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September 2017

Volume 2 | Number 5

Welcome to Rise

Welcome to the September 2017 edition of Rise Grand Island the alumni newsletter for Grand Island Senior High published every other month by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Rise is where we connect with thousands of Islanders across the globe, keeping you and them informed on what’s happening in Purple and Gold land, and reminiscing a little bit as well.

This is Volume 2, Number 5, as we continue our second year with Rise. Thanks for reading us and for your comments and support.

We really enjoy hearing from those of you who find Rise in your in-box every other month. Give us a shout, especially if you or a GISH alum you know has done something new, newsy, or newsworthy. You can reach us at

Our At the Top feature in this edition showcases the newest four inductees into the Grand Island Senior High Hall of Honor. The quartet will be feted at a banquet on October 5 and then spend the next day at Senior High talking with students and sharing their stories of success. The Hall of Honor banquet will also recognize two Legendary Educators. Read all their bios in At the Top.

Foundation Executive Director Traci Skalberg will give you the details of this year’s Teacher of the Year Awards, the Foundation’s annual celebration and recognition of faculty staff. She’ll let you know who is best and brightest in our classrooms in her Shaking the World piece in this edition.

We welcome new From the Island correspondent Taylor Keyes to the fold. Taylor is a senior and a member of the Islander Newspaper staff. She will be updating us in each issue of “Rise” on what’s happening at Senior High.

Our Distant Mirror correspondent, Mike Monk, Class of 1967, reminisces about his typical first day of school after a busy summer with a single notebook and a couple of pencils, then compares his experience to a modern list of “essentials” for the first day. I guarantee you’ll smile … or cringe.

If you’ll bear with me, my I’ve Been Thinking column may appear to be a little self-serving. We are starting in this issue of Rise to list upcoming class reunions and … well … my class is gathering next June. Who knew? Actually, I did. So sue me. Reunions are the subject of my column, my second foray into the mysteries of these traditional conclaves.

As usual we’ll see what was popular in music, movies, and television each decade during September going back to the 1940s.

We hope you enjoy this Rise and remember to keep pushing on.

George Ayoub, Class of 1968
Editor, Rise Grand Island

At the Top

Hall of Honor, Legendary Educators to be Recognized in October

Grand Island Senior High’s Hall of Honor will induct four new members this fall. Jan Lindquist Gradwohl, Class of 1947; Jeffrey Greenberger, Class of 1967; Philip “Mac” Martin, Jr., Class of 1970; and Dr. Amy Cannella, Class of 1989, will be recognized at an evening banquet at Riverside Golf Club on Thursday, October 5. The following day they will spend time with students at Senior High, sharing insights into their successes and how GISH played a role in their lives. A full bio of each inductee appears at the end of this story.

Started in 1983, the Senior High Hall of Honor “recognizes Grand Island Senior High School alumni who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the betterment of society.” With this year’s quartet of inductees, Hall of Honor membership stands at 71, representing two centuries and 10 decades, and spanning over 100 years of graduating classes from Dr. Arthur Bentley, Class of 1885 to this year’s honoree, Dr. Amy Cannella, Class of 1989.

Also being recognized at the banquet will be two Legendary Educators: Vikki Deuel, the former principal at Walnut Middle School and the late Charlie Sheffield, long-time elementary physical education teacher and leader. Full bios of Deuel and Sheffield also appear at the end of this story.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation established the Legendary Educator award “to recognize the many outstanding educators who have made it their life's work to ensure success for thousands of Grand Island students.” Deuel and Sheffield join seven other professionals from GIPS who have been honored as Legendary Educators.

Visit the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation page for more information on both the Hall of Honor and the Legendary Educator Awards. Tickets to the Hall of Honor Banquet (Thursday, October 5, 2017, at 6 p.m.) are $40 and are available by visiting the GIPS Foundation website or calling 308-385-5900 ext. 1148.

Hall of Honor Inductees

Jan Lindquist Gradwohl - Class of 1947

Jan Lindquist Gradwohl became the fourth woman judge in Nebraska, upon her appointment to the bench in 1974. She was the first woman judge in Lancaster County, having been the first female deputy county attorney there. Her prior experience included serving as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. Air Force; as Assistant to the Director of the World Tax Series, a publication branch of Harvard Law School; and practicing law with a private law firm. 

