A look at our Hall of Fame inductees
More than 50 people and teams have been inducted into the Amsterdam High School Hall of Fame since 2015 for achievement in academics, service medicine, athletics, coaching and more. Their plaques are on display in the high school entrance. View our inductees by year of induction below:
- 2021 Hall of Fame Inductees
- 2020 – No inductees due to COVID-19 pandemic
- 2019 Hall of Fame inductees
- 2018 Hall of Fame inductees
- 2017 Hall of Fame inductees
- 2016 Hall of Fame inductees
- 2015 Hall of Fame inductees
Dr. Harrison Wilson – Class of 1943
Dr. Harrison Wilson graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1943. He went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate degree in Health Science and Administration from Indiana University.
From 1948 to 1964 he worked at Jackson State College as professor, administrator, and basketball coach for 13 seasons. He compiled a record of 371-93 never had a losing season. In 1975 he was named president of Norfolk State University. In 22 years at that position the university grew from four graduate programs to 14 masters and one doctoral program.
Bob Cudmore – Class of 1963 (Valedictorian)
Bob Cudmore graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1963 and was the class Valedictorian. He went on to earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English from Boston University ( Summa Cum Laude), and a masters’ degree in English from Boston University.
Cudemore began his radio career in Amsterdam in 1962 at WCSS.
He later hosted WGY radio’s night time talk show Contact for 12 years. He also co-produced the WMHT public television documentary “Historic Views of the Carpet City, Amsterdam, NY” in 2000. In 2001 he started a newspaper column in the Daily Gazette, “Focus on History” and has written in excess of 700 columns. He has also authored four books highlighting the history of the Mohawk Valley.
After graduating from State University of New York at Cortland with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1961, Louis Rosmarino started his teaching career in Amsterdam. For the next 34 years he taught high school math. He was an inspiration to his fellow teachers as well as his students. He would always go the extra mile to help his students succeed. His greatest achievement may have been that he never had a student fail a NYS Regents exam.
Stephanie Podolec – Class of 1975
Stephanie Podolec graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1975 and spent 33 teaching Music in the Greater Amsterdam School District from the elementary school to high school level. The last 17 of those years were spent as director of the Amsterdam High School Marching Rams and musical director for the high school spring musical. Podolec is also the founder and director of Mohawk Valley Chamber Ensembles. The MVCE provides small ensembles with coaching and opportunities for performance for advanced middle and high school students, as well as adults. In 2020 she became conductor of the College of Saint Rose Symphonic Band.
William Marks – Class of 1992
graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1992. He went on to attend the prestigious U. S. Naval Academy, graduated in 1996, and served at sea on cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers. He has also served in leadership positions at the Pentagon, onboard the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the office of the Chief of Naval Personnel, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. 7th Fleet. From 2015-2016, Marks was Chief of Media for the U.S. Navy, directing the Navy’s engagement with national and international journalists. His final military assignment was as senior spokesperson for the Department of Defense on intelligence issues, leading media engagement for global intelligence issues, and special projects for the Vice President and Ambassador Nikki Haley. After 22 years serving in the Navy and Department of Defense Intelligence, Marks joined Facebook as regional manager for community development in the western United States.
Mike Angellotti- Class of 1992
While a student-athlete at Amsterdam High School, Mike Angellotti was a three-year selection to the All-Area Football Team on both offense and defense. He also excelled at Track and Field being and wasnamed to the All- Area Track and Field team. As a member of 1991 (undefeated 11-0, NYS Regional champion football team), Angellotti was named 1991 NYS Army Player of the Year. He received an appointment to the West Point Military Academy following graduation 1992 and played on the West Point varsity football team for one year. He later transferred to Penn State University and played on Coach Joe Paterno’s football team until concussion issues ended his playing career. Angellotti is now a Lieutenant in the Penn State Police Department.
John “Jack” Tracy
John “Jack” Tracy worked for the Greater Amsterdam School District for 40 years, serving as varsity baseball coach for 38 years. Under his tutelage, two Amsterdam High School players, Roger Bowman and Mac Kuczek made it to the Major League Baseball major leagues. At one point his baseball team won 40 straight games.
In 1927 he started the football program at Amsterdam High School and was the first varsity football coach. In his four years as varsity coach, he compiled a record of 22-6 and led Amsterdam to its first league championship.
Robert “Bob” Noto – Class of 1973
Robert “Bob” Noto graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1973 and later spend 35 years working for GASD as a Physical Education teacher Kindergarten to 12th grade. During that time he coached a variety of sports, including girls volleyball and basketball as well as football and baseball. Noto was an assistant coach on two state championship football teams and a regional champion team as well as many sectional champions in football.
Noto also served as GASD Athletic Director for 10 years. While serving as AD, Noto paved the way for the district’s first artificial turf field. In 2014 he approached the superintendent of schools with the idea of starting a Amsterdam High School Hall of Fame. In 2015 that became a reality as the hall inducted its first class.
John Los came to Amsterdam in 1966 from Ipswich, Massachusetts via Syracuse University. While in Amsterdam he taught Physical Education at the junior and senior high school levels. He quickly got involved in the Amsterdam athletic scene working with Butch Miller developing a summer conditioning program for the Little Giants. The program he put together taught the skills necessary to be a successful football player.
In 1969 he was appointed head coach of the Rugged Rams. A year later Amsterdam won its first league championship in 22 years. They also beat Mt. Pleasant High School of Schenectady for the first time during that span. While leading the Amsterdam football team, Los recorded a record of 23-7, capturig two league titles. Although Los was in the district for a relatively short period, he laid down the foundation for Amsterdam to become a football powerhouse.
Giuseppi Lanzi – Class of 2010
Giuseppi Lanzi graduated from Amsterdam High School in 2010. He was a NYSPHSAA and Federation champion in wrestling in 2010 and voted Most Outstanding Wrestler in that tournament. He was a two-time National High School All American
Lanzi won the Eastern States Classic, a tournament which includes 90 of the best wrestling teams on the eastern seaboard. He was a three-time Class B champion and a two-time Section 2 champion. He won the Joe DeMaeo Award as Section 2’s most outstanding wrestler and went undefeated in his senior year with a record of 42-0. During Lanzi’s Amsterdam career he recorded 246 wins, 152 by pin and never lost a home match in six years as a varsity wrestler.
Lanzi was honored as a Scholar Athlete all six years, maintaining a 95 GPA
Legacy Team – 1970 Football Team
This Legacy Team – the 1970 Amsterdam High School football team – began a run of champion caliber football teams that would last for 50 years. Coached by John Los and Brian Mee, the 1970 football season is remembered by Amsterdam grid fans as one that made them proud to be in the Rugged Rams cheering section. No Amsterdam football team had won the Class A league title since 1948. The 1970 team went on to finish the season 6-1-1 and capture Amsterdam’s first league title in 22 years. This team was made up of a large number of underclassmen making the future bright for Amsterdam football.
Dr. Alison Bertuch – Class of 1981
Dr. Alison Bertuch graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1981, going on to attend MIT where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1985. Upon receiving her MD and PhD degrees in 1993, she headed to Houston, Texas to begin her training in Pediatrics and subsequently in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Bertuch is known internationally for her research on telomeres and as an expert in the area of bone marrow failure. She has published over 75 research articles and medical textbook chapters and has given numerous lectures throughout the USA and abroad.
Her awards include election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, election to the Society for Pediatric Research, the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Research Mentorship Award, and the Texas Children’s Cancer Center and Hematology Service Faculty Education Award.
She is currently an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular & Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and serves as Director of the Bone Marrow Failure Program at Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest children’s hospital in the country.
Gerald Barnell – Class of 1929
A member of the Class of 1929, Gerald Barnell was considered the “Godfather” of the Greater Amsterdam School District’s Instrumental Program. Growing up Barnell played violin in his family’s concert orchestra.
