As Hopkins’ longest active faculty member, Bagnall has had a hand in shaping many key initiatives, including management of the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of the athletic training staff.
Being as he was a one-person training staff, Bagnall initially worked in “a tiny little room that makes the current training room look like a palace,” according to Varsity Football and Lacrosse Coach Scott Wich. Over his forty-plus years on the Hill, Bagnall has grown to be the Director of Medical Services and the Head Athletic Trainer, allowing him to positively impact the lives of numerous faculty and students.
Although Hopkins has, in many ways, transformed, in Bagnall’s time here, one thing has remained constant: Hopkins treats athletic trainers as medical professionals. As Bagnall states, “That wasn’t always the case back in the day. People just thought [of] athletic trainers as trainers who would dispense water or towels or carry them off the field and hand them off to transitions.
Hopkins always put a value on that and that still impresses me to this day about the place.”
Bagnall’s evolution at Hopkins was matched by that of the athletic training department. Hopkins began to recruit college students as interns to work as athletic trainers, and nowadays several trainers circulate through the WCAC, a big change from Bagnall’s first days. Both Hopkins and the role of athletic trainer have changed greatly during Bagnall’s time here. Bagnall was a major part of that process.
Athletic Trainer Christina Balsamo will miss “Don’s expertise” both on and off the field, “whenever I am unsure of something.” Varsity Football Coach Tim Phipps says that he has relied on Bagnall as both an Athletic Trainer and a trusted advisor throughout his time here. According to Phipps, in the 2019 season, when there were some calls in the game that Phipps did not agree with, Phipps went to the officials at halftime to talk to them. Phipps says that he soon realized that Bagnall was walking with him: “Don saw I was mad and walked out with me and said in a perfectly calm tone, ‘Okay, I am going with you.’ He stood next to me and was stoic the entire conversation, never left my side, helped me stay calm.” Not only was
Bagnall a calming and encouraging force, according to Phipps, but he was non-judgmental: When Phipps “thanked [Bagnall] for going out on the field with me, [Bagnall] in his usual calm tone, said, ‘No worries, I was just there to make sure you didn’t do something stupid and get thrown out!’”
Students and faculty on the Hill will remember Bagnall for his wit and sense of humor. Even
from his first days as a student at Hopkins, Wich remembers how Bagnall “was the advisor that everyone wanted.” Further, Wich commented on how Don’s “best quality is his sense of humor.”
Director of Athletics Rocco DeMaio echoed this idea, stating that he is going to miss Don’s “friendship, mentorship, and sense of humor.” Phipps also remembered his first encounter with
Bagnall “when [Bagnall] was fitting players for gear.” Bagnall then went up to a player and asked them, “Did you need the right handed helmet or the left handed helmet?” Phipps began to laugh at the question, which allowed the student to eventually catch on to the joke. This was one of Bagnall’s greatest “gifts,” according
to Phipps: He found a way of “breaking up the monotony of that task for those involved with it.”
DeMaio notes the “care” with which Bagnall treated Hopkins students — athletes and otherwise.
DeMaio admires “the pride [Bagnall] exhibits in his children and ability to treat all of the Hopkins students the same way.”
Bagnall is known for his “Donisms,” sayings that Bagnall frequently used to lift spirits in the athletic center, as Athletic Trainer Jill Gleason commented. According to Gleason, Bagnall’s most famous and lasting phrase is that “it is better to be p------ off than p----- on. So when you are down in the dumps or really mad about something, just remember that it’s better to be p----- off than p----- on.” Another of Bagnall’s “Donisms” was that “There are no bad days, only bad moments.”
According to Wich, Bagnall’s approach was epitomized by his demeanor following an “absolutely terrifying” injury sustained by Wich’s son, Charlie Wich ’23, in 2022 game against Poly Prep.
Wich recalls that, as he hurried onto the field, he was “terrified, as a parent and a coach.” Says Wich,
“The first thing that Bagnall said was something funny. It was a comforting statement, and I knew everything was going to be alright [because of Bagnall’s]
ability to use his sense of humor in ways that make him more effective at what he does.”
Gleason cites Bagnall’s “character”
as a key to his long career at Hopkins.
According to Gleason, “Don is very driven. He has done so many higher-level things as an athletic trainer and he runs marathons and he volunteers a lot. He is just a very driven individual, and I think that speaks highly to his character.” Assistant Director of Athletics and Varsity Lacrosse Coach Kristen Wich says, “I will miss the way he made me feel — how I imagine he made everyone feel — so welcomed.”
Bagnall, for his part, emphasizes the “people” as the part of his job he will miss the most:
“I’m definitely going to miss the people. Students, faculty, staff. I think one of the things I’ll miss most out of that is watching a sevie come in and be a sevie and then, six years later, graduate a senior, well on their way to being a young adult. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Especially for the ones that struggle early and then figure it out.”
Bagnall also notes that, in the time he has served in his role, he has gotten to get to know generations of Hopkins families. “I have a lot of alums’ kids, kids that were there when I first started,” Bagnall says. “And that’s very special when that happens because it’s a family that you see [over time].”
Bagnall adds that “Both my kids, William and Rebecca, went here as well.”
On June 3, Hopkins sent Bagnall off on a final farewell. The celebration, which included a luncheon, is part of a larger effort to bring Hopkins Alumni back to campus to rejoin the community for the Alumni Weekend. Teachers, students, friends, and faculty have taken time to acknowledge Bagnall’s tireless work over the course of his more than four decades on the Hill — a response Bagnall describes as “overwhelming”: “Especially as of late when, approaching retirement, I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and notes. The response to my retirement party during the reunions has been overwhelming.
I can’t thank all the students and the faculty and staff for their support and the trust that they placed in me over the years.”