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Red Jacket announces inaugural “Graduates of Distinction”

Manchester-Shortsville Central School District is proud to announce its inaugural class of Red Jacket High School Graduates of Distinction. The Graduates of Distinction Program recognizes alumni of Red Jacket High School who have achieved distinction through outstanding accomplishments or lifetime achievements.

Members of the inaugural class include: former Tennessee Governor and Mayor of Nashville Phil Bredesen, Red Jacket Class of 1961; Ontario County Humane Society Director Bill Martin, Red Jacket Class of 1982; long-time Manchester mayor and co-founder of the Red Jacket Community Library Nancy Johnsen, Red Jacket Class of 1957. In addition, former Red Jacket social studies teacher Leo Fabris has been named an honorary Red Jacket Graduate of Distinction.

Phillip Norman Bredesen, Red Jacket Class of 1961, moved to his mother’s hometown of Shortsville in 1951 when he was 8-years-old, and he graduated from Red Jacket High School in 1961. He graduated from Harvard in 1967 with a degree in physics, and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Andrea and founded the Health America Corporation, a highly-successful health insurance company that he sold for a substantial profit in 1986.

He was elected mayor of Nashville, Tennessee in 1991 and served two terms. During Bredesen’s time as Mayor of Nashville, he was recognized for revitalizing downtown through his recruitment of the NFL Tennessee Titans and the NHL Nashville Predators. He rebuilt and expanded the library system, which included an award-winning new downtown main library. He added to the parks system and built 32 new public schools and renovated 43 others.

In 2002, Bredesen was elected the 48th governor of Tennessee and quickly earned a national reputation as a Democrat known for reaching across the aisle, serving as governor for two terms from 2003-2011. As governor, he helped get the state out of a budget crisis, led an effort to repair the state’s broken “TennCare” medicare program, helped bring more than 100,000 new jobs and $12.8 billion worth of new business investment to the state and led substantial advancements in public education.

Recently Bredesen authored the book Fresh Medicine: How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System. He often speaks to national audiences on health care, political leadership and other topics. Beginning in 2018, Governor Bredesen began giving Red Jacket students generous scholarships. He has visited Red Jacket High School as recently as 2017 and spoken to students about his life as a student at Red Jacket, a public servant and political leader.

Bredesen and his wife Andrea still reside in Nashville, TN, and they have one son and a granddaughter who live nearby. Bredesen is an active outdoorsman, a pilot, a sailor and an artist.

Red Jacket faculty member Brendan Harrington had a great discussion with Bredesen during his latest edition of the Across The Hall Podcast:

William E. Martin, Red Jacket Class of 1982, is the current Director of the Ontario County Humane Society and has been involved in law enforcement and public service for more than 30 years. He joined the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department in 1986, and served as animal control officer from 2011-2019 before being named Director of the Humane Society last year.

During his time with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department, Martin has won numerous honors and awards. He received the 2016 Community Policing Award from the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department and in 2007 he was given the Outstanding Community Service to Crime Victims Award by the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office. In 2003 and 2004 he received Meritorious Service Awards from the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, and he was honored with three straight Stop DWI Certificates of Recognition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving from 1999-2001. Martin also spent 6 years working in asset protection for Wegmans, where he also won several awards.

Nancy Warfield Johnsen, Red Jacket Class of 1957, has had a long and distinguished career of public service, serving more than 30 years in village government. In her professional career, she recently retired after working 30 years as a mammography technician at F.F. Thompson Hospital, where she helped to found the Mammography Department.

Johnsen, who was the salutatorian of her class at Red Jacket, served as Mayor of the Village of Manchester for 13 years before stepping down earlier this year. Prior to being appointed Mayor of the Village of Manchester in April of 2007, Johnsen served for 16 years on the Village Planning Board and for three years as a village trustee.

Johnsen’s contributions to the community are numerous. Along with her husband Carl, she was a founding member of the Red Jacket Community Library. She also co-designed and wrote the New York State grant that was used to build the Village of Manchester Family Park, now a hub for family recreation and Little League Baseball in the Village of Manchester.

Johnsen, a mother of two, lives in Shortsville and has three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She continues to volunteer with the Friends of the Red Jacket Community Library, she’s a member of the Rotary Club and is an avid golfer.

Leo Fabris, a long-time social studies teacher at Red Jacket High School, has been named an honorary inductee for his significant contributions to the Red Jacket community. Fabris taught at Red Jacket for 33 years and touched the lives of countless students.

Mr. Fabris, as so many at Red Jacket know him, graduated as the valedictorian of his class at St. John Fisher College before starting his teaching career. He was a highly-respected, progressive teacher who took on the added responsibility of being a class adviser without additional pay. He also helped bring better working conditions to the teaching profession at Red Jacket by helping to create the first contractual agreements.

To this day, Mr. Fabris, who lives in Canandaigua, is highly respected and is recognized by community members whom he taught as having had a positive lifelong influence on them. He understands the power of a moment and the power of building lasting relationships with students, parents and colleagues. The care and passion he has shown toward students throughout his time at Red Jacket and beyond has never wavered, and is still evident at the age of 83. In 2017, Red Jacket Superintendent Charlene Dehn invited Fabris to be a surprise guest speaker on opening day for Red Jacket Faculty and Staff. His inspiring message resonated with everyone in attendance, reminding them that, “gratification is not always obvious at first and it may be deferred. Sometimes you don’t know what a moment is to a student when it happens, but years later, you may come to understand and see how impactful you were in their lives.”

A day of celebration for the new inductees was planned for May 29th, but will most likely have to be postponed because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

For information on how to nominate someone as a Red Jacket Graduate of Distinction, please visit the Red Jacket district website or contact the district office.