He graduated from Ithaca College in 1933 and was hired the following year by his hometown school district as a music teacher. Over the course of the next four decades, as an instructor and later, district director of instrumental music, he started and/or directed every instrumental performance group that ever played a note on an Amsterdam public school stage, including all junior and senior high school bands and orchestras. It was Barnell who first turned the Amsterdam High School Marching Band into one of this community’s most prized possessions. It was also his idea to for a Majorettes squad and to have the young ladies in that group perform their now famous Rockettes’ kick line to the tune of “Lullaby of Birdland.” He also became a key force in the Montgomery County Music Teachers Association and helped organize the very first Montgomery County Music Festival.
He retired from the District in 1973 but continued to teach music education courses to future music teachers at the College of St. Rose in Albany.
Art Cotugno – Class of 1954
Art Cotugno graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch Senior High School in 1954. Cotugno received his Bachelors of Arts degree and Masters of Science in Educational Administration from Siena College.
In 1961 Cotugno began is long career in the Greater Amsterdam School District as a Spanish teacher at Amsterdam High School. Cotugno also worked as an instructor of Spanish at FMCC. From 1965-69 Art was the GASD coordinator of foreign languages.
In 1969 Cotugno became Assistant Principal at the Theodore Roosevelt Jr. High School and became Principal in 1971. He was principal when the Junior High made a smooth transition to the Lynch Middle School.
In 1983 Cotugno would become Director of Staff Personnel and then became Superintendent of Schools in 1991. He continued in that position until his retirement in June of 1995.
Through his career Cotugno was involved in many local and statewide organizations, including board member of Centro Civico, Panelist-Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Review-New York State Department of Education, Member of Amsterdam Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, board member Amsterdam YMCA also serving as its president.
Among the awards bestowed upon Cotugno were the NYS Assembly Commendation Award, Amsterdam Spanish Heritage Foundation Special Commendation Award, CYO Outstanding Service Award, and Amsterdam Rotary Citizen of the Year Award.
Cotugno was a man filled with empathy, dignity, intelligence, and unrivaled work ethic. His passion was education and his efforts ensured that the youth in the Greater Amsterdam School District will continue to thrive intellectually for generations to come.
Chester Kukiewicz Curtis – Class of 1957
Chester Kukiewicz Curtis graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1957. A self-described “Polish Kid” from Upstate New York, he went to attend Ithaca College, where he quickly felt at home in the radio and television department. Kukiewicz Curtis’ career in broadcasting started with stops in Rochester, Washington D.C. and New York City.
In 1968 he moved to Channel 5 TV in Boston and started a 40-plus year connection to New England events, history, and viewers. Kukiewicz Curtis and his then wife Natalie Jacobson were the top rated, most respected anchor team in Boston for decades.
Kukiewicz Curtis was a master interviewer and the consummate professional, covering events such as the visits of Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul II, and Nelson Mandela to Boston, presidential conventions and elections, and the bicentennial. During his tenure, WCVB was named the Best News station in the United States.
For much of his adult life, he dedicated his free time to emceeing countless charitable events, raising money for a range of causes. He hosted the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Annual Labor Day Telethon for more than 25 years.
Kukiewicz Curtis was honored to receive many awards and distinctions during his career, including several regional Emmy awards, but none more meaningful than his Emmy for a piece he did on his ancestral homeland, “And Poland Survives.” In November 2012, Kukiewicz Curtis was inducted into the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Gold Circle Club, recognizing 50 years in the industry, excellence in broadcasting and a commitment to the community. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September of 2013.
Gary Cudmore – Class of 1954
Few coaches have dedicated themselves more to the Amsterdam High School community and sports programs than has Gary Cudmore.
A member of the Amsterdam High School Class of 1968, Cudmore was a superb and versatile high school athlete for the Rams, earning All League honors in both football and baseball while also lettering in basketball. After a standout football career at the University of Bridgeport he returned to Amsterdam and began his long and distinguished tenure as a physical education instructor and developed into one of the most respected and effective coaches in the school’s interscholastic sports history. For over 30 years he served as the Line Coach for some of the greatest offensive and defensive units to ever suit up for Amsterdam High School football. Noted for his teaching style and patient determination, Cudmore’s linemen helped the Rugged Rams capture multiple sectional and statewide championships. In the early 1980’s, he became head coach of the School’s Track & Field program. Utilizing his even-tempered approach and focusing on teaching techniques, form, and strategy, he rejuvenated the popularity of the sport, resulting in stunning victories at prestigious meets and Sectional Championships. It is no coincidence that some of the greatest football linemen and track & field performers to ever wear the Purple and Gold were coached by Cudmore.
Jack Saroff immigrated to America as a young boy during the Russian Revolution and went on to become both an innovator and champion of science education at Amsterdam High School. He was first hired to teach science in 1937. His four-decade-long effort to improve the teaching of that subject at the high school earned him both a National Science Foundation Scholarship from Union College and the prestigious Shell Merit Scholarship at Cornell University. He also regularly provided science instruction training to Amsterdam’s elementary school teachers.
Saroff was a driving force in the effort to enhance the teaching profession as a career choice. In 1946, his testimony in front of the Governor’s Education Commission in the New York State Assembly helped convince the panel to recommend increasing the salaries of New York State’s teachers. In the 1950’s he served as president of the Amsterdam Teacher’s Association. His ability in the classroom and his efforts to make Amsterdam’s science program second to none inspired many of the school’s graduates to pursue careers in science-related fields.
Brian Benton – Class of 2008
Brian Benton was a 2008 graduate of Amsterdam High School. He was a six-year starter on the varsity wrestling team while at AHS, where he helped captain the powerful wrestling Rams program to a Section 2 Team Championship in 2008. He also led his Section 2 Division I team to a New York State wrestling championship that same year. Serving as team captain his junior and senior years, Benton’s belief was that wrestling was both an individual sport and a team sport, thus he led as such. Benton’s influence led the Rams to three undefeated Big Ten Team Conference championships.
Individually, Benton earned First Team Big Ten Conference All-Star status in all six years of his varsity competition. He also earned NYS Scholar-Athlete status during his four years of high school at AHS.
During his wrestling tenure at Amsterdam, Benton won a record setting 253 varsity matches. He was the first to capture five Class B Championships, three Section 2 Championships, three New York State place finishes, including a NYSPHSAA state championship and a Runner-Up Federation championship in his senior year. He also won an Eastern States Classic Championship receiving the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award in 2007. Upon graduating from AHS, Benton attended George Mason University located in Fairfax, Virginia where he majored in the fine arts and wrestled Division I for four years with the Patriots.
Sara Puglisi Hisert – Class of 2005
In 2005, her graduation year, Sara Puglisi Hisert was unanimously named Big Ten Most Valuable Player as she led the Rams Softball Team to its first sectional victory in 23 years taking them all the way to the Class AA Semi-final game. Puglisi Hisert dominated opposing hitters with command of high velocity pitches topping out with a 65 mph fastball. During the 2005 season Puglisi Hisert averaged 2 strikeouts per inning with a total 204 strikeouts against 398 batters faced. She let in just 13 earned runs owning an ERA of just 0.91 through 103 innings pitched, while allowing just 1 run and holding a 0.14 ERA within Big 10 play.
Highly touted out of Amsterdam, Puglisi Hisert received a scholarship to play at Division 2 at American International College where she was named Captain from her sophomore through senior year earning her the AIC Athletic Leadership Award after the 2009 season.
In 2005 Sara was named Recorder All-Area Player of the Year and two time first team all league. At the conclusion of her career at AIC, Sara was offered a chance to play professionally in Paternò, Italy, but declined, to continue her education and become the pitching coach at Manhattanville College while earning her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Puglisi Hisert is currently a tenured Kindergarten teacher within the Greater Amsterdam School District.
