Willard Doran

A memoir to Willard Doran

The following summary to highlight the life of Willard Doran was taken from the Times-Union and Troy Record as well as interviews from Capital District members including XXX.

A former student and prodigy of Dom Denio, Willard Doran went on to officiate many games with Denio and the two formed a long-lasting friendship.  At meetings, Doran wasn't known for dominating conversations but whenever he did speak, the room was silent as everyone was ready to listen and hear his thoughtful advice. 

Willard Doran was an educator, administrator, legislator, referee and a U.S. Army veteran. He excelled in all of those capacities because of the class he carried himself with, the respect his students and peers had for him and the unwavering support he received from his most cherished possessions, his family and friends. "He was a spiritual man of great faith, his faith, family and friends were most important to him," lifelong friend Ed O'Haire said.

Doran was an inaugural member of the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame for his considerable work as an official. He officiated Section II and local college football games as a member of the Capital District Football Officials Association for 40 years.

John Soffey, a CDFOA alum who went on to serve as the Coordinator of Officials for the former Big East Football conference, said "Will [Doran] and Dom [Denio] taught so many of us how to officiate, how to handle coaches and how to handle players. They were unparalleled as football officials," Soffey said. "I never worked with better officials than Willard and Dom."

Doran starred on the football, basketball and baseball teams at La Salle. He went on to enjoy great success playing basketball at Manhattan College, where he served as captain during the 1953-54 season.

After graduating from Manhattan, Doran went on to SUNY Albany before joining the Army. He was a part of the first-ever U.S. Army basketball team at Ft. Dix, N.J.  When he finished college and serving in the Army, Doran returned to his hometown in the 1960s and became involved in educating the City's youth within the Lansingburgh School District. He taught for many years before becoming principal at Knickerbacker Junior High. A post he held for 13 years. 

Joe Manupella worked with Doran for 15 years at Knickerbacker and they also spent many years together in the Legislature. "We were a great team in school, he would always let me use his office to bring kids in and shake them up," Manupella said. "The kids looked at him like he was a giant." After leaving Lansingburgh, Doran was Director of Student Development at Hudson Valley Community College, a position he held until retiring in 1995. Doran was also a Rensselaer County Legislator for 16 years. Doran also served on the Board of Directors of the Lansingburgh boys and girls club, LaSalle and the Knickerbacker Playground. Additionally, he was a past president of the Rotary Club and received three community service awards including the Troy Police PBA Gold Shield Award. 

Doran was a highly regarded football and basketball official in the Capital Region. Along with fellow referee and longtime friend Dominic Denio the duo formed one of the greatest and thorough officiating crews. They were regarded as the two finest referees Section II has ever seen and were recognized for their service with their induction into the inaugural class of the Capital District Football Hall of Fame in 2010. 

"They were terrific, all the coaches loved them because all they got out of Dominic and Willard was a great officiated game, there were no problems. They taught me a lot," veteran official John Soffey said. "It was an honor and a pleasure to work with them." Even though he was recognized with numerous awards and accolades Doran never strayed from what mattered most to him--his family, O'Haire says. "Willard never sought any laurels or anything that was just his life. Faith, family and friends," he said. Many of Doran's fellow officials say him and Denio were in a class by themselves. "Those two were the two best officials I ever worked with, they were real gentleman, they never tooted their horn they just went out and refereed the game," Soffey said. Soffey was an up and coming referee while Doran and Denio were seasoned and had loads of experience. "They were proteges, they took me under their wing when I first started and they were very good to me. I worked quite a few games with both of them," Soffey recalls. Soffey marveled at the manner in which Doran and Denio handled all aspects of their craft. "They were just so focused, very business-like and they knew how to handle coaches and players. They were top notch; no one could really rise to their level," he said.