North Hills Foundation's inaugural gala to benefit district students

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The inaugural North Hills Foundation Gala on Oct. 26 will serve as a new way to help support North Hills School District students in their academic endeavors.

The black-tie-optional event, which will honor recently retired North Hills head football coach Jack McCurry, will be held at the Rivers Club in One Oxford Centre on Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

The program will consist of cocktails at 6 p.m., dinner at 7, and an evening of lively tributes to and presentations about Jack McCurry, a former North Hills teacher and principal and the third-most-winning varsity football coach in WPIAL history.

Tickets are $75 per person.

“This is our first go-around with something like this,” said foundation President Ed Wielgus, 61, of Ross Township.

“We're trying to do one event annually to help the district financially and, at the same time, honor someone in the district who has done an exceptional amount of community service and helped the school district. This year, we're paying tribute to Jack. We're honoring him as a teacher and an administrator. We're honoring him as a football coach. He put North Hills football on the map.”

McCurry began his tenure at North Hills in 1974 as a high school math teacher and an assistant football coach. He was named assistant principal at the senior high school in 1987 and principal in 1989. He became head coach of the varsity football team in 1980 and led his teams to state, WPIAL and conference championships. In 1987, USA Today ranked the North Hills Indians No. 1 in the country. He amassed 281 wins.

But more than the wins and the trophies, his biggest reward is the lifelong friendships he has forged with many of his former students and players, said McCurry, 64, of Pine Township. He said that many still keep in touch.

“I'm going through withdrawal right now,” said McCurry, who retired in January. “I played football for nine years and coached for more than 40. This is the first time in five decades that I'm not on the football field for double sessions!”

He is trying to fill the void by helping 12- and 13-year-olds in a North Hills community football league. He is an assistant coach. The head coach is his son, Dan.

“Being recognized at the gala is a nice honor. I'm overwhelmed that North Hills would do something like this. I'm really looking forward to it,” McCurry said.

The foundation, established in 2001, serves as the gift-receiving organization for the North Hills School District.

“Most of our funds are restricted, which means donors earmark their contributions to benefit something specific, like a capital improvement or the marching band,” Wielgus explained.

The foundation has awarded more than $60,000 worth of scholarships, $50,000 in financial assistance to the arts and athletics, and $10,000 in technology grants to the district, among other things, Wielgus said.

Now, foundation officials are trying to broaden their funding base and raise money for unspecified needs that might be ongoing or arise unexpectedly.

To purchase tickets for the gala or to become a presenting sponsor of it — a donation of $750 that entitles a company, organization or family to eight event tickets, plus recognition at the event — call 412-318-1004 by Oct. 4.

First and foremost, the money raised through the gala will benefit academic programs, Wielgus said.

“We're trying to support technology in the classroom,” he said. “We're aiming to increase and improve our current hardware. Our goal is to have an iPad in every student's hands. While achieving that goal is likely a long, long way into the future, it's still our goal.”

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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