Gradwohl served by Presidential appointment and Senate Confirmation on the Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute.  She was also on the National Jury Standards Committee that prepared the American Bar Association (ABA) jury management standards. She chaired the 900-member special courts judicial section of the ABA; and was a founding member of the International Association of Women Judges. 

Gradwohl served on the faculty of the National Judicial College and was on the planning committee and/or faculty of national and international legal conferences in the U.S. and in Asia.   

During her judicial career Gradwohl served on numerous committees and task forces dedicated to judicial system improvement and equal justice. In 1991, Gradwohl received the ABA National Flaschner Award, which recognizes a judge of a court of special jurisdiction for distinguished service in improving the quality of justice in the U.S. Other legal and civic organizations have also recognized her commitment to equal justice through awards such as the 2014 Nebraska Appleseed Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award.

In 1990, Gradwohl took an early retirement from the bench. She, with her husband, John M. Gradwohl, a distinguished law professor, developed interactive methods for teaching international comparative law, implementing those programs over a nine-year period at four Chinese law schools, the Chinese Ministry of Education, and the Shanghai area courts and law colleges. Together with two Chinese lawyers, the Gradwohls wrote an English/Mandarin text on international law trial practice for use in Chinese law schools, published by a Chinese University and funded by the Asia Foundation. 

Gradwohl continues to be involved in legal research and writing, and serves on the advisory boards of educational and civic organizations. Her husband of 60 years, Professor John M. Gradwohl, died in 2014. Their children are Ann, Jill (Jeffrey Schroeder), and John(Marsha). She has four grandchildren, Andrea, Shannon, Joel, and Allison; and three great-grandchildren, Levi, Audric, and Torin. In 2016, Gradwohl, her daughter Jill, and granddaughter Shannon, were recognized as the first family to have three generations of female graduates of the University of Nebraska College of Law.

Jeffrey Greenberger - Class of 1967

Jeff Greenberger is a second generation Islander, born and raised in Grand Island.  At Grand Island High School he was involved in the Islander and served as vice-president of his class. Following graduation, he attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He then attended Columbia University School of Law in New York City graduating in 1974.

Greenberger joined the Chicago law firm of Sonnenschein, Carlin, Nath and Rosenthal. He honed his skills in real estate law there from 1974 to 1977, then became the Head of the Real Estate Investment Division at Allstate Insurance Company.

Following his time at Allstate, Greenberger spent more than 17 years at one of the leading global real estate firms, Jones Lang LaSalle. While at Jones Lang LaSalle, he managed a number of significant real estate projects nationally and globally. Included among his domestic accomplishments were leading the $120 million redevelopment and expansion of Orchestra Hall in Chicago, home of the Chicago Symphony, and the creation of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Public Sector Group.  Internationally, Greenberger advised clients as diverse as Bank of America in the bank’s multi-country AsiaPacific region and the British Department of Social Security in a groundbreaking privatization of its 17 million square foot real estate portfolio.  After leaving Jones Lang LaSalle, Greenberger worked for Deutsche Bank in New York City, from 2002 to 2006, serving first as Head of Real Estate Strategy for the United States and later Global Head of Strategic Planning for Real Estate.  

Greenberger then joined the effort to preserve our planet’s precious resources. He was the founding President of Parking Lites, which provided energy-efficient lighting for parking and other facilities, and in 2012, partnered with Hispanic Housing Development Corporation to create Affordable Community Energy, Inc. which provided comprehensive energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy retrofits to multifamily low-income housing. In 2016, to carry on this critical dual mission of helping to keep affordable housing affordable and fighting climate change, Greenberger formed an independent company, Affordable Community Energy Services Company.

He has extended his impact on his community by serving on several non-profit Boards, including the Chicago Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves, a global organization dedicated to helping teachers teach issues of civic responsibility and tolerance, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, and the Institute for Clinical Social Work, a unique clinical and research-oriented institution of higher-learning that grants Ph.D. and Master degrees to psychotherapists.

Greenberger and his wife Madelyn have two grown children; Sara and Elliot; two sons in law, Kyle Rafferty and Marco Hidalgo; and one grandchild, Isaiah.

Philip 'Mac' Martin, Jr. - Class of 1970

Philip Martin, Jr., ‘Mac’, as he is known to friends and family, is a product of the K-8 curriculum at Stolley Park School, which was Hall County District 1 at that time. He attended Barr Junior High and attended Grand Island Senior High, graduating in 1970. While at Senior High, Martin was active in student government, journalism, and forensics. Martin is a third generation Islander, with graduates in the family dating back to the early 1900s.

