By Marie Pfeifer
A visit last week to Morristown High School, my alma mater, brought back many memories as I walked down what used to be called the Senior Stairs, into the auditorium where I attended many plays and programs during my high school years.
This time, I attended the 16th Annual Morristown High School Heritage Day celebration, at which two alumnae were inducted into the MHS Wall of Fame and two teachers were inducted into the MHS Teachers’ Corner.
“Success is a journey, not a destination. Work hard and dream big,” was the advice Frank Diassi, Class of 1950, gave to students in the audience.
The Heritage Club ascribed the virtue of Commitment to Diassi, and rightfully so. He was an active participant during his four years as an MHS student, joining the Spanish-, French-, Chemistry- and Physics clubs; playing tennis; and participating on the Broadcaster newspaper staff.
Diassi majored in chemistry at Rutgers, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1954. Upon graduation he served three years in the Air Force. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, he worked for Conoco Phillips for ten years in the chemical department, then started his own private equity business to raise money to buy other companies.
“His greatest success has come from his creative genius responsible for thousands of employment opportunities for families across the nation and around the world,” Katie Dempsey, Heritage Club president, said in her introduction of Diassi.
Diassi still is involved in the seven companies he owns, traveling around the world. He intends to continue working and traveling indefinitely. He also is involved in organizing reunions for the Class of ’50.
Photos by Marie Pfeifer. Please click icon below for captions.
The second inductee, Heidi Scripture, Class of ’77, was recognized for the virtue of Discipline, for her tenacity in the pursuit of a career that didn’t especially embrace women at the time.
In 1975, Scripture was inspired by a woman who graduated from the Dover Police Academy. After graduating from the County College of Morris she joined the State Police. She is a graduate of the West Point Command and Leadership Program and Northwestern University’s Executive Management Program.
Scripture ultimately was promoted to the rank of major in the State Police, and becamse assistant commander of the Netcong Station after working the road for 19 years. She was the first woman to command the Field Operations Section and oversaw nearly 1,700 troopers.
In her acceptance remarks, Scripture cautioned MHS students: “If you ever think of putting something inappropriate on Facebook or making an appearance on a TV show like Jackass, think twice before you do because you won’t ever be a candidate for the Hall of Fame.”
Now retired, Scripture spends some of her time pursuing a love of carpentry that she shared with her late father, George, a Morris Plains councilman for many years.
She also serves communities across New Jersey through the Lady Blue and Gold and the Pipe and Drums Corps of the Blue and Gold. She is also a trustee of the Passaic County 200 Club and serves on the board of Survivors of the Triangle, an organization to support widows of State Police killed in the line of duty.
Inductees into the MHS Teachers’ Corner, Harold M. Shatel, Class of ’61, and Arne DeGroot, were recognized posthumously.
Shatel returned to his alma mater as a physical education teacher and coach. He taught from 1966-97 and continued coaching until 2006. He is most remembered as a dedicated and beloved physical education teacher and a legendary varsity baseball coach.
Over 38 seasons at MHS, Shatel’s baseball teams won 752 games –a state record– along with three state titles and eight sectional championships. Yet he was known just as much for his personal qualities: He was considered generous and always willing to help fellow coaches—even if that meant assisting a rival.
In 2010, the Morris School District named the baseball field at the Harter Road Complex as the Harry Shatel Field.
Arne DeGroot, a member of Morristown High School’s physical education department from 1949 to 1984, was an advocate for equal rights. In An American High School, New Jersey historian John Cunningham quotes her as saying: “Girls’ sports do not get the type of publicity and coverage throughout the year in the newspapers that boys’ teams do. Some welcome this [the awards program] as our best opportunity to spread the word that in their own quiet way there are just as many girls as boys who are dedicated participants in sports programs.”
DeGroot instituted many intramural teams at MHS that became examples of competitive varsity sports for girls across the state of New Jersey. Her involvement with the association for physical education teachers of New Jersey helped her to advocate for her students and students across the state.
She emphasized drills to hone girls’ athletic skills, and created innovative learning experiences that incorporated roller skating, ballroom dancing, self defense and bicycling into the training.
Katherine Robertson, Class of 2012, sang the National Anthem at the May 4 ceremony.