Seven prominent alumni and former staff members of the Neenah Joint School District comprise the District’s second annual Hall of Fame class in 2016.
Graduates Dr. Wellington Hsu, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, Jean Kessler, Tom Wiesner and Ivan Williams are joined by former teachers Tom Berven and Patricia Westphal as inductees. The group is added to the 10 inaugural members honored last year in the Hall of Fame.
The inductees were selected by a committee of 15 individuals that included former and current employees and alumni. They will be honored at a banquet on Sat., Oct. 15 at 11:30 a.m. at Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel and Conference Center in Neenah as part of the District’s homecoming festivities. Tickets will go on sale in July.
“We are thrilled to be able to recognize these individuals and bring attention to their accomplishments through our Hall of Fame,” said superintendent Dr. Mary Pfeiffer. “The quality of people in this class exemplifies ‘Neenah with Pride’ and we are so proud of all their achievements.”
Berven will coach his 50th season of boys tennis at Neenah High School this spring, including his 46th as head coach. He has led the Rockets to five WIAA state championships and five state runner-up finishes along with 38 conference championships, while posting a 424-46-1 career record. A Luther College graduate and Austin, Minn. native, Berven taught high school social studies from 1964-97 and also coached junior varsity basketball for 16 seasons. He has directed the Neenah Park and Recreation summer tennis program for the past 48 years and is a member of the Wisconsin Tennis Coaches Association and Fox Valley Tennis Association Halls of Fame.
Hsu, a 1993 graduate, is an endowed professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a spine surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Hsu has conducted extensive research on regenerative technologies in orthopaedic surgery and neck, spine and back injuries in athletes. He participated in soccer, tennis, orchestra, debate and musicals in high school. Hsu earned a degree in music performance (violin) from UW-Madison and an M.D. from Vanderbilt University before completing his residency at UCLA Medical Center. He currently resides in Glenview, Ill.
Jasser, a 1985 graduate, is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which was founded as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States. After attending UW-Milwaukee and Medical College of Wisconsin, he served 11 years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy and is a past president of the Arizona Medical Association. Jasser, the co-founder of the Muslim reform movement, regularly briefs members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on the threat of political Islam, which is the ideology that fuels radical Islamists. He authored A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith, and is a regular contributor on national media outlets such as CNN, CBS, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and BBC. In high school, Jasser was editor of the school newspaper and participated in chess, debate, forensics, mock trial, academic decathlon, student congress, tennis and music. He was also president of National Honor Society as a senior. He resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kessler, a 1959 graduate, taught high school physical education from 1969-96. She was a trailblazer for establishing girls athletics programs in Neenah and served as the varsity girls basketball coach from 1971-83 and the girls volleyball coach until 1975. She led the Rockets to the first six WIAA state girls basketball tournaments from 1976-81, including a state championship in 1978 and runner-up finishes in 1976 and 1980. Kessler was a three-time FVA coach of the year and posted a 176-47 career record, earning induction to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. While a student, she was a member of the band and participated in the girls athletic association before attending UW-La Crosse. Kessler still resides in Neenah.
Westphal taught science at Neenah High School from 1973-2002. In 2004, she won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Association of Physics Teachers. She served as the advisor for the academic decathlon team for 17 years and advised the science olympiad team for 12 years. Westphal also was an advisor for National Honor Society. She was the first to bring the modeling method of instruction to the Fox Valley and also created the trimester schedule that Neenah used from 1996-2011. A West Bend native, Westphal earned a degree from UW-Madison. She still resides in Neenah.
Wiesner, a 1957 graduate, was a standout football player at Neenah and went on to captain the University of Wisconsin’s 1960 Rose Bowl team, earning a place in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame. Wiesner played football, basketball and baseball at Neenah and was the Most Valuable Player of the undefeated 1957 football team. He was influential in the growth of Las Vegas, serving as the Director of the Chamber of Commerce while owning seven Wisconsin-themed restaurants and casinos in Las Vegas. Wiesner was Nevada’s state Republican national committeeman in 1986 and served on the University of Nevada Board of Regents. He died from leukemia in 2002 and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas football team annually awards a patch to a senior who characterizes his courage and toughness. A street named Wiesner Way was also dedicated outside the university’s football stadium.
Williams, a 1923 graduate, taught American History and coached football, basketball and tennis at Neenah High School from 1930-70. His greatest success came in tennis where he led the Rockets to four WIAA state titles and four runner-up finishes with a 371-71 career record. Williams took a four-year leave of absence during World War II and enlisted in the Air Force where he researched a six-volume tome on aviation medicine that is still in use. He retired from the reserves in 1965 as a Lieutenant Colonel. A UW-Madison graduate, he participated in football and track in high school. Williams is a member of the Wisconsin Tennis Coaches Association and Fox Valley Tennis Association Halls of Fame. He created Neenah’s Park and Recreation tennis program in 1934 and died in 2002 at the age of 96.