In 1974, Martin graduated from Hastings College with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1977.

Immediately upon graduation, Martin started his career in Grand Island, where he was engaged in private practice until he was appointed by Governor Ben Nelson to the County Court bench in 1990. He served the State of Nebraska and Hall County as a county/juvenile court judge for 26 years until his retirement in 2017.

While on the bench, Martin worked with Hall County Supervisors to establish the Juvenile Diversion Program. This program was tremendously successful and considered a model program for the state of Nebraska. Additionally, Martin was instrumental in the creation of the Hall County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program to support abused and neglected children in the court system. Colleagues near and far regarded Martin as an informal mentor who could provide expert professional training for both judges and attorneys.

Martin continued to be involved in the community, serving in the leadership of many organizations including the Boy Scouts, Heartland United Way, Citizen Advocacy, and Mid-Plains Mental Health Center. He served as president of the Nebraska County Judges Association and was named the 2016 recipient of the Love of Children Award by a coalition of Hall County children’s charities.

Martin and his wife, Ann, reside in Doniphan, Neb., and are the parents of two grown sons, Paul and James.

Amy C. Cannella, MD, MS, RhMSUS - Class of 1989

Dr. Amy Cannella was born in Omaha, Neb., at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). She was raised in Grand Island, graduating with the class of 1989. She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.  In 1993, Cannella returned to UNMC to pursue her medical degree. She has also obtained an MS, Internal Medicine training at UNMC and currently works and teaches for the University.  

From 2001-2003, Cannella attended the University of Utah for fellowship training in Rheumatology.  Prior to returning to UNMC in 2005, she served on the faculties of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of Utah, and spent a year in Florida in private practice.  

After training in Glasgow, Scotland, Dr. Cannella was among the first rheumatologists in the U.S. to utilize Musculoskeletal Ultrasound (MSUS) for the care of patients with rheumatic disease. She has subsequently been actively training rheumagologists on the local and national level, developing a national curriculum and publishing on education and the evolution of MSUS in the United States.

In addition to patient care, education is her passion. Establishing the rheumatology fellowship program at UNMC in 2005, Cannella continues to serve as the program director. UNMC consistently ranks among the top programs in the country, receiving award funding from the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and boasts a 100 percent board pass rate since its inception. Also known for her innovative teaching style, Cannella is a recipient of the Residency Top Teacher award and the 2017 College of Medicine Pioneering Women in Basic Science Education Award. She has served on national ACR education committees, and currently chairs the Continuing Assessment in Rheumatology Education (CARE) committee.

Humbled and honored by this recognition, Dr. Cannella credits a large measure of her success to her patients, who give her perspective, her colleagues for inspiring excellence, her trainees for pushing her to be better, and her teachers for their high expectations. She also credits her family, including her mother, who exemplifies compassion and perseverance, her father, who models integrity and dependability, her siblings who hold each other accountable, her husband who always sees the good in others, and her three children, who remind her to “have fun!”

Legendary Educators

Vikki J. Deuel - Walnut Middle School 1971-2008

“It did not matter who the parent was or what their social status was, Mrs. Deuel was always there to mentor, educate, support, and sometimes scold them. It did not matter if she had meetings or a desk full of other tasks, she made time to take care of people.”  --former colleague

Vikki Joan Husmann Deuel was born in Grand Island to a family with roots dating back to 1859. While she spent the first four years of her life in the Grand Island and Chapman area, she spent the next thirteen years in Ralston, Nebraska. She attended school in Ralston until returning to the area her senior year to graduate at Grand Island Northwest in 1968.

Mrs. Deuel attended the University of Nebraska, Kearney where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1971 and her master’s degree in 1976 both with a special education major. She returned in 1986 to complete her educational specialist’s degree in administration. She later continued taking administrative classes at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

In the spring of 1971, Mrs. Deuel student taught at Barr Junior High under the direction of Linna Dee Donaldson. When it became apparent that a special education position would be open at Walnut in the fall of 1971, she applied and was hired. She would spend the next thirty-seven years of her professional career at Walnut, first as a special education classroom teacher and exploratory department chairman, and then a special education program coordinator, before becoming an assistant principal in 1985 and principal in 1990.

Some of Mrs. Deuel’s fondest memories include the journey that she and her staff took to change the climate of Walnut.  From bully prevention to character development, the coordinated efforts of the Walnut staff resulted in the school being named a 2003 National School of Character; a 2005 Operation Respect National Model School; and a 2008 Hands Project National Partner in Peace.

