Once you graduate and leave the halls of North Penn High School, go out into the world and do something great.
Then, you’ll be back.
Since 2005, the North Penn Alumni Athletic Association has inducted outstanding boy and girl athletes to its Hall of Fame in the corridor between the high school lobby and the gymnasium.
Now, one need not be a student to be revered by their alma mater.
This year, the NPAAA will unveil the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame at North Penn School District.
When the NPAAA began in 2000, its mission was to provide scholarships to outstanding boy and girl student athletes of the senior class. To date, it has awarded 39 scholarships to worthy students.
Then, in 2004, Tom Strickland became president of the NPAAA board. And when he took office, he brought with him a vision of something that wasn’t evident.
After all, North Penn High is a school of excellence, it is a school of champions. In fact, Sports Illustrated named North Penn as the most successful high school in the state as far as champion stock two times over.
“I said we need to broaden our scope and fill a need. For the size of North Penn and all the athletic accomplishments, we were one of few schools that didn’t have an athletic hall of fame.”
To date, 108 individuals have been inducted into the North Penn Athletic Hall of Fame.
This Oct. 7, that number will increase to 116. Furthermore, four more school teams will be inducted into the hall of fame. All in all, 17 championships teams—most of them state champions—will have legacies remembered in the hall of North Penn.
“We are inducting the 1937 Lansdale High School football team. They were not scored upon in seven games, until they were scored on by Doylestown in a Thanksgiving game,” Strickland said.
Six years later, and now another void looks to be filled by Strickland and his NPAAA colleagues: Vice president and former coach and faculty member Jim Heimer, recording secretary Ron Jaros, corresponding secretary Bill Sinkinson, treasuer Russ Stewart, Rick Carroll, Greg Kobasa, Rich Swanker, Al Brodhag, Jami Wilus and NPAAA founder Art Wurster.
“In discussing this over the years, when we checked out what other schools were doing, a lot of schools have one or the other, and some have both—like Norristown and Abington. If they have a lifetime achievement, they include outstanding athletes,” said Strickland.
So, Strickland and company approached North Penn School District Superintendent Curt Dietrich with a proposal for the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame.
“Since the school doesn’t have a formal alumni association, and no one picked the ball up here, we’d like to fill that void,” said Strickland “We’d sponsor a Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Here’s the kicker: Lifetime achievement honors can go beyond North Penn High School to the legacy school graduates of Lansdale, Hatfield and North Wales high schools.
“The school administration thought it was a good idea, and Dietrich endorsed it. He encouraged us to speak to (North Penn High School Principal) Burt Hynes and he loved the idea,” said Strickland. “They embraced it.”
Come Oct. 8, the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame wall will be around the corner from the Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame in the area of the gymnasium.
The first and only inductee to the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame will be 1963 North Penn graduate and track and field member Ed Kneedler.
Kneedler trained under coach James B. Crawford and learned discipline as a result.
Kneedler would go on to attend Lehigh University and become a VISTA volunteer in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
Inspired by the work lawyers had done on behalf of migrant farm workers, Kneedler pursued a law degree at the University of Virginia.
Since 1975, Kneedler has served the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
He has argued 113 cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other lawyer in active practice.
“He will break the all-time record very shortly,” said Strickland. “It’s quite an accomplishment.”
Kneedler is expected to speak to students during an assembly Oct. 7 and be formally inducted the next day.
The honors won’t stop at Kneedler on Oct. 8.
The NPAAA will induct eight athletes and four teams into the Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame:
- Bradd DelMuto, a 1997 graduate who earned 12 varsity letters in track and who was named Male Athlete of the Year in grades nine, 10 and 11. DelMuto earned first place finishes at the 1996 Suburban One League championships and set a course record at the Steel City Invitational. In 1996, DelMuto brought the 4x800 team from dead last to fifth at the District I Championships with a personal best time by four seconds. The same relay team went on to become state champs.
- Zac Fryling, a 2004 graduate who was a four-year varsity letterman in wrestling. Fryling was a three-time sectional champ, a two-time District I champ, a three-time regional champ and a four-time state qualifier. He was state champion in 2002 and 2003 in the 160-pound weight class. He is in his third year as assistant wrestling coach at North Penn High School
- Jennifer Houser, a 1997 graduate who participated in field hockey, lacrosse, cross country and basketball. Houser was MVP for the basketball team in her junior and senior seasons, averaging 21.2 points per game her senior year.
