WSD’s 2018 homecoming court is composed of (from left) Keisha Payne, Payne Winfield, queen Brianna Henke, king Anthony Bole, Paige Sheffield and Montaro Walker. (Submitted photo)

The Wisconsin School for the Deaf’s annual homecoming festivities were amped up this year as WSD celebrated the 125th anniversary of the establishment of its first football team.

This year’s event showcased past accomplishments, spotlighted outstanding athletic coaching careers and provided a venue for WSD alumni to share memories.   The commemoration drew a visit from an individual with special ties to WSD – Bobbi Cordano, the president of Gallaudet University, which is the most well-regarded and only four-year university tailored to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the United States.

Wisconsin School for the Deaf, in its establishment in 1852, like many schools, did not include a sports program. It wasn’t until 1893 when Professor J Schuyler Long and Thomas Hagerty, under the direction of WSD’s ninth superintendent, John Swiler, created WSD’s first intramural football team. Eventually, Frederick J. Neesam, an alumnus of WSD, came back after graduating from Gallaudet and formally established WSD’s sports program as its first athletic director in 1906.

The 2018 homecoming honored the years that the football program has existed and brought many students, alumni, parents, friends and community members to the Wisconsin School for the Deaf campus.

The day began Sept. 15 with a 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. junior varsity and varsity volleyball games against Faith Christian School in which the JV was able to keep the score close in all three sets, but lost a close game (1-2 – 20-25, 25-19, 12-25). The varsity team started out well but not able to stay in the game (0-3 – 22-25, 12-25, 19-25).

After the volleyball games, photos were taken of all past football and cheerleading team members who attended as well as all former athletes who played under each past and present WSD football coach.

The main event was at 2 p.m. with the presentation of the homecoming court. The court was driven onto the field by car, driven by Leonard Peacock, alumnus of WSD, former WSD teacher, and now a volunteer sports archivist.

Wisconsin Education Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing center director, Marla Walsh, WSD principal, Brian Lievens and WSD Athletic Director Matthew Eby gave welcome addresses, and the 2018 homecoming king, queen, princesses, and princes were announced. The 2018 homecoming court is composed of second princess Paige Sheffield, second prince Montaro Walker, first princess Keisha Payne, first prince Payne Winfield, homecoming king Anthony Bole and homecoming queen Brianna Henke.

WSD’s Sign Song Dancers under the direction of Coach Amy Dignan performed the national anthem, in American Sign Language to kick off to the WSD jomecoming football game against the New Mexico School for the Deaf.

Despite WSD’s Payne Winfield running for 114 yards with one touchdown, the game ended with WSD losing to New Mexico with a score of 70-6.

During halftime, all past athletes were invited to the front of the field and were presented with gifts to honor their legacies. Among them were Kevin and Vicki, son and daughter of the late Coach Ed Mirus, and Cordano and her sisters, Mary and Patti, who are the daughters of former football coach, the late Waldo Cordano.

Cordano’s connection with the school’s football program dates to 1950, when Waldo Cordano was the head coach of WSD’s football team. Cardano recounted memories of her adventures on the WSD campus with her father.

The homecoming festivities continued with a social night, hosted by the Southern Lakes Association of the Deaf. WSD alumni athletes and coaches gathered as Vaughn Hallada, alumnus and former employee of WSD, provided a presentation about the history of the WSD football program and life at the school as recorded by historians of the school and athletic program. One highlight of his presentation was Vaughn’s stories of his father and grandfather, and their experiences at WSD between 1900 and 1940. The group then separated according to what coach they played under, and each group of alumni then had the opportunity to reminisce about their time, sharing stories and accolades from their past.

Individuals and committees that helped plan the 2018 WSD homecoming and 125th anniversary celebration include Matthew Eby, Vaughn Hallada, Casey Kelly, Michael Eldred, Shannon Simon and Kevin Annen.


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