By Lisa Bielmeier
Orleans/Niagara BOCES Public Relations Director
Niagara Wheatfield Central School District is pleased to announce that it will honor eight alumni and one community member into the Falcon Wall of Fame and the Athletic Hall of Fame on Nov. 4.
The Wall of Fame and Hall of Fame were established to formally honor the memory and contributions of the many outstanding athletes, coaches, administrators, teachers and supporters of the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District.
The Hall of Fame and Wall of Fame 2023 inductees are:
•Luanne Zuccari (service, 1985-2012): Luanne was involved for over 25 years in NW schools as a parent volunteer, special education teacher aide, a community outreach supervisor and more, which allowed her to build positive communication between the district and the community. Most notably, after her son, Andy, was killed by a drunk driver, she was able to speak regularly to NW students about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. She and her husband, Paul, were also able to award an annual scholarship to NW students in Andy’s name.
•Alan Pogel (Class of 1973, service 1982-present): A teacher, coach, community advocate, dedicated alumnus, and more, Al has had an incredible impact on NW in so many ways. He has conducted countless school and communitywide charitable events including the well-known adopt-a family and adopt-a-tree, has coordinated graduation for over 20 years, helped reinstitute the Athletic Hall of Fame, and helped create the Falcon Wall of Fame. Now in his 42nd year of coaching, his athletes have won numerous league, divisional and sectional titles. He has made 24 trips to States and one to Nationals, with one state champion. He was listed multiple years in Who’s Who in American Education and is a Marquis Lifetime Achievement in Education honoree. He continues to serve the NW community even after his retirement from the classroom.
•Linda Hoover D’Anna (Class of 1989): Linda has been a social studies teacher and the head cheerleading coach at Lewiston-Porter High School for 25 years. As a club sport, she led the team to six national titles and, after fiercely advocating to make it a NYS-sanctioned sport, she coached the squad to five sectional titles and one state title. She has also been a class adviser for seven years, a National Honor Society adviser, and the international studies program leader. A firm believer in the importance of experiences outside the classroom, Linda has helped organize and chaperone numerous nationwide and international class trips over the years.
•Dr. Lawrence Gwozdz (Class of 1971): Dr. Gwozdz has achieved an international reputation as a contemporary saxophonist. He has performed in countless major cities throughout the world, and appeared on numerous television and radio networks. He is also a professor of saxophone at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he has established a studio with a worldwide reputation. His student soloists, quartets and saxophone chamber orchestra perform in major cities, and are frequent winners of competitions. Having been born with spina bifida, Dr. Gwozdz is also an advocate for arts for the handicapped.
•Col. Roy Maday (Class of 1967): With commissioned service as a U.S. Army officer for 30 years, Roy graduated from NW in 1967, before attending West Point Military Academy and receiving a bachelor’s in engineering. He served active duty in Germany and Italy, before attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and receiving a master’s in biomedical engineering. He returned to active-duty with assignments as a research biomedical engineer at Fort Rucker, Alabama; as a medical product manager at Ft. Detrick, Maryland; and as a senior team chief with the Department of the Army Inspector General Agency. After 9/11, he served as assistant chief, medical service corps, Department of the Army Office of the Surgeon General, until mandatory military retirement in 2002. While not on active duty, Roy also worked for almost 20 years for several private firms as a government support contractor.
•Zack Belter (Class of 2018): A two-sport athlete and red-letter winner, Zack was the team MVP for both hockey and lacrosse at NW. In hockey, he was part of two Section 6 championships, a regional championship, and was a NYS championship finalist. He was the WNY Papers Player of the Year, a Bowman Cup all-star selection and a NYSPHSAA All-State selection. In lacrosse, Zack led the Falcons to two Section 6 championship appearances, was a three-time All Class B selection, the WNY Papers Player of the Year and a U.S. High School Lacrosse All American. After NW, Zack accepted a scholarship to play Division 1 lacrosse at St. Bonaventure where he led them to a MAAC Championship final his senior year and was a two-time All MAAC selection. In 2022, Zack was drafted in the first round of the National Lacrosse League Draft by the Buffalo Bandits.
•Rob Koshinski (Class of 2005): Rob was a member of the NW football and wrestling teams. He led the Falcons in tackles, assists and interceptions his junior and senior seasons, was team captain and co-MVP in 2004, and 1st team All-League. In wrestling, Rob was a starter for four years and a three-year captain. He broke NW’s single-season record for wins, was ranked second in Section 6 in his weight class, and was voted NW’s Most Outstanding Wrestler as a senior. Rob was also the recipient of the Section 6 Jerry Butler Award for Excellence in Athletics and Academics, the Fred Barone Award for Dedication and Sportsmanship, and was NW’s Police Athletic League Award nominee.
•Marissa Watroba Perilli (Class of 2013): Marissa was a six-year member of the varsity swim team, beginning her career as a seventh-grader. During her career at NW, Marissa was a six-time sectional qualifier and four-time NYS championship qualifier. Marissa holds the NFL record for the 100-yard breaststroke. She also broke six school records and numerous pool records around the NFL in various events. She was a two-year team captain, three-time team MVP, three-time NFL 1st Team all-star and two-time Niagara Gazette Player of the Year. After NW, Marissa received an academic and athletic scholarship to compete as a Division I swimmer at Canisius College, where she broke many school records and won two MAAC Championships.
•Ashley Beamish Whitehead (Class of 2008): Ashley was a gold letter winner and three-sport athlete for the Falcons. She was 1st team all-NFL three times in both track and soccer and a member of the school record-holding 4x8 relay team. A three-year captain and team MVP, Ashley led the Falcons soccer team in goals and assists all four years and was top five in points in Section 6. She was 1st Team All WNY her senior year, the 2008 Section 6 Female Scholar Athlete of the Year and the Niagara PAL Female Athlete of the Year. The salutatorian of her graduating class, Ashley earned an academic and athletic scholarship to play Division 1 soccer at Seton Hall University of the Big East Conference, where she was a four-year starter and team captain.
These individuals will be honored Saturday, Nov. 4, with the ceremony starting at 10:30 a.m. at the Niagara Wheatfield High School Auditorium located at 2292 Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. The ceremony is free to the public. For anyone wishing to attend the luncheon after the ceremony, the cost of the tickets will be $20 a person and must be purchased no later than Oct. 24 by contacting Janette Ball at [email protected]. No tickets will be sold at the door.
There will also be a livestream of the induction ceremony for those who are unable to attend in person. The link will be located on the district’s website www.nwcsd.org and on the district’s YouTube channel.