Following her retirement from the Grand Island Public Schools, Mrs. Deuel taught in the College of Education at University of Nebraska, Kearney for the next five years.

During her educational career Mrs. Deuel has received a number of awards including the University of Nebraska, Lincoln “George E. Melton Award for Distinguished Service to Middle Level Education” and the University of Nebraska, Kearney “Leaders in Education and Service” Award.  Mrs. Deuel was also named “Distinguished Alumna” of Grand Island Northwest High School. 

Mrs. Deuel and her husband Dan, a GISH Class of 1960 graduate; have one daughter, Addie and three grandchildren.

Charlie Sheffield - Grand Island Public Schools 1962 - 2000

“Charlie Sheffield was one who made Grand Island unique. His teaching was ahead of its time, included all students, set the standard for others, and his bar was always set high. He loved all of his students and every teacher knew him.” – a former colleague

Charlie Sheffield was born and raised in Grand Island, Nebraska. He graduated from Grand Island Senior High and later from Kearney State College in Kearney, Nebraska.

Mr. Sheffield was highly recognized for developing the adaptive elementary physical education program in Grand Island Public Schools. In 1979, he was chairperson for the creation of the Elementary Physical Education Guide. It was developed as resource material to support the classroom teacher in presenting a varied and balanced program of physical education activities for life-long health.

Mr. Sheffield developed a unique after-school enrichment program for fifth and sixth grades to supplement the regular physical education curriculum. The major emphasis was placed on teaching skills, rules, terminology, and strategies. The goal was to meet the needs of the poorly skilled as well as the highly skilled and all children were encouraged to participate. An all sports day culminated each program whereby 5th and 6th grade students from all elementary schools met and competed in good wholesome fun. The great thing about the after-school program was that it created a bond between the physical education teachers and classroom teachers. Mr. Sheffield’s end of the year celebration for all staff members shared his appreciation.

He presented many ideas and activities at local, state, and national programs, where he was also honored as an outstanding physical educator.

Mr. Sheffield was president of the Grand Island Officials Association for over 20 years and presented many referee clinics throughout the state. He officiated 12 high school football championships, including nine Class A games. He also worked many state basketball tournament games and championships. He officiated high school and college football and basketball games for 32 years and retired after teaching in the Grand Island Public Schools for 38 years.

“He was a wonderful teacher with a unique booming voice and beautiful smile. He touched many lives, young and old, through educating and mentoring. Charlie was a strong leader, a true team builder, and friend to all.”  — a former student

I've Been Thinking

Two Times on the Tradition of Class Reunions

I’m double dipping on reunions.

But only for a good cause.

I wrote about them in “Rise” last July, observing that despite the occasional horror story played out in the movies and a few cranks among your fellow grads who don’t want to be found, the high school reunion remains “a chance not to relive the past but to remind us how it has imprinted our lives.”

Oh, and to the extent we can, a chance to party like it’s … well … a long time ago.

Here I go again.

My double dip is for two reasons, and yes, one is shamelessly self-serving.

My class, the Class of 1968, is gathering early next summer for our 50th, so I’m hoping classmates who get this “Rise” will save Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, and make plans to be part of the big doings. (Details to follow at your individual street addresses. Otherwise, see web address below.)

The other reason is that “Rise” is going to start publishing reunion information in each edition. You can also find what you need at the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation website, Click on Foundation and find “Alumni Reunions” to see what’s happening in the Senior High reunion universe… and maybe whose party you might want to crash.

Since we walked across the stage at Memorial Stadium on a warm spring Sunday in 1968, my class has gathered six times, the last, a one-night, 45th that rocked the house …well, the Platt-Duetsche. I think some 68ers even made it to midnight.

Among my 428 fellow classmate brothers and sisters, that evening was the last time I saw a good number of them. No doubt my absence in their lives has been preferable for a portion of that group. Still, I’m not naive enough to believe otherwise, that by some magical mystery or intervening mojo we’re all — in today’s vernacular — besties.

Nevertheless, one cannot dispute the raw data: The time and circumstance we spent with one another, hours and days and months and years, was enormous. Granted we were thrown together for an education, but we surely learned much more … about life and each other during what the white lab coats call the “formative years.”

All of which makes those who show up 50 years later not only able to enjoy each other’s company but also marvel at the spectrum of Senior High stories from the spectacular to the sublime, and all birthed in the same place.

