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1999 Belleville High School
Distinguished Graduate Inductees

Ms. Sandra Askew

Class of 1957

Sandra Askew has distinguished herself by building a significant reputation for her gifts as an artist, and by her devoted service to the community.  She has worked as a fiber artist in the Belleville area for 25 years.  Sandy has devoted her life to enriching cultural opportunities for residents and especially for students in Belleville are the surrounding communities.

As a student at Belleville High School, Sandy enjoyed a well-rounded life.  She was a member of academic clubs such as Quill and Scroll, and enjoyed extra-curricular athletics on the Girls’ Swimming Team and the Girls’ Athletic Association.  Sandy also participated in Record Club, Student Directory, Flamingo Club, and Y-Teens, wrote  for the Tiger Tribune, sang with Senior Chorus, performed in the class play in her Junior and Senior years, was selected for Homecoming Court, and served as Library Assistant, Monitor, Office Assistant, and Secretary for the Senior Class.

As a member of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts, Sandy has worked to promote cultural events in the community, chairing art shows, co-chairing music and theatrical productions, and heading up fund-raisers such as the community Silent Art Auctions and Gourmet Picnics.  As treasurer of the Council for the Arts, Sandy obtained nonprofit status from the Federal Internal Revenue Service for the group.  A vital step to ensure the financial security of the organization.  She currently serves as President of the Belleville Area Council of the Arts.  She has contributed to the development of student talent at Belleville High School and all the elementary and middle schools in the Van Buren Public School district. Along with her husband, Ken, Sandy has produced the Belleville Area Council of the Arts Annual Scholarship Art Show, which annually grants a $1,000 scholarship to a BHS senior who wins the juried competition.  The Dessert Gala, the fund source for the Art Scholarship is also her responsibility.  In 1997, she helped create the art colony concept and chaired the Committee for the Art Colony for the City of Belleville.  She continues to co-chair the Artist’s Committee.

Sandy does not limit her active support for the community to artistic endeavors.  She co-chaired the Mocktail Party for the D.A.R.E. program for 1997, and co-authored the “Designated Driver Drinks” booklet sold by BHS Students Against Drunk Driving.  Sandy  has served on Rawsonville Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.  She coordinated the Rawsonville School Library Program, developing the curriculum for the Native American series there, and chaired fundraising events to benefit the school.  Sandy has worked with the Girl Scouts organization for 32 years.  She is a Life Member of the Girl Scouts of America, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Huron Valley Girl scouts.  She is a member of the Belleville-Sumpter-Van Buren Substance Abuse Task Force, the Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Fred C. Fischer Library, the Belleville Historical Society, the Ann Arbor Art Association, the Ohio Designer Craftsmen, and the Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans, for which she has served as Chair of the Board of Directors.  She also served as Treasurer of Alfa Romeo Owner Club, Detroit Chapter.

Sandy has won many awards for her artistic accomplishments, but values the many awards she has received in recognition of her service.  Sandy has received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Van Buren Public Schools, a Certificate of Appreciation from the Wayne County Commission on behalf of her work with community children, the Rawsonville Elementary Award for Outstanding service from the PTO, and the Adult Appreciation Award from the Huron Valley Girl Scouts Council.  Sandy was nominated for the Woman of Distinction Award from the Western Wayne County YMCA, and received the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club 35 Year Award for Continuous Service.  Sandy lives in Belleville with her husband, Ken.  They have two daughters Ann Askew-Whitmer lives in Oakland, CA. Suzan Burns lives in Phoenix, AZ.


Mr. Christopher Liedel

Class of 1978

It’s only natural that Chris’s love for travel, adventure, and science, (nurtured in physics, biology, and ecology classes at Belleville High School), has brought him to the headquarters of one of the month prestigious organizations devoted to the field:  The National Geographic Society, located in Washington, DC.  Chris began his career with the Society in 1996 as Vice President of Strategic Planning. He assumed the post of Chief Financial Officer of The National Geographic Society in 1997.

Chris attributed his science teachers at Belleville High School for stimulating his love of the natural sciences.  He was an accomplished student, with membership in the National Honor Society.  He also served as the 1978 Class Historian, and as a member of the BHS Yearbook Staff. Chris competed for state championships on the Men’s Varsity Swim Team for 3 years, and sang in the chorus for the BHS production of West Side Story.

