Derby High School Athletic Hall of Fame

Congratulations to the DHS Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Click here for a slideshow of pictures from the dinner.

Close to 300 people attended the induction dinner for the Derby High School Athletic Hall of Fame held on April 8, 2017 at Derby High School. The event was originally scheduled for the A.M. Club, but demand for tickets was so high that the event had to be moved to the bigger and even more fitting venue of the Alphonso F. Vitello gymnasium at Derby High School.

The gym was a sea of red (including the floor) for a night full of nostalgia and pride for the accomplishments of the seven new individual members of the Hall of Fame, the first team to be granted special recognition and the Bill Pucci Service Award winner. The night started with remarks by Master of Ceremonies Jack Walsh who spoke about the long history and importance of education and sports in the City of  Derby. Mayor Anita Dugatto then gave official greetings and thanks on behalf of the city.

Derby High School principal Martin Pascale welcomed the audience to the gym which is appropriately named for Al Vitello, one of the inductees. Superintendent of Schools Matt Conway then gave stirring remarks about the tradition and pride in community that are hallmarks of Derby's smallest city. He also discussed the upcoming upgrades to Derby's athletic facilities being made possible by a state grant and the incredible generosity of Mrs. Joan Payden.

Mrs. Payden then spoke about the strong feelings imparted to her by her father who was a graduate of Derby High School Class of 1915. He played both baseball and football at Derby before heading off to Yale and then serving in World War I. After the war he embarked on a very successful business career and Joan noted that she grew up without having the same small town experiences that her father had. She spoke of the warmth and pride that she had encountered during her visit to the city, and she would be coming back in the future as the new facilities including the new field house take shape.

Mike Cannicci, who was the driving force behind the Hall, thanked the committee that put it together and imparted his own special sense of pride in what has been accomplished in two years.

Following a delicious buffet prepared by the crew from the A.M. Club, the induction ceremonies were held. The first to be recognized was the 1951 State Champion Basketball team. Six surviving members of the team (Tom Luciano, Tony Guardiano, Paul Piscatelli, Johnny Cavagnuolo, George Russo and Bill Duggan) stood proudly as the story of their exciting season was told. Also on hand were Brian and Ward Coss, sons of Coach Ed Coss who guided the Raiders to their only state championship in basketball to date.

Bill Pucci then presented the Bill Pucci Service award to Jim Mascolo, Class of 1964, for his lifetime of service to Derby High Athletics. That was followed by the induction of the Class of 2016 members (Click of each to read more about their accomplishments):

Charlie DiCenso
Phil Donfrio
Bill Duggan
Jim Keefe
Ken Pereiras
Brent Sanford
Al Vitello

Each of the inductees with the exception of Vitello and Sanford who have passed away gave remarks that were sentimental, nostalgic, thankful, funny and full of pride. Fran Cirillo accepted for Al Vitello and Sanford's daughter accepted for Brent Sanford.

The night was a resounding success as great accomplishments and individuals were recognized and celebrated, old friends were reacquainted and the incredible pride in Connecticut's smallest city was on full display for all to see and feel.

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