BY SHEILA R. McAFEE
Three educators who played instrumental roles in the history of Trenton Public Schools are the honorees of the Trenton Educational Foundation 2017 Wall of Fame. William Wilson, along with the late Jesse Anderson and the late George Wendt will be added to the wall of distinction during TEF’s annual Signature Event Nov. 11 at the Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club.
They will join those honored since 2011 for significant contributions to TPS — Boyd Arthurs, Neil Van Riper, Randy Wiseman, Jack Kripowicz, J.J. Putz, Larry Leapley, Richard Hedke, John Doyle, Lonnie Shea, Donald Kolcheff, Ronald Sams, Carol Oakley, Andy Greene, Gerald Brown, George Mans and Vincent Joe Porreca.
With wisdom and compassion, the trio served the district for a cumulative 112 years (Wendt overlapped the tenures of Anderson and Wilson). Between 1914 and 1998, they molded the lives of thousands of students.
Wilson joined TPS in 1959 and retired in 1998. His first role was teaching reading and arithmetic at Owen, Strohm, Anderson and Hedke elementary schools, followed by a two-year stint as administrative intern. Between 1965 and 1969, he was principal of Foley and Taylor elementary schools. He continued his service to the district as principal of the Title I summer assistance program for elementary children; director of Project Challenge for gifted students; principal of the elementary summer school and elementary curriculum coordinator. The father of three Trenton High School graduates, Wilson divides his time between Trenton and Florida.
Wendt, who died in 1994, served the district for 40 years. He was hired in 1940 to teach at Slocum Truax High School. His 13 years there were interrupted by service in the U.S. Navy (1941-1945).
From Slocum Truax, Wendt was named assistant principal of Strohm Elementary and Junior High School in 1953 and principal in 1957. He moved to Owen as principal in 1959, was assistant superintendent from 1962-64, and returned to Owen as principal, retiring in 1981. He took an active role in the community as a charter member of the Trenton Kiwanis Club and Trenton Recreation Commission, and served as president of the Trenton Old Newsboys Association (the forerunner the Goodfellows). He volunteered his time in the pediatrics department of then-Wyandotte Hospital.
Wendt was recognized by the Detroit Tigers in 1975 for his dedication to amateur baseball, and in 1978 was inducted into the Trenton Sports Hall of Fame. He also was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at Eastern Michigan University.
Anderson was the district’s first full-time and longest serving superintendent, and is remembered as a visionary in both academics and athletics. He arrived in 1914 from the Upper Peninsula and served the district until his unexpected death in 1947. It was a period of growth in the community, and in turn, the schools, and Anderson oversaw the expansion of the district to meet the needs of students K through 12. He is credited with building the first high school, followed by many other firsts — physical education for girls and boys, music, band and orchestra, track and swimming, a yearbook and a school newspaper. The father of three sons serving in World War II, he offered military instruction to help boys prepare for service, should they be called up.
The mark Anderson made on school history in Trenton is noted in the “History of Detroit and Wayne County,” which refers to TPS under his leadership as “second to none” in the county.
A few tickets remain for the Signature Event. They are $50 apiece and available at the Board of Education offices, 2603 Charlton, Trenton City Hall, 2800 Third St., or via PayPal at www.trentonedfoundation.org. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.