Tributes to Jeff Nardone
November 8, 2013
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The staff received tributes from across the nation from former and current students and colleagues of Jeff Nardone. Not every one could be a part of the 16-page tribute edition (which originally started as a four-page special edition), but we have compiled them all here. We hope you laugh, cry and reflect — just as we did while putting together this tribute.
Click HERE for a PDF of the hard copy edition. Hard copies will be available in South’s main office and at the visitation today at A.H. Peters Funeral Home from 2 to 9 p.m.
Jeanne Acton-Shanks, Yearbook Workshop Adviser
One of my final memories of Jeff was from last summer. I was debating whether or not I should leave the summer workshop for a few hours to go see my son play his last all-star baseball game of the summer. Jeff looked at me and said, “Go. You can’t miss that. We got this.” I did. When I got back, I showed Jeff the video of my son hitting a triple, and Jeff beamed with pride. He talked about his boys, and we shared our smiles and hearts. I am so sad for his boys. My heart aches for those boys. What a huge loss. No dad ever loved his boys more.
Shannon Adducci, Tower Staff
I always knew that I wanted to go into journalism, and Mr. Nardone knew that, too. I met Jeff the very first day of high school, freshman year, when I walked into his classroom for Intro to Journalism. He had assigned seating alphabetically, so I was right up in the front, next to his desk. He grabbed the class schedule out of my hands and began reading it. “Journalism, English, Spanish, Acting, TV Production… Well, it’s pretty clear what it is you want to do with your life,” he told me. I told him that what I really wanted was to be on his newspaper staff. He replied, “We’ll see how you do in this class, but I can already tell you’re that overachieving type that usually gets what she wants.”
I spent the next four years — the entire span of high school — in Mr. Nardone’s classroom, and I still see the impact that he had on my life and my career; I realize now that he laid much of the foundation for my work and my work ethics. My fellow staff members and I learned valuable, sometimes difficult lessons in that room: we decided together how to appropriately cover (and try to make sense of) the events of 9/11; we were exposed to censorship issues involving a story on the car accident death of one student’s parent by another student; we won an award for our coverage of the equality and tolerance challenges of openly gay students (a topic that even just ten years ago was considered too risqué for a high school newspaper).
Mr. Nardone and I reconnected a few years ago, and I updated him on my work at Departures magazine and my life in New York; he told me how proud he was that I had decided to pursue my dreams. I had hoped to eventually come back to his classroom and speak to his current students about my career in magazines. The morning after I heard the news of his death, I sat in my office in silence, pouring over the countless Facebook and Twitter tributes to him. And then, as if by his own prompting, I realized that I was still on deadline for the magazine and had text to turn in. I went back to work: Mr. Nardone wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Susan Allan, Former Superintendent of GPS
Jeff Nardone had many qualities to be admired and celebrated. One that stands out in my memory is his passionate protection of students’ right to free speech. Jeff was willing to go to bat regularly to defend the right of students to voice their opinions on a variety of topics in the Tower (or elsewhere). He was also very clear with the students that reporting and editorials had to be done responsibly and that the price of maintaining their rights was to invest great energy in accuracy and fairness. I think that was a wonderful, real-life lesson in the balance between rights and responsibility. All honor to Jeff for providing students with an important lesson in maturity and citizenship.
Liza Andrivina ’08, Tower Staff
Every Monday morning, Jeff Nardone would run through weekly announcements for the 60+ Tower staffers. Depending on the day, these sessions could consist of fiery rants about the most recent Al Diver scandal or a shrill exclamation for everyone to “get the hell out of here and start working on your stories!”
But one Monday meeting – during my Senior year – was different.
At the end of his speech, Jeff suddenly paused and proclaimed, “Well, as a final note. I have this gift for someone on staff. I don’t usually buy gifts for staffers – but I saw this toy at a crazy novelty store near our conference center, and I just had to get it for her. It was just too perfect.”
… aaaand then Jeff slid a beautifully-wrapped present my way.
Once I had opened it, I sat and stared at the box in shock, awe, and bewilderment: Jeff had given me an amazing toy, entitled, “The Avenging Narwhal.”
“The Avenging Narwhal” is a plastic narwhal figurine that comes with a number of adorable animal attachments. These adorable animals are included purely so that the user can impale them with the narwhal’s horn – thus the “avenging” portion of the name.
Let’s be clear. A plastic narwhal figurine that impales tiny animals? From my 40-year old journalism teacher? What. What. What.
And yet: over time, I have realized that “The Avenging Narwhal” is EASILY the greatest gift I have ever received from anyone, at any point, ever.
In the ~7 years since Jeff gave me this present – this narwhal has travelled with me to my college dorm in Chicago, my tiny room in Barcelona, through multiple NYC sublets and boroughs.
Other than just being an amazing emblem of toy design – I love this narwhal because it reminds me of that incredible moment of amazement as I opened the gift… and then the flash seconds of awe when I looked back up at him, letting it sink in: Jeff Nardone had really and truly just gifted me a belligerent narwhal figurine.
And he had the goofiest smile on his face! The guy just knew!
Jeff and I didn’t always get along – in fact, we sometimes butted heads openly. But it was moments like that one that display that Jeff really, really cared about all of us: even when we had completely checked out of our Tower jobs; even when his face turned purple after we filled our editor in chief’s desk with cream cheese; even when we turned in our news brief on the big musical two weeks after its run had ended.
He dealt with our BS and he dealt with our angst; and in his goofy way, he still really cared about us as individuals.