Chris earned a four year swimming scholarship from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.  He majored in Marketing Research Advertising, Sales Management, and International Business with a specialization in Statistics and Economics.  He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1982.  Shortly thereafter, Chris accepted a position with American Signature Technologies in Atlanta, Georgia.  Chris moved from his starting position as Marketing Analyst for the firm to General Manager within his nine year tenure.  His company was at the forefront of database marketing with catalogs, and he helped launch highly successful catalog operations for the Banana Republic, Sharper Image, and Nature Company.  At the same time, he attended Georgia State University in Atlanta, where he majored in Decision Sciences specializing in Statistics.  He graduated in 1989 with a Master of Science degree.

In 1991, Chris moved back to the Midwest to accept a position as Director of Postpress for Ringier America, a publishing and printing company in Chicago, IL, that just happened to print the National Geographic Magazine.  Once again, Chris ascended through the ranks to the office vice-president with the firm in 1993, and in 1995, became Senior Vice-President for Postpress Operations.  In 1994, Chris received the Industry Excellence Award from the United State Postal Service for excellence in performance of mainling practices for the publishing and direct marketing industry.  Chris was the first recipient recognized specifically from the printing industry.  In 1995, Chris followed his earlier recognition with a second award from the United States Postal Services, the Partner for Progress Award.  The award recognized Chris fro his contributions in redesigning the postal services’ national distribution network, improvements in business mail delivery, and monitoring the United States Postal Service’s quality of services for the general business community.  In 1996, Chris presented the Belleville High School Commencement Address, and talked about the importance of taking risks to achieve what you want in life.  Afterwards, Chris says his wife, Diann told him to listen to his own advice.  He picked up the phone and called the contact he worked with to print the National Geographic Society magazine, and asked for a job.  Needless to say, his risk paid off.  In his current role, Chris has been highly involved in launching two major strategic initiatives – the National Geographic Channel, and worldwide cable television venture with NBC and the Society’s newest magazine, National Geographic Adventure.

Chris is a member of the Washington, DC Board of Trade, the Direct Marketing Association, the Printing Industry of America and the Graphic Communications Association, as well as active with the board of directors for an IMAX film company and conservation foundations.  Despite his busy schedule, Chris till finds time to coach in local community baseball and tennis programs, local church activities and outreach programs.  He participates in the annual BHS Alumni Swim Meet on a regular basis.

Chris lives with his wife, Dianne, and daughter, Lauren in Vienna, Virginia.  Chris commented, “I believe this program is an excellent idea and am honored to be nominated”.


Mr. Frank Cody

Class of 1886

Frank Cody was an important figure in the field of education for more than 50 years, serving as Detroit School Superintendent for nearly a quarter of a century, and as the first president of Wayne State University.  His influence lives on through the substantial contributions he made as an educator, and through his service to his community.  A great innovator in the public school system, Frank Cody’s achievements included the development of country recreation and summer schools, community use of schools, the establishment of classes for the foreign-born to help them adapt to American law and custom, and the creation of special education programs for blind children and those who were ill.  Dr. Cody helped to draft the Smith-Hughes Act, which gave federal aid to vocational education programs in 1917.


Frank Cody was born in Belleville on December 30, 1870, to Clarrisa (Kipp) Cody, who operated a general store in Belleville, and Timothy N. Cody, an Irish immigrant who operated a mill on the Huron River.

Not much is known about Frank’s early years in Belleville, or his educational experiences at Belleville High School, since yearbooks do not exist from this time.  In 1888, records show that Frank Cody taught at the one-room Willow Run School to earn tuition to attend the Normal School in Ypsilanti, now Eastern Michigan University.

In 1981, Frank was appointed Superintendent of Delray Public Schools, in Delray, Michigan, a town later annexed by the city of Detroit.  Frank was appointed Principal of Detroit’s McMillan High School in 1906, where he served until his appointment as Assistant Superintendent of Detroit Pubic Schools in 1914.  Five years later, Frank was appointed Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools.  He served the district for 23 years.

