Since 2007, the Rebel Hall of Fame selection committee, comprised of members representing the Board of Education, district administration, faculty, alumni and the Godfrey-Lee community at large, has gathered to review nominations and select alumni, staff, or other individuals associated with Godfrey-Lee Public Schools in recognition of their achievements and contributions to society.
Required to meet on the first Wednesday in November, this year’s committee has selected seven new members who will join forty-two other individuals and one athletic team upon induction into the Hall at a later date.
Here are the newest members along with a short synopsis of each:
Douglas Greenwold – LHS Class of 1960 and leader of that year’s state runner-up basketball team where he was also selected by the Detroit Free Press as Honorary Captain of the Class C All-State Basketball Team. Graduated as the class valedictorian and went on to the University of Michigan where he earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering along with an M.B.A. degree. Earned his collegiate letter three straight years as a member of the U of M basketball team, including the first-ever team from that university to reach the NCAA Final Four (1964). Enjoyed a 31-year professional career culminating in executive level positions. Is also an executive and senior teaching fellow with Preserving Bible Times and author of nine different books.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Hayes – LHS Class of 2004 and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan military operations where, with the 101st Airborne Division, he earned the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat due to the explosion of an IED in Iraq on June 6, 2006. He was later personally awarded the Silver Star, the third highest decoration for valor, by then-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, for gallant actions and devotion to duty during Operation STRONG EAGLE 1 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on June 27, 2010, despite being outnumbered by the Taliban enemy. On April 2, 2011, he sustained a gunshot wound to his face and chest during Operation STRONG EAGLE 3 earning a second Purple Heart.
Dr. Carl J. Bajema – LHS Class of 1955 and a member of the original faculty at Grand Valley State University. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Michigan State University and retired from GVSU with the designation of Professor Emeritus in 2007 following a forty-three year teaching and scientific research career. Having studied and published papers on logging railroads and sawmill villages for more that twenty-five years, he recently co-authored and published an extensive history on one of Michigan’s long-forgotten electric interurban railroads titled, The Lake Line: Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon Railway. He is currently completing work on a second similar publication focused on the era of the horse car, cable car and electric street railroads in Grand Rapids and a portion of the Godfrey-Lee community. A recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Volunteer Service Award from the Historical Society of Michigan, he has contributed many hours to our local library historical rooms researching, identify and clipping important news stories.
Robert Hill – LHS Band Director, 1967 to 1981 where as a masterful educator, he yearly took a “sometimes unruly” group of teen musicians unifying them into well organized and conducted marching and concert bands. Having led his band to numerous awards, he was considered one of the premier band directors in West Michigan and influenced many of his students to encourage their own children in later years to pursue music. A visible teacher and mentor, he could be seen leading his bands at every home football and basketball game, believing that the band was central to inspiring our young athletes and building school pride. His musical talents also carried him to perform with the Grand Valley State University faculty orchestra.
Thomas DeGennaro – Principal, Teacher, and Varsity Football Coach, 1998 to present. Known as someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and is quick to shed a tear when his players and students hurt, he served two years as Lee Middle School teacher with many of his former students recalling his care and concern for them when the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon took place on September 11, 2001. Yearning to return to his love for teaching youth, he took a position on the Lee High School Faculty in 2002 teaching U.S. History and Geography as well as a variety of other elective social studies courses. In 1998, he took over the Rebel football program and coached the first LHS football team ever to make it into the MHSAA playoffs when his team went 8-2 in the fall of 2006, the highest number of wins by any Rebel varsity football team ever and best winning percentage since 1965. The year prior, his team had fought to a 5-4 record. After an eight year absence from the sidelines at Lee Field, Tom returned this past fall and has begun the process of rebuilding a program that has not experience much success since his last season in 2007. The team earned its first win in three years.
Christine Vettese – District SIG Coordinator, 2010 to 2013. When the District and Lee High School needed help with academic improvement to get off a state list of low-performing schools, she came out of retirement and applied her many leadership, curriculum, and personal relationship skills to serve as a principle leader in that effort. Through her advocacy, guidance and dogged persistence, she helped secure grants in excess of $3.5 million dollars over the three years to support the work of teachers, administrators, and students. The work she and the Lee team accomplished was recognized as exemplary by the State of Michigan and as a result, Lee High School rose from the bottom 5% of schools to the 63rd percentile in those three year. Never avoiding the hard work and decisions, she framed the guiding question, “How will this help students own their work?” She came to love our students and always found time to have fun with and cheer for our staff. She left a legacy and did all of this despite battling a long-time illness that took her life all too soon in the spring of 2015. Never once did she let on nor did she complain. She was a Rebel, along with her very supportive husband Richard, who came to bleed blue and gold.
Dennis E. Groendyke – LHS Class of 1979 and Board of Education Member from 1999 to 2016. A lifelong resident of the district who chose to raise his own family of seven children here and watch them attend Godfrey-Lee schools, he was elected to the Board of Education and assumed his seat on July 1, 1999, eventually serving with four different superintendents and helping lead the board and administration through difficult financial times. He is concluding his service this winter following seventeen years, including four-and-one-half years leading the board as president. There have been only a few board members in the history of our district who have served as long or longer. While on the board, he strongly supported efforts to improve reading and bring dedicated reading teachers back on our faculty. He backed a number of successful bond and millage requests that led to an addition to the Early Childhood Center, a new alternative education facility, a classroom building for 6th graders, a new administration building, energy efficiency improvements, and a number of structural and equipment upgrades to our schools. His last tenure as president led to efforts to pass a bond that provided for badly needed upgrades and improvements for all of our schools and the athletic complex. A strong supporter of athletics, he has provided many hours of volunteer coaching for baseball and softball, including weekend clinics for youth during the school year. He was a major contributor of time and construction skills in the building of the McLain press box building and the booster’s concession stand. Despite all of this and the demands of operating his own business, he has continued to be active in the community outside of the district and has been praised by city officials for his help in keeping the Pinery Park Little League solvent and operational.