Four to be inducted into hall of fame
Four new plaques will soon join Frank “Chip” Gawle’s in the Wilton Hall of Fame, according to Board of Education Chair Christine Finkelstein, who announced the 2018 induction of Kristine Lilly, Army Pfc. Nicholas Madaras, Donald Verrilli Jr., and John Rhodes during the board’s April 26 meeting.
The Board of Education established the hall of fame in the glass hallway between the Zellner Gallery and Clune Center in 2016 in order to honor teachers, students, and staff members who have achieved notoriety in their chosen area of expertise and distinguished themselves in ways that have brought great honor and pride to the Wilton community.
Lilly is a retired American soccer player who graduated from Wilton High School in 1989 and went on to become a three-time member of the U.S. Women’s Olympic soccer team. Finkelstein noted she is “one of the most successful and decorated female athletes in U.S. history.”
Madaras was a 2005 Wilton High School graduate and soccer player who was killed in action while on active duty in Iraq in September 2006. The national foundation Kick for Nick, which collects soccer balls for American soldiers to distribute to children in countries where they’re stationed, was created in his memory. The Pfc. Nicholas A. Madaras Home for female veterans in Bridgeport is also named for him.
Verrilli is a 1975 Wilton High School graduate and attorney who served as U.S. solicitor general during the Obama administration, from 2011 to 2016. He also served as Associate Deputy United States Attorney General, and as Deputy Counsel to the President.
Rhodes is Middlebrook School’s band director who, after more than 40 years as a music educator devoted to building the Wilton Public School District’s music program, will be retiring on June 30.
“John has built a legacy of over 40 years of service that in many ways defines our highly rated music department,” said Finkelstein. “Among other things, we have the Wilton Warrior Marching Band and the Jazz Symposium because of John’s vision, compassion and dedication.”
Finkelstein said the Board of Education has been “impressed by the passionate outpouring of support form members of our community — including John’s colleagues, current and former students and their parents — who either appeared in person or who wrote to tell us of John’s deserving of a special recognition.”
Finkelstein said the 12-person Wilton Hall of Fame Standing Committee, of which she is a member, “couldn’t agree more.” The committee decided to not only offer Rhodes membership in the Wilton Hall of Fame, she said, but also award him with a Service of Distinction Award.
The Service of Distinction Award recognizes “the tremendous contributions” of teachers and staff members, who “while they might not achieve national or significant peer recognition for their contributions, are nevertheless heroes in the eyes of the Wilton Public Schools,” Finkelstein explained.
Plaques are installed in the classrooms or workspaces of Service with Distinction Award recipients. Finkelstein said the committee wants to place Rhodes’s plaque outside the Wilton High School Little Theater, “which, of course,” she said, “was his second home.”
In addition to the hall of fame induction and Service of Distinction Award, Board of Education member Glenn Hemmerle proposed that Rhodes’s name be added to the Wilton High School Jazz Symposium.
Finkelstein said that idea has actually come up, but she believes that’s something that has to be handled at the school building level.
“I just want to make sure that happens,” said Hemmerle. “I think he certainly [deserves] it. It was his baby.”
Lilly, Madaras, Verrilli and Rhodes will be officially inducted into the Wilton Hall of Fame during a ceremony in June.