Nor is the whole periodic assembly shebang particular to high school graduation classes. Military units, college and professional school cadres, families, casts of television shows, workplace alums, you name it, and we love to get the old gang together. If you think I’m overstating the popularity of our wont to gather, check out Reunions Magazine, in print (15,000 on the subscriber mailing list) or online.

And, if you’ll excuse me, 50 is a large number, bringing an entirely new perspective to the past and the present.

Not only at a 50 year reunion rather than say a 20-year confab will our hair be grayer and thinner (or simply gone) and our getalongs hitchier and creakier (or replaced), our subject matter will surely have changed, too: grandkids, retirement, and Social Security benefits will replace tales of white water rafting, running marathons, and getting that big promotion at work.

For those of us who once again call Grand Island home, a class reunion also formalizes what happens in the canned goods aisle at Hy-Vee or in line at Starbucks when we bump into a classmate. Well, when we bump into a classmate and one of us remembers the other’s name. At least at the reunion we can cheat with name tags.

Fifty is also a nice round number that may persuade some classmates who have never made a reunion to show up and see what’s been going on with some fellow Islanders for the past five decades.

We’re throwing together a class booklet, too, one of those tell-us-what-you’ve-been-doing-for-the-last-50-years-in-100-words-or-less deals. Even Mr. Kral would admit to the clarity challenges when you’re clipping along at two words a year. But, hey, it’s all part of the reunion experience.

And, for some, it’s no, thank you — to the booklet and the entire enterprise. OK, that works.

Either way, plans for 1968’s big Five-Oh go forward. Here’s to your class reunion or for that matter every class reunion in all its splendor: traditional, hackneyed, sometimes superficial, sometime sensational, but always a chance to connect with people from a place from where we mark life’s progress.

Alumni Reunions

Planning a class reunion?

We can help get you started!
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion. We will post it to our website.

Kari Price, Alumni Coordinator
308.385.5900 ext. 1148


Shaking the World

GIPS Foundation 2017 Teacher of the Year Awards

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” –Forest E. Witcraft Teacher and Scholar

On August 14, the GIPS Foundation presented the 2016-17 Teacher of the Year Awards in front of a standing room only crowd at the Grand Island Senior High Auditorium.  The crowd was made up of educators and staff of the Grand Island Public Schools.  The event was part of the school district’s welcome back convocation for their staff. 

The Teacher of the Year program, sponsored by First National Bank, is in its 15th year.  The GIPS Foundation solicits nominations during the spring of each year from students, colleagues, parents and the community.  Nominees must be current teachers, principals, administrators, specialists, counselors, or support staff members (custodians, para-educators, food service, etc.) who are employed by the Grand Island Public Schools.  Six awards are made annually by category.

The GIPS Foundation office is flooded with nominations.  This year that was more than 800 pieces of paper with heartfelt notes and drawings about teachers and staff.  Volunteers, armed with a box of tissues, read through the nominations and select winners.  But that is not all!  The Foundation staff carefully copies the nominations for processing so we can send the originals to each Teacher or staff member who was nominated.  Those packets of love are mailed each June. 

The following are excerpts pulled from the nominations with the winner noted below. 


She gets us very, very smart when she teaches us.

I wish Kindergartner voices were just a tiny bit louder, because I know if they could, they would echo so many of these sentiments.  Because they can’t, I hope you will hear the voice of one of their parents who is forever thankful.

Mrs. Rebecca Waind, Kindergarten Teacher, Stolley Park Elementary



She has the math skills to teach any kid on the planet, smart, or not smart

She says “There is no elevator to success, but there are stairs.  And, you might have to try harder, but you will always get there at some point.”

Ms. Ellie Peterson, Sixth Grade Math, Westridge Middle School



Every day, this teacher would gauge where my daughter was at emotionally and mentally and give her other teachers a heads up so they could help her accordingly.  This is so much more than we expected her to do and for that we are very grateful!

She cared so much that it inspired her students to be their absolute best.  I took that mentality with me and use it in everything I do.  This allowed me to excel on the AP test and to be accepted into top colleges around the country.

Mrs. Laura McQuinn, Grand Island Senior High



She has developed connections and relationships with so many of our students and their families.  She is willing to talk about Spongebob or Toy Story with some kids every day as if it is the first time; when realistically it is probably the millionth time.

I love her.  We play at recess.  I like tag and basketball.  She lets me win. 

