January 2016


 Email PDF

At the Top

Marshall, Fickes, Frey Honored

The Grand Island Senior High Hall of Honor welcomed new members William Marshall III, John Fickes and Doug Frey during two days of ceremonies last fall. Full bios of Marshall (Class of 1962), Fickes (1963) and Frey (1973) at http://www.gips.org/foundation/programs/hall-of-honor.html.

More than 300 family and friends gathered on October 8 at Riverside Golf Club to honor Marshall, Fickes and Frey at a formal dinner banquet. Each of them gave an acceptance speech before which his accomplishments were detailed and a video of his life ran on screens in the banquet hall. Among those in attendance were former Hall of Honor inductees Mike Monk (1967) and C. Dean McGrath (1971).

In addition to recognizing the Hall of Honor trio, the banquet honored two former Senior High staff members. Math teacher Dr. Stanley Urwiller and English teacher/counselor Rod Shada were given the distinguished Legendary Educator award.

The next day the trio was formally inducted at Senior High where they also had a chance to meet with current GISH students. They were recognized at halftime of the Islander football game at Memorial Stadium that evening. Their portraits will hang in the foyer in the 400 wing near the entrance of the newly remodeled Senior High Auditorium. (Click the photo in the text for a video of their day at Senior High.)

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation conducts the Hall of Honor ceremonies and oversees the selection of new inductees every two years. A separate committee of alumni and community makes recommendations. Final selection is by a vote of Grand Island Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors. The primary criterion for selection into the Hall of Honor is a Senior High graduate who has made a significant contribution to the betterment of mankind.

The Foundation also conducts the selection of the Legendary Educator awards. Letters of nomination for both the Hall of Honor and Legendary Educator should be sent to the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation at tskalberg@gips.org.

Hall of Honor Nomination Form
Legendary Educator Nomination Form


Pushing On

Know an Islander who's reached a significant milestone? Email us at alumni@gips.org

STEPHANIE (LEIBERT) HANSEN, Class of 1992, was appointed Douglas County District Judge on November 5, 2015 by Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets. Prior to taking the bench, she was a deputy county attorney in Sarpy County for 15 years. Hansen graduated from Hastings College 1996 and the University of Nebraska Law School 2000.

THE REVEREND VERNL E. MATTSON, Class of 1968, has retired as Associate Regional Pastor from the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey where he had served since 2004. Rev. Mattson was part of the core staff that work with the 280 churches within New Jersey. Rev. Mattson served four associations with over 90 congregations across the state. He assisted pastors and search and call committees in finding a call to a church. In this work, he provided counsel, church administration, technology assistance, and preached each Sunday in one or more of these churches. In his retirement he will continue serving as a consultant for the technology and databases used by the denomination. He concludes over 45 years of
pastoral and regional ministry.


I've Been Thinking

Behind Every Successful Student ...

The list to end that sentence can be long. Somewhere near the top, however, is a posse of gifted teachers, professional educators who have changed a life and in turn changed the world.

Go ahead, do your own research, but I can save you some time. Check out the studies here http://is.gd/8JF91O and here http://is.gd/zJA3fQ.

If you like a good story, however, I have some anecdotal evidence from last October's Senior Hall of Honor Induction Banquet. Each of the three honorees – Bill Marshall, John Fickes and Doug Frey – underscored the power of a teacher in the life of a student ... not just in high school but years after that.

That evening we also feted two "Legendary Educators" from Senior High: Math teacher Dr. Stanley Urwiller and teacher/counselor/coach Mr. Rod Shada. Those who had nominated this impressive pair recalled plenty of their own life-changing evidence to support the selection of Urwiller and Shada as truly "legendary."

We all probably had some high school teachers who fired our imaginations, broadened our perspectives or actually touched our hearts and minds.

I don't know about you, but I also had a few who surely dropped to their knees and thanked the Almighty above when I graduated in 1968. Sound familiar? Hey, you can't win them all.

My short list of game changers includes ...

Mr. Elmer Kral, who not always so gently, pushed, pulled and prodded me into being a better student and more particularly a better writer, a profession at which I would make my living for over 20 years.