Vinnie Nicosia – Class of 2008
Graduating in 2008, Vinnie Nicosia was a three sport athlete in football, basketball, and track. He was a three year starter and two time captain of both the football and basketball teams. The majority of Nicosia’s athletic success was accumulated on the gridiron where he played wide receiver and safety for the Rams from 2004-2007. Throughout his high school career, Nicosia played a vital role in helping the Rams secure two Section 2 Championships and a New York State Class A State Championship in 2005. During his high school career Nicosia caught 128 passes for 1,734 yards, scoring 22 touchdowns. On defense he made 233 tackles and made 19 interceptions. In addition, he returned six kickoffs and punts for touchdowns He still holds a number of school records as a wide receiver.
At the conclusion of his senior season, Nicosia was named to the NYS Golden 50 Team, First Team All-State as a safety, Section II Division I MVP, First Team Section II safety, Times Union Section II All-Star Team, and Daily Gazette Section II Class A Co-Player of the Year. Nicosia went on to play safety at Colgate University, where he started games all four seasons and won a Patriot League Championship He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2019 Nicosia was inducted into the Section 2 Football Hall of Fame.
Megan Gaugler Sumigray – Class of 2008
As a junior and senior, Megan Gaugler Sumigray was an instrumental player leading the girls’ basketball team to two undefeated Big Ten league championships. Gaugler Sumigray was known for her shooting ability and was able to break the single season 3-point record as a junior with 57. As a senior she broke her own record with 59. Gaugler Sumigray holds the record for 3 pointers made with 154.
As senior Gaugler Sumigray was named the Lady Rams Most Valuable Player. In addition, she was named to the first team all-stars for the Times Union, Gazette, and Recorder. In 2008 she was named as a Channel 13 all-star and Fox 23 player of the year.
In recognition of both athleticism and academic success, she received the 2008 Scholar Athlete Award for the Big Ten League and the Capitol Region Scholar Athlete Award for female basketball players.
In addition to her basketball skills, Gaugler Sumigray was a gifted student being the Salutatorian of the AHS class of 2008. After high school she went on to start on the Skidmore College women’s basketball team for four years. At Skidmore, Gaugler Sumigray became the 12th player in school history to surpass 1,000 points and broke two shooting records which still stand. Gaugler Sumigray graduated Summa Cum Laude from Skidmore and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.
New York State Class B Champions – 1995 Football Team
The 1995 Rugged Rams became the first Section II team to win a New York State Public High School Athletic Association football championship. Despite two regular-season losses, the Rams qualified for the Section II Class B playoffs where they topped LaSalle Institute in the semifinals before taking down an unbeaten Albany Academy team, 27-7, in the Section II Class B Super Bowl. Regional wins against Peru and Nyack earned Amsterdam a trip to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for the state championship game, where a 23-yard field goal from Alvaro Montes with five seconds left in the fourth quarter gave Amsterdam the decisive margin in an 11-8 victory over Lake Shore.
The state championship came in the final game at Amsterdam for GASD Hall of Fame head coach Frank Derrico. Among the team’s biggest contributors were star running back Lester Rivera, two-way tackles Rich Altieri and Jamar Ward, quarterback Chris Covell and fullback/linebacker Joe Tegnander.
2007-08 Girls Basketball Team
Led by a pair of Hall of Fame inductees in Brittany Stahura and Megan Gaugler, the 2007-08 Lady Rams had the most successful regular season in program history. After a 21-game winning streak and a Big Ten championship the prior season, coach Eric Duemler’s team followed that up with an unbeaten regular season and another league title. All told, the Lady Rams started the season with 22 consecutive wins and finished the year with a stellar 22-1 record.
Highlights of the season included an historic 59-49 win over national powerhouse Christ the King on Dec. 8, 2017, followed by a 51-47 win the next day in New York City against JFK. The Lady Rams spent 12 weeks as the No. 1 team in the New York State Sportswriters Association’s Class AA state rankings and were ranked both No. 4 in the Eastern Region and No. 24 in the nation by USA Today in February 2008.
Maria Riccio Bryce – Class of 1968
Maria Riccio Bryce was born and raised in Amsterdam, the eldest of four sisters. At the age of nine, she began Saturday morning piano lessons with Marion Rulison. She can still recall her teacher’s baby grand draped in an antique shawl, with the bust of Beethoven upon it, gazing down at her sternly; the austere but tender guidance Miss Rulison; and most of all, the thrill of her fingers beginning to find their way around the keys, with growing certainty. By the time she entered Theodore Roosevelt Jr. High, she’d become known as “the girl who plays the piano,” regularly called out of class to play “The Spangled Banner” before each assembly, and accompanying the school choruses.
At the age of 12, having by then discovered her true vocation, Mui, Theatre – Maria corralled her siblings into forming a sister singing “The Riccio Sisters” became frequent, sought-after performers throughout the Capital District. Riccio Bryce would routinely come home from school determinedly cast her net for bookings, and then proceed to rehearse her sisters in whatever new act she had conceived for them. They were good! However, they were rather reluctant performers. They loved their big sister, and followed where she led… but Michela, Connie, and Sophie heaved a sigh of relief when Riccio Bryce left for college, her heart and mind firmly set on a career in the theater.
That career would take her many places: to her first season of summer stock at Weston Playhouse in Vermont, where she met a young British actor, and married him upon her graduation from Manhattanville College…to London, where, together, they founded and ran The Overground Theatre, which became one of the leading fringe theatres of the 1970’s… then a return to America, when the Thatcher years in the United Kingdom resulted in heavy cuts to Arts Council subsidies, and The Overground became one of the casualties… and, finally, back to Amsterdam itself, an unexpected turn which at first filled her with dismay… but resulted in her most profound moments of inspiration.
Riccio Bryce’s work includes YOUR BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, recorded for BBC Radio 4; MOTHER, I’M HERE, commissioned by the Schenectady YWCA to celebrate its centennial anniversary, premiering at Proctor’s Theatre and later produced at The Egg; HIROSHIMA, a full-length symphonic work; and THE AMSTERDAM ORATORIO, a choral work comprised of 16 songs, each featuring a facet of life in her beloved hometown, for which, at its premiere performance, she was awarded the Key to the City of Amsterdam, by Mayor Duke Duchessi; and most recently, SWAN SONG, her Musical Memoir. In 1990 she was commissioned to compose a piece commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Schenectady Massacre. To that end, she created HEARTS OF FIRE, a full-length musical theater work which premiered at Proctor’s Theatre on September 18, 1990, and was produced at Proctor’s again the following year. Riccio Bryce considers HEARTS OF FIRE to be her “Magnum Opus, as epitomizes the monumental themes that have defined her life and her work: home, loss, faith, memory, and all-enduring love. She is the mother of three sons, and is the Music Director at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Schenectady.
James Ziskin – Class of 1978
To the casual observers who knew him, it appeared as if James Ziskin was simply “growing up” in Amsterdam. What they didn’t realize at the time was that he was actually developing the characters and settings he would later utilize to become one of America’s most popular mystery writers. The son of two doctors who moved to this city when he was two years old, Ziskin grew up on Market Hill with five brothers and two sisters and he did all the same things in all the same places interacting with all the same people as most young boys did growing up in this old mill town in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
After graduating from Amsterdam High School in 1978 he studied romance languages and literature at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his master’s degree. He then worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as Director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. He spent 15 years in the Hollywood post production industry, running large international operations in the subtitling/localization and visual effects fields, all the while mastering the use of words. Then in 2013 his first book, a mystery novel titled Styx & Stone was published by Seventh Street Books, introducing Ziskin’s featured character, Ellie Stone to the world. She was a reporter for a small town newspaper in the upstate New York City of New Holland and her exploits produced plenty of five star reviews for Ziskin’s storytelling talents from both readers and critics alike.