Ms. Jasmine Rios-Alvarado, Para-educator, Howard Elementary School



I have witnessed her inspire and guide students toward achieving their dreams.

I have seen her give hope to those who are downing in despair.

She helps me stand up for myself and have courage.

She is helpful with kids who are struggling.  She doesn’t just help with school, but she also helps us get though rough things that might be going on at home.

Mrs. Patti Bennett, Social Worker, Grand Island Senior High



She helps the bad kids turn into great kids!  She gets us through elementary school.

Have you ever seen 300 children cry at the same time?  Walk through our end of the year tunnel walk lead by our beloved principal and you would have seen red puffy eyes, Kleenex flying and tears rolling down everyone’s faces. We are family.  This principal has embedded the value of being there for one another into every one of us, from our kindergarten kiddos all the way to our veteran teachers.  We are family.

Mrs. Jeanna Randall, retired-Principal, Jefferson Elementary


Each of the Teacher and Staff Member winners selected receive a plaque and a $500 prize as a token of our appreciation. The recipient of the Administrator Award receives a plaque and $1,000 of extra building or department budget authority for their administrative area.

For a complete list of those nominated and the winners throughout the years, click here:

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

Grand Island Public Schools Foundation Earns 4th Consecutive 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

At the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation, our attention to detail and high ethical standards means your legacy can be their (students) opportunity.  We don’t just say it.  We do it. 

Recently we were notified that for the fourth consecutive year, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has earned the 4-star rating from America's largest national independent charity evaluator, Charity Navigator. The four-star rating is the highest award for sound fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency.

"We are proud to announce the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has earned our fourth consecutive 4-star rating," said Micheal Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator. "Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that this organization adheres to good governance and other best practices and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Only 12% of the charities we rate have received at least 4 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation outperforms most other charities in America. This 'exceptional' designation from Charity Navigator differentiates the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust," relayed Thatcher.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation is the first Grand Island non-profit organization to be rated by Charity Navigator. The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation is one of 65 Nebraska charities rated, and one of only 32 Nebraska charities with the 4-star rating. Additionally, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation is one of just three Nebraska charities outside of Lincoln and Omaha that received the 4-star rating.

Since 2002, using data-driven analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology. These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, we upgraded our methodology for rating each charity’s’ financial health with CN 2.1. These enhancements further substantiates the financial health of our four star charities.

We are so grateful to our donors who help us invest in and create opportunities for the students of Grand Island Public Schools. We are proud of this 4-star Charity Navigator rating, but more importantly, we are proud of the impact we get to make for the students of our community.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on

On the Island

News From the Halls of Senior High

This is my first contribution to “On the Island.” Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Taylor Keyes, and I am a part of the class of 2018: the top four percent. I enjoy writing and art, and I am a dedicated Islander Band member and section leader. I have an overwhelmingly abundant love of animals. After graduation I plan to attend UNK to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology. I then plan to complete graduate school to get my doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Here’s what’s happening “On the Island” ...

Starting this school year, daily start times have been adjusted at GISH. The district staggered start times in an attempt to ease congested, morning traffic. A normal day at Grand Island Senior High now begins at 8:15 am and ends at 3:35 pm. Elementary schools added 25 minutes to the schedule, which runs from 8-3:30 while middle school attendance times run from 8:15-3:45.

Along with the later start, senior high students have been granted six minute passing periods, increased from the previous five. This extra minute has helped ensure students have the proper amount time they need to make it to class on time and be ready to learn. The number of tardies has been significantly reduced.

The physical space in the hallways at Senior High has become a lot more limited as we have welcomed the largest incoming class ever: the class of 2021, which has over 700 students. With an extra 200-plus people in the hallways, we are shoulder to shoulder and wall to wall between classes.

On August 29, Grand Island Senior High welcomed social media icon, Hunter Radenslaben to share his meaningful story with students and staff. Radenslaben, founder of @AthleteNation on Twitter, and 2017 graduate of Waverly High School, is currently attending UNL. He shared that his mother lost her battle to cancer when he was 12 years of age. Seeing the incredible strength of his mother during her fight inspired him to help others and make a difference in the world. He left the audience tearful and motivated. He said, “None of us want to be average. We want to live life with purpose. So I say we change the world.”

Read the GIPS Article here: Students Hear Powerful Message From Young Social Media Icon

At the close of the 2016-17 school year, 15-year Senior High Activities Director, Joe Kutlas, took his last steps at GISH and his first into retirement. After serving as Assistant Principal for 17 years, Cindy Wells stepped up to the plate to fill his position and is enjoying her new role in the success of our school.

