Alumni Through the Decades
As part of this year's celebration of 100 years of educational excellence at Grosse Pointe Public Schools, we are partnering with the district to profile 100 alumni from our illustrious first century. Are you or someone you know interested in being profiled in a story that will be distributed district-wide across various social media and news platforms? Start by nominating yourself of someone you know here.
Dana Chicklas - Grosse Pointe North, Class of 2003
BY GROSSE POINTE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
Dana Chicklas's story is one of advocacy through storytelling itself. A common thread throughout her career is what she calls copowering, which she describes as building relationships with people and empowering them with tools and a platform to share their own story in their voice, change hearts and minds, and further their mission.
Dana, who graduated from Grosse Pointe North in 2003, attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a dual Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. After her time at Michigan, she moved to Oakland, California and worked as a member of the Oakland Teaching Fellows, teaching special education for five years. During her time in Oakland, she earned her Master of Arts in special education from Alliant International University.
While advocating for her middle school students, Dana caught the news bug and decided to hone her writing skills by interning at a Bay Area television news station. This launched her on-air career. Over the next seven years, Dana was a TV journalist in Maryland and then back home in Michigan. Many of the investigations she broke revealed her passion for protecting our civil rights and liberties.
To deepen her ability to advocate, Dana transitioned to the other side of the camera as a Communications Strategist for the ACLU of Michigan, where she manages the organization's digital and earned media strategy. Today, Dana also runs her own business, Copowering Media Consulting LLC, where she empowers clients to hone their public relations strategy and ace their interviews and presentations. She provides individualized spokesperson coaching to improve clients' confidence while interviewing or speaking with reporters and the public.
Grosse Pointe Public Schools offered Dana what seemed to be limitless opportunities to become incredibly well-rounded: from playing Varsity Girls Ice Hockey to the violin to participating in numerous AP classes. This, she recalls, helped her make several significant professional transitions after college and trust in her ability to adapt, teach and learn within new fields.
When asked which teachers made an impact on her, Dana had this to say "First, I'd like to thank Coach Tim VanEckoute, who paved the way for a first-class Varsity Girls Ice Hockey program at North that I was proud to play on throughout high school. Between my skating skills and the lifelong friends I've made through our Norsemen team, I gained a certain level of grit, dependability, and power that have shaped the person I am today. I also have to thank my Honors English teacher Brendan Williams. Thanks to his encouragement and opportunities to present our projects in his class during my sophomore year, I realized how powerful my writing skills were, and that it was a path I should pursue professionally. This ultimately led me to become a journalist, where I investigated and wrote my stories and scripts on lightning-fast deadlines for seven years."
To this year's graduating class, Dana offers the following advice: "Explore as much as you can and get uncomfortable: from volunteering to traveling the world to enrolling in a diverse course load, to getting out of your comfort zone to learn from different communities and cultures, do as much as you can. Stretch and learn from people outside of your own community."
Rebecca (Eltervoog) VanBrienen - Grosse Pointe South, Class of 1995
BY GROSSE POINTE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
From Master Gardener to Pilates Instructor, for Rebecca (Eltervoog) VanBrienen, Grosse Pointe South Class of 1995, success looks different than what she thought it might.
After working in the nonprofit sector for years, Rebecca took a leap and started teaching Pilates. From there, she took an even bigger leap, opening her own studio last year in the middle of the pandemic.
Sculpted by Bee is a virtual library website full of classes you can take from home. Rebecca also offers in-person private and semi-private training at her home studio.
Rebecca serves on the Grosse Pointe Garden Center Board as Vice President and Membership Chair, putting her gardening talents to use. She loves attending the Board Meetings at the War Memorial, where she once danced at Middle School "War Dances" and her senior all-night party. Being back at the War Memorial surrounded by all those memories still puts a smile on her face.
Thinking back on her time in the Grosse Pointe Public School system, she feels grateful for her opportunity to explore her wide range of interests. From advanced Science classes and diverse language opportunities such as classical Latin to artistic delights such as ceramics, Rebecca remains impressed with the breadth of courses available and the encouragement from teachers to really broaden their horizons. (She credits her fantastic spelling prowess to that Classical Latin class, by the way.)