Jeff, you were a great teacher, and you will be missed. Thanks for the narwhal.
Kaitlin Arnold ’08, Tower Staff
I entered Jeff Nardone’s classroom as a freshman. On the first day of our Journalism class, he posed an insightful question to the room. I responded with a less-than-insightful answer and started planning the class I would take when I dropped his. Mr. Nardone, though, considered my answer and suggested arguments to support it. I ended up joining Tower and spent a good part of my high school career in that same classroom. I had many wonderful teachers at South, but Mr. Nardone was truly a mentor.
He valued autonomy, gave everyone a voice and considered all answers to a question. He taught his students how to prepare for and handle an interview, write an intriguing story and be educated consumers of the news. We will use these skills throughout our lives. He treated us as young adults, and his faith in our abilities allowed us to leave his classroom with more confidence than we had when we entered it. Mr. Nardone was an extraordinary educator and a wonderful man. He had a tremendous impact on my life and I will never forget him.
Kit Aro, Art Teacher
Jeff was an encourager: he encouraged staff to support each other, to enjoy each other’s company, to celebrate our school and all we do for our students. He also encouraged us to be fearless in using our voices to speak up, ask questions, and seek the truth–“it is liberating,” he said. He taught his Tower staff the same lessons. When I think of Jeff, I think of courage and conviction that never overshadow reason. Most of all, I think of a really big heart. Thank you Jeff! May the lessons never be forgotten!
Hannah Ayrault ’14, Tower Staff
I was out of uniform today. I walked down the hallways of Interlochen Arts Academy wearing my Tower sweatshirt, not caring if I was caught and given detention. I think Nard would have appreciated it.
Jeff Nardone’s last words to me were, “I want you to leave”. They will stay with me forever. At the end of last year, I wasn’t sure if I should go away to boarding school, but when Nard said he believed in me, I knew I had to leave South. He was aware of my dream of becoming a successful musician, and his encouragement and support were what I needed to make my final decision.
Like always, I really want to make him proud.
As teenagers, sometimes we feel our voices aren’t heard and that our beliefs mean nothing, but Nard taught us our opinions are everything. He treated us as equals. We were always told that the Tower wasn’t his newspaper- it was ours. We represented the entire school in our work, and we had the ability to leave an impact and change South for our classes and the students to come. He pushed us beyond our full potential because somehow, he knew the greatness that was hidden in all of us; greatness that we didn’t even know existed.
For me and hundreds of other kids throughout South’s history, the Tower room was a safe haven. If you were ever lucky enough to be a part of the Tower staff, you weren’t writing articles among your friends. You were working with your family. Nard’s fantastic sense of humor and occasional sarcasm provided us with an amazing environment in which to work, form long-lasting relationships, and effectively educate the thousands of people who read the Tower every week.
As a staff member, I had my ups and downs. I was a member of both South “cults”- Choir and Tower. In the beginning of my copy-editing career, it was hard to divide my time evenly between after-school choir rehearsals and the Tower room. During the second quarter of Sophomore year, we sat down to look at my grade folder together, discovering I had only earned a low “C” for this grade marking period.
He gave me an A minus.
Nard was the kind of person that made you want to do your best. He was a kind, stubborn, passionate, intense, hilarious, sassy knucklehead who truly believed in his students. Nard didn’t just teach us how to be good journalists; he taught us how to be good people. I learned the importance of punctuality and meeting deadlines. I discovered how to conduct effective interviews and hold meaningful conversations. I never say no to a bagel with cream cheese. Because of Nard, I’m aware of the power of words- I know how to tell a story.
I don’t think Nard will ever vanish from these halls completely. We’ll remember him when we find ourselves correcting grammatical errors on English papers. We’ll thank him when we remember a deadline. And we’ll laugh when we realize that he was correct in assuming that, deep down, we are all knuckleheads.
Nard began his job at South wanting to continue a legacy. Now, it’s our job to continue his.
Linda Banovetz, Retired English Teacher
Jeff was a favorite of many of us. By the time I retired as an English teacher and department chair, Jeff had become what we call a master teacher. He was often quiet, and held his own counsel, which allowed others to express themselves freely and to grow. In his own steadfast way, he fought for ideas that were right, for rights of students and teachers, and for the integrity of his profession. His passing brings us to reflection and sadness. But aren’t we all glad to have had him pass through our lives?
Kelsey Baker ’15, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone could always tell one hell of a story. Anyone who has ever talked to him could tell you that. Instead of trying to say how much Nard impacted my life, I’m going to take the story-telling skills he taught me for a spin.
I wasn’t the student who had the closest relationship with Nard, never was. Yes, I was often called names such as, dingbat, knucklehead, crackhead, etc., but everyone was. The first few months of my debut year on the Tower staff, I hated going to his 2nd hour Advanced Journalism class, I was one of two sophomores in that class, and it’s safe to say I didn’t have a story published until after 1st quarter ended, so I took the hint that I wasn’t good enough for the world of journalism. I never had the heart to tell Nard this, but I actually made an appointment to talk to my counselor about dropping the class. I had already paid to go to a conference in San Antonio, so I decided to stick it out until then. I packed up my suitcase to fly across the country with eight of my fellow staffers and Mr. and Mrs. Nardone. This trip forever changed my outlook on journalism.
I would have never stayed with the Tower if i didn’t spend those five days with him. The conference itself was ok, it was a journalism conference, what more can one say. We made the best out of it, even once getting kicked out of class- I remember being so scared that Nard would find out. Then the write off came around, it seemed like a waste of time to me, a girl with zero confidence in her writing. Earlier that day, Nardone told me to try my hardest no matter what, because I was capable of anything. When I walked in with no paper, and no pencils, I had a feeling of ‘my best will never be good enough’. But throughout the allotted time I remembered what he told me.
