Jerry Ellis, the Wheelers Honored
Jerry Ellis ’64 and Manch Wheeler ’62 were the headline honorees for the M Club’s Silver and Gold Breakfast on the Saturday of Homecoming Weekend.
The Alumni Association presented Ellis with the Block “M” Award and the Wheeler Family with the Fogler Legacy Award.
Also honored at the annual Silver and Gold event were letter winners who earned their first M’s 25 and 50 years ago, as well as this year’s new honorary M Club members.
Those honored with gold anniversary certificates were Michael Haley ’65 (football), Thomas LaHaise ’64 (golf and skiing), Richard Nason ’64 (indoor and outdoor track), Roger Richards ’65 (basketball and baseball), Norman Viger ’64 (golf and skiing) and Wheeler (football). Silver certificates were presented to Michael Gilbert ’89 (cheerleading), Alex Hammer ’88 (cross country and track), Kimberly Keegan ’91 (tennis) and Ethan Hawes ’90 (soccer).
The new honorary M Club members are Jane Dewitt, Willi Gallant and Todd Saucier. As president of the Alumni Association, Saucier was cited for his well deserved reputation as “supporter in chief” of all things blue. Gallant, the administrative assistant for the athletic department’s compliance office, is cited as an invaluable jack of all trades on the job, her enthusiasm as a fan and her legendary reputation as a volunteer in support of the Black Bears off the job. Dewitt is cited for her dedication above and beyond the call of duty as the scorekeeper for men’s and women’s basketball for 20 years, during which she was often called “the best in the conference” by the referees she worked with.
Ellis was captain of the cross country team and the indoor and outdoor track teams, a member of the Senior Skulls and recipient of the Washington Watch Award, given to an outstanding senior, as an undergraduate.
He joined UMaine’s Onward Program, now called College Success Programs, as a counselor for first-generation and academically under-prepared students, rising during 34 years of dedicated service to become the program’s director. As a first-generation college student himself, he was an ideal mentor to guide and encourage such students.
At age 66, Ellis crossed the country on a bicycle to raise money for a scholarship he established. He volunteers weekly at the Buchanan House to mentor prospective students and their families, and serves with the senior alumni and the M Club board of directors.
Wheeler quarterbacked the Black Bears to an undefeated season and the Yankee Conference championship before joining the American Football League’s Buffalo Bills. He is married to fellow Class of ’62 member Sandy Van Aken, is an inductee in the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame, has served on the Athletic Advisory Board, volunteers for Friends of Football fundraising events and in the second of four generations of the family to attend and serve the university.
To be eligible for the Folger award, three generations must have a record of outstanding service to the university and/or their community and professions. For the Wheelers, it started with the late Manchester Hayes Wheeler ’29, a longtime commercial airline pilot who was a member of the Augusta Area Alumni chapter and a significant contributor to amateur golf, particularly on the junior level.
In the third generation is Manch and Sandy’s son Jeff ’85, captain of the Black Bears’ basketball team and an All-New England player as the Black Bears’ assists leader.The fourth generation of Wheelers is represented by Samantha, Class of 2012. Granddaughter of Manch and Sandy, and Jeff’s niece, Sam was one of the finest all-around players in program history, but whose career was unfortunately shortened by injury.