As far as favorite teachers go, Rebecca says that she will forever be grateful for Mr. Pluhar at South and for Mrs. Fraser at Maire. During Rebecca's childhood, divorce was rare, and there were occasions when growing up without her father's presence was hard for her. Both Mr. Pluhar and Mrs. Fraser made Rebecca feel valued, safe and excited for school.
Rebecca's advice for this year's graduating class: "Be young but work hard. It's true that you can always learn new things and change your mind in the future. However, the more you do now to lay the foundation to succeed later in life (success is not monetary; it's fulfillment), the better. Enjoy youth and make mistakes, but take advantage of your age and the clean slate in front of you. Don't waste this time in your life. Some people never get that chance to age into their dreams."
Thanks to Judy Latcha for the Nomination
Rebecca was nominated for this alumnus of distinction profile by friend Judy Latcha who had this to say: "Rebecca has a huge heart that she shares in the community. She continuously volunteers through the various garden clubs as a Master Gardner, and her home/garden is a butterfly habitat. Becky's passion is fitness, and last year she founded Sculpted By Bee, an exercise, health, and wellness program. Rebecca is a shining example of utilizing her education and passion for helping others, all the while continuing to thrive in the area she grew up."
Chris Lee - Grosse Pointe High School, Class of 1964
BY MARY ANNE BRUSH AND FEATURED IN GPPSS SCHOOL POINTES
Dr. Christopher Lee’s family represents three generations in the Grosse Pointe Public School System. Dr. Lee’s father, Howard A. Lee, attended The Cadieux School, now the home of the central administration offices at 389 St. Clair. According to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, the school, built in 1905-1906, was named after the Cadieux family, and Francis Cadieux served as the District No. 1 School Inspector for 33 years.
The Cadieux School was the second school building built for the Grosse Pointe schools, known then as District No. 1. The original two-story building was home to eight classrooms and approximately 240 pupils.
Howard A. Lee was one of those pupils who attended through sixth grade. He then went on to what was then known as Grosse Pointe High School, starting seventh grade when the school opened in 1928.
Howard Lee’s brother and two sisters also attended GPHS, followed by Dr. Lee and his two brothers. Dr. Lee’s nine children all attended Grosse Pointe public schools, with six graduating from and three currently enrolled at South. Twins Matthew and Charlotte are in ninth grade and Mary is a junior.
After graduating from GPHS in 1964 — “I was part of the 1964 Roar,” he said — Dr. Lee attended the University of Michigan College of Engineering, then attended the Wayne State University School of Medicine. He completed his surgery residency at WSU and his fellowship training in pediatric orthopedics at Stanford Children’s Hospital. He has had staff appointments at St. John Ascension, Henry Ford Macomb and Beaumont Grosse Pointe, as well as practiced with St. Clair Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. He served as Chief of Orthopedics at St. John from 2008 to 2018.
“I’ve been in orthopedic practice in Grosse Pointe from 1977 to the current time,” Dr. Lee said. “I’m still working. Just about any kid who broke his arm or leg somewhere in the last 40 years, there’s a good chance I took care of them.”
Dr. Lee was elected to the GPPSS Board of Education in November 2018. He and his wife, Cathy, live in the City of Grosse Pointe.
Matt Morawski - Grosse Pointe North, Class of 2001
BY GROSSE POINTE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
You may not see his face everyday, but Matt Morawski, Grosse Pointe North class of 2001, is the "man behind the curtain" at Local 4 News Today at WDIV-TV in Detroit, working as an Executive Producer.
Matt discovered his love for TV production in high school at North. He started with one class on the basics of television production, then he went on to take so many more TV production classes that they didn't even have names for the courses!
His "study hall" classes became TV 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. He could have spent his entire day in Brian Stackpoole's TV production classroom. Mr. Stackpoole motivated Matt and gave him the freedom to create some great (and sometimes, by his own admission, awful) projects.