Of course, when the results came in I won an excellent for my makeshift news story. This gave me hope, hope that I could be good at writing. Nardone was so proud of all of us who did well that I decided right there and then that I would stick through that year of Tower. My B first quarter turned into A’s the rest of the year. Of course, I signed up to be on Tower the next year.
Thanks for teaching me that I do have a love for writing, and showing me how to write with confidence.
Kevin Bargnes ’07, Editor in chief
On a Wednesday morning in 2007, Jeff Nardone took me aside and explained a member of our staff had committed plagiarism, and it was to appear in that day’s issue. It was the end of first hour, and the papers were to be distributed prior to third hour.
“Well wait,” I stopped him. “Knowing what we know, how can we distribute these?”
He smirked. We both knew the answer.
Tower students filed into Room 144 as the second hour bell rang. From the next room, Jeff and I walked in with 8,000 copies of “The Tower,” already rolled for distribution. We had a simple marching order for our staff: remove the middle page, which contained the disputed story, from every single copy.
I can still see the grin on Jeff’s face, beaming with pride at this teachable moment, as we threw away thousands of pieces of paper and began plans for an internal investigation of the matter.
To this day, I remain in awe of how ethical he taught a group of cynical teenagers to be.
“Don’t take journalism in college,” Jeff would always say. “You’ll be bored.”
He was right. I was bored. He had already taught me everything worth teaching. The rest was up to me.
In my mind, this is Jeff’s greatest legacy: he created a multi-year, internship-like media seminar that taught students more about the industry than any three-hour-a-week college course ever could.
I weep for his family, but also for the generation of South students who won’t get that same opportunity I did.
We lost a great man on Sunday. I’m hopeful one of his former students picks up the torch and keeps going. Now more than ever, my industry needs people like Jeff Nardone.
Katie Behringer ’02, Tower Staff
In the middle of those angst-ridden, confusing and overwhelming teen years, Jeff’s special ability was to bring out the best in us all, to highlight what made us unique and interesting, and so importantly, to make us proud of ourselves. I can see that who I am now – my interests, the path of my career, my work ethic – was all founded in Jeff’s class. He brought me a world of intellect, a place where I had ideas and opinions to share, and he gave me the forum in which to share them. I’ll never forget those days and long evenings spent in the Tower Room, technically putting together a newspaper, but mostly building friendships and memories. Jeff gave us all the courage to speak our minds, to stand up and make something great with our lives. He will be missed by all of us who knew him, but also by those who will never have the chance to be taught by him.
Claire Berg ’15, Tower Staff
Walking into room 144 for the first time, I immediately felt at home. The comical, entertaining atmosphere felt different than a normal classroom; I knew then and there that this wasn’t going to be far from a normal class. Every day of the week, students left Nard’s classroom with smiles spread across their faces. Not a day went by without the famous “knuckle and crackhead” jokes that Nard was famous for. If you looked beyond his stern, tough attitude, you would see the biggest heart there ever was. The amount of love that Nard had for his kids is unmeasurable. Although there were many, the most important lesson I took from Mr. Nardone was his belief within his students. If it weren’t for Nard’s belief in me, I have no idea where I would be today, and the joy in my life is all thanks to him. I am so entirely grateful that he encouraged me to join staff, I thank him everyday for that. He will be missed greatly, is irreplaceable, and will forever be loved by every single person who ever had the joy to meet him. We love you so much, you will be missed. Love you, Nard.
Neala Berkowski ’13, Tower Staff
Nard was the first teacher I had at South who really treated me like an adult. We would either be laughing like friends about the time I ate three doughnuts in a row or be going over issues I was having with the page I was designing. Nard gave his students real responsibilities like strict deadlines, yet trusted us to be doing what we were supposed to. I remember one class last year he spent the entire time explaining to us how important it is to have “enthusiasm” in anything you do, even if it isn’t journalism. For the rest of the year, he would constantly remind us to either have “enthusiasm” while we worked on “The Tower” or to find something we could be enthusiastic about. I think that really shows he cared so much about his students that he wanted to make sure we all spend our lives doing what we love.
Brian Biglin ’04, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone taught me journalism and common sense for four years. He lived and breathed The Tower and Grosse Pointe South. He knew their history and understood his role as steward of a nearly century-old tradition. He made 14- to 18-year-olds feel connected to something bigger – a rare feat in this society— and proud of their work and the work of their colleagues (natural, I suppose, as national awards kept coming in).
I wish he could see how his lessons in investigating and writing help me daily in the field of law.
I admire those who love what they do every day. I really admire Jeff Nardone.
Mary Biglin ’09, Tower Staff
High school was certainly not my favorite, even while I was in it. However, I can say with certainty that being of a part of an award-winning journalism program for three years with Mr. Nardone made my experience infinitely better. I am forever grateful for signing up for Honors Journalism; if I had not, I would not have obtained mountains of gossip, traveled to Columbia University, thought about journalism as a career, and made friends with many I would not have normally. I may be in medical school now, but I will always have a deep love for writing because of Mr. Nardone. Thank you for everything you taught me, you will be missed.
Ben Boyce ’10, Tower Staff
Anyone who has walked South’s halls will tell you it’s a special place filled with thoughtful, caring, inspiring teachers, all of whom have made a remarkably positive impact on thousands of fortunate students. But Mr. Nardone was unique.