Miss Lillian Willman's American History class taught me the value of preparation ... and the consequences (and serious woe) of being unprepared or even underprepared. I bragged
about Miss Willman some years ago in column for the Independent, about the time the nation was debating what a "highly qualified teacher" should be according to the dictates of No Child Left Behind. You can read it here: http://is.gd/d6iA0Y.

Journalism teacher Mrs. Judy Barth made abundantly clear to me the value of deadlines, of insisting we deliver, accurately and on time. Here's how she did it: After I missed one – one, mind you – deadline in her beginning journalism class known as 4-J, she did not select me to be a member of the Islander staff. Talk about an inauspicious start to a journalism career. During two decades plus as a writer and journalist, I occasionally sat at the keyboard staring into a blank screen as the newspaper's clock moved ever forward and thought of the gift Mrs. Barth gave me.

Mr. Bob Hanson was an exceptional math teacher, but I learned his lessons about excellence and effort on the track, where nonsense and knuckleheads were dealt with swiftly and surely. The results were more than state championships; they were indelible imprints. He was some-one we never wanted to disappoint – not out of fear but rather what even a know-it-all-smart-aleck-teenager like me came to know as respect.

Music director Mr. Jack Learned took my below average voice, made it average and showed me why hitting the right note is more than simply getting the sound right – regardless the song you are singing. It's about putting all the pieces together in the right order and the right way. That translated well for a writer, but surely too for all the future doctors, lawyers, teachers, artisans and entrepreneurs belting it out on the Madrigal risers.

As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. The past is sometimes writ larger or smaller in our minds to jibe with a particular memory or connection to "then" we hold dear.

I suppose some of that is true of our educations and our teachers as well. But when I take a clear-eyed view of my aggregate experience professionally and personally, I can indeed draw a line to Senior High and to the five pros above ... and others.

That's why when Messrs. Marshall, Fickes and Frey sang the praises of some of their life and world-changing high school teachers, this is one choir member who was singing along.


A Distant Mirror

Memorial Day - May 1961

Introduction: In the late 1950's and early 1960's, Memorial Day was a major event in Grand Island. Many families would visit the local cemeteries, in my case three generations at once, spending time at the graves of family members, and awaiting the formal ceremonies, which always ended with rifle salutes. In our family the excitement for the children was to get one of the shell casings that fell to the ground after the rifle salute. Memorial Day was also honored with festivities and speeches at Howard Elementary School. In 1961, Howard School was a relatively new, simply beautiful school, with a wonderful layout and gorgeous amenities. It seemed normal to those of us who attended. What follows is my recollection of the 1961 Memorial Day convocation.

Chapter 1

While the rest of the students at Howard Elementary School proceeded at their usual pace — some rooms buzzing with activity and some quiet with concentration — Sixth graders Julia Dunham, Peggy Burger, and I walked quietly down the halls together at the Howard Elementary School. The giggling, pinching and teasing normally observed among grammar school children, or as they were called in Nebraska, "grade school" children, were noticeably absent. There were several reasons for the reserved demeanor. First the three of us were sixth graders, the oldest class at Howard, composed mostly of eleven and twelve year olds. In addition, we were definitely on the more studious and "goody-goody" end of the sixth grade
spectrum. But our serious and even nervous manner was primarily due to the gravity of our mission. We three sixth graders were the finalists among all sixth graders for the honor of delivering the "I am an American" speech, traditionally part of the school's Memorial Day convocation, in front of the entire school, parents, military representatives, and other guests. This day we were each to audition by reading the speech to the three sixth grade teachers, Mrs. Severson, Mrs. Weidner, and Mrs. Walker, who would then select the winner.

Despite the nervous tension, we each could not resist looking into the other classrooms as they passed. Inside the strange classrooms we saw different teachers, students, wall decorations, and ultimately the different realities of each classroom's little world.

As we approached the foyer of the school, where the school gathered for Christmas caroling and other major events, we saw two other sixth graders, Steve Schroeder and Mike Parmley, who were similarly liberated from the classroom, and apparently enjoying it much more. As the two boys passed the door of the last classroom before the foyer, they walked properly and noiselessly. Once past the door, they began laughing and throwing at each other bits of rubber torn off from a rubber eraser. The two boys were dressed in blue jeans, "Schro" with a plain white t-shirt, and "Parm" with a blue cotton short-sleeve shirt. Parm and Schro both carried cases containing their coronets, which they had begun playing almost two years previously, at the start of Fifth grade.

