While a student at Tilton-Northfield High School in the mid-1950s, Doug MacGregor led the cross country team to two state titles. His arrival at UNH was eagerly anticipated by legendary track and cross country coach Paul Sweet. Doug’s running prowess soon earned him the campus nickname, “The Flying Scott.”
The admiration that Sweet, who coached UNH teams from 1924 to 1970, held for his fleet-footed runner was reciprocated, remembers Doug’s wife, Olive (Swan) MacGregor ’64, whom he met in a biology class. “Doug thought the world of Coach Sweet,” she says. The coach and his wife, Marion, attended the MacGregors’ wedding, and Doug and Olive would later name their son Paul in Sweet’s honor. They stayed in touch until Sweet’s death in 2001.
Doug’s love of competitive racing never waned, but for many years after graduation he channeled his energy into his family and a teaching career that began at Sanborn Seminary in Kingston, where he established the school’s first cross country team. In 1964, he began teaching junior high school science and coaching intramural sports in Lebanon, where he would stay for 35 years. He and Olive raised two children, Paul ’91 and Karen, and despite a busy teaching and coaching schedule, he always made time to cheer on their sports teams and other interests.
By his late 40s he was participating in about 30 races a year and setting age-group records at several distances, many of which still stand. In his 50s and 60s he was ranked among the top runners in his age group in New England.
At age 39, Doug began running again, though a severe hamstring injury at age 40 derailed him for several years. By his late 40s he was participating in about 30 races a year and setting age-group records at several distances, many of which still stand. In his 50s and 60s he was ranked among the top runners in his age group in New England. “I think the biggest thrill was when he came in first in the Old Reliable Run in Raleigh (a 10K race) at age 50,” says Olive.
As modest as he was in the rest of his life, when Doug tied on his running shoes he became fiercely competitive. Much younger runners dreaded having an off day in a race because even into his 60s, Doug could often breeze right past them. It took four broken ribs, a punctured lung, twisted vertebrae, and being knocked unconscious by a bicyclist on a trail in Chicago to end his running season prematurely in 2004, says Olive. He recovered and returned to his sport the following year, although with slower times. He was elected to the New England 65-Plus Runners Club Hall of Fame and the UNH 100 Club Hall of Fame.
Environmental issues were always a special interest, and Doug was instrumental in getting recycling started in Lebanon. He also served on the Lebanon Conservation Commission and was a member of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization devoted to protecting the planet. Avid gardeners, every summer Doug and Olive raised enough vegetables and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to share with their neighbors and the hungry racoons who frequented their yard.
After retiring from teaching, Doug worked as a part-time custodian for the Lebanon School District and the local library. He filled his days with running, manning the scoreboard clock for Lebanon High School basketball games, cheering on Boston sports teams, skiing and snowshoeing in winter and spending time with his grandchildren. In 2007, he and Olive visited a cousin in Glasgow, Scotland, and toured the Highlands, and in 2015 they celebrated their 50th anniversary with a trip to the Canadian Rockies and the Calgary Stampede.
Several years ago, it became obvious that Doug was slowing down and having difficulty walking, says his wife. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013, and, more recently, with bladder cancer, before passing away on January 30.
Originally published in UNH Magazine Fall 2017 Issue