The idea for an Evansville High School Athletic Hall of Fame is nothing new.
There are folders with ideas of starting such a venture that date back about two decades.
This weekend, those ideas will finally become a reality. A committee has voted on 10 members of the inaugural class to be enshrined in the Evansville High School Athletic Hall of Fame, and those 10 will be honored in several ways throughout Evansville’s Homecoming weekend.
“Many former athletes, coaches and administrators have been pushing for this. When I grab the folders, I see where they were going to start it in 2000, 2008, 2010, 2013,” said Aaron Dobbs, who is president of the hall of fame committee.
“A lot of people went to (Evansville High principal) Jason Knott and said we needed to do this. So we put together a committee of community members who have been around Evansville athletics and said, ‘Let’s get this done.’”
When the votes were tallied, four former athletes, four coaches and two major contributors rounded out the class of 10.
• Ron Grovesteen, who has been the head football coach at Evansville since 1983. Grovesteen, also the head coach in 1981, has coached the Blue Devils to 12 conference championships, is a 12-time conference coach of the year and is a member of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Grovesteen, a 12-time letterwinner at Milton College, also coached the Blue Devils track and field team for 20 years, and the football field is named in his honor. Evansville is 6-0 heading into Friday night’s game against Big Foot.
• Mitch Hull, a three-sport athlete in high school who won a state wrestling title in 1975. Hull played football at Kansas State for two years before transferring to Wisconsin to wrestle in college, and he went on to be a highly successful coach at both the college and national U.S. National Team levels.
• James Ganoung, a 10-letter winner who won a state title in the 100-yard dash as a senior in 1962. He went on to letter four years in football and three in track at UW-Whitewater. He later coached football and track, as well as serving as athletic director, at Evansville.
• J. Peter Shaw, who worked the sidelines as a statistician for Evansville football for 54 years.
• Richard Schwartz, who spent 12 years as athletic director after working as a football and track coach.
• Duane Updike, who was a football coach at Evansville for 34 years (one year as head coach), and was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame in 2003. Updike also coached basketball for 34 years, winning 310 games, coached baseball for 20 years (16 as head coach) and golf.
• Laurie (Rabideau) Kleisinger, a 1982 graduate who qualified for the state track and field meet three years, including when she set a state record while winning the title in the 300-meter hurdles. She went on to compete in track and field at Wisconsin, including becoming a captain her senior year.
• Zeke Deininger, who has been the official scorer for the high school boys basketball team since 1979. Deininger also helped Shaw with football stats for 20 seasons and has been a timer for the track and field team since 1983.
• David “Doc” Alan Rhoda, who has been photographing Evansville athletic events since 1983.
• Stanley Kenneth Sperry, a 14-time letterwinner at Evansville who went on to have a professional baseball career that included stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Athletics. Sperry hit over .300 in eight minor league seasons, and Evansville’s baseball field was named in his honor in 1989, 27 years after his death.
“There were a lot of worthy people on this first ballot,” Dobbs said. “We really like our contributor category. We had a guy that did stats for 54 years. That’s crazy. Mitch Hull stated right to me that if it wasn’t for the contributors, he wouldn’t exist. So the athletes are excited about that category.
“We ended up with a great class.”
There are multiple events that will help honor the first class.
They will meet at the high school Friday afternoon and ride in the Homecoming parade, then be back at the high school at 6 p.m. for a public open house before everyone heads out to the football game.
The official induction is Saturday at the Evansville Country Club, with a 5:30 p.m. social hour, dinner at 6:30 and the ceremony at 7:30. That event, which received great support and donations from area businesses, is sold out.
There was one last delay in the induction. It was originally set for this past summer, but to make sure everything was completely ready and as many of the inductees could attend as possible, it was pushed back to Homecoming weekend.
Organizers hope it will be an annual part of Homecoming for years to come.
“We wanted to make this a very special event,” Dobbs said. “And now it’ll be an annual thing, and everyone will know that it’s during Homecoming.”