Story and Photo by Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
Jon Roth has been part of the Grand Island Central School District for 50 years. His career began in 1973 when he was hired by H. David Myers, Grand Island’s first athletic director, as a physical education teacher in Sidway Elementary School.
Roth has served as teacher, coach and athletic director during those 50 years. Sports that Roth has coached include football, basketball and tennis. According to the Chamber of Commerce, which honored Roth with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022, “Over his legendary career, Roth coached football as Gene Masters’ assistant, basketball, and tennis for Grand Island. He won more than 200 basketball games and 150 girls’ tennis matches.”
Today, Roth is officially retired from his 50-year career in the Grand Island Central School District.
Superintendent of Schools Brian Graham said of that career, “There is no doubt that Jon Roth has positively influenced thousands upon thousands of Grand Island student athletes and their coaches over the past 50 years. Many of Jon’s former students or former athletes hold him in the highest regard. The Grand Island Central School District also holds him in the highest regard, and we will miss his expertise, his passion and the wisdom shared with us over the past five decades. We are grateful for all that he has contributed to our athletic program, our school district and the community. We also look forward to seeing Jon and Jean at future athletic events as they enjoy their wonderful grandchildren participating in their favorite activities.”
During his long career, Roth, who became the school district’s director of athletics in 1994, earned a number of honors and awards. Among them are:
√ Ves Pennel Award (sportsmanship) from the WNY Basketball officials in 1978
√ Grand Island Central School District Coach of the Year in 1989
√ Grand Island Central School District Cornerstone Award recipient in 2002
√ Gordon J. Bukaty Award in 2003 for his dedication to local youth
√ Niagara Frontier League "Donald F. Burns" Key Person Award recipient in 2017 (the league's highest honor)
Roth “was a longtime member of the Section VI Boys basketball committee,” Graham said. “Under him, Grand Island teams have won a New York state championship, and have made multiple trips to the state championships. Additionally, he won the Niagara Frontier League Supremacy Award, and the NYSPHSAA 2008 School of Distinction Award (for their outstanding academic success).”
In addition to teaching and coaching for Grand Island, Graham said, Roth also coached baseball at Niagara County Community College.
“In that time, he never had a losing season,” Graham explained. “In 1992, he entered the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame and followed that in 1998 by being inducted into the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame. Furthermore, three of the best baseball teams he competed on are also represented in the Hall of Fame. That makes seven Hall of Fame inductions for Jon Roth.”
Roth and his wife, Jean, are parents of two children, Jeff and Julie, both high school athletes. Both competed in Division I tennis together at Xavier University, Graham said. Currently, Jeff serves on the Section 6 Athletic Council and works as athletic director for the Wilson Central Schools. Julie, who worked as a teacher at Huth Road Elementary School, also served as a tennis and basketball coach for the Grand Island Central School District. She died in 2018, after battling cancer.
Roth will be replaced as athletic director by Brett Banker, who has served as athletic director for the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District since 1991.
Graham said, “Mr. Banker lives on Grand Island with his wife, Jennifer. Jennifer was a physical education teacher here for many years before transitioning to coach women’s basketball at Daemen University. Their two children (Kolby and Kallie) are graduates of our school system, and both were wonderful students and amazing athletes. In fact, Kallie still holds the Grand Island varsity basketball record for most points scored (1,700) throughout all the varsity basketball seasons that she played.
“Additionally, Mr. Banker is well known and respected across New York state, as he has assumed many leadership positions with state and the local athletic committees and leagues.
“Our school district has been blessed to work with Mr. Jon Roth for 50 years as a physical education teacher, coach and our athletic director. There will never be another Jon Roth; however, adding Brett Banker to our athletic department is an amazing addition.”