At the sight of my two friends, I carefully whispered, "Schro , Parm what are you doing out of class?"

''We're playing "Taps" for the Memorial Day deal,'' said Parm. Julia and Peggy both said nothing, but looked reproachfully at the two boys.

Just then a group of teachers approached the group, and we three auditioning students quickly proceeded to the front of the foyer, while the two boys with their horns went outside with the band teacher. Parm and Schro were selected to play "Taps" during the final climactic portion of the oration, to provide the solemn and poignant background appropriate for the speech on patriotism and devotion to country. In fact, as the three potential orators were set to begin their auditions the sound of "Taps" could be faintly heard outside. The teachers remarked on the nice effect of playing the horns out of sight, so the audience hearing them would be both surprised by the horns, and moved by the faint sounds seemingly coming from nowhere.

Miss Moore, the grey-haired principal, proceeded to organize the audition for the oration. She first asked Peggy Burger to take her place behind the podium. She then directed Julia and me to be seated in the front row of the rows of folding chairs already assembled in the foyer in anticipation for the Memorial Day ceremony. The three sixth grade teachers were already seated.

I listened closely as Peggy Burger read through the prepared text, and I carefully considered my chances of being chosen to deliver the speech. Peggy of course read the text well, but her body movement and hand gestures seemed a little forced, or "fake" to me. My views on what constituted a good speech were clearly in the formative stages. I sensed that some emotion was good, but too much seemed silly. I knew that sometimes you should speak fast and with emphasis, and that sometimes you should use pauses, but when to use these techniques seemed pretty much a matter of personal taste to me.

I was the second speaker to try out, and I steadied quickly after a bit of unexpected nervousness at the beginning. I proceeded with a speech filled with emotion. I thought I had demonstrated a nicely balanced use of different speeds of speech and had exhibited good eye contact with the sparse audience. After glancing quickly at the response of the teachers to my effort, I lowered my eyes and walked briskly to my seat. I thought to myself that I had a real shot at the speech, and I thrilled inwardly at the expectation.

When Julia Dunham began her audition, I at first dismissed her as any real threat, since Julia had only recently began to gain confidence in her public speaking. But as she continued on, I was immediately struck by her forceful speaking style, and her more measured approach. She proceeded gracefully and smoothly though the speech, and at the end reached a more impassioned pitch than either Peggy or I had been able to do. As Julia concluded, smiled shyly, and left the podium, I sensed I had finished second.

After a brief private chat by the three teachers and Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Moore stepped over to us three 12-year olds and announced,

"Each of you read a simply splendid speech, and each of you would do a fine job if chosen. The teachers and I, however, have chosen Julia to present the Memorial Day speech since her talk seemed particularly to capture the patriotic feeling associated with this event. And I have a special surprise for everyone, a representative of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has agreed to join us and also say a few words."

I grimaced inwardly and a bit outwardly too, but then congratulated Julia and returned with the two girls to our classrooms.

Chapter 2

The disappointment I felt in being passed over for the Memorial Day speech again arose on the actual day of the Memorial Day ceremonies at Howard Elementary School. Parents, brothers and sisters, and even some grandparents, filled the foyer, seated for the most part in folding chairs. In addition, the entire student body of approximately 300 students was assembled on the floor of the foyer, seated cross-legged, "Indian Style," in front of the adults in the folding chairs. The air was filled with the reserved excitement of a serious event. Even the youngest children, the 5-year old kindergartners, had been told of the serious nature of gathering, the remembrance of those who died for America. So the presence of so many people and relatives inevitably provided a subdued but festive atmosphere. I would have loved to have given the speech amidst all this excitement. While I considered myself relatively sophisticated with regard to patriotic fervor, on that day I strongly felt the emotion and meaning of the event.