One of Matt's favorite memories was getting to cohost the 30+ hour fundraiser telethon for Grosse Pointe Public Schools under Mr. Stackpoole's and Steve Geresy's leadership. He was also given the incredible opportunity to host his own show called "Matt and Pat's Corner" along with Pat Ballew during his senior year.
GPN's TV production classes helped Matt get in touch with his creative side and put him in a classroom with people he found similar to himself. Not only did Matt make lifelong friends, but he discovered his career path.
After high school, Matt went on to Wayne State University, where he earned his B.A. in journalism. During that time, he interned at WWJ and WDIV. Matt was then offered an Associate Producer opportunity at WDIV, where he wrote for newscasts, assisted in undercover projects, and operated the camera in the helicopter. (What an incredible experience!)
Matt's next move was to Saginaw, Michigan, where he was a news producer for the evening newscasts. He spent two years working for WNEM TV5 in Saginaw before returning to WDIV Local 4 as a weekend morning show producer. Matt spent several years working on climbing the ladder at Local 4 before eventually becoming the Morning Show Executive Producer—a job he's now held for nearly eight years.
Matt considers himself incredibly lucky to be in the position he is in now, and he shares that he's honestly not sure if he'd be here if he hadn't signed up for his first TV production class at Grosse Pointe North.
Outside of work, Matt loves to play guitar and drums. He was even signed to an independent record label with his band Spoonfed when he was just 15 years old!
When asked what advice he has for this year's graduating class, he had this to say: "Be inclusive. That person you might otherwise ignore could be someone who inspires you to become something great. Give everyone a shot, because we all deserve one."
Megan Grano - Grosse Pointe South, Class of 1995
BY ANDREA DANIELL, GROSSE POINTE ALUMNI & FRIENDS VOLUNTEER, AND FEATURED IN GPPSS SCHOOL POINTES
Comedian, writer, public speaking coach, rug collector.
Those are just of the few of the titles Megan Grano, Grosse Pointe South class of 1995, wears.
After graduating from South, Megan attended college at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From there she found herself living in Chicago and pursuing a career in improv and sketch comedy at Second City. She toured with their national company for 3 years before becoming a member of their resident ensemble.
Megan later moved to Los Angeles, where she continued to write and act. She has appeared on TV shows like Parks & Rec, Veep, and Love, as well as movies including This is 40 and Bombshell. She was also a writer for shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, many YouTube channels, and Snapchat.
In 2013, Megan was introduced to the COO of a Fortune 500 company that was looking to add more humor in public appearances. She was referred by this executive to many other executives and now, nine years later, Megan has a wide array of corporate clients whom she assists with speech writing as well as speech delivering. Her clients include Disney, Boston Beer, Instagram, Facebook, Alteryx, the WNBA, the Washington Mystics, Google, Notion, Niantic, and more.
While in high school, Megan was part of the “Second Suburb” comedy troop. She credits this experience with influencing her life and giving her the desire to pursue a career in the performance world. At the time, Second Suburb was constantly on the brink of being canceled — and actually was canceled Megan’s sophomore year — so she thanks Vice Principal Bernie LeMieux for agreeing to keep the program around. Megan feels that comedy is such an important outlet for all humans, but especially teenagers, and especially in this image-conscious, cancel-culture world.
As far as advice for this year’s graduating class, Megan says, “Work hard, but don't take yourself too seriously.”
Football Teammates - Grosse Pointe North, Class of 1971
BY MARY ANNE BRUSH, FEATURED IN GPPSS SCHOOL POINTES
Roger Ulmer had a message for Grosse Pointe North’s football team before their game against the Roseville Panthers Sept. 17: Play as a team.
Ulmer, along with his 1971 classmates Doug D’Agostino, Bob Friedhoff, Clay James and Bob Reynolds, was visiting North as part of their 50th reunion. As the first class to spend their high school years at North, they were honored at the football game during the coin toss, with James flipping the coin at the 50-yard line.
