I've given him a lot of training. Between that and what he brings to the table, I feel that things aren't going down the drain by any means. He'll take it to the next level."
Sondheim said his first memory of his tenure as athletic director was one to which Martin related, as he started working at Shepherd Hill at the same time 11 years ago.
The memory was of reacting to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism, Sondheim said.
"I think of us standing around in a circle in the library. And here I was, just on duty for three or four weeks, and had to make some key decisions: what are we going to do about the upcoming games? Do we cancel the games? Keep them? What do we do about practice?" Sondheim recalled.
"That’s what kind of seems like a long time ago. Yet, it almost seems like it was just yesterday, because of the catastrophic events that happened that day. It was the test right off the bat.
"We were all literally standing around in a circle. And I remember George Anthony, the principal, saying, 'Bob, what do you think we should do with athletics today?' I looked around, and I thought of the Kennedy assassination. And I said, 'If it were up to me, very few people's minds are going to be on anything to do with athletics. I think you have to cancel. And we'll make up the games.' I didn’t know how easy it was to do that, or how hard it was. But I knew it was the right call: cancel the games for today, maybe for the end of the week, so that we can start fresh next week."
Sondheim described his tenure as "a work in progress. It's not really one moment that defines 11 years."
"Certainly, winning the state championships was fun. There's no question about that," said Sondheim, who gave the faculty address to the Class of 2012 at graduation. The seniors chose Sondheim to speak.
"Coming very close to winning a championship: hiring Barry Kaye and having him take the (boys) soccer program in 2007 to overtime for the state championship. Talk about coming close.
"There's not one moment. It's a whole collection of moments of how you think you've affected kids, and how you've tried to rub off on people, and how they rub off on you."
The next question for Sondheim is, "What happens next?"
"I'm in the process of patenting one invention, working on another one. The most I’ll say about it right now is it will improve the independence of persons with disability by a couple of modifications made to wheelchairs," he answers.
"Also, it's going to help hospitals with regard to moving people in wheelchairs."
Sondheim said he designed his invention, while friend Warren Smith "has turned my visions into reality, mechanically."
"We have a company in China that will probably manufacture the first of these inventions, and we're going to be going ahead with it in the fall.
"I'll always be busy. And I'll do some volunteer things around here."