The selection of Steve Schroeder and Mike Parmley to play "Taps" at the climax of the event was a puzzling one at best. Admittedly, Schro and Parm were among the better coronet players at the school, and their version of "Taps," with harmony, was a good one. Nevertheless, the Parm and Schro combination had all too frequently spelled disaster in the past. In the Second grade, the two of them were sent down to the Kindergarten classroom by Mrs. Langdon (later Mrs. Martin when in mid second grade she married the mailman) because they were "acting like kindergarteners." In Fifth grade Parm and Schro had both grown fond of Pamela Cramer, and to best show their affection they decided to draw a picture of her that was, to put it mildly, inappropriate, and give it to her. Pamela then gave the picture to her teacher and the Principal, Miss Moore, had to investigate. After berating the two boys for some time, she pronounced a sentence even more painful than Parm or Schro had imagined. She declared that Parm and Schro could not walk to school together and could not walk home from school together. In fact, to ensure compliance. Mrs. Moore announced that Mrs. Langdon herself would drive Parm the five short blocks from school to his house on Pine Street.

Notwithstanding this history of problems together, it was Parm and Schro who were stationed outside the school listening carefully as Mrs. Walker, their sixth grade teacher, gave them the final instructions about playing "Taps."

"Very well Mike and Steve, you must wait here quietly while Julia gives her speech. You must not talk or make noise of any kind. After Julia finishes, the gentleman from the Veterans of Foreign Wars will make his speech. When he is almost done, you will begin to play "Taps." I will step outside the door and wave to you, and at that precise time you should begin to play. Remember, play slowly and don't rush. You should play loud enough to be heard, but softly enough for the mood of the ceremony. Do you understand?"

"Yes Mrs. Walker," said Schro, who had heard little of what she had said, even though he looked earnestly at his teacher while she spoke.

"OK Mrs. Walker," said Parm, looking as he spoke at a few late arriving parents, who were hustling into the school foyer to see the program.

Once Parm and Schro were told to be quiet during the bulk of the ceremony, they immediately were seized by a strong desire to make some noise, or perhaps more accurately, were struck by the impossibility of remaining quiet under the circumstances. The combination of the command to be quiet and the solemnity of the occasion were to Parm and Schro an unspoken challenge. They would defy the instructions willingly, if only to discover just what the consequences would be. This ceremony was a special one, however, and both boys overcame their initial urge to test the circumstances and became silent.

As the ceremony proceeded inside, the boys became restless, however, and each time they would catch each other's eye they would start to laugh and then have to stifle the noise. It quickly became a game of trying not to look at each other, and bursting out into audible giggles when they did look at each other.

"No" said Parm to Schro, "Don't make me laugh,"

"Don't you make me laugh" responded Schro, and as the boys looked at each other, they both broke into giggles.

Inside, Julia Dunham was just finishing her oration, and the foyer rang with the applause of the audience. Sitting with my sixth grade class, I thought to myself that Julia's speech wasn't quite as good as I had remembered it at the tryout a few days before. Maybe I would have been the better choice after all. As the representative of the Veterans of Foreign Wars began to speak, however, I forgot Julia's speech, and began to become engrossed in the veteran's speech.

The bearded speaker, a gentle man of perhaps 60 years, built toward his patriotically sentimental conclusion. Mrs. Walker quietly walked toward the door at the back of the foyer, and looked around to signal to the boys to begin their coronets. She saw them standing in their appointed place, but they were so engrossed in giggles that she couldn't get their attention. She began to wave her arm wildly.

"Parm," cried Schro, "there's Mrs. Walker."

"Geez, we better get going," said Parm, and they raised their instruments to their lips. The immediacy the moment, however, struck them both as hilarious, and they burst into laughter, which, with their coronets positioned to their mouths, produced a bleating sound, part laughter and part brass instrument. Then they recovered playing the initial notes of "Taps," "Blah, blah blah......," but then the laughter returned, "blahahahahaha blah," and then "blah ha ha ha ha ha," was heard within the auditorium. Inside, I immediately sensed that my friends Parm and Schro were somehow messing up their parts and messing up the mood of the ceremony. Once my patriotic flow was broken, however, I felt a smile come to my lips. I then heard the sound of "Taps," however halting and uncertain, but then immediately I again heard the bleating sound.