“We were here for three years,” Ulmer said. “The first year the school opened, we didn’t have any seniors. The second year we were supposed to kill everybody because our whole team came back. The second year we didn’t play as a team. The third year, we gelled and we played as a team. Nobody was a great superstar but we played as a team and we won.”
Their record was 8-1 senior year and they won the league. Their other claim to fame was their defense. The former players boast of winning five shutouts in a row and playing 24 scoreless quarters.
D’Agostino was a full back, defensive back and on special teams. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business. A certified public accountant, he owns his own business, D’Agostino Tax, and lives in Troy, Michigan.
An All-League second team outside linebacker, James earned a bachelor degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. The former owner of Huntington Beach Dodge in Huntington, Calif., he is currently semi-retired and lives in Corona Del Mar.
Friedhoff was the team trainer/manager. He attended the Wayne State University School of Medicine and lives in Rochester, Minn., where he works as an anesthesiologist for the Mayo Clinic.
Reynolds, an All-League center for North’s team, earned a BBA from Eastern Michigan and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. He had a long career as a sales manager for Blue Cross/Blue Shield and is currently retired and living in Grosse Pointe Farms.
Ulmer was an offensive tackle and defensive end, earning All-League and All-State honorable mention during his time at North. He also played as an offensive lineman at Western Michigan University. He has a BBA degree from Western and B.S. degree in engineering from Lawrence Technological University. He currently lives in Grosse Pointe Woods and works as an automotive quality engineer for the ARaymond Corporation.
On the sidelines before the game, the four former players and former trainer/manager reminisced about their days at North, including praising their coaching staff, in particular head coach Jim Krucki, a longtime math teacher who was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006 and retired from coaching in 1980. The classmates agreed they would have invited their former coach to join them in the festivities if he was still alive.
“Coach Krucki was a class guy and he inspires me to this day,” James said, adding he learned about teamwork from a coach who designed a defense based on the team’s strengths.
“We weren’t the biggest team in the league,” he said. “We weren’t the fastest. But the defense he developed was very unorthodox and the other teams just couldn’t figure out how to stop it. He taught me a lot about life and adapting to your strengths rather than trying to force things.”
North Principal Kate Murray assured her guests the football team was in good hands with the current coaching staff — head coach Joe Drouin, assistant head coach Dennis Pascoe, defensive coordinator Lucas Lanzon, offensive coordinator Kevin Shubnell, and assistant coaches Richard Cooper, Eric Eplin, Steve Plieth, Mike Kohler and Paul Sahadi.
“I just want to reassure you that I’ve never felt prouder of a team of coaches than these young men here who are taking care of our boys,” she said. “Most of them are on staff in the building. They teach English, social studies, phys ed. When they’re on staff in the building like that, it really makes a difference. And they are fantastic and they know every end of the game. They play as a team and are developing young men of character. Hopefully they are carrying on the tradition.”
Carly Copus - Grosse Pointe South, Class of 2003
BY ANDREA DANIELL, GROSSE POINTE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
Carly Copus is the embodiment of a “community leader,” without ever having asked for the title.
Carly, who graduated from Grosse Pointe South in 2003, lives with her husband and three kids in Grosse Pointe Park. In March of 2016, she launched the Grosse Pointe Park Community Page, a hub on Facebook with more than 4,000 members.
Her goal in creating the group was to “create a village” here in Grosse Pointe, both for the adults and our children. Carly believes there is an infinite value in a strong community and working together, and she works daily to curate a space to make that possible.
Carly spent most of her time in the Tower Room in High School, working on the newspaper. She credits this experience in how she learned so much about working together for a common goal and how to move ideas in a positive direction.
As far as Carly’s favorite classes and teachers go, she loved both choir and the newspaper. And her AP U.S. History class with Mrs. Norris started a passion for history that still has her reading 50-plus books per year to this day.
The late Jeff Nardone, the Tower Advisor, was a constant mentor and friend, and Carly misses him still.
Carly also recalls that Carolyn Gross (then Paravano) was so incredibly influential in her life as a young teacher during middle school. She fostered Carly’s voice and confidence in ways that still help her today.
