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Legends & Legacies Event

A night honoring distinguished alumni and educators

Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at Riverside Golf Club
5:30 pm Cocktails  |  6:30 pm Dinner


Legendary Educator

The Legendary Educator Award was inaugurated in 2009 to recognize the outstanding educators
who have made a difference to the thousands of students who have attended Grand Island Public Schools.


D. Donald Vander Hamm

Legendary Educator 2024

“A kind and loving man who touched us all with his friendship, his laughter, and his love!  He shall forever be in our thoughts and in our memories, for there are ‘Angels Among Us’, and indeed, D. Donald Vander Hamm is one of them.” – Lincoln and Newell Elementary School Staff

“He’s a special man. He’s what makes the music. He’s so full of enthusiasm, you cannot watch him and not join in.” — Yvette Engelhaupt

“He was an excellent, excellent teacher because every one of those kids were his kids. He just loved those kids.” – City Council member Jackie Pielstick

Don Vander Hamm grew up on a farm near Ireton, Iowa.  He graduated from Concordia Prep School in Seward, Nebraska in 1950 and from Hastings College in 1954 with a degree in Music Education.  He received his Master of Music Education from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1960.

He was a member of the National Music Educators Association, the National Choral Directors Association, as well as the Nebraska Choral Music Directors.  Don was an active member of the Trinity Lutheran Church and served on the Trinity Lutheran School Board.

His teaching career started in 1954 in Shelby, Nebraska where he taught K-12 Vocal and Instrumental music, plus 9th Grade Science and a class of Modern Problems. From 1956 to 1960 he was the K-12 Choral and Instrumental teacher at Wood River.  After that, he was a traveling music teacher in Boelus, Dannebrog, Farwell, and Alda until 1962 before accepting the

Grand Island Northwest Choral Position. Following that position, in 1969, he accepted a teaching job in the Grand Island Public Schools where he taught elementary music at Gates, Jefferson, Newell, and Lincoln Elementary’s before becoming the Vocal Music Coordinator for GIPS in 1972.     

During his tenure for GIPS, several of his many accomplishments were directing the annual 1000-member spring chorus which was made up of 5th and 6th graders from GIPS.  Every year he arranged professional groups to come to Grand Island to work and perform with elementary students across Grand Island to experience the joy and wonder of music and dance. One of his passions was to prepare his students each year to showcase their beautiful voices and choreographed movement in front of their families and friends.  This was the highlight for him, knowing that the students were always giving their best and enjoying what music was all about.

Don Vander Hamm was married to his wife, LaDonna, for 47 years and were blessed with four children, Donelle, Ross, Dian, and Rahn, along with 14 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.


You are invited to attend the celebration.

Join the GIPS Foundation for an extraordinary event, Legends & Legacies. The Foundation is dedicated to honoring distinguished Grand Island Senior High Alumni to the Hall of Honor and celebrating our Legendary Educators. This event is a celebration of the remarkable individuals who have not only walked the hallowed halls of education but have also left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those they have touched. Join us as we celebrate these extraordinary alumni and the passionate educators. Legends & Legacies welcomes you to an evening of celebration, reflection, and recognition of those who have shaped the future through their commitment to knowledge and the pursuit of greatness.



Thank you to the Legends & Legacies sponsors. We appreciate you and your support of Grand Island Public Schools excellence.

© 2024 Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

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