With nearly 80 years of history behind it, Whitefish Bay High School has delivered plenty of athletic achievements and an equally impressive number of students that have gone on to achieve big things in athletics and the world at large.
Eight of the most prominent individuals from Whitefish Bay's athletic history were recognized at the school's first athletic hall of fame ceremony Friday evening. The inaugural class consisted of three coaches and five students, who will be honored with plaques, commemorative hall of fame T-shirts and another set of plaques hung outside of the Whitefish Bay Field House to inspire future generations to greatness.
Whitefish Bay Activities Director John Gustavson said it is no coincidence that so many talented students emerged from the same school.
"While it is doubtful that as high school students any of them predicted the journey they would take through life, it is an absolute that their experiences at this high school allowed them to dream, and — more importantly — prepared them to strive for and fulfill those dreams," Gustavson said.
Inductees reflect on memories in Bay
Craig Counsell graduated from Whitefish Bay High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Notre Dame, where he played more games than any player in the school's history. He went on to play in the major leagues, where he played 16 seasons and 1,624 games — first with the Colorado Rockies, then the Florida Marlins, then the Arizona Diamondbacks and finally with the Milwaukee Brewers. He announced his retirement at the end of last season, and has moved to the Brewers' front office.
Counsell came to the ceremony with his wife Michelle and their four kids. He recalled spray painting strike zones on the walls at Richards School to play "strike out," and then when he reached high school, he played as much as he could at Cahill Park.
He said Whitefish Bay made him who he is today, and he moved back in 2004 because he wanted his kids to have the same opportunities that he had.
"Really why I wanted to come back to Milwaukee probably wasn't so much the Brewers, it was that I wanted to live in Whitefish Bay, and I wanted my kids to grow up in Whitefish Bay. I wanted them to be part of the school system, and hopefully they'll have an experience similar to what I got to have."
Bill Hilgendorf was a three-sport athlete, letterman and co-captain of the 1962 Whitefish Bay High School football team that won the suburban conference championship with an 8-0 record. After graduating cum laude with a history degree from Yale University, he tragically fell to his death in a valley in Hong Kong at the age of 22. He was to begin teaching history and English in China under a Yale-in-China teaching program. Yale established the Howard W. Hilgendorf Memorial Fellowship, which provides funding to enable students to conduct independent study and research outside of the U.S. Whitefish Bay High School also presents a Bill Hilgendorf Memorial Award every year to the senior student who most closely represents the academic, athletic and moral standards set by Bill.
Hilgendorf's brother Mark Hilgendorf said Whitefish Bay allowed Bill to take risks, like encouraging his class to ride their bicycles to school one day or hold a school dance before school at 6:30 a.m.
"Bill didn't like too much attention. He just felt that everyone could be just as outstanding as he was. He really believed that. He believed that everyone was blessed with their own skills and talents and that he simply was one of many, so I know how humbled he would be to receive this award and how much he would appreciate the goodness — the real goodness — in this community that launched him."
Chet Wangerin was the first male teacher hired by the Whitefish Bay School District in 1930 and was also the school's first Athletic Director in 1932. He held both positions until his retirement in 1967. He also coached the high school track and field teams for 22 years, leading the Dukes to 16 straight Division 2 state titles — ranking third in the nation among the longest consecutive high school state championship streaks.
Chet's son Clark reflected on Whitefish Bay's commitment to recruiting only the finest teachers and coaches, and he said they were successful in doing so. He said the facilities have also improved greatly over time, turning athletic games into community get-togethers.
"When it came right down to it, football and track really brought the community together, and that's been true all these years," he recalled.
Jack Nagle taught English and coached boys and girls basketball at Whitefish Bay High School for 30 years. He came to Whitefish Bay after spending five years as the basketball coach at Marquette University. After retiring as the Whitefish Bay's boys coach in 1973, he took over the girls' basketball team when female athletics was in the pioneer stages. He is thought to be the only coach in national basketball history to lead a team to the NCAA tournament as well as lead both a boys and girls basketball team to a high school state tournament.
Mary Manning participated in volleyball, cross country, basketball and track during her time at Whitefish Bay High School. In basketball, she led the team to conference championships in 1978 and 1979, a sectional championship in 1981 and was named to the all-state team in 1981. She still holds the school records in the shot put and discus. She went on to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, where she earned academic all-American honors in basketball and all-American honors in track and field.
Manning recalled Coach Nagle coming up with elaborate play tactics.
"He would come up with numbers for our zone defense, so that he could yell out 'man to man, man to man,' successfully confusing the other team," she said.
Sheldon B. Lubar graduated from Whitefish Bay High School in 1947, and went on to a career in business, government, civic affairs and philanthropic initiatives. He held a wide variety of public service leadership posts under three U.S. presidents. He was recognized in the athletic hall of fame for making the final and most generous contribution in the community-wide campaign to renovate the high school athletic field.
Lubar said he wasn't much of an athlete during his time in Whitefish Bay, but he did participate in sports. He recalled he had a habit of playing hooky, and when the principal called his mother, she said, "Well you have to understand Sheldon is a nature lover."
Randy Dean starred in both basketball and football at Whitefish Bay and was named first-team all-state as a quarterback in 1972. He was a starting quarterback during his junior and senior seasons at Northwestern University, and went on to play for the New York Giants for three seasons. He also was the co-leading scorer for the U.S. Olympic handball team in the Montreal Olympics. He served in a number of sports leadership positions at the University School of Milwaukee and is the executive director of the Pettit National Ice Center.
Bob Bradley taught physical education and health at Whitefish Bay for 30 years. He coached boys gymnastics, swimming and track and field. He coached girls gymnastics from 1986-99, and in that time, the teams won nine conference championships, three state championships and finished second in state twice. Individuals gymnasts won 13 individual state championships under his direction.