"Blah, Blah, ha ha ha ha ha.. Blahahaha ....... Blhaahaaahaah."

Outside Parm and Schro were in that delicious, yet terrifying, limbo created by having done something outrageously bad. After the first outburst, they momentarily had regained their composure, only to relapse into further gales of uncontrollable laughter. Now all was lost. The laughter they had not been able to contain was still within them, but it was being quickly tempered by the enormity of the punishment they knew they would soon face. Mrs. Walker and Miss Moore quickly marched out to deal with them, with the sternest of demeanors. I will leave the details of that encounter to the imagination of the reader.

Inside, the mannerly Midwestern audience was confused. The speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars gentleman had been good enough to carry through the disruption caused by the unusual rendition of "Taps." But everyone sensed that things had not gone quite as planned. Some students were giggling, some were asking what had happened, and some didn't much care. The parents and families, too, were confused. Some were upset, some were amused, and many simply departed and proceeded about their business with an uncertain understanding of the bleating they had heard.

Age 66 – A Sonnet

As youth and thoughts invincible do wane
And lifelong friends begin to suffer ills,
I wonder will my own health still remain?
Or am I tilting at age old windmills?
I now am blessed and surfeited with joys
That many close companions ne'er will see.
My grandchildren provide such rapturous noise
And always running come embracing me.
With travel and a comfort palpable,
My bride and I do share a life and love.
Resources now are mine to use at will,
For this I often thank the stars above.
And while this bliss could last for decades more,
In time the reaper knocks on every door.

By Michael W. Monk


Shaking the World

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

At the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation we use the tagline "Your Legacy. Their Opportunity." This is an intentional description of what we do and who we are.

Humankind has pondered legacy for centuries. We know that the Greek Statesman Pericles was interested in legacy, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." – Pericles

So what is legacy? What do you leave behind? We at the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation contend that legacy is not created by money alone, legacy is a value system. Sure you can leave money behind (you can't take it with you!) ... but a legacy is built by the intentional investment of that money and the value system (fund guideline) that directs it. This is one reason why our work at the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation is so gratifying. We help people define their legacies by investing in today's students and future generations of students. Students, of course, are the opportunity part of the equation.

Legacy funds can be endowed as well ... which means that they are invested in a manner that will offer grants or scholarships designed around the donor's value system, every year, FOREVER. Now that is impact! Just think of the thousands of students who will benefit from just one endowed legacy fund. At the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation we are committed to the legacies created by our donors. Every fund has a story and a value system. It is our intention to highlight at least one of these stories in each publication of this Rise newsletter. We hope that you will enjoy reading about alumni, parents, educators and friends who have shared their legacies with our students.

"It's about the journey, mine and yours, and the lives we can touch, the legacy we can leave, and the world we can change for the better." –Tony Dungy


Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

Art and Education, Sculpting Dreams

The Spring of 2016 will mark the first award of the David and Helen Young Scholarship. David Young is an Art Teacher and a sculptor. Before retiring in 1991, Mr. Young taught Art for 33 years at Grand Island Senior High. His wife Helen, is a 1948 graduate of Grand Island Senior High. The connection to the purple and gold and all things Grand Island is strong for the Youngs. This connection is also tangible. David's public art sculptures include bronzes of Grace and Edith Abbott at the Grand Island Public Library, the sculpture of a cougar at Knickrehm Elementary, and a bust of Bud Wolbach at the Stuhr Museum. While David Young has left more behind than some through his art, he considers his greatest contribution to be his investment in young people and their goals and dreams throughout his teaching career. It is in this spirit that the couple created this legacy scholarship fund. The annual scholarship will be awarded to a Grand Island Senior High Student who is pursuing a degree in Education with preference to a student who wants to become an art teacher.

David and Helen Young, your legacy IS their opportunity.

For more information about how to set up a legacy fund, call or e-mail Traci Skalberg, 308-385-5900 ext. 1170; tskalberg@gips.org


On the Island

Senior High Current Events

  • SENIOR HIGH is always innovating to keep us at the cutting edge of technology. With 12 brand new flat screen televisions installed throughout the hallways, students have information on how to get involved at a glance.


