With the lower level of Main Street Pub buzzing with anticipation, Saturday evening’s Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame dinner kicked off with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and an estimated one hundred people dressed in their Sunday best.
Designed primarily to honor the contributions of Allendale Public School Alumni, Dr. Jonker explained that the awards have been extended to include the service of APS-associated individuals, such as parents and staff. Having learned from other nearby school systems like Rockford and Ypsilanti, he explained that some of the magic of this recognition comes “…when students see what’s out there. They better understand what they can achieve when they have role models that came from Allendale who can inspire them.”
This year, five people were inducted into the Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame, three of whom were alumni and two of whom were honored for their service. Dr. Jonker noted that, “Our Allendale Public Schools Foundation committee really wanted to have a way to honor alumni who have made contributions, not only to the community but beyond.”
Today we extend our congratulations to Robert “Gene” Elkins, Betty LaBrecque, Robert Jackson, Nicholas Ceglarek and George Suchecki.
Robert “Gene” Elkins, who was honored posthumously, was a WWII vet instrumental in the establishment of Allendale High School. After serving as a principal from 1961-1964, Gene went on to serve as APS Superintendent from 1965-1985. His widow, Dorothy, expressed gratitude for the honor, saying that without the efforts of her husband, “there would be no Allendale High School.”
Betty LaBrecque, a 1988 grad, has worked tirelessly on dozens of parent-led committees, coordinating the work and donations of other parents, most recently as AHS Music Booster treasurer, vice president and president. She shared that she had a great high school experience herself, so her goal was to make high school a positive experience for her kids, too. Over time, Betty got more and more involved, doing things for her own children and the kids she “adopted.”
“The thing I like most is walking through the hallways and hearing the kids yell, “Hi Mrs. LeBrecque” and run up and give you a hug. It makes it all worthwhile — it is an honor.”
Robert Jackson, a 1977 grad, is perhaps better known as the 1987 “Cincinatti Man of the Year” after nine years of playing professional football for the Cincinatti Bengals. Now a motivational speaker, Robert said it felt nice “coming home,” though he wished his team members could have joined him.
“I didn’t make the holes or make all the passes myself — it was always a team. That’s the way we grew up, it wasn’t just one person”. Robert is also a 2009 inductee into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
Nicholas Ceglarek, a 1991 grad, began teaching and working as an administrator in Rockford in 2002-2003. In 2003, Nick was awarded the GVSU Outstanding Administrator Award, after which time he worked as a superintendent in Baldwin, Fruitport and then Hudsonville, where he serves presently.
“It’s hard to describe what this means to me. It’s an honor and it’s humbling to be recognized when you realize that there are so many worthy, unbelievable people that graduated from Allendale Schools who have gone on to do great things. Allendale has been such a treasure for me and has really shaped who I am. I’ll always have a heart here.”
George Sucheki was appointed as the first principal of then-newly-formed Allendale High School in 1969. He went on to continue in that role until 1990! Following his time as principal, George worked as the Computer and Tech Director from 1994-2001. During his career, he has also served as middle school basketball coach, golf coach (after being instrumental in starting the program) and State Champion softball coach.
When asked about the honor, George became emotional, saying, “It means a lot. My heart was always in Allendale. It never really left.”
Congrats to all of these 2013 inductees!