Ziskin has since added five more books to the Ellie Stone Series and in the process has become one of this country’s most popular and acclaimed mystery authors. He was recently named the winner of both the 2017 Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original 2017 Macavity Award or Best Historical Novel.
Much was ahead for a young Polish boy, born to immigrant parents, starting school speaking only Polish. Recognizing education was a key component in life, Claude Palczak fostered his commitment to the education of Amsterdam’s youth.
Thirty-seven years as an educator/administrator in the Greater Amsterdam School District added to 50-plus years serving as a volunteer to the Amsterdam community and neighboring areas gives merit to honoring Palczak in the field of service. Once retired, he served as interim administrator with the Greater Amsterdam School District and the Albany Catholic Diocese including the Diocesan Board of Education.
Palczak is a 1949 graduate of St. Mary’s Institute, a 1954 graduate of Seton Hall University, and a 1958 graduate of Albany State with a master’s degree in Education and Administration. Prior to his years in education, Palczak served his country as a United States Marine, First Lieutenant.
- Palczak has dedicated countless hours of service to the promotion of mental health awareness by being a member of the Fulton Montgomery Mental Health Services and played an integral part in the successful merger of MTS and MHA in 2011. He was awarded the Ruth S. Voorhees 2018 Award for his dedication.
- Hospice of Amsterdam honored him as their Volunteer of the Year for his work as a patient advocate.
- Served on the Advisory Boards of St. Mary’s Healthcare and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
- As a volunteer for Catholic Charities of Albany, he served in Queens following 9/11, then in Baton Rouge and Biloxi following Hurricane Katrina, further demonstrating his commitment to improving the quality of life to individuals in their desperate time of need.
- He was honored by the Montgomery Bar Association, receiving the Liberty Bell Service in 2007.
- While a Amsterdam High School co-principal, he prided himself with attending just about every event where students participated: scholastic, sporting events, drama and musical presentations. Sluzba innym przynosi czesc swojemu zyciu. (Serving others brings honor to your own life.)
Rich Altieri – Class of 1997
This member of the Class of 1997, Rich Altieri was one of the greatest two-way linemen in Amsterdam High School gridiron history. As a junior, he anchored the starting lines on both sides of the ball for the 1995 Rugged Ram team that won the first New York State championship in school history. The following year, Altieri became captain of the 1996 squad and led them to a Big Ten championship while making every area all-star team and getting named one of the Top 50 football players in New York State. In 2002, he returned to the AHS football program as a volunteer coach and took over as head of the team’s strength and conditioning program. His leadership in the weight room and communication skills with the players was a key factor in the 2005 team’s drive to the program’s second state title. Altieri has also worked as strength and conditioning for several of the area’s top scholastic wrestlers many of whom have gone on to capture sectional and state championships. He holds a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, competes in strongman and powerlifting competitions and is a highly skilled and respected mixed martial arts coach.
Brian Bonanno- Class of 1992
Certainly one of the brightest two-sport stars in the history of Amsterdam High School, Brian Bonanno excelled at both football and track and field. On the gridiron, he was a rare four-year-starter for the Rugged Rams including three seasons as Amsterdam’s starting quarterback during which his teams accumulated a 25-4 record including a perfect 11-0 mark and a state regional championship in 1991. He threw for over 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns during his career as signal-caller plus played defensive back, punted, place-kicked and returned both points and kickoffs. In 1993 he was named the inaugural winner of the Times Union/MVP Sports Foundation Scholar Athlete of the Year Award. In track & field he was a four-time medalist in the pentathlon at New York State Championship meets and was a 10-time Section II Champion, in both the 110 and 400-meter hurdles, the pentathlon and the 4 x 400 meter relays. In addition, Bonanno earned a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles in the under 16 division at the 1989 USA Track & Field Championships plus was a five-time medal winner at the Empire State Games. Bonanno went on to play three years as a wide receiver for the University of Pennsylvania. Bonanno now lives in the Raleigh, North Carolina area with his wife Analy and two children and is currently serving as the Associate Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer of the Private Diagnostic Clinic of Duke Health.
Dan Saullo- Class of 1987
Dan Saullo was a three-year varsity starter in center field (1986-1987) for Hall of Fame Baseball Coach Brian Mee. He was a three-time All Big 10 Conference selection, including a first-team selection in 1986 and 1987. As a senior, he was also selected to the First Team All-Area Baseball team. Saullo hit over .350 each year, including .430 as a senior, helping to lead the 1987 team to the sectionals with an 18-5 record. As a senior he helped the Rams in virtually every offensive category.
Saullo was also a two-way varsity starter on the gridiron as a junior and senior. He was a key member of Hall of Fame Football Coach Frank Derrico’s undefeated 1986 Section II Class A championship team at both defensive back and flanker, earning First Team All-Big Ten and First Team All-Area honors as a senior defensive back.
Saullo was named Amsterdam High School’s winner of the U.S. Army Reserve’s national scholar athlete award in 1987. After graduating from AHS, Saullo chose to continue his baseball career at Division I Siena College and went on to have a stellar four-year varsity career, hitting over .300 in three of those years and at the time of his graduation in 1991, was in the Top 20 in school history in career batting average at .307. He was named to the All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) First Team as a senior outfielder, a MAAC All Academic First Team selection as a junior and senior, as well as honorable mention Academic All-American as a senior. He was named Siena’s Most Outstanding Male Scholar Athlete in 1991.
Saullo was a member of the Adirondack baseball team at the 1988 Empire State Games and was inducted into the Amsterdam Mohawks Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. Saullo graduated with high honors from Siena with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. Upon graduation, he began his accounting career with the Big Four public accounting firm KPMG LLP in Albany, earning his CPA license in 1994. He is currently the Director of Internal Audit at Trustco Bank in Glenville. Prior to that, he has served Trustco in various management positions since 1997.
Saullo has been a volunteer board member of the Schenectady Branch of the Capital District YMCA since 1998, including being Board Chairman from 2014-2017. In 2016, he was the Schenectady Branch recipient of the Capital District YMCA President’s Award (the organization’s highest award for volunteerism). In addition to the YMCA, NIS volunteer and philanthropic causes include Siena College, where he serves on the Saints Alive! Advisory Council and the Siena College Athletics Hall of Fame Committee, Amsterdam Youth Baseball, the Amsterdam Mohawks baseball club, and the Arthur P. Cotugno Memorial Scholarship Fund (for Amsterdam High School students).
Brittany Stahura- Class of 2008
graduated from Amsterdam High School in 2008 after a stellar four-year varsity career in both the girls basketball and tennis programs. As basketball team captain during her junior and senior years, Stahura led an undefeated team in Big Ten competition, establishing the Rams as league champions in each of those seasons. Dominating under the basket, Stahura led a Lady Rams team that was ranked first in the state, and nationally ranked 24th by the USA Today in the 2007-2008 season. Stahura’s 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 steals led the team to a stunning victory over perennial national powerhouse Christ the King during her senior year.
Stahura is the all-time leader in rebounds for the Lady Rams with 962. Stahura was a dominant force on the court, scoring 921 career points (fourth all-time) and leading to her selection to by the Schenectady Gazette, Times Union, and Recorder to numerous all star teams and Big Ten MVP in 2008. Stahura was also a four-year varsity starter on the Lady Rams tennis team, which won numerous Big Ten championships. Stahura received a Division I scholarship to Bryant College, where she graduated with a bachelors in accounting, and went on to earn her MBA from Union Graduate College.
Mike Tuman – Class of 1971
Mike Tuman’s high school career was highlighted by three varsity letters in football, baseball and swimming, and a Class A football championship along with three baseball league titles. His summers were occupied by playing baseball with the Bergen Post American Legion, Amsterdam Knights and Schenectady Cosmos. Academically, he was on the honor roll in all high school years.