  • The fall season was filled with the PERFORMING ARTS production of "The Little Mermaid," fall sports such as girls golf, boys tennis, softball, volleyball, cross country and football. As usual, the Islanders put their best foot, club or racket forward as they competed around the state in athletic competitions.

GIPS facebook album
The Little Mermaid - 1
The Little Mermaid - 2


  • The FOOTBALL TEAM compiled an 8-2 record, losing to eventual state semi-finalist Omaha North in the first round of the playoffs.

GIPS facebook album
GISH Football - 1
GISH Football - 2


  • The Islander SOFTBALL TEAM went 25-16, losing in the district championship game to Lincoln Southwest.

GIPS facebook album
GISH Softball


  • In CROSS COUNTRY, junior Longis Kouri placed fourth in districts for the Islander boys. He then was 32nd out of 97 runners at the State Meet.


  • The VOLLEYBALL TEAM went 14-18, in TENNIS #1 singles player Brennen Root made it into the second round at State, and sophomore golfer Faith Harris tied for third at State out of 69 competitors.


  • Finally, GISH welcomed HALL OF HONOR inductee William W. Marshall III, John Fickes, and Doug Frey and congratulates them for making a positive difference in the community, as well as proving what an Islander can do.

Find additional photos on the Grand Island Public Schools facebook page.


In Memoriam

JERRY ARENT, Class of 1963, died November 1, 2015 in Kearney. He was 70.

LENORA (NIETFELD) CORNELIUS, Class of 1940, died November 7, 2015 in Grand Island. She was 93.

JACQUE EVANS died November 15, 2015, in Atkinson. He was 92. Evans was a long time teacher and coach at Senior High.

BILL FARRER, Class of 1960, died December 28, 2014 in Lincoln. He was 72.

STAN FARRER, Class of 1962, died April 10, 2015, in Omaha. He was 70.

FLORENCE (CAMBELL) HARVEY, Class of 1946, died December 9, 2015 in Grand Island. She was 87.

JANE (BOST) HORNING, Class of 1957, died November 22, 2015, in St. Louis, Mo. She was 76.

BOB JOHNSEN, Class of 1967, died August 7, 2015, in Fallbrook, Calif. He was 66.

LEWIS KENT, Class of 1951, died November 8, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 84.

DALE KOKES, Class of 1978, dies December 23, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 58.

ALBERTA (ELSTERMEIER) LARKOWSKI, Class of 1956, died December 25, 2015, in Central City. She was 77.

BOB LESSIG, Class of 1945, died November 23, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 87.

TIMOTHY "TIM" LOCKHART, Class of 1974, died November 2, 2015 in Elmwood. He was 60.

GALE METTENBRINK, Class of 1966, died December 17, 2015 in Chandler, Ariz. He was 67.

EDITH (NOFFKE) MOORE, Class of 1942, died November 30, 2015, in McAllen, Texas. She was 91.

GINGER (TRUEBLOOD) OLINGER, Class of 1951, died December 13, 2015, in St. Paul. She was 81.

ROBERT E. "BOB" PETERSEN, Class of 1957, died December 21, 2015 in Omaha. He was 78.

GAYLORD "PETE" PETERSON, Class of 1951, died December 23, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 79.

SHARLEEN (MCMULLEN) RATHMAN, Class of 1950, died November 11, 2015 in Grand Island. She was 83.

MARK SALDECKI, Class of 1982, died November 18, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 51.

JEFF SCHMAHL, Class of 1974, died in West New York, N.J., on July 14, 2015. He was 58.

CHARLES "CHARLIE" SHEFFIELD, Class of 1957, died December 11, 2015, in Brownsville, Texas. He was 76.

JACK SORENSON, Class of 1947, died November 26, 2015 in Grand Island. He was 87.

JUDY (BACON) TJADEN, Class of 1972, died December 17, 2015, in Grand Island. She was 62.

JACK TORPEY, died December 2, 2015, in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 96.

RICHARD H. "DICK" URBACH, Class of 1941, died November 28, 2015 in Mount Vernon, Mo. He was 92.

To report an alumni death since January 1, 2016, please send an email with first name, last name, class year, and maiden name if applicable to alumni@gips.org.