Frank influence was felt outside the city of Detroit as well.  H e served for 30 years on the State Board of Education, elected President of that body 11 times.  Frank also supervised four State Normal Schools, or teaching colleges, and served as President of the National education Association in 1927.

Frank was also dedicated to serving his community.  During World War II, he facilitated the sale of war bonds and stamp sales, as well as support for Red Cross work, in the public schools.  He held the office of President for the Old Newsboys Association and the Detroit Council of Boy Scouts.  He was an active member of the Rotary Club, Masons, Knights Templar, Detroit Boat Club, and the Detroit Athletic Club.  Not much is known about Frank’s involvement in the Belleville community, other than he did return to Belleville in 1931 when Henry Ford restored the old Willow Run Schoolhouse.  Frank Cody and Henry Ford were both guests of honor and participants in the opening ceremonies.  Immediately upon his retirement from Detroit schools, Mr. Cody was elected to the Detroit City Council, a position he held until his death.

Frank received many honors during his lifetime, including an Honorary Degree of Doctor Law from the University of Detroit, on June 9, 1933.  He was designated “Man of the Year” by the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association, and named “Outstanding Man of the Year in Education” in 1944 by the American Association of School Administrators.  He also received the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America.  Detroit’s Cody High School was named for Frank Cody.  The $5,655,000 school was dedicated in 1955.

Frank Cody married Frances Youngblood in 1901.  She died in 1902.  He married Louise Burns in 1905.  She died in 1921.  Frank died on April 8, 1946, at age 75.  After funeral services at Detroit’s St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church on April 11, 1946, he was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.  He left four children: Louise Cody (Joseph Powers), Joseph Burns Cody (Peggy Dowley), Frederick Cody (Nancy Ryan, Rosemary Brennan), Frances Cody (Emory Lowry).

In a Detroit News article written at the time of his death, Frank Cody’s impact on his time an community was hailed as “profound.” As much as five years later, he was still being praised for having introduced “orderly efficiency into the administration of the schools and developed methods of instruction which won for the city of foremost place in public education in the nation.  Under his guidance adult education was fostered and Wayne University was created to become the capstone of the public school system…from the moment of Cody’s appointment no breath of scandal had touched the educational system, which had become one of the models of America…” (From the Detroit News, Wednesday, August, 1951)



Ms. Eileen (Johnson) DeHart

Class of 1966

Michigan State Representative Eileen DeHart (D) distinguished herself academically during her attendance at Belleville High School as a member of the National Honor Society, Yearbook staff, and Quill and Scroll.  She was also active in extracurricular activities such as Voice of Christian Youth, Future Teachers Club, French Club, Junior Play Cast, and served as a Library Assistant.  Eileen was uncertain of her future.  She attended Michigan State University on a summer scholarship just before graduation to explore the field of journalism.  As a member of the Future Teachers Club,  she considered a possible future in the classroom.

Instead, Eileen married Ben DeHart, and moved to Westland, MI.  She raised five children there while working as an elementary school secretary for Wayne-Westland Community Schools from 1973-1987. Eileen showed her concern for community issues even then, by serving as a volunteer for Justine Barns, stuffing envelopes during Ms. Barnes’ city council campaigns.

After Justine Barns became State Representative, she asked Eileen to serve as her Administrative Assistant and Legislative Aide.  From 1987 until 1994, Eileen worked endlessly to keep the office running smoothly on behalf of district constituents.  She also learned a great deal about politics and, ultimately, she learned which career she wished to pursue.  When Ms. Barns retired in 1994, Eileen decided to run for the seat.  She won the State Representative’s office on her first try, largely because her constituents were well aware of her genuine concern for people, and her dedication to public service to improve their lives.  She has represented residents in Westland/Canton since 1995.  That same year, Eileen returned to Belleville High School to deliver the commencement Address.

Eileen does not live in Lansing.  She drives back and forth to Westland so that she is easily accessible to her district, because, “no one in Lansing Voted for me.”  Well, actually, the have.  In 1995, she was elected by her peers as Assistant-Associate Speaker Pro-Tempore to the Michigan House of Representatives.  Administration for Eileen has not been confined to her home state.  In 1996, The National Conference of State Legislators appointed Eileen to the National Task Force on Reapportionment.  She was also appointed State Director of Women In Government.  In 1997, she was one of only 40 people in the US to Receive a Toll Fellowship through the Council of State Governments.