After graduating from AHS in 1971, Tuman attended the University of Pennsylvania undergraduate school where he was the captain of the varsity baseball team his senior year. He received three varsity letters in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was nominated to the EIBL 2nd Team All-Stars as a catcher. Penn’s 1974 team was the EIBL Conference and played several playoff games in the College World Series. As an undergraduate, Tuman also played two years of football, one year freshman and one year varsity before switching over to fall and spring baseball his junior and senior years.
From 1975 to 1979, Tuman attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine receiving the OKU award for being in the top 10 percent of his class. In 1975, Tuman married his high school sweetheart Karen Bergen, and they have enjoyed 43 years of marriage with their two sons Ryan and Christopher. For 39 years, he has practiced general dentistry in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, most recently working alongside Ryan, a dentist, and Christopher the sterilization coordinator.
Tuman and his family continue to visit Amsterdam and vacation every year in the Adirondacks at the Great Sacandaga Lake, where they enjoy fishing, swimming and relaxing. Attending Phillies and Eagles games remain top priorities. Tuman looks forward to preserving the student-athlete tradition with his grandson, Wyatt.
Big Ten Champions – 1986 Football
Making good on a promise they made to themselves following an undefeated season on Coach Bob Noto’s freshman team three years earlier, the 1986 Amsterdam football team became the school’s first undefeated Big Ten and Section II Class A champions. Head Coach Frank Derrico’s offense ranked first in the Section in scoring led by a backfield featuring Kevin Billington and Russ Dickson who ranked first and third, respectively, in individual scoring for the season. Not to be outdone, the defense surrendered the fewest points in Section II led by team captains David Mendez, Darren Bergh, Ray Moran and Juan Ly. The starting defensive unit surrendered a total of 12 points for the season. They capped off the season with a dominating performance in the Section Il Super Bowl, defeating previously unbeaten Suburban Council Champion Saratoga 35-0. Overall, the Rams outscored opponents 296-48 on route to a 10-0 season and No. 4 ranking in the New York State Large School Football poll. Individual postseason awards included 12 Rams making First Team All-Big 10, several earned First and Second Team All-Area nominations, including Billington and Alex being tabbed as the Schenectady Gazette’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively.
Academics and Humanitarian
Congressman Paul Tonko – Class of 1967
Congressman Paul Tonko graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1967 and then continued his education at Clarkson University, graduating in 1971. In 1976 he was elected to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. Tonko served as the community’s member of the New York State Assembly from 1983-2007, when he directed the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Tonko was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2008, now representing his community before the nation. He is a dedicated public servant, perpetually available to his constituents and their concerns. Tonko has been awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by Maria College, as well as numerous citations and public service for his tireless dedication to his country, state,and public service awards and community.
Academics and Medicine
Dr. Peter Diamond – Class of 1969
Dr. Peter Diamond graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1969. He achieved varsity letters in football, baseball and basketball. After graduating from Siena College and the Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine, he returned to Amsterdam as Director of Emergency Room Services for St. Mary’s Hospital. Dr. Diamond later opened what became the largest and most respected medical family practice in Amsterdam. For many years, Dr. Diamond was an involved and integral part of the community, including attending many Amsterdam Rams football games as the district’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Diamond retired in 2015 and moved to be nearer to his children and grandchildren.
Academics and Professional
Judge Felix Catena – Class of 1975
Judge Felix Catena graduated with honors from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1975. He graduated from American University with a political science degree and became involved in working on political campaigns and in state government. Following a family occupational tradition, he obtained his law degree in 1985, and became a judge. A fixture in the community, Judge Catena served as Amsterdam Assistant District Attorney, Corporation Counsel, and City Court Judge before serving with continued distinction in the elected position of Montgomery County Court Judge since 1999.
Joe Emanuele – Class of 1974
Joe Emanuele graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1974, after being a successful athlete in Amsterdam basketball, football, and track, where his relay team established a school record. Emmanuel graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 1978 and then became a successful Math teacher for more than 30 years for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District. Emanuele has been active in civic affairs and was elected as an Amsterdam City Alderman (1st Ward) in 1997 and then elected Mayor of Amsterdam, serving from 2004 – 2007.
Humanities and Service
Paul Ochal – Class of 1964
Paul Ochal is a 1964 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School. The Greater Amsterdam School District is forever indebted to Paul Ochal for his years of service and dedication to the Amsterdam wrestling program. Paul’s passion led him to become the team wrestling program photographer. He attended countless matches and banquets that he often organized, presenting individual wrestlers with a photographic record of their achievements. Ochal’s love of the sport, led to him to direct or be actively involved in numerous wrestling clubs and events in the Amsterdam community. Ochal is an active church member and serves as the City Alderman for the Second Ward of the City of Amsterdam.
Nick Alexander – Class of 1935
Nick Alexander graduated in 1935 from Wilbur H. Lynch High School after having served as captain of all three varsity sports that he played and excelled in football, basketball and baseball. Alexander played one year of college basketball but returned home after the death of his father to support the family. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the armed forces and received the Purple Heart after being wounded in France. After returning home Alexander continued his athletic endeavors playing semi-pro football with the Schenectady Bluejackets, the Amsterdam Weavers and the Amsterdam Zephyrs. He also was a beloved coach for the Nadler Brothers Little League team for many years, passing on his lessons on sports and life.
Joe Hage – Class of 1974
Joe Hage graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1974. He was a standout player in football and on the baseball team. Hage rushed for more than 1,200 yards as a senior on the football team. He was the Thom McAn Award winner in 1973, which honors outstanding high school football athletes and The Recorder Player of the Year in 1974. He went on to play football and baseball for Southern Illinois University and spent three years as a minor league baseball player with Niagara Falls and the Paintsville Yankees. Hage has two children who have also achieved a high level of success in baseball and golf respectively.
Daniel Russo – Class of 1975
Daniel Russo graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1975 and became one of the most prolific golfers to come from Amsterdam. He was a high school sport athlete in high school in baseball, basketball and golf. Russo won numerous club championships and invitationals across the Northeast. In 2009 Russo qualified for the United States Senior Open as an amateur. Russo lives in Hagaman, is the CEO of Upstate Utilities, and can often be found on a golf course nearby.
David Weissman – Class of 1972
David Weissman is a 1972 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School and a vital component of a talented backfield for the Rams football teams of the early 1970’s that won two straight Class A Championships, ending a 22-year drought. Weissman was a three sport star for the Rams participating in football, basketball and track. Weissman was named the Recorder Player of The Week in football four times, chosen All-Capital District running back two times and won the Thom McAn Award as the outstanding football player of the Capital District. A talented member of the track team, he was twice given The Ed Cionek Award for outstanding achievement in track. Weissman continued his football career at Brown University, and after graduation worked as Head of Securities for the American Exchange and has served as the CFO for numerous trading companies.
Donna Nevulis – Class of 1975
Donna Nevulis is a 1975 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School, after having personally petitioned the school administration to uphold Title IX Federal laws and support a girls softball team. Not only was she instrumental in creating the program, she enlisted players and its first coach, GASD Hall of Famer, Pat Reilly. An all-around good athlete, Nevulis achieved the single game scoring record in basketball with 23 points in 1975, a record only broken with the advent of the three point shot. Nevulis competed on numerous major and Class A modified and Fast Pitch softball teams, winning a national title playing for the Binghamton Reds, and earning an All-American selection in 1978. Returning to her alma mater, she taught for the Greater Amsterdam School District for 30 years and continued her pioneering work for Amsterdam High School athletics. Nevulis was an excellent coach and contributed to supporting successful AHS softball and golf teams throughout her career.