The 2017-18 Islander band is adjusting to a new director. At the end of the 2016-17 school year, the band said goodbye to director Amy Schneider, who transferred to Westridge Middle School to fill the shoes of her late brother, Tony Rischling. During this transition, the band program has welcomed Dr. Daniel Laing, previous Director of Bands at Hastings College. The 230-member Islander band is piecing together its competitive show “Shades of Latin” in hopes to take home the trophy at its first competition of the season, the Harvest of Harmony.

 Click for GIPS photo album

The Fine Arts department has announced its 2017 fall musical will be “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The official cast list has been posted. The production will be showcased October 26-29 in the Grand Island Senior High Auditorium.

Over the summer the West Gymnasium has taken on a refreshingly new set of bleachers: 2,900 purple seats representing Islander pride.

The Islander Varsity Football Team has kicked off the season with a great start. On August 25 Senior High went up against their greatest rival, Kearney High. At this away game the Islanders suffered defeat: 20-16. The following Friday, September 1, we dominated North Platte in the first home game of the season: 41-0. September 8, the boys traveled to Omaha Northeast High School and took the victory: 42-0. Go Islanders!

Click for GIPS photo album

A Distant Mirror

The First Day of School

Our Distant Mirror today begins by revisiting the last day of school in Fifth Grade at Howard School in May, 1960. I remember this as a great day. I have a vivid recollection of riding my bicycle home with some friends, thinking that this was as good as it gets. No school for three months, but just an unending string of wonderful lazy days. Pick-up baseball games at Howard, going to Pier Park and the “big pool,” as we called it, to swim for hours, Monopoly games with the neighbors, going to the summer shows hosted by Wally Kemp at the Grand Theatre, building forts, sleeping in, and trips to the Carnegie Library to get books about sports. I was in heaven.  

Later that summer, after being inspired by the Rome Olympics, we had a Neighborhood Olympics, with running races, bike races around the block, high jump, pole vault, “broad” jump, shot put, and relay races. My summers were fantastic, though I never attended a single day of camp or any real organized activity, except for Little League baseball.    

But as the summer wore on, and the first day of school approached, I remember no sadness or angst at having to return to school, but indeed the opposite. It was incredibly exciting to get back to school. Which teacher would I get for 6th grade?  Would I be in the same room as my buddies? What excitement to see the new text books and the new classroom. And the first day was of course preceded by getting new school clothes and school supplies.  

There is a treasured family photo of me and my mother on the first day of kindergarten in 1954. I had on brand new blue jeans, bought to last for some time, with the cuffs rolled up about 8 inches. A simple white T shirt and leather shoes completed my attire. My sister Pat and cousin Randy are in the background riding their tricycles, wearing little more than their underwear. The smell of new denim is, to this day, a strong reminder of the first day of school.

Later at Walnut and Senior High the joy and excitement of the first day of school was different, but still pronounced.  School clothes were a bit more sophisticated then, but still an important ritual, and it was essential to get some of the latest fashions, including one year in high school where one of the cool new madras shirts or belts was essential.

The supplies we purchased were a three ring notebook with the blue canvas cover, a plastic three ring pencil case, dividers to separate the materials from each class, and new book covers.  The glossy book covers were works of art, with symbols of the Walnut Wildcats, or the Senior High Islanders on durable high quality paper. We all tended assiduously to the task of putting the book covers on our school books, taping them on firmly, and proudly viewing the beautiful result.  

My first day of school memories are triggered today by my granddaughter, Victoria, since I am writing this in early September of 2017, on what is her first day of Second Grade at the Groveland School in Minnetonka, Minn. Things are a bit more organized these days. There was an open house last week, where the second graders, parents, grandparents, and siblings got to see the classroom, see the very desk where Victoria will sit, meet the teacher, and see how well prepared they are for class. A few years back, my sister Pat and I visited Howard just before the first day of school, and I saw impressive organization, with desks, pictures, books and all aspects of the classroom neat and tidy and ready for the onslaught of enthusiastic youth.

I have learned, however, that the modern student, even in grammar school, needs far more than two number 2 pencils and a notebook. Indeed the list that some schools send out is a jaw- droppingly long and specific list. One list included “300 Ticonderoga pencils, five reams of printer paper, three packs of Post-it Notes, two boxes of Kleenex, one potted plant,” and on and on. Some schools will have the full packet available for purchase, albeit at an inflated price. But there are also stories of children who are not pleased at getting the government issue packet, but desperate to pick out the back pack of their choice, with just the colors and design they want.  