Despite her busy legislative schedule, Eileen has never faltered when it comes to dedication to her community.  She has served as Wayne County and City of Westland Deputy Registrar.  She has served many hours as a volunteer for the City of Westland Police Department DARE Program Skate-a-thon, the Westland Goodfellow, Westland Summer Festival, and Westland Winterfest.  She is a former Cub Scout Den Mother who has volunteered with Girl Scouts, and Boy Scot Troop Committees.  In 1997, the Senior Alliance of Wayne, MI, awarded her honors as Legislator of the Year.

In addition, Eileen is a member of Westland Civitans, the Elderly Housing and Elderly Housing Service Corporations, Westland Firefighters “Dignity in Independence Committee,”  (where she assisted in fundraising to purchase a leader dog to donate to a wheel-chair bound paraplegic), the Westland Democratic club, and a charter member of the Westland Business and Professional Women’s Organization. Eileen has held several positions including Secretary of 13th Congressional District Democratic Organization, and services as Vice-Char for the Public Retirement Committee, and member of the Oversight and Ethics, Legislative Retirement, and Senior Citizens Health and Retirement committees of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Eileen's Comments:

“It is certainly a privilege and honor to be nominated for this prestigious award.  My years at BHS were some of the best years of my life.  The nurturing and caring I received there and at home helped form my life and my future.  Thank you so much for this honor of my nomination.”

Mr. James Wertz

Class of 1982

Major James L. Wertz is an Experimental Test Pilot for the United States Air Force.  As a graduate of the United States Air Force Test Pilot School, he is a member of the select flight test community responsible to the President and the Department of Defense for the development of new and improved weapon systems.  He must maintain proficiency in five versions of the F-15 aircraft and is responsible for understanding and implementing flight test techniques used to define an aircraft’s performance characteristics, handling qualities, and avionics operation and integration.  He manages all aspects of a flight test, from the concept phase, where the test is designed, to the report phase, in which the test results are recorded.  James’ expertise is utilized by every major command in the Air Force, as well as by foreign air forces contracting through the US Department of Defense.

James Wertz was born in Flint, Michigan and grew up in the City of Belleville.  During his years at BHS, James was a member of the Student Council, National Honor Society, Yearbook staff, Varsity Track & Field and Cross Country, multiple drama productions, and the Debate Team.  In his senior year, he was nominated and accepted to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1982.

James continued to excel while attending the United States Air Force Academy. He was on the Dean’s List every semester and graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics (with Honors) maintaining a 3.94 GPA and a 3.7 overall GPA.  He conducted his first ever sensor recalibration tests for the Department of Defense’s VELA satellite program while an operational research liaison at Los Alamos National Laboratories.

James graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1987.  After training for highly specialized electronic combat aircraft, including the radar-jamming EF-111A, and the F-111D fighter-bomber, James went on to the USAF Squadron Officer’s School, where he graduated “Outstanding and Distinguished” in 1992.

James began operational duty in the United Kingdom just as Operation Desert Storm began.  During his tours as Aircraft Commander, he was a veteran of 80 combat missions flying defense suppression in protection of coalition forces in Kuwait.  He was hand-picked as Electronic Combat Commander in support of the first United Nations U-2 overflight of Iraq and a Composite Force demonstration exercise involving over 50 multinational aircraft.  Following Desert Storm, he was chosen to personally brief aerospace strategies to the Secretary of the Air Force, D. Sheila Widnall.

James was selected to attend the prestigious USAF Test Pilot School (TPS) in 1994. His experience and superior performance led to his selection for F-15 training to conduct experimental flight tests at the Air Force Development Test Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.  At the same time, James contributed his advanced studies.  In 1997, James graduated from the University of Tennessee Space Institute with a Master of Science degree in Aviation Systems. 

James was selected “Office of the Year” in 1996.  He has received many awards and decorations during his services to our nation, including Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.

James makes sure he has time to serve his community as well as his country, volunteering for the US Special Olympics program, Arbor Day Project Officer, and Air Force historical events speaker.  James lives with his wife, Julie, and four sons, Corey, Torin, Jared, and Griffin, in Montgomery, Alabama.


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