Original Rugged Rams Football Team – 1967
The tremendous play and ferocious defense of the 1967 high school team would forever change the name of Amsterdam High School sports. Prior to the 1967 season, Wilbur H. Lynch High School sports teams were called the “Hilltoppers.” This Legacy Teams’ exploits on the gridiron led The Recorder’s Sports editor Art Hoefs, to label the team “The Rugged Rams,” mainly for the hard-nosed play of the defense. The stingy 1967 defense only allowed one rushing and two passing touchdowns all season. The new nickname seemed to better describe the determination, grit, and perseverance necessary for success on the athletic field. It was readily accepted by the community, becoming the ideal and the standard for future teams. The Amsterdam Rams of today carry the name established by one of the best football teams in school history; the 1967 Rugged Rams.
Sarah Brownell – Class of 1993
Sarah Brownell works to empower people to use their education, talent, skills and passions for global social good.
Trained as an engineer with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and a MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering form the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, she strives to combine her own technical skills with a passion for making positive change. In this pursuit, she has helped to initiate numerous projects. Her most innovative contribution is likely co-founding and acting as treasurer, technical lead, and project coordinator for the non-profit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) which introduced a urine diverting ecological toilet service for urban slums in Haiti called EkoLaKay. SOIL and the local innovators it empowers continue to grow as global leaders in ecological sanitation. While living in Haiti and working with SOIL, she also networked Haitian educators with their counterparts in the US to establish the non-profit Friends of Borgne. Friends of Borgne supports educational opportunities for children in Borgne, Haiti through school sponsorship and after-school programs in sewing, marching band and computers. They also support a donkey-back library for rural areas. Brownell remains on the board. Also with her husband Kevin Foos and some of Borgne’s most active women’s group leaders, she established the Pen ak Pwason Food Program for the elderly and disabled. The food program supports local agriculture in Borgne by purchasing local food and provides a measure of social security to the elderly. It runs through St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality – a Catholic Worker soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Rochester, NY – where Brownell and her husband also served as a live-in volunteers and board members for many years. For her volunteer work, Brownell received the White Dove Award for solidarity with the people of Latin America from Rochester Committee on Latin America in 2008 and the Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award from RIT in 2015.
In her current role as a lecturer at RIT, she hopes to engage students as global citizens who can offer their creativity, skills and training in partnership for the benefit of ecosystems and humanity. While a graduate-student, Brownell helped form UC Berkeley’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World and remains active with the national organization today by teaching their Wicked Problems in Sustainability collaborative course at RIT. She also helped develop and implement the Program in Engineering for the Earth, People, and Society (PEEPS) at RIT including the course Engineering and the Developing World and study abroad trips to Haiti. Brownell is now working on a faculty team to expand this work into a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary program. She guides numerous Multidisciplinary Senior Design teams working on social impact projects for the College of Engineering, including projects for Haiti, St. Joseph’s House, and other non-profits. Brownell looks forward to seeing the work her students and Haitian collaborators multiply, expand, develop and innovate for the good of global society. As a proud AHS graduate and valedictorian of the class of 1993, she hopes that her award will inspire AHS students to use their own talents for social good as they move out into the community and the world.
Kirk Douglas – Class of 1934
Izzy Demski, a graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School Class of 1934 and better known as Kirk Douglas heads the Academic Class of inductees this year. Douglas starred in many films in his career and has received many honors for his work including the Kennedy Center Award, Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and The National Medal of Arts Award from former President George Bush.
Humanities and Service
Umberto DeRose – Class of 1949
Umberto “Bert” DeRose graduated in 1949 from the W.H. Lynch Senior High School. At the age of 16 he began to direct theatrical productions at the school.
A graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in 1953, he received a two-year teaching fellowship to Butler University teaching Drama and directing Drama productions. Bert graduated in 1955 with an master’s degree.
DeRose is an educator who worked for the Greater Amsterdam School District for four decades. He served the district as an English and social studies teacher and at the time of his retirement as Principal of Amsterdam High School. DeRose is best known for the many school and summer plays he produced for the enjoyment of the Amsterdam community. So much so that when the school auditorium was rebuilt in 2007 the theater was dedicated to him and is now known as the Bert DeRose Theater. DeRose continues to live in the Amsterdam community.
His career in the Greater Amsterdam School District included: English and Social Studies Teacher 1956-1958, Advisor to the Student Council 1956-1965, picked “Ram” as the school Mascot Originated Homecoming Weekend Obtained War Memorials for young Amsterdam men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Drama and Speech Teacher 1958-1967, Drama Coach 1957-1979, Director of Student Activities 1965-1966, Building Administrative Assistant 1966, Assistant Principal 1967-1971, Associate Principal 1971-1986, Principal 1986 – retired in 1995. He served as Director of Drama for the city Recreation Department 1949-1979. He worked for more than 48 years, directly 172 theatrical productions. The Bert DeRose Theatre was dedicated in his honor by the Board of Education on July 16, 1997
Medicine and Science
Robert Laudise – Class of 1948
Robert Laudise graduated from Wilber Lynch HS in 1948. He majored in chemistry at Union College in Schenectady then received a PhD. from MIT. He spent his entire career at Bell Labs in New Jersey. Working with colleagues there he did research on quartz which led to the successful growth and manufacture of quartz that was superior in quality and cheaper than mined quartz. Quartz is used in making phones, electronic devices and even watches. He led groups that transferred optical-fiber technology to production and prepared some of the first crystals used to make lasers. In 1989 the International Organization of Crystal Growth designated its prize for experimental crystal growth the Laudise Prize.
He had childhood memories of the stream he crossed on his way to school that changed color depending on the dye being used in the carpet mill upstream. Later he had an adult concern for maintaining the Pocono Lakes, where he summered with his family, free of algal blooms and safe for swimming. This led him to testing the lakes and educating residents about septic systems maintenance, reducing run-off and keeping pesticides and herbicides out of the lakes.
His concern and interest in protecting the local environment carried over into his work where he became an early and strong advocate for corporate environmental responsibility. He brought Industrial Ecology or Design for the Environment to the attention of the U.S. Scientific and Engineering communities through projects at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. Since 2003 the International Society of Industrial Ecology awards the Robert Laudise, Young Researcher Prize biennially for outstanding achievement in industrial ecology to a researcher under the age of 36.
As Laudise said in 1997, “My dream for the 21st century is to combine a healthy economy with a clean environment.” He did not live to see the new century but work continues toward his dream partially encouraged by scholarships he established at Union College in Schenectady and at MIT.
Medicine and Science
Rocco Anthony Petrone – Class of 1943
Rocco Anthony Petrone was born in Amsterdam on March 31, 1926. He was the third son of Anthony and Theresa Deluca Petrone who emigrated from Italy to Amsterdam in 1921. Petrone attended school in Amsterdam graduating from Amsterdam High School in 1943 where he played football and basketball for the Rams. Petrone graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1946 where he played tackle on the great Army football teams of the 1940s. In the U.S. Army from 1946-1966, he served in Europe from 1947 to 1950 returning to the U.S. to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rocco earned a master’s degree in 1951 and a professional degree in 1952, both in mechanical engineering.
In 1952, his career in rocketry began when he was assigned to the Army’s rocket program at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. During his time in Huntsville, Petrone met his future wife, Ruth Holley, marrying in 1955. From 1956-1960 Petrone was assigned to the Army General Staff at the Pentagon. In 1960, Petrone was then assigned to the National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) at Cape Canaveral, Florida. He retired from the military in 1966, after serving 20 years in the Army and attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Petrone was then employed directly by NASA as Launch Director at the Center. At NASA, he presided over the development of the Saturn 5 lunar launch vehicle and launch operations. Petrone supervised the Apollo 11 launch from Cape Canaveral. He then became director of the Apollo program in 1969 relocating his family to the Washington, DC area. In 1973, Petrone and family returned to Huntsville, Alabama when he was appointed Director of Marshall Space Flight Center. They returned to Washington, DC when Petrone was named the Associate Administrator of NASA in 1974. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1975.
