Steamboat’s sparring superintendent dies at 78 |

Steamboat’s sparring superintendent dies at 78

In 1984, Steamboat Springs Superintendent of Schools JAlan Aufderheide traveled to Denver for a Golden Gloves boxing match with a 20-year-old Army corporal. It didn’t go his way but “Dr. J” came away with his self-respect and a new view on life. Photo courtesy of George Kochaniec.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Former longtime Steamboat Springs Superintendent JAlan Aufderheide, perhaps the only local superintendent to enter a Golden Gloves boxing tournament in his 40s, died peacefully Feb.12 at the age of 78.

A celebration of his life was held on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Fisher’s Peak Community Church in Trinidad, Colorado.

Aufderheide stepped into the superintendent's role in Steamboat during the first week of April 1979. He had begun his career in public education in 1962 as a high school English teacher in Toledo, Ohio. His last position before making the big move to Steamboat had been as superintendent in Ulysses, Pennsylvania.

When he arrived in Steamboat, the school board, led by President Bill Baldwin, had already committed to advancing a bond issue to build new schools in Strawberry Park. Aufderheide took the project to the finish line.

Aufderheide succeeded former Superintendent J.D. Hathaway.

Aufderheide's qualifications included leading a $2 million building program at his school in Pennsylvania.

According to his obituary, after leaving Steamboat Springs following a 15-year career here, Aufderheide accepted several interim jobs as superintendent in several districts in Colorado. He took a full-time position in tiny Branson, Colorado, on the New Mexico line not far from the Oklahoma panhandle.

There, he began the first K-12 online school in Colorado.

When Aufderheide retired from Branson, he took another interim superintendent’s position in Trinidad for a year and later served as superintendent in Maxwell, New Mexico, for three years. He finally fully retired in 2010.

JAlan (that's not a typo), or Dr. J, as everyone called him, proved to be a hands-on superintendent who enjoyed driving a school bus from time to time. More than once, when a Steamboat Springs High School bus broke down in the middle of the night carrying an athletic team home from a more distant school district, it was Dr. J to the rescue.

Aufderheide is also remembered for having made the tough, and exceptionally rare, decision to cancel school classes in Steamboat Springs on Feb. 6, 1989, when morning temperatures dropped to 40 degrees below zero. School policy called for him to take that action, but scarcely anyone in the school district could ever recall classes being canceled due to weather.

The Steamboat Pilot reported that “George Sauer, former superintendent who began work in 1942, also does not remember the schools being closed. Bud Root, junior high principal who arrived in Steamboat in 1961, also does not recall the district shutting down the schools.” The story continued, “But Gloria Gossard, a longtime Steamboat local, does recall school being let out for a day due to weather during the late 1930s when she was in school."

Recommended Stories For You

It was shortly after Aufderheide came to Steamboat in 1980 that he assessed his weight, poor eating habits and tobacco habit and began a fitness regimen. Aufderheide told Steamboat Pilot sports reporter Brian Bubak that he had gradually worked his way to running 13 to 15 miles a session and was succeeding in converting fat into muscle. His weight had dropped to 259 pounds.

On Feb. 22, 1984, Aufderheide, 43, traveled to Denver for a Golden Gloves match with Corporal Joe Richardson, a 20-year-old, 235-pound Army corporal, who was a member of the boxing team at Fort Carson.

Aufderheide landed a couple of jabs to the mid-section of the unflinching Richardson before his opponent used a series of head blows to send the school superintendent reeling into the ropes and to the canvas, where he was counted out.

Aufderheide knew better than to protest.

"If (the referee) had let it go, that kid would have beat a tattoo on me like you wouldn't believe," he told the Steamboat Pilot.

His family will always recall Aufderheide as a man who enjoyed traveling the country with his family and learning and doing new things — and cutting wood. 

He found pleasure in doing mitigation work on his property in the Santa Fe Trail Ranch near Trinidad, as well as working on community projects. He cherished time with friends and neighbors.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.