In addition to managing the GPP Community Page, Carly has helped bring Grosse Pointe Pride to fruition since 2018. She also runs a business doing custom embroidery artwork and jewelry called Hanging By A Thread With Carly.
When asked what advice she’d give to current GPPSS students, she answered, “Do things for people they can never repay you for; I promise it will come back tenfold.”
Kate Rigney Callas - Grosse Pointe High, Class of 1968
BY MARY ANNE BRUSH, FEATURED IN GPPSS SCHOOL POINTES
Kate Callas was a member of the last graduating class of what was formerly Grosse Pointe High School — affectionately known as “The High.” This was the last year there was one high school in Grosse Pointe before Grosse Pointe North opened its doors in September 1968.
Having grown up in Ypsilanti, Kate moved to Grosse Pointe in 1965, first attending ninth grade at Brownell Middle School at a time when the high school housed only 10th through 12th graders.
Kate recalls her June graduation among nearly 1,000 classmates on the football field, walking between two students she had never seen before.
Among other memories is participating in a community service group known as “Y teams” affiliated with the YWCA, eating lunch in Cleminson Hall — “quite a fancy lunchroom!” — attending driver’s education classes in a Quonset hut, and being required to wear skirts.
One of her most memorable recollections was attending Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in the school gymnasium on March 14, 1968.
“What I remember was just being blown away by the crowded gym,” she recalled. “I was up in the balcony with my parents and a couple of my other siblings. When we were trying to get in there, there was that Breakthrough group with (leader) Donald Lobsinger trying to prevent us from getting in. That was my first experience with something like that in Grosse Pointe.”
A lasting academic memory was taking a humanities class, in which teachers from history, art, music and English collaborated in an integrated studies approach — a new concept at the time, she explained. Among her favorite teachers was Robert Bradley, who was part of that humanities group.
“He was one of those guys who was just so committed to the students,” Kate said.
Kate and her husband, Jack, both now retired, raised their three daughters — Beth, Elena and Robin — in Grosse Pointe Park. All three attended Defer, Pierce and Grosse Pointe South, graduating in 1996, 2005 and 2000, respectively.
“They had a great experience in the Grosse Pointe schools,” Kate said.
Over the nine years she was involved with the Defer PTO, Kate was active in a number of volunteer activities, but her proudest accomplishment was applying for the school building to be listed in the State Register of Historic Sites, the state’s official list of sites worthy of being preserved.
The application was approved on Aug. 29, 1996.
Peggy Thompson Bonbrisco - Grosse Pointe North, Class of 1976
BY MARY ANNE BRUSH, FEATURED IN GPPSS SCHOOL POINTES
According to Beth Rainbolt, Peggy’s daughter and a literacy coach at Monteith, Grosse Pointe North is a bit of a family tradition. While Peggy’s mother graduated from Grosse Pointe High School, she and her sister and brother all graduated from North. Her three daughters, including Beth, also graduated from North and Peggy has seven grandchildren, all of whom attend a Grosse Pointe public school or will when they are of school age. Peggy deeply supports Grosse Pointe schools as a parent and grandparent and currently works as North’s student activities director. Among her many responsibilities, she runs the student union, which “offers a fun and safe place for kids to hang out,” Beth said. She also plans homecoming and graduation.
“She connects, and continues to connect, with current Grosse Pointe North students and alumni,” Beth said. “She also makes the students feel connected and pride for their school.”
Most recently, Beth added, her mother planned the all-staff launch for the start of the 2021-22 school year, held in North’s gymnasium. It meant a lot to Beth to see her mother be recognized for her hard work in front of all the district staff. She was particularly struck by the number of shout-outs Peggy received for creating such a warm, welcoming and comfortable environment for everyone.
“I was just so happy for her because it’s been such a challenge for her to do this job during COVID,” Beth said. “I think the district has done a great job of recognizing how much work goes into the job.”
A comment Beth said she heard often during the staff launch was, “The room looks great because Bon knows how to throw a party.”