In high school, Adam Schefter says he wasn’t much of an athlete and couldn’t pull off the grades to go to an Ivy League school. He never imagined that 27 years later his picture would be on a plaque honoring him in John F. Kennedy High School Bellmore’s Hall of Fame.
“I never envisioned being in any kind of hall of fame without getting hit by a football player,” said Schefter, 46. “I felt very fortunate. The school is such a huge part of my upbringing and part of who I am. To be singled out like that is incredible.”
Schefter’s 2012 induction was part of a rebirth in recent years for the hall, which honored 11 alumni in the 1980s before falling dormant.
Eileen Connolly, who has been an assistant principal at the school for 17 years, got the ball rolling on restarting inductions in 2009.
“I approached the principal [Lorraine Poppe] about starting up a new Hall of Fame, figuring we needed a way to celebrate the success of so many of our graduates,” Connolly said. “The criteria was that they graduated at least 10 years ago, had been a success in their chosen field and have given back to their local or global community.”
The following year, six more alumni were inducted, and this past Dec. 1 the school continued the new tradition of inducting alumni every other year.
The hall of fame now has 26 inductees, and includes both household names and community fixtures.
The 2010 class included 1986 graduates Doug Ellin, creator of the HBO series “Entourage,” and Kenny Dichter, 44, of Livingston, N.J., a successful businessman and participant in the Senior Experience Program, which gives Kennedy High students job shadowing opportunities.
The same was true of the 2012 induction, which honored Artie Kempner, who became a television director of sporting events and advocate for autism; and Gary Morganstern, a local dentist who, like Dichter, became a mentor to students at his alma mater.
Kempner, who graduated in 1977, is coordinating director of NASCAR and NFL at Fox Sports and directs Thursday Night Football for the NFL Network. He is also a passionate advocate for autism research and awareness, after co-founding Autism Delaware in 1998.
“Sports have always been my focus my whole life,” said Kempner, 53, who now lives in Wilmington, Del. “After my 18-year-old son Ethan was diagnosed with autism at age 2, he inspired me to pursue another passion to help the autism community.”
While attending the University of Florida, Kempner found the direction he wanted to take his career. Working for the school’s athletic department, he assisted CBS Sports at the first NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in 1982.
“It led me to a career with CBS Sports later on,” he said. “I always tell folks that anytime you have an opportunity to make an impression, make sure you're prepared to make a positive one and always have a game plan.”
Morganstern graduated in 1973 and now serves as president of the high school’s alumni association. He owns a dental practice in Merrick.
“It started off as an energy of wanting to celebrate the history and the success of the educators and students who had come from this institution,” said Bellmore’s Morganstern, 57, of the hall’s resurgence. “I’m honored to be in that grouping of people and I want to give back in whatever way possible to make a difference because the school means a lot to me.”
Returning to the school in March meant even more to him than being inducted, said Schefter, whose proudest accomplishment from high school was designing a Bellmore-themed Monopoly board on the cover of his senior yearbook.
“I told students to work hard and know they can do anything and to not get discouraged when you get rejected,” said Schefter, who still lives on Long Island. “When one door closes another one opens.”
Levy, a 1983 graduate, works as a “SportsCenter” anchor at ESPN and is one of the longest tenured hosts.
“I told them to try and get into something they love,” Levy, 47, of West Hartford, Conn., said of his visit. “It’s never too early to start at the high school newspaper, radio station and apply for college internships. That was the path I took and I was lucky I was able to meet the right people at these internships to open the right doors.”
As Connolly walked down a school hallway recently and looked up at each plaque, she talked of the hall’s importance.
“We have a number of average people who have gone on to do extraordinary things, and we really wanted to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of our graduates,” Connolly said. “It’s really a wonderful school and we just want to celebrate that and have our alumni give back to the school in years to come.”
To visit the alumni association’s website, log on to www.bellmorejfkalumni.org.
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