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Holtz makes impression

If you study the names of the men and women who have been inducted into the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame since it welcomed its first class on July 5, 1998, you will find there is at least one thing they have in common — they are people who have made a difference in the lives of those who are around them.

That was among the lessons shared when this year’s class was recognized during the annual banquet held Monday at the St. Florian Event Center in Wintersville.

Each of the honorees — John Hissam, the Chester fire chief, and the Frank Laneve family of Newell, who were this year’s inductees; George Bodenheimer, who was the recipient of the lifetime achievement award; former Steeler great Rocky Bleier, who was the recipient of the distinguished American award; and Communicycle, the Aliquippa, Pa.-based outreach-based ministry, winner of the MVP award — has made a lasting impact on their communities in varying ways.

All said they were appreciative to be among those recognized in the hall, which sits at 210 E. Fifth St. in East Liverpool, and each had his or her own story to share about life in our region, including Bodenheimer, who worked his way up from the mailroom to become president of ESPN.

“I am truly humbled to be here tonight. It’s a tremendous honor to be listed with all of the members of this hall of fame,” he said while accepting his honor.

Bodenheimer’s also an author, having co-written the book “Every Town is A Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom” with Donald T. Phillips.

“In my 33 years at ESPN, I had the wonderful experience of being able to travel throughout our great country extensively. I was in many, many towns like East Liverpool, and I learned a number of things,” Bodenheimer said.

“I learned how important sports are for the fabric of the community, and that was certainly so apparent here tonight, and during my time at the hall. In fact, that’s how I got the title for the book, which describes every single town in this country, including the towns in the valley where we are tonight.”

It’s not surprising that Bodenheimer was able to relate to our region — he attended Dennison College not too far from here in Granville, and his wife, Ann, attended Marietta College.

“I want to congratulate all of you for being involved in what you are doing here, especially the Holtz family and the generosity with the scholarships — it’s so admirable, and so needed,” he continued.

This year’s scholarships went to 10 graduates of local high schools who will be attending trade schools, money that will be matched by the institutions.

Bodenheimer and Holtz have been colleagues and friends for many years through their work at ESPN.

“College football has been a backbone of ESPN for a long time, and Lou has played an outsized role in that over the years,” Bodenheimer remembered, saying it stretches back to Nov. 13, 1993, when “College Gameday,” the network’s Saturday morning preview show, went on the road for the first time. That trip took it to South Bend, Ind., to cover the showdown between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame, which at the time was coached by Holtz. The Fighting Irish survived the battle of the unbeatens, 31-24.

“Prior to that, ‘College Gameday’ had never been on the road in its seven years of existence,” Bodenheimer said. “This was the perfect game to go on the road for the first time.”

Holtz made an appearance on ESPN after the game.

“We’re doing our first post-game show on the road, and in walks Lou, right onto the set,” Bodenheimer said. “Lee Corso immediately gave up his seat to Lou, and the show has never looked back. It’s been an out-and-out success. It’s a big part of Saturday for fans of college football, and we really have to thank him for getting us off on the right foot.”

In his closing comments, Holtz said he still has memories of that game.

“I remember vividly that first ‘Gameday,'” Holtz explained. “As a matter of fact, they had me come over and put me on the set. They interviewed me, and three days later I called the doctor. I had an excruciating pain in my ear. I had never had an earache in my life. The doctor came over and digged down inside of my ear and pulled out ESPN’s earpiece that they had left in my ear, so I remember that game.”

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As he always does, Holtz stressed the importance of hard work and of demonstrating to others that we really care about them. An example he cited was especially interesting.

“I was a poor student,” Holtz said. “I was in the lower third of my high school class. I had no intention of going to college — I was not qualified. However … I had an English teacher named Glenda Dunlope — her husband owned a funeral home here in Wintersville. I want you to know she was the meanest person I ever met. But I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wrote a letter to thank her. She cared about whether I learned English, and that’s one of the reasons I was able to get through college.”

Holtz was spot on — as a 1976 graduate of Wintersville High School, I had the opportunity to take classes that were taught by Dunlope, whose husband, Donald, owned Dunlope Funeral Home (now the Dunlope-Shorac Funeral Home) on Fernwood Road.

And, yes, like every good teacher, she could be extremely demanding.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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