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Odermann hopes to revive Trinity Hall of Fame: Committee to look at list of ‘success stories’

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Trinity High School was a dream.

In one man’s mind.

“It was always his dream to have a Catholic high school in Dickinson,” Bud Faller, 85, of South Heart, related recently about that goal that just wouldn’t die in the mind of George P. Aberle, the long-time pastor of Dickinson’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

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Aberle, who arrived in Dickinson in 1917, was responsible for spearheading other projects, but in the 1950s he focused on his dream of a high school. Faller, a St. Joe’s member and volunteer, was willing to help, sitting on one of the early Dickinson Catholic Schools foundation boards and going out into the community to ask farmers for their support.

Faller remembers that once the high school project began it “wasn’t all that hard” to get community support and the school opened in 1961, seven years before Aberle’s retirement from St. Joe’s.

With the realization of the priest’s dream, other dreams were realized. And more to come.

There have been almost 4,000 Trinity graduates, so far, and “an amazing amount of success stories,” said John Odermann recently, a 2002 Trinity graduate and since the summer of 2013, the director of advancement for Dickinson Catholic Schools.

“The numbers are phenomenal,” he said.

Odermann, whose mom was in the first class, said In the new school’s first yearbook is a sentence about how “from the small acorn comes the mighty oak.”

There are now many oaks, he indicated. He said about 98 percent of Trinity’s graduates go on to higher learning and there are a significant number of doctors, lawyers, business people, scientists and so on.

However, he doesn’t think enough has been done to honor, celebrate and keep track of these stories. So he is kicking off efforts to establish annual events for alumni to participate in that aren’t for the purpose of fundraising but to celebrate and strengthen Trinity-family ties.

Odermann, who is also the school’s head football coach, is establishing the school’s first full-blown homecoming week and, along with that, reviving the idea of a Trinity Hall of Fame that will honor some of these success stories — as well as honoring individuals and families who have supported the school.

A selection committee of Trinity graduates of various ages has been established and will make three selections this year — one each for the Athletic Hall of Fame, the Fine Arts Hall of Fame and the Titan Hall of Fame, which is to honor individuals who have volunteered or supported the school, whether they be a family unit, faculty or staff member, or patron. Nominations can come from anyone in the public, not just from people associated with Trinity.

The deadline to receive nominations is May 31. Homecoming week is scheduled for Sept. 15-20. Odermann said the highlights will be the Sept. 19 Hall of Fame banquet honoring selected inductees, and the Sept. 20 football game.

Odermann said when Trinity started, the priests and nuns didn’t establish homecoming, as they didn’t like the king and queen popularity contest aspect of it.

Trinity’s newly established homecoming week this fall still will have no need for that, focusing instead on “fostering the school’s history, spirit and traditions,” said Diane Sickler, of Dickinson, a 1983 Trinity graduate, businesswoman and a hall of fame selection-committee member.

Sickler said she thinks Odermann’s hall of fame idea is great in part because it will be “great motivation for current students … something to strive for.”

“I think the path John is taking is bringing Trinity to an exciting stage,” she said.

Odermann said that In 2001, when he was a junior, there was an abbreviated attempt at a homecoming and also an induction of people into a hall of fame. But both ideas died out after one year because there were some administrative changes, he said. Those 2001 inductees, however — Doug Hushka, Bob Willer, and Jim and Henrietta Nistler — will somehow be grandfathered into this new hall of fame, he said.

Odermann’s plan to re-engage alumni comes at a time when there are more alums with whom to engage.

Steve Gassler, president of Dickinson Catholic Schools, said with Dickinson’s recent growth, young alumni are returning with their families and so the district is getting new students into preschool and kindergarten in particular.

“We’re really excited about that … young alum parents, now raising families. We certainly hope to engage these people (so their) children continue the family tradition,” he said.

Businessman Mike Lefor, a 1974 graduate and selection committee member, said he’s excited about Odermann leading the charge to recognize the many worthy recipients associated with a school that made a huge impact in Lefor’s life.

Lefor said he may not have had the public speaking skills he has now if not for Trinity’s Sister Janet Marie.

When he was a freshman, he told her he didn’t think he was good enough to compete in speech competitions and was about to quit, but he remembers her saying she guaranteed by the time he was a senior he would be one of their best speakers.

“It was absolutely huge (for my life), said Lefor, currently a District 37 candidate for the North Dakota House of Representatives.

“When I saw someone was willing to fight for me, work with me … that was a turning point. I can’t underline that enough, how important that was.”

Peggy Mayer, a 1985 graduate and a selection committee member, is now back at Trinity — she teaches kindergarten at Trinity Elementary West.

“I know it will be difficult to choose, but I’m glad we’re starting this process,” she said. “There are so many amazing graduates to choose from. Those stories need to be told.”

Online

For nomination forms, go to the alumni tab on the Dickinson Catholic Schools website:

http://www.dickinsoncatholicschools.com/.

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