In Mr. Nardone, students had a teacher who had their backs. He spent a lot of long evenings with us in the Tower room – deadlines have to be met. But he made work fun. When it was time to break for indoor golf or football on the front lawn, he was the first to line up under center in that green and white sweater I saw far too often.
We were treated like young adults; treated with respect and trusted. As journalists, we were taught to think critically and push boundaries, scholastically and creatively. As young adults, we were encouraged to practice acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion. In his classroom, differences were celebrated and opinions appreciated. He showed us that they moved us toward a closer staff and a better newspaper.
We watched him love his wife, his kids, and their baseball. If the paper wasn’t done by game time, when Mr. Nardone had to run to see the first pitch, final edits were put in the hands of the brilliant Rian Dawson. We were cool with that. It was a student newspaper in its purest form. A pretty damn good one, too.
His approach helped us understand what we were capable of. He helped us see for ourselves all that we had to be proud of, all the reasons we had to hold our heads high – almost as many as he had.
While writing this, I struggled to find words that hadn’t already been uttered in his memory. I don’t know that I succeeded. But if anything, that’s the greatest testament to the tremendous impact he had on every life he touched. I, as I know each of my peers is, am most grateful for the time I got to spend with him.
Thanks Nard, you will be missed.
Brendan Buckley, Tower Staff
It was with a heavy heart that I learned of Mr. Nardone’s passing late Sunday evening. He will be sorely missed by the Grosse Pointe South community for his charisma, sense of humor and undying loyalty to the school and The Tower. Toweralumni have all benefited from Mr. Nardone’s teaching and the life skills that he and the newspaper fostered. I don’t think many teachers or schools give 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to engage community leaders in serious discussion the way Mr. Nardone encouraged us to do through Tower. He taught us crucial interviewing, critical thinking and writing skills that I still use to this day. For this, I would like to thank him.
Kylie Capps ’14
Mr. Nardone was very important to me. He helped me through many aspects of my life, most importantly with the loss of my mom. He was caring, understanding and loving. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year, the first year I had Mr. Nardone as a teacher, that I took complete control of my life and experiences. I know he was a large part of that change. Mr. Nardone was so strong and determined, it’s rare to see someone fight as hard as he did and have the will power to keep pushing forward. He had high expectations for himself and all his students, he wanted everyone to be the best they could be. Nardone inspired me to be the best person I can be. His death is a huge loss for me, as well as the many others whose hearts he has touched and lives he has changed. His spirit will live on forever.
Emily Cervone ‘12, Tower Staff
It is quite rare to find someone who sacrifices so much of themselves for others. Jeff Nardone was one of those people. Teaching with passion and from years of experience, I learned not only about Journalism, but about life during my years on Tower. He created an open work environment for his students, constantly motivating us to push the boundaries and teaching us to stand up for what we believe in. People from all over the country recognize his name because of his vast amount of accomplishments, but he constantly let us know that it was the kids who achieved them . I highly disagree. Without the grade folder lectures, ripping our awful editorials to shreds, being told we were half-assing things, bringing in full meals for us to eat during deadline nights, leaving it up to a group of 15-18 year olds to decide what goes in a major publication, the positive words of encouragement and that “push” to strive for excellence, Tower would not be what it is. The thousands of lives he touched would not be the same either. Rest in peace Nard, there better be a Bruegger’s up in heaven.
Molly Clarke ’00, Editor-in-Chief
I probably should have never even passed Beginning Journalism because I was too shy and nervous to complete my weekly beat sheet, but Jeff took a chance and gave me a coveted spot on the Tower staff my sophomore year. Turns out he was right to take a chance on me, my senior year I was selected for MIPA’s all-state staff and was chosen as one of The Detroit News’ brightest and best for the journalism category. But as Jeff always told us: awards are just the icing on the cake. The entire Tower experience, impossible without Jeff’s love and dedication, was the cake. While I did not turn journalism into a career after my Tower days ended, Jeff’s lessons have stuck with me. He taught me a lot more than how to interview a source, write a story and design a page — and even more than how to stay organized, manage my time and set goals. He taught me how to lead by example, how to fight for what matters, and how to be a part of something bigger than myself. He believed in me before I believed in myself, and for that I will forever be thankful.
Max Conrad ’97
I joined The Tower in 1995, a year after Jeff became its advisor. From him, I learned the
craft of reporting—the sharp lede, the inverted pyramid. Because of him, I grew to love declarative sentences, incisive questions, and style guides. Jeff’s teaching made me a better person. When there were difficult or controversial stories, Jeff asked students like me to tell them—considering all sides, confirming all facts, making hard judgments about what to publish. Jeff edited and critiqued, but with his deft touch, we never felt the journalism was anything less than completely our own. Jeff trusted us to handle these stories and, when necessary, defended our right to print them. In doing so, he challenged us, championed us, and made us grow.
It is only looking back, after the years of my friendship with Jeff that followed, that I realize he taught this way because he respected his students, as journalists and as people. I know I am not alone when I say that I loved him for it.
Carly Copus, Tower Staff
As I approach my 10 year Grosse Pointe South reunion this month, I am deeply saddened by the loss of great teacher, mentor and friend, Jeff Nardone. My high school experience would have been vastly different without his presence. When you signed on with Nardone to be a “Tower Nerd”, you not only signed up to learn how to make a (really good) paper, he created a pseudo-world of a mini workplace where you got to learn about life, personalities, making things happen and standing up for what you believe in. I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of that Tower world. After 22 years, it will never be the same and neither will any of us.