By the way, no one had a back pack, or even a book bag, in the 1950s or 1960s. We just lugged around our notebook and two or three books where we had homework in our bare hands, as I recall it. Today, the skinny second graders lug around back packs seemingly more than half their size.

But the thrill of the new year, the excitement of meeting your classmates, and the desire (for many, but not all) to impress the new teacher still provide great excitement. I remember this pleasing excitement even in college. The way I would shop for classes, in part, was to go to the college book store, which had all the books for each class available for purchase. To examine the books, touch their virgin bindings, and decide upon the courses I wanted was for me a real joy. This delicious smorgasbord of academic opportunities and knowledge was all there for the taking. Indeed, even after decades of being out of school, to me the year really begins not in January, but in August or September when school begins.          

So as Grand Island students now settle in during the first few weeks of school, I want to say I envy you. Don’t view this ritual as a dreary obligation, but an exciting time that many of you will remember for the rest of your life. I hope you all get the teacher you want, the classmates you want, and the best located locker. You deserve no less.

In Memoriam

July and August memorial list of GISH Alumni

VELMA (BUCHFINCK) DEVER, Class of 1947, died Jan. 29, 2017, in Largo, Fla. She was 87. 

LARRY GERDES, Class of 1964, died April 19, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 70. 

BILL DEVER, Class of 1947, died May 1, 2017, in Largo, Fla. He was 88. 

BRADLEY SCHNOOR, Class of 1974, died May 8, 2017, in Linn Creek, Mo. He was 61. 

LEO WISSING, Class of 1951, died June 17, 2017, in Hastings. He was 83.

DAVID BRABENDER, Class of 1965, died June 27, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 70.

JESSIE (WILLIAMS) BRUHN, Class of 1950, died July 3, 2017, in Lexington. She was 85. 

JUDY (LINDEN) KATZBERG, Class of 1966, died July 10, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 68.

CURTIS HUDIBURGH, Class of 2009, died July 10, 2017, in East St. Louis, Ill. He lived in Lincoln. He was 26. 

MAX CATES, Class of 1941 and longtime Senior High social studies teacher, died July 14, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 94. 

ANN (LAUNER) BOND, Class of 1951, died July 17, 2017, in Omaha. She was 83.

LINDA (WILLMAN) REWOLINSKI, Class of 1970, died July 19, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 65.

CAROL (STEARLEY) MOELLER, Class of 1973, died July 20, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 62. 

ANDREW CROUCH, Class of 1979, died July 23, 2017, in Parsons, Kan. He was 57.

DOUG BERAN, Class of 1970, died July 24, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 65. 

KURT PERKINS, Class of 1982, died July 27, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 53. 

DONALD ENCK, Class of 1952, died July 28, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 82.

ROBERT "BOB" BACHMAN, Class of 1950, died July 29, 2017, in Highlands Ranch, CO. He was 84.

JOAN (CAMPBELL) SMITH, Class of 1952, died August 2, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 82. 

MIKE WEIDEMANN, Class of 1999, died August 6, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 36.

JIM LILIENTHAL, Class of 1961, died August 8, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 73. 

RALPH BROSTROM, longtime elementary principal for GIPS, died August 10, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 90. 

JAY MACIEJEWSKI, Class of 1985, died August 11, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 53.

BOB GIER, Class of 1947, died August 15, 2017, in Lakewood, Colo. He was 89. 

ARLENE (WADDINGTON) GRAF, Class of 1950, died August 17, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 84.

SCOTT ANDERSON, Class of 2002, died August 17, 2017, in Omaha. He was 33.

FRANCES "BOBBY" ELAINE (ENZMINGER) MOELLER, Class of 1946, died August 18, 2017, in Grand Island. She was 89.

CAROL (PETERSON) GARDNER, Class of 1968, died August 20, 2017, in Kansas City. She was 67.

CHARLES "BLAZE" MILBY, Class of 1945, died August 22, 2017, in Grand Island. He was 90.

CHRISTIAN JOHNSON, Class of 1982, died August 26, 2017, in Colby, KS. He was 54.

EDWARD BURGHARDT, Class of 1953, died August 30, 2017, in Missouri. He was 82.

To report an alumni death since August 31, 2017, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

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