Walls of Fame Benefit from Grants and School Pride at NT High School
When John Baran exited his nephew’s volleyball game in October of 2019 at the North Tonawanda High School, he was excited to see a hallway marked “Athletics Wall of Fame”. Baran had just moved back to Western New York after living out of state for four decades and was not aware a Wall of Fame existed.
That excitement turned to dismay for the 1974 Lumberjack alum when he spotted plaques to honor some classmates. “The sun and UV rays had done a number on the plaques and they were faded to the point you could barely read what was printed on them nor see their photos. Not quite the way NT’s best and brightest students, teachers and coaches should be honored. It was very disheartening.”
Instead of lamenting the state of the recognitions, he decided to do something about it. “I made the decision to volunteer my time and I enlisted other NTHS alumni (John Montesanti, Myron Annis, Angela Donato Johnson, Rosie DeMart, Chet Wiech, Keith Miranto along with retired teacher and NT Baseball coach John Chiarmonte) to help raise funds to make sure all the talented athletes, coaches, performing artists and teachers received their due in being recognized for their achievements." Thanks to the generosity of alumni, local businesses, the sale of window dedications (to block harmful sunrays), that were sold for $500 each, posters and calendars designed from the window coverings, the Wall of Fame committee more than met their original fundraising goal. North Tonawanda Superintendent, Greg Woytila, says he is very thankful to John and the committee’s efforts. “Getting the alumni involved was great. We usually have a lot of participation for our annual T-NT game with our traditional school rivalry, but it was nice seeing them become reinvested in the school they went to with these donations. The timing couldn’t be better with the rough school year we have had. It will really help with everyone’s school spirit.”
John spent hundreds of hours poring over yearbooks from the 1920s to 2018 located at the North Tonawanda History Museum, looking for the perfect images for the Athletics and Fine Arts Walls of Fame to find images of the boys, girls and coaches and teachers who graced the school’s athletic fields, gymnasiums and auditoriums. Those images are now in a vibrant collage on the windows of the Wall of Fame with special printed tributes on them by the donors’ request. There is also a state-of-the-art touchscreen where attendees can scroll through photos, Wall of Fame inductee bios, newspaper articles and old programs to learn more about the rich athletic and artistic history of the school district. Recently a beautiful backlit Lumberjack logo was installed with a wooden plaque that reads, This “Lumberjack Wall” is dedicated to the NTHS Seniors graduating in 2020 & 2021. Those students lost so much due to the untimely pandemic. To those students we say, “Stay Lumberjack & Lady Jack Strong!” Athletic Director Matthew Cook says the new displays will be a great way to get the student athletes excited for the new school year. “I think it will mean a lot to them to see what past athletes have been able to achieve and know that they can achieve success as well.”
John recently shared some exciting news with Mr. Woytila, Mr. Cook and Fine Arts Director Dean Vallas. The committee had recently received two grants, one from the East Hill Foundation for $6,600 and one from the North Tonawanda Walmart Superstore for $1,000. Those monies will be spent on finishing the display cases in the Athletics Wall of Fame and expanding the Fine Arts Wall of Fame to honor student and faculty inductees who excelled and had significant success in those areas. The Fine Arts Wall of Fame hallway will also include the installation of a hanging art display for each of the district’s schools where student artwork can be displayed. Two scholarships will be given out in 2022 (and beyond if donations continue into the future), one for Athletics and one for Fine Arts. “The scholarships will be awarded based on a combination of financial need, as well as the dedication and commitment shown by the athlete or performing artists,” Baran explains.
“We are so grateful to the East Hill Foundation and NT Walmart for helping us achieve our vision for these Walls of Fame,” says John. The East Hill Foundation identifies and funds innovative, charitable projects designed to enhance the quality of life of residents of Western New York.
There is no doubt that students, staff and visitors will be impressed with the beautiful displays of the district’s alumni. North Tonawanda City School District is proud to recognize their graduates who carried their school experiences and spirit into their lives after graduation and to the faculty AND COACHES who helped to shape them.
To learn more about the North Tonawanda High School Wall of Fame Project, visit www.nthswof.com.