Sam Corden ’10, Tower Staff
This is without a doubt my least favorite Tower entry of all time. I know everyone in my shoes agrees.
Last Sunday, our treasured GPS lost a tremendous asset; Jeff Nardone. To the school, he was an ambassador of honesty, light, and pure dedication. He was the type of leader who truly knew how to lead – not sometimes, not when it was convenient, but all the time; every waking minute. He demanded his student’s best work by means of example, putting in more hours than even the most dedicated staff members. By day, Jeff groomed his journalism students to have tremendous writing ability, to know the importance of accountability and integrity, to be able to hold a comfortable and successful interview, as well as passing on countless other skills, all with the façade of creating some of the best high school writers in the country. By night, you could still find him in the Tower room slaving over copy, helping students to refine their words, editors to shave stories while striving to maintain meaning, and all the while, still being able to succumb to light moments even in the midst of the most hectic Monday nights.
Last Sunday, our community lost a tremendous individual; Jeff Nardone. To the community, Jeff was appreciated as the truly wonderful individual he was and as much more than just a terrific newspaper advisor. Throughout the three years I was blessed to work under Jeff, I never once saw an ounce of unwarranted anger or unkindness. He was the type of man you could be certain would give you his best if you offered yours, and quite frankly, he gave his best to those who didn’t always deserve it as well… myself included, as I’d slip into first hour fashionable late most days only to be greeted by a wink, or the standard joke of “Still hung over? I thought it was Wednesday…” I know I’m not the only one who understood this. To his children, he was an adoring father; to his baseball teams, he was a dedicated coach; to his peers, he was simply a great guy.
Last Sunday, our world lost a tremendous voice of reason; Jeff Nardone. We live in a time where media has been bought out and sold to the highest bidder; more times than not, utilized to push an agenda even if it publishes outright lies. Jeff didn’t. Jeff was the type of newspaperman whose integrity spoke volumes against the William Hurst’s of the past and the Rupert Murdoch’s of the present. He strove to teach that the power of quality information is one of the most important resources that can be provided to the world, and that in a time of national polarization pushed by media conglomerates, he never strayed from his mantra: Get the facts right. If everyone were only able to have worked with Jeff, our society would be a better place not only because of his educational teachings but also because of his uncanny ability to turn you into a truth seeker.
Last Sunday, I lost one of the best friends I’ve been fortunate enough to make in my 21 years; Jeff Nardone. Jeff is the reason I’m able to present this to you today. He’s the reason I’ve been so amazingly successful with college papers and job interviews, with strangers on the street, and with holding myself as the confident, well-informed individual I strive to be. Outside of my parents, there isn’t a single mentor that I’ve shared more moments of raw emotion and pure enjoyment with than Jeff. He made me a Quill and Scroll writer and an award winning cartoon artist, all the while allowing the Gamer Group to game on. He would turn a blind eye to phone room shakedowns when it was in the name of charity. He would set us loose in the middle of New York City because he knew we were capable. Did Jeff follow every rule? Absolutely not; but that was what made him great. He knew that his way of doing things, guided by pure intentions, often proved far better than had he followed the politically correct, cookie cutter rules many of us choose to abide by. He didn’t front, and he didn’t try, he simply was who he was. When it was all said and done, Jeff didn’t make great writers, or great editors, or great speakers… Jeff made great human beings.
I love you Nard Dog.
Kevin Cox, English teacher
Mr. Nardone and I had some great conversations over the years. He was always open-minded and direct, a fierce supporter of teaching and the value of a GP education. Jeff knew that an effective teacher slowly steps back and lets students dig in and implement what they are learning. Through his tireless efforts, The Tower often explored tough social, political, and educational issues that other local media outlets could not or would not.
Carly Czajka ’06, Tower Staff
Many of the memories I have of Grosse Pointe South I owe in large part to Mr. Nardone. Upon graduating and studying to become a teacher myself, I can now truly appreciate the love and leadership with which Mr. Nardone guided us each week. I will never forget the sacrifices he made for us: staying until 9:00 on Monday nights while we scrambled to finish our pages, putting up with our dancing on the Tower room table, and having the faith in us that, even if we goofed off, we would still make him proud and actually put out a paper. I can say that I became part of a Tower family because of Mr. Nardone–he supported us with tough love and inspired us to bring out the best in each other. We united under the (many times) stressful experience of Tower, and I am so thankful to have known and worked with him.
Of course, it’s hard to know what to say at a time like this, but I wanted to contribute in some way to recognizing all that he has done for me, Tower members past and present, and the community. He was a wonderful man with such passion, and I will truly miss him.
Amanda Daubert Pidsosny ’91, Shamrock Staff
Mr. Nardone was my faculty advisor for the East Detroit High School Shamrock newspaper. I believe my class was one of his first teaching assignments – if not his very first. He was an amazing teacher and a wonderful person. He encouraged us to be outgoing and hard-working, but he also encouraged us to have fun. He made me News Editor of our paper because he had confidence in me and my abilities when I didn’t have it for myself. Giving someone confidence in themselves is one of the best gifts a person can share. It has been over 20 years since he was my teacher, but I will remember him forever.
