Aaron Marston, 47, died last Wednesday from a probable heart attack.
Aaron Marston, 47, died last Wednesday from a probable heart attack. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine at Presque Isle

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The sudden death of Aaron Marston, a professor and women’s soccer coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, has left the community, campus and alumni around the country reeling.

Marston, 47, died last Wednesday from a probable heart attack. He leaves his wife, Keli, and daughters Taylor Dawn and Kacie Marie of Presque Isle. Calling hours will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Presque Isle.

As the campus community navigates the loss, university officials said Marston personified generosity. A hard-nosed soccer player while a student, he reveled in his players’ successes as a coach — on the field and after they began their own careers. Condolences have poured in from Marston’s former students all over the United States and Canada.

“Some people are born teachers and born mentors, and he clearly was,” university President Ray Rice said. “He was someone who really transformed people’s thinking about themselves and what they could accomplish.”

Last week was difficult on campus, but it has been inspiring to see so many of Marston’s students post photos of themselves with him on social media, Rice said.

Marston graduated from Katahdin High School in Stacyville in 1993, and earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from the Presque Isle university in 1997. While a student, he was a four-year starter center for Owls men’s soccer and captain for two years.  

He and his wife met as university students. They married in 2000 and moved to West Virginia to attend Marshall University, where Marston received his master’s in athletic training in 2003, according to his obituary.

They founded a training center in St. Augustine, Florida, and nine years later they returned to Presque Isle, where Marston started Next Level Training. In 2014, he joined the university’s staff as an exercise science instructor, and earlier this year earned tenure as an associate professor.

Marston had an ability to add humor to difficult situations that could potentially be divisive, Rice said.

“He helped people get the big picture of what unified us,” Rice said. “He had an incredibly generous spirit that was really his driving force, and it was amazing to watch his interaction with players and his joy in their success.”

When Marston attended Presque Isle, he played soccer for Coach Alan Gordon, an alum who has worked on campus for 32 years as an instructor and coach. Gordon said though he was trying to be strong, the loss is devastating to him.  

The waves of social media postings from Marston’s former students and players is overwhelming, but not surprising, Gordon said. They looked up to him and wanted to be like him because he inspired them to be better people.

“I’ve been coaching for 32 years and we have a huge soccer alumni family that is grieving for him, too,” Gordon said. “The impact that he has had on our alumni and his teammates after he played with them — they became friends for life, many of them.”

Marston influenced many people’s lives, and Gordon said he would miss their day-to-day conversations about life, the players and students.  

As a soccer player, Marston was a tough and tireless team worker, Gordon said. After a few games in his freshman year, he earned a starting spot and never relinquished it.

He didn’t get the credit he deserved because he didn’t score a lot of goals, but he was the glue that held the entire team together and made them a success.

In Marston’s junior year, the Owls made the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic regional championship — which is a huge accomplishment for a Maine team, Gordon said.

“Of all the athletes and students that I’ve coached and taught while here at UMPI, my wish for them is to be the leader and the great person that Aaron became,” Gordon said. “He’s just an amazing coach, teacher, family man, father, husband and friend to everybody.”

Marston became head coach prior to the Owls’ 2019 season. That first season he brought the team from 2 wins and 13 losses in 2018 to 7-6-2, according to the university’s athletics department.

Though COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season, the team finished 7-8 in 2021, performing with 5 wins and 4 losses in the North Atlantic Conference and making the playoffs for the first time since joining the conference in 2018.

The Owls women are at 6-3-4 on the 2022 season, including a 1-1 tie against No. 1 seeded Husson University.

After several meetings, the women’s soccer team has decided to participate in the playoffs, Rice said.

“They want to go for it and play in large part in honor of Aaron and all he has done for them,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Marston’s position. He was an associate professor.