Mendota names athletic complex after former superintendent Jeff Prusator

Prusator calls it ‘most meaningful gesture of appreciation’

Former Mendota superintendent Jeff Prusator (fourth from left) cuts the ribbon on the new sign at the Jeff Prusator Athletic Complex on Monday, June 17, 2024 at Mendota High School. He was joined by (from left) Mendota board president Jim Lauer, Mendota Chamber of Commerce ambassador Lee Stocking, Mendota principal Joe Masini, Mendota superintendent Denise Aughenbaugh, Chamber president and CEO Sam Setchell and Mendota board members Jim Strouss and Sarah Coss.

MENDOTA – Standing on the hill behind Mendota High School overlooking the school’s football stadium, Mendota’s administration and school board honored the man responsible for the stadium and other athletic facilities at the school.

On Monday, Mendota officials held a ceremony to name its facilities The Jeff Prusator Athletic Complex in honor of the school’s former superintendent.

Prusator was an administrator at Mendota from 1996 until his retirement after the 2022-23 school year, serving his last 19 years as the school’s superintendent.

“It’s hard to put into words what this means,” Prusator said. “There really cannot be a higher professional honor. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It was totally unexpected. This is the most meaningful gesture of appreciation a board of education can ever do. As time goes on, I still won’t be able to express how much this means to me and my family.”

The board held a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of a new sign that was erected that reads “Welcome to the Jeff Prusator Athletic Complex” before the Mendota band played “On Mendota.”

Current superintendent Denise Aughenbaugh, board president Jim Lauer and Prusator then spoke before current and former board members, staff and Prusator’s family and friends.

“This is the most meaningful gesture of appreciation a board of education can ever do.”

—  Jeff Prusator, former Mendota superintendent

The soccer field, which is now a practice field, was first used in 2004, the tennis courts and baseball and softball fields debuted in 2010 and the football stadium and track was completed in 2011.

“Everyone at Mendota High School remembers superintendent Prusator standing at the top of the hill observing the stadium construction and turf rollout,” Aughenbaugh said. “This beautiful and complete athletic complex you see today is here because of previous and current board members and Jeff Prusator. Thank you all for your dedication to our student-athletes.”

Lauer said Prusater wasn’t being honored just for his longevity.

“This naming is more about the level of service than the term of service,” Lauer said. “At some point in those 27 years, it evolved into much more than a job for Jeff. It became his passion. What we’re looking at today, it reflects his character.

“On behalf of the board of education and with a great amount of pride, I’d like to introduce everyone to the newly named Jeff Prusator Athletic Complex.”

Prusator said what makes Mendota’s athletic facilities unique is that all the school’s athletic venues are on campus while that isn’t the case for many area schools.

“What we have here is everything on site, and that just doesn’t happen everywhere,” Prusator said. “The vision the board had and the process they went through was just remarkable.”

While Prusator was the one the complex was named after, he said he wasn’t solely responsible for the facilities.

“This complex should be a testament to the collective efforts of so many people,” Prusator said. “This isn’t about one person. I counted at least 15 board members who served on the board from the time this process started until it was completed. When you involve that many people in something this big, usually somewhere it gets derailed. What I believe is special about Mendota is all 15 people who came on board had the same vision, the same commitment and the same dedication.

“The challenge the board of education had is on one side you had a beautiful brand new [school] facility and the other side we have a beautiful sports complex. Our tax payers were tapped out paying for [the school]. The board had a balancing act of wanting to provide our student-athletes with first-class facilities but we also had obligations to our tax payers. I have so much respect for every single board member who served on how they were able to handle those two groups of people and serve the best interests of both.”

Prusator thanked the board, his family for their support, Aughenbaugh and principal Joe Masini, about whom he said “you won’t find more dedicated people to Mendota High School than those two,” former athletic directors Mike Kilmartin and John McKenzie, maintenance director Ed Scott, outside maintenance director Andy Knowlton and the community.

“The community never questioned why we were doing this,” Prusator said. “The trust the community has in the board of education just doesn’t happen in other places. We’re very fortunate to have a supportive community.”

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