Emily Dawson ’11, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone was so much more than a journalism teacher. He was a mentor, friend, support system, and second father after I lost my own. I first met Nard as a freshman in his very last Freshmen English class. Almost immediately he became my favorite teacher and most days he was the reason I looked forward to school. Nard was unlike any other teacher; he went above and beyond to make us feel valued, loved, and important. He treated us like real people instead of annoying teenagers, which most of the time we were, and like this we formed inseparable bonds. I am honored to have been able to travel to New York and various MIPA camps with him, forming four years’ worth of irreplaceable memories. There are no words to describe just how much he impacted my life and shaped me into the person I am today. We are all truly blessed to have had him in our lives and to have been a part of his Tower family. I am forever grateful.
Rian Dawson ’09, Editor-in-Chief
Looking back, high school was a bizarre time for me—I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life or where I fit in in the scheme of that strange world. But I did know, beyond a doubt, that I wanted to do Tower. And dear God, I’m so glad I did, and I’m so glad I met Jeff Nardone. He introduced me to what would quickly become the loves of my life—journalism and writing. When I shipped off out East to do my undergrad, I immediately zeroed in on the newspaper there because journalism had become my comfort zone; it was how I made friends. One of the things I brought with me in full force was all Nardone’s teaching. I taught so many Johns Hopkins News-Letter journalists exactly what Nardone taught me, and we were all better for it. Better writers, better designers, better reporters, better journalists. Jeff, I’m so sad you’re gone, but I’m even sadder for the troves of aspiring and future journalists who will never have you as a teacher. I’m better off for having known you and learned from you. I never got to tell you this, but thank you.
Marissa Day ’14, Tower Staff
That was pretty much the standard greeting people would get from Mr. Nardone if they spent any time working on The Tower. Nard had a way of making you feel important, even if he was
insulting you in the process. He was the one teacher who could make you feel like a complete letdown in one second or his best friend in the next.
With Nard, it was never about getting feelings hurt or letting egos get in the way, but becoming the best
writer you could be. He saw something good in everyone, even if he didn’t directly point it out.
He always made a point to ask about how your family was doing, what activities you were involved in or if he needed to beat someone up for making you feel like crap. He could read people in an instant. He recognized the kids who were outgoing and loud, and those who were more reserved and needed help coming out of their shells.
When I joined Pulse, Nard sat down with me and told me he saw that I wanted to be a leader on The Pulse, but I needed to step up to the plate. He said it wasn’t enough for me to want to be in charge, but I had to show leadership qualities. Without his support I never would have been able to step out of my comfort zone.
Nard was a take charge, and don’t take any crap from anyone kind of leader, something that both resonates within me, and inspires me to do better every single day. Thank you Nard for pushing me to do better; thank you for being there even when I didn’t ask for you to.Thank you for bringing me in to The Tower family and thank you for showing The Pulse and myself your constant love and support.
Alexis DeBrunner ’12, Tower Staff
I didn’t know what I was expecting on my first day of Honors Journalism, but the words “Why are you late, you knucklehead,” were definitely not it. However looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the best three years of my high school experience. Being a part of the Tower staff under Mr. Nardone’s leadership is something I will always count myself incredibly lucky for, as should anyone else who had the pleasure. Mr. Nardone was like no other teacher, and I don’t just mean in the way that he wasn’t afraid to throw things at you for texting in class (I would know…), but in the way that he had an incredible compassion for his students. Jeff Nardone is the reason I am the student, and person, that I am today. Going into my senior year of high school, and applying for a copy editor position for the paper, Nardone sat me down and whipped me into shape. He told me I could do this, I was good at this, but I had to want it and show that I was willing to work for it if I wanted to succeed. That piece of advice has followed me since then, fueling my continued pursuit of journalism and passion for writing for the past two years, and has gotten me to where I am today. There are so many things I wish I could have said to Nard, so many more days in the Tower room I wish I could have spent, and I would give anything to have him make fun of me once again for trying to get service to text even on the subway in NYC. He is someone I will remember for the rest of my journalistic career as the person who believed in me and gave me my start, and I am so proud and grateful to have been one of his students. Rest in peace Nard.
Daniel Dickson ’10, Tower Staff
Jeff had an insurmountable impact on my life as a student, friend, and now as a young professional. He was the one who taught me the difference between principal and principle, and
most importantly how to be passionate for my work. Everyone in Tower saw Jeff’s passion for
student journalism and how much he cared for his students’ individual successes. He challenged all of us intellectually as writers, designers, and editors. The critical thinking skills learned in The Tower Room are what propelled countless Tower alumni to successful careers in varying industries. When I spoke with Jeff recently, he felt grateful that I found time to give him a call.
In reality, I am the grateful one for all the wonderful memories and life lessons learned from
such an extraordinary educator and friend. Tower will always have a special place in my heart, as will Jeff.
Elizabeth Dickson ’02, Tower Staff
Amazing! Mr. Nardone was truly a remarkable teacher and advisor. His compassion for high school students was a testimony that teaching is a calling. He invested his heart and soul into each student with the faith that they were capable of becoming the best version of themselves. How lucky are we to have had such a teacher in our lives.
No problem or concern was ever too insignificant and his advice was always straightforward and sincere. Mr. Nardone was not only an educator but he was also a life coach to many teenagers.
He was a brave man to take students to New York City, Boston, and Indiana University for journalism conferences. The memories and friendships created on these trips made a lasting impact.
I knew I was part of something special and was proud to be on The Tower staff. As part of an award winning journalism program, Mr. Nardone helped me connect to my school and community. His expectations were high and students’ accomplishments were always celebrated.
He was a role model and a great example of the lasting impact a teacher can leave on a student. He left the world a better place and encouraged others to do the same.
