Halls of Excellence

Ishpeming schools to honor notable grads

This is the 1975 Ishpeming High School football team, which won the state championship. The team is one of the inaugural inductees of the Ishpeming Halls of Excellence. (Photo courtesy of Brian Sarvello)

ISHPEMING — Ishpeming Public Schools is looking at special way to recognize notable graduates.

The district is creating the Halls of Excellence, which will be used to honor the accomplishments of former IPS students as well as the staff who enabled their efforts and other people who have contributed honor and prestige to the school district.

Brian Sarvello, apprentice manager for Upper Peninsula Michigan Works!, is spearheading the effort — something he wanted 20 years ago as a second-year principal at Ishpeming High School.

“I saw this incredible opportunity to inspire and motivate our students by sharing the stories of our past graduates,” Sarvello said. “I know I’m biased, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a school district the size of Ishpeming that’s produced more outstanding graduates.”

The inaugural induction ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 2 in the Ishpeming High School auditorium, with a reception to immediately follow in the high school commons.

The Class of 2023 is: the 1900, 1901, 1902 and 1905 football state championship teams; the 1975 football state championship team; Gary and Judy Anderson; Catherine Beinlich and the Beinlich family; Susan Chinn; Diane Garrett, Michael Koenig; Ray Leverton; Dorothy Lindberg; Travis Olds; C.L. Phelps; and C.C. Watson.

“What really motivated me to develop this was this desire for our students to hear those stories and then connect to them, because we know we have a lot of successful graduates who struggled in schools themselves,” Sarvello said. “My hope was that a student would hear their story and say, ‘Boy, that sounds like me, and I’m going through some struggles right now, and yet they were successful, so I can be successful too.'”

Sarvello said that last winter, he finally decided it was time to act on creating the Halls of Excellence, an idea the Ishpeming Public Schools Board of Education liked, he said.

The commons area that will house the Halls of Excellence and the honorees’ plaques, Sarvello pointed out, is used by many students and the public.

“Hopefully everyone will get a chance to view it and read the stories,” he said.

Marquette Area Public Schools already has such an endeavor: the Pendill Wall of Excellence, which honors graduates from the district that have excelled in their fields.

“The Ishpeming Public Schools district is very unique with unparalleled support from our residence, alumni and business community,” IPS Superintendent Carrie Meyer said in an email. “This program is a way to show our gratitude and appreciation to those who support us. On behalf of the district and board of education, I would like to thank Brian Sarvello and the Halls of Excellence Committee on their hard work making this program and event a reality.”

Sarvello said the school district is fortunate to have the support of Gauthier Insurance, based in Ishpeming, is sponsoring the first-year event “to the tune of thousands of dollars.”

However, the hope, he noted, is that other graduates and sponsors will step up in the future. Ticket sales too should help.

“We really want it to be a nice event,” Sarvello said, with ticket sales limited to 250 — big enough to provide the inductees’ deserved recognition yet keeping it “intimate” and having a manageable reception after the event.

He said it’s also nice to have the ceremony close to the annual Fourth of July Homecoming festivities.

Nominations for the Class of 2024 inductees will be available at the July 2 event. Savello pointed out that once someone is nominated, they remain in that pool.

“We know there’s some great people that weren’t nominated,” he said. “I think this first-year event will kind of open everyone’s eyes to it.”

Sarvello has high regard for the inaugural inductees.

“It really does represent what we hope for — that whole cross-section of ‘this is what a school district is,'” Sarvello said. “It’s every adult in the district that contributes to the success of our students.”

Going forward, inductees could include people like custodians and bus drivers who impact kids and perform their jobs behind the scenes, but aren’t recognized.

Sarvello recalled his time as a student in Ishpeming Public Schools.

“Every adult I came in contact with held me accountable to that expectation of excellence, and it didn’t matter if it was the custodian or the lunch lady or the bus driver,” Sarvello said. “if you didn’t live up to the expectation of excellence, they’re going to confront you, and I think that’s what’s missing from education today.”

However, they “did it with love,” he said.

“People put us under adversity, but they always taught us how to deal with it,” Sarvello said. “We came out of our school well prepared for adversity in the future.”

Achievements are many

The inaugural recipients are accomplished.

“Our high school football team from our small community had to play all-star teams from the biggest cities of the Lower Peninsula,” the biography for the early 1900s football teams reads. “But their big city all-star teams could not beat the Hematites despite outweighing the Hematites by over 50 pounds per


“No high school in the entire state of Michigan has won championships in football over a longer period of time than Ishpeming High School thanks to our 1900, 1901, 1902 and 1905 state champions.”

The 1975 football state champs won the Class C final over the downstate Hudson Tigers.

Gary Anderson was CEO and chairman at Dow Corning Corporation, who along with Judy Anderson established a trust that provides scholarships for students at Michigan Technological University and IHS.

The Beinlich family was heavily involved in Ishpeming sports, with Catherine serving as president of the Booster Club for over 20 years, Eric coaching the IHS wrestling program and their sons winning a combined 12 conference wrestling championships and seven Upper Peninsula titles.

Susan Chinn was a longtime teacher with IPS, and Diane Garrett was an accomplished nurse, serving as IPS school nurse for 30 years.

Michael Koenig was a consultant to several child-survival research projects in Bangladesh, and was program officer for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi. He also was a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ray Leverton was active with the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and helped raise thousands of dollars for the Ishpeming Carnegie Library. Dorothy Lindberg was a teacher and swimming coach at IHS.

Travis Olds was curator of minerals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Olds was been involved in the description of 30 new minerals recognized by the International Mineralogical Association, most of which contain uranium, and two minerals from upper Michigan.

C.L. Phelps was the IPS superintendent for 27 years while C.C. Watson was an IHS educator and coach who was elected to the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.

Tickets for the July 2 ceremony can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/2b6pxk5m. A link to purchase tickets will be available soon on the IPS website at www.ishpemingschools.org

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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