- Scott Tantino, a 1997 graduate who earned varsity letters in cross country and indoor and spring track. Tantino set the freshman mile and two-mile school records and qualified for the District One Championship in outdoor track. He broke the the Suburban One 1600m and 3200m records at the league championships. He was undefeated in cross country and was the first high school athlete to run under 16 minutes on Belmont Plateau’s course. Tantino was a 12-time All Big East selection at Villanova University. He owns and manages North Wales Running Company.
- Dr. Henry “Skip” Ruth, a 1953 graduate of Lansdale High School who was a member of the Bux-Mont Championship Track and Field teams from 1951-1953. Dr. Ruth co-captained the Ursinus track team. He entered the Navy following University of Pennsylvania medical school and was a flight surgeon and served at the Naval Station Midway Island. He resides in Aberdeen, MD, with his wife and daughter, and he is a father to three and grandfather to six.
- Mark Hoff, a 1980 graduate who held seven varsity letters in cross country and track and field. He was named Senior Athlete of the Year in 1980. He was undefeated in pole vault in winter and spring track, and he was solid 100m and 300m hurdler. He held 15 first place finishes in hurdle events and took second place in 100m hurdles at the Bux-Mont League meet in 1980.
- Linda Krelovich Sanfield, a 1989 graduate is a four-time North Penn Swim Team MVP, five-time Suburban One League Champion, 12-time PIAA State medalist, two-time PIAA State champion and seven-time National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American. Her team record time of 4:57.45 still stands 23 years later at North Penn.
- Larry Pijanowski, a 1985 graduate who earned six varsity letters in football and baseball. He was the Outstanding Senior Award winner, was named first team All Bux-Mont for offense and defense, earned third team All-State honors as a defensive back, was named MVP for the baseball team, earned first team Bux-Mont honors in baseball and was named to the All Southeastern PA team. He broke three football records in one game against Neshaminy in his junior year. He returned an interception for 96 yards for a touchdown and returned a punt for 85 yards for a touchdown
What’s unique is it is not the public that nominates alumni for both halls of fame; the lifetime members of the NPAAA choose the inductees.
“We have a wealth of knowledge on our board,” Strickland said.
Board members were aware of Kneedler’s accomplishments, as they gave him high visibility.
“We picked him initially,” Strickland said. “We do have others on a short list.”
However, a notable accomplishment comes down to a judgment call.
“For example,” Strickland said, “we have John Oates from Hall and Oates as a North Penn graduate. That’s a high visibility factor. But how many follow the Supreme Court? If you follow politics and law, for every lawyer, their Super Bowl is to argue before the Supreme Court. (Kneedler) has done it 113 times. He’s the Babe Ruth of the legal profession.”
Stickland said the NPAAA will accept all nominee forms from its members and weigh the merits.
“There was a guy in my class who was not an athlete and not a candidate, but he was on the first team that developed the first artificial heart. He had a remarkable career,” he said.
“What we are interested in doing is building a tradition, and sending a message not only to community, and not only honoring individuals, but making current students going through North Penn aware of what’s possible,” Strickland said. “We want to build a tradition, a sense of pride. There’s also a standard to emulate.”
Both hall of fames are also a way for the NPAAA to drive revenue. A lifetime membership costs $50 a person; an annual membership is $10 a person.
“We are starting slowly. We raise our money through memberships and donations,” said Strickland. “This is expensive. We are restricted now by how much money we have. We could increase the number of inductees if we raise enough money; we don’t want to limit it to one a year.”
As of this year, there are 327 lifetime members in the NPAAA.
“Our motivation is to help drive memberships,” Strickland said. “We’d like to increase our scholarships to more than $2,500 a year.”
Strickland said North Penn School District has an awful lot to be proud of. And the NPAAA has an awful lot of fun with it.
“We are accomplishing a lot of things,” Strickland said. “The biggest is tradition: We are writing a history of North Penn sports. We cover the future with scholarships, we cover the past with Hall of Fame recognitions and the present students have the 12th Knight Booster Club. All bases are covered.”