Eva Dou ’08, Editor-in-Chief
If not for Mr. Nardone, I think it’s safe to say I would not have decided to be a reporter. He cared so deeply about Tower and his passion was infectious. Outside of Tower, we were just students and clueless teenagers. But Mr. Nardone treated us like real journalists. He told us to present an original opinion, to investigate the world firsthand, to ask questions–lots of them. He honestly believed in us and our ability to effect positive change through our words. And because he believed in us, we believed in ourselves. He was a great mentor and friend, and an incredibly generous person. Long after I graduated, I’d go to him for advice. He is dearly missed.
Elizabeth Laciura Emiley ’02, Tower Staff
In a school known for tradition, Jeff made it his mission to cultivate a tradition of excellence within the Tower classroom. And laughter. So. Much. Laughter. Jeff created the perfect setting. The Tower Room contained a mix of high expectations, adult respect, with a generous helping of humility. We were one big nerdy family and Jeff was our tireless leader.
Jeff saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself. And even now, as a Strategic Planner at a TBWA advertising agency I wonder, “Would Jeff be proud of me?” Hel loved nothing more than watching his students succeed. The framed pictures of the Seniors from the years before stood as a constant reminder of the excellence that sat among those beige walls. Jeff was so proud to watch us become our best selves. He was the Hawaiian-shirt wearing goof. The doting dad to Cy and Kal. My Freshman Volleyball Coach. My Mentor. My Cheerleader. My mirror when I wasn’t doing my best.
As I envision my final role, I hope it leads me to one where I am as fulfilled as Jeff was each day in the Tower Room. And I hope they have bagels. Lots of bagels.
Mike Esse ’11
To put it simply, I am not the man I am today without Jeff Nardone. There is no journalism degree that I will obtain next spring without Jeff Nardone. None of my internships, job opportunities or extracurricular activities happen without Jeff Nardone. Being a part of The Tower for three years changed my life forever. I can say all of that with extreme ease and extreme confidence because of Jeff. I was lucky enough to speak with him about a month ago on the phone. I could tell by hearing his voice when he answered the phone that he didn’t sound the same. What shocked me was that once I got talking to him, despite the medication and the chemo and everything else he was dealing with he was still the same Jeff Nardone. I tried to ask him how he was doing and how things were going for him and he deflected
those questions and first wanted to make sure that I was okay and that things were going well for me.
I think back to that conversation all the time. I was talking to a man battling cancer, bed-ridden in a hospital and he is more worried about how I am doing. He was never in it for himself, he was in it for his family, his students and his co-workers. There is nobody else like Jeff. There never will be. He’s truly one in a million.
The title “teacher” does him a disservice. He wasn’t just a teacher, he was a mentor, an advisor and most of all, a friend. The outpour of love and support on social media and the amount of thanks he is getting from students and even some that didn’t even have him as a teacher proves he was exactly that.
Jeff. We love you, we miss you and we thank you for the timeless life lessons
you gave all of us.
Kelli Fimbinger, English and journalism teacher
In the last e-mail that I sent you, I told you I would not try to fix something that was clearly not broken. What you built in room 144—from the grading system to the editorial board process to the almost-weekly celebrations of birthdays—will remain a part of the tradition of The Tower. Just as you honored Bob Button’s legacy when you took over his program, I will make sure that oil cans, mark-ups, and stars remain. These traditions won’t be here simply for the nostalgia factor, but because they worked. I still have so many questions to ask, but I thank you for taking me under your wing these last three years and making me feel like a member of this family from day one.
Meghan Flanagan ’12
Rest in peace, Mr. Nardone, one of the most influential teachers and role models I’ve had the privilege of learning from. The lessons I have learned from you shaped me into who I am today. You’ve certainly taught me a lot about journalism and what it’s like to be a part of an award-winning publication, but beyond the classroom, you’ve shown me what one is truly capable of and how to fulfill that potential. So many watched you fight your battle, yet rarely heard any complaints. From reading our stories in a hospital bed to hosting the annual Christmas parties through your fight, your dedication will forever be admired. You’ve inspired so many people and I know that your story will continue to do so. Forever in our hearts… love you, Nard.
Megan Fleming ’14, Tower Staff
The ultimate testament to what an incredible teacher you were is the fact we are using all the skills you taught us, to honor you.
You promised me the block scheduling story I wrote last year would be the most difficult piece I would ever have to write for Tower. I hate to break it to you, but you were wrong. Trying to capture how much you mean to me takes the cake.
You give meaning to the phrase ‘to know him was to love him.’ Even the times it was tough to love you because of your tough love, you were always just trying to help.
You transformed my writing from being all over the place with no direction, to direct and purposeful, and meanwhile helped me make those same transformations as a person.
When I learned your cancer had returned and that you could not teach this year, I was heartbroken. Selfishly, I was scared and had no idea how to go about leading The Tower without you. At the beginning of the year the well-oiled machine you created kept running even though you could not be here with us. Because not only did you teach us how to do our jobs, you instilled in all of us the motivation to do them even when you could not be here to yell at us for being lazy.
I would give anything to sit down with you, the first 7 issues of the Tower, and a box of red pens and watch you create one of your infamous mark ups. You never demanded perfection, all you ever asked was that we did our best. As the king of kicking ass, I promise we’ll make you proud this year.
Thank you for the dozens of bagels and countless memories. For being the best teacher, adviser, mentor and friend over the past three years. For inspiring me, believing in me and helping me believe in myself.
And finally, thank you for trusting me. You made a profound impact on my life and I’m blessed to have known you.