Petrone retired from NASA in 1975 and accepted a position as president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Resource Recovery, a joint industry/labor effort to develop technologies for recovering materials and energy from solid waste. In 1981, he was appointed president of the Space Transportation Systems Group of Rockwell International Corporation in California, where he was responsible for the production of the Space Shuttle Orbiter. He retired from Rockwell International in 1989.
Petrone passed away August 24, 2006 at home in Palos Vedes Estates, California. He was survived by his wife of 50 years, Ruth, and four children, Teresa, Nancy, Kathryn and Michael.
Sue Blzejewski – Class of 1983
Before graduating from Amsterdam High School in 1983, Sue Blazejewski was a multi-sport star athlete. Blzejewski attended Marist College after graduation on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a degree in Communications. In 1996, Blzejewski became a member of the U.S. National Women’s Bobsled Team and competed in events in this country and other countries throughout the world.
Even more impressive was the fact that Blzejewski became a very successful national triathlete/dual athlete before competing with the bobsled team winning several competitions in the early 1980’s.
In her professional career, Blzejewski has worked for the Miami Herald, Kids Jam USA and ESPN as the tour manager for Sports Center. Locally Blzejewski worked as the Assistant General Manager for the Albany Conquest Arena Football Team before returning to Amsterdam to open her own coffee shop, “Go Where I’ve Been,” for seven years.
TJ Czeski – Class of 2006
TJ Czeski graduated from Amsterdam High School in 2006. His sports resume at Amsterdam is prolific. Czeski was a four-year letterman in football and basketball while at AHS. Czeski varsity career began when he was called up to the Varsity as a freshman versus Port Jervis in the Rams sixth game of the season. Due to injury, Czeski was called into the game early on and in the final two and a half minutes of the game led the Rams on an 87-yard scoring drive to win the game. The rest they say is history as Czeski continued his success in football the next three years leading to a NYS Class A Championship in 2005. He won many accolades including All Star selections, Player of the Year selections and in 2005 Czeski was named the New York State Writers Association Class A Player Of The Year.
As a basketball player at AHS, Czeski finished his career with over 900 points and 250 assists. He again was named to numerous All Star teams and All Area selections for his prowess on the basketball court. Upon graduation, Czeski accepted a full four-year scholarship to Wagner College to play basketball and earn a Business Administration degree, which he did in 2010. The pull back to football was also strong and Czeski competed on the Wagner team for three years in addition to playing basketball.
Tim Kolojay – Class of 1964
Tim Kolojay serves as the Senior Vice President of Underwriting Operations and Actuary for Energi, Inc. He is also President of Energi RE, a captive reinsurance company domiciled in North Carolina. Prior to joining Energi, he served as CEO of CMS Financial Services and was a Board Member of United Security Assurance Company of Pennsylvania. Kolojay served as President and Consulting Actuary of Insurance Industry Consultants, and has served in numerous other leadership roles encompassing risk management in the financial services and insurance industries. Kolojay holds membership in the American Academy of Actuaries, the Casualty Actuarial Society, and the Association of Risk Management. Kolojay is a Fellow of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, and has served as president of the Casualty Actuaries of New England and has been a featured speaker at many insurance symposiums, most notably involved with the alternative markets. Tim graduated from Duke University and holds an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University, formerly New Hampshire College.
Ken Engle – Class of 1965
Ken Engle has been involved in Amsterdam sports throughout his life. As a student, he played varsity basketball and baseball and was captain of both teams. He attended Oswego State College, where he also played both sports, with a goal of coming back to Amsterdam to teach and coach. Upon graduating from college in 1969 he was hired as a sixth grade teacher for the Greater Amsterdam School District, and began coaching JV soccer and JV baseball. He coached soccer for one year as a JV coach and 16 as a varsity coach, winning many championships. He coached JV baseball for 23 years and varsity baseball for 10 years. His JV teams won numerous championships. One of his varsity teams included a runner-up finish in the 1997 Section Il Class A Baseball Tournament. In addition, he coached JV basketball for three years and varsity basketball for four years.
Engle continues to stay in touch with several of his students and has enjoyed following their careers. He is currently retired from education and works as a real estate agent for Vassi Realty. He lives in Malta and enjoys traveling with his wife, spending time with family, and watching his granddaughters continue the family tradition of playing sports in Amsterdam.
Gary Tuck – Class of 1972
Gary Tuck is a 1972 graduate of Wilbur H. Lynch High School where he starred in football and baseball. As the quarterback of the 1970 and 1971 Class A Championship teams, Tuck had the highest winning percentage of any quarterback up until that time. On the baseball diamond Tuck was an all league catcher for Brian Mee’s teams of 1971-72. After graduation Tuck played three years in the Montreal Expo’s organization before finishing his college career at Indiana University. Tuck served as an assistant baseball coach at Notre Dame University and Arizona State University and was a part of the ASU National Championship Team as a coach. Tuck moved into professional baseball serving as a minor league instructor and made his major league debut as a coach for the Yankees. He also worked as Joe Girardi’s bench coach with the Florida Marlins and has a 1-0 record as a major league manager. Tuck has three World Series rings, two with the Yankees 1998-99 and one with the Red Sox in 2007. Tuck is widely regarded as the best catching instructor in Major League Baseball.
1962-63 Fabulous Five Basketball Team
In the long history of Amsterdam High School basketball one season and one group of players stands out amongst the rest. The 1962 – 63 basketball team famously known as the “Fabulous Five,” put up a 30-game win streak in a two season span under Head Coach John Varsoke’s leadership. In the process, they swept the Class A League and captured the Section 2 Championship winning games and playing games against teams that included future NBA stars Pat Riley and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul – Jabbar). The Fabulous Five included Tim Kolodziej as the lone junior on the squad along with seniors Tom Urbelis, Phil Schuyler, Gary Blongiewicz and Dave Smith. Obviously there were other players on those squads that were a big part of the team but those are the five starters that stand out. That team not only had the ability to play basketball but also had chemistry together and a great knowledge of how to play the game. Many of the players involved in that team have gone on to have successful personal careers since graduating high school, but they will always be remembered around here for their basketball prowess and for being members of the “Fabulous Five” basketball team.
1973-75 Varsity Baseball Teams
Amsterdam High School baseball teams have had many successful seasons but none can compare to the Coach Brian Mee teams that had 53 consecutive wins from 1973 – 1975 and set a state record that still stands today. The Rams won their last 16 games in the 1973 season and defeated Shenendehowa in the Section 2 final for their first sectional title. At that time there were no NYS Championships. The Rams followed that season up with an undefeated season in 1974 going 23 – 0 and added a second Section 2 title to their resume. The 1975 season started with 14 more victories which passed the previous state record of 49 consecutive wins. The win streak stopped on May 16, 1975 with an extra inning loss to Troy.
Three people were involved in all of the games in the win streak. Coach Brian Mee and statistician Tom Mercandante and the only player to be there and playing in all 53 games, Dave Mars.
To many people this is a record that will be very difficult to break. Due to the playoff system now in effect and playing at a state level, it is very difficult to put a win streak like this together. But in the sports world, never say never. For now, the numerous Amsterdam players and coaches who were involved in “The Streak,” can look back from their later years and say look at what we accomplished.
Dr. Thomas Catena – Class of 1982
Dr. Thomas Catena has devoted his life to alleviate the suffering of others. A 1982 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Dr. Catena was an excellent student and stellar Amsterdam Rams football player. Dr. Catena became Medical Director of the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the war-torn Sudan, which he helped to establish. A dedicated man of faith, Dr. Catena works to help people where help is needed most, regardless of personal risk to himself.
David Pietrusza – Class of 1967
David Pietrusza graduated Wilbur Lynch High School in 1967, and is a historian and author of over a dozen books on American history. Pietrusza has furthered our understanding of local baseball history by speaking, writing, and producing local programming. Pietrusza is also a historian of presidential politics and is the author of books regarding the elections of Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, among others. His extensive knowledge of American history has led to curriculum work and numerous media appearances.
Josh Beekman – Class of 2002
Josh Beekman graduated Amsterdam High School in 2002 after a stellar career on the Amsterdam Rams football team. A varsity lineman before he was even in high school, Beekman went on to become an outstanding offensive guard for Boston College, where he received Associated Press First-Team All-American honors and the 2006 Jacobs Blocking Trophy for the most valuable blocker in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Drafted by the Chicago Bears, he played three years there, starting in 20 games. He also played briefly in the United Football League and two other NFL teams.
Todd Cetnar – Class of 1996
Todd Cetnar is a 1996 graduate of Amsterdam High School and played in 85 varsity games in his high school career, establishing the all-time leading scoring record with 1,621 points. Cetnar attended the University of New York at Albany, finished as their all-time scoring leader, as well as establishing records for assists and steals. He played professionally in the British Basketball League and continued his association with basketball in the Amsterdam area by organizing charitable basketball tournaments. Cetnar has also been inducted to Albany University’s Hall of Fame.
Angela Fedullo – Class of 1979
Angela Fedullo, an advocate for women’s athletics, graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1979, after excelling as a three sport athlete in basketball, volleyball, and softball. Fedullo was named MVP in all three sports in which she participated and was named to the Big Conference all-star team on three separate occasions, in two different sports, basketball and softball. She went on to graduate with honors while establishing school records in basketball and softball. After college, Fedullo coached the Siena College Softball team, helping them transition to Division I.
Buddy Flesh – Class of 1970
Buddy Flesh graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1970, one of the best three sport athletes to come out of Amsterdam, and an All Area selection in football, basketball and baseball. Flesh earned numerous awards and set many athletic records during his years as a high school athlete. After graduation, Flesh attended Duke University, where he especially excelled in baseball. Flesh signed with the Baltimore Orioles and progressed to the AAA affiliate before retiring from athletics.
Costa Lazarou – Class of 1944
Costa Lazarou, was one of the most successful and versatile athletes in Amsterdam’s storied sports history. Lazarou, once dubbed “Amsterdam High School’s One Man Sports Show” by The Recorder during his high school days, was a three-sport star at AHS, playing halfback on the football team, guard on the basketball team and catcher on the baseball team. While a shoulder injury prevented him from chasing his dream of becoming a major league baseball player after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he became a fixture on the area sports scene, managing and playing for the Amsterdam Rugmakers.
Born Feb. 27, 1927, Lazarou turned to sports at an early age, his role was often dictated by his older brothers. He was the youngest of six children – five boys – and if he wanted to play with them, he had to catch. And so it began.
The competition in the Lazarou household – especially between Costa and his older brother Aristotle “Dolly” Lazarou – fueled him from the start. Being a naturally good athlete on top of his competitive nature, drove him to perfection when it came to sports.
By the time he arrived at Amsterdam High School, Lazarou made a splash in every season. In the fall, he was a speedy halfback on the football field. In the winter, he was a brilliant, high-scoring guard on the basketball court. And, in the spring, he was a standout catcher and spectacular hitter, compiling a .458 batting average in the 1944 season.
His athletic exploits left an indelible mark at AHS, as more than a decade after Lazarou left school, then- athletic director Jack Tracy was reminiscing about the great athletes to come through the school and Lazarou’s name was right at the top of the list.
His play on the diamond earned him a tryout with the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds while he was still in high school – an opportunity that allowed him to be face-to-face with one of his idols, Mel Ott. Lazarou was also offered a college scholarship to play baseball for Colgate University.
Like others of that era, Costa served along with his four brothers in WWII. When he returned from service, he went right back to sports and played baseball in the New York State Professional League and for the Chicago Cubs Farm System, but an injury derailed his greatest ambitions of the Big Leagues.
He was a standout baseball played for the Amsterdam Textile Workers team of the Schenectady Twilight League into the 1960’s and played basketball for St. John’s Club in Amsterdam’s city league. He later became a player/manager of the Amsterdam Rugmakers and became a mentor and advisor to many young local athletes. He was voted to the Amsterdam High School All Time Team in 2003.
When baseball was no longer possible Lazarou turned to golf. He kept up his reputation as a competitive athlete late into his life, recording a handful of holes-in-one, a city championship in 1976, and after suffering a stroke in 2001, coming back to the course at age 74 and shooting his age. In his later years Lazarou’s biggest joy was his grandson Robbie. He could be seen on the 50-yard line, center court, and of course right behind the catcher (and the umpire) for every game that he played. Costa and his wife Margaret celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October. Lazarou passed away in December at the age of 87.
Justice Smith – Class of 1992
Justice Smith graduated Amsterdam High School in 1992, as Section Il’s all-time leading rusher in football. He finished his high school career with 4,124 rushing yards, breaking the previous Section Il record by nearly 800 yards. Smith was named New York State Class A Player of the Year as well as a USA Today and Gatorade All American. He continued his football career at Boston College, where he helped the Eagles to three bowl appearances. He rushed for 1,488 yards in his college career, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry during that time. After college, he pursued a love of teaching and coaching athletics.
Mike Sollecito – Class of 1978
Mike Sollecito graduated in 1978 after establishing a school basketball scoring record, by accumulating 1,221 points in 61 varsity games, without the existence of a 3-point shot. As the AHS shooting guard from 1976-1978, Sollecito led the team and eventually the league in scoring. He received many honors as a first team Big 10, Amsterdam Recorder Player of the Year, Capital District First Team Player, and McDonald’s All American. Sollecito continued his basketball career at both Lock Haven State and Cortland State, before returning to his hometown of Amsterdam.
Rick Cetnar became the all-time winningest basketball coach in Amsterdam High School history, taking the Amsterdam Rams to a state championship game. Cetnar was selected by local media as Coach of the Year on two separate occasions, in 1992 and 1995. He led the 1994-1995 Amsterdam Rams basketball team to a Big Ten Championship, Class B Sectional Championship, and all the way to the New York State Championship game. After leaving Amsterdam High School, Cetnar went on to coach basketball successfully at Bishop Scully.
Frank Derrico is one of the most successful football coaches in the history of Amsterdam High School, leaving with a Section II record in winning percentage as a coach of .743 percent. He coached for 17 seasons and posted a 121-40-6 overall record in the years between 1979-1995. Derrico coached the Amsterdam Rams to seven Big Ten League titles, three Superbowl championships, two regional championships, and the New York State Class B championship in 1995. After coaching at AHS, Derrico went on to join Bob Fords’ staff at the State University at Albany as the Offensive Coordinator, where he helped their team win four conference titles.
Brian Mee taught and coached in the Amsterdam School District for over 30 years. As a football coach Mee led the 1973 Rams to the Class A title, yet his success as a baseball coach separates him from the rest of the coaching fraternity. Mee amassed over 400 wins, including a stretch from 1973 – 1975 where the Rugged Rams won 53 consecutive games. The win streak is a New York State record in consecutive wins. Mees is also a member of the New York State and Capital District Baseball Hall of Fame and Amsterdam Mohawks Hall of Fame.
Patrick Reilly is responsible for establishing the Amsterdam Rams wrestling program and making it a Section Il powerhouse. In addition to being an admired AHS Social Studies teacher, he coached wrestling for 30 years and is in the top 50 all time in New York State in team dual meet victories. Reilly led his teams to nine Big Ten Conference Championships and three Section II Class A championships. Under the leadership and guidance of Coach Reilly, Amsterdam High School produced 10 individual Section II champions, 25 individual Class A champions, and 6 state place finishers. Reilly has been inducted to both the Section II Wrestling Hall of Fame and the New York State Wrestling Hall of Fame.