I love you knucklehead,
PS: Since you always detested my use of vocabulary, I’m sure you read the last sentence and paused when you got to the word profound and said ‘darn it Fleming, use a kindergarten word!!’ But I figured it was okay to use a big word for you, because you were such a big part of my life.
P.P.S: Since you were an avid baseball fan I’m not surprised you threw us one final curve ball by passing away the night before deadline. Well played, Nard.
Matt Fleckenstein ’15, Tower Staff
If there was one teacher in this school who has helped me the most, it would be Jeff Nardone. As with all his students, he helped me learn new things, listened to my ideas and motivated me to keep improving my writing skills. It’s because of my dad that I took Honors Journalism, but it’s because of Mr. Nardone that I stuck with it and went on to Tower. He always saw the best in things and always brought people together. I could always count on him to be there. For Mr. Nardone, being the Tower adviser wasn’t just a job, it was part of his life, and he loved it.
Christy Flom ’13, Tower Staff
Having put Honors Journalism as my third alternative for my classes Freshman year, my anxiety was through the roof when I walked in on the first day of school and found I was one of four freshmen in the full class. However, I can no longer imagine my high school experience being any different. Jeff Nardone was one of the most influential and inspiring teachers I have ever had and I feel completely honored to have had the opportunity to have him all four years. From his sarcastic remarks freshman year when I would blatantly doodle during his lectures with a pile of sharpies neatly aligned on my table, to his seasonal advice of “get your shit together” every winter while basketball was in full swing, Nard never hesitated to speak his mind. His devotion, love for his profession and counseling to all students at South will be greatly missed. Without him, I never would have discovered my love for writing and I never would have continued on with journalism at the University of Michigan. So to Mr. Nardone, I say thank you, for so much more than he probably realized he did for me, and his family will forever be in my prayers.
Devlin Francis ’15, Tower Staff
If there’s one thing Mr. Nardone taught me, it was how to use my words. How to give them power and meaning, and how to make each and everyone of them count. Here I am now with an absolute loss of words. I don’t even know where to start.
Nard helped me craft so many great memories in the short time I knew him. I go on and on, and write endless pages about all the lessons he taught me, and all the great times I’ll never forget.
I was privileged to have him as a teacher. He would disagree. He would say he was the privileged one, and he considered himself so lucky to be our teacher, and to be the advisor of The Tower.
I remember one time my freshmen year in his Honors Journalism class. It was only about a month into the year, but already I knew I liked him, and viewed him as one of my favorite teachers.
We were watching a movie about journalism, which I honestly didn’t care the least about. I was sitting just feet from his desk, when I began to fall asleep.
Next thing I know Nard had whacked me across the right side of my head, yelling, “Wake up, this is important you dumbass!”
The next week we had a test on the movie, and I didn’t do so hot. He was passing them back out a few days later, C+.
“That’s what you get for falling asleep, you dumbass,”screamed Nard, slapping me on the right side again.
Towards the end of that year I started doing poorly. My stories weren’t well written, had errors all over them, and to be honest I was considering not even taking Tower.
I don’t know how, but Nard managed to find out about this. He pulled me over one day and told me I should take it. He encouraged me more than any other teacher ever has before.
That talk changed my life. Tower has honest to God changed my life, and if not for that talk I wouldn’t have been a part of it.
My greatest memory with Nard came over a year later, this last August at the Tower barbeque. After not seeing Nard all summer long I got the chance to talk to him.
He didn’t ask how I was doing, or how my summer was. He asked about my personal life, which is mainly swimming, what was going on with that.
He didn’t care about that other bullshit. He only cared about what you cared about.
I told him that I had began coaching younger kids this summer, and about how my summer leagues had gone, along with what I was doing to prepare for my junior season at South.
“What a great young man you’re turning into,” said Nard. “And to think I once thought you were a dumbass.
“I’m proud of you,” he said.
I can’t think of that memory without my eyes watering. It means so much to hear a man who I looked up to so greatly tell me that. It means the world to me.
Everyone wanted to hear Nard tell them that. Everyone loved him.
And he loved all of us. He cared so much about all of his students, and was so passionate about teaching us.
I honestly don’t think he ever worked a day in his life. There wasn’t a day when he didn’t have a smile on his face.
Nard changed my life, just like everyone else who ever knew him. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t had him as a teacher, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I owe him so much for that.
Like everyone else I’m greatly saddened over his passing. On the bright side at least I know that Heaven just got the greatest journalism teacher to ever walk the surface of this Earth.
I will miss him everyday of my life, but will never forget the memories I had with him. What I would give to be slapped and called a dumbass one more time.
Thanks, Nard. Just one more thing, can you hit me on the left side next time?
Dan Griesbaum Sr., Colleague
What I admired most about Jeff was that he was always an advocate for his fellow staff members. He was always looking out for our best interests. He always had our backs. He was always reminding us how good we were, especially in tough times.
Also, the barbecues were his way of pulling the staff together.
Dan Griesbaum ’99, Tower Staff
There isn’t much that I need to say about Jeff Nardone, the teacher, to sufficiently praise him. I think one sentence sums it up: He, without persuasion, made me think of myself as a writer and journalist. I spent three years on the Tower staff and didn’t think of myself as a journalist for one second before those three years or one second after those three years, but during my time with Jeff, I was a journalist. I can’t pay a higher compliment to a teacher than to say that I fell in love with his subject because of his existence in my life.
I am a rare person in that I grew up with two parents that are GPS teachers. So, GPS played a huge part in my life and I am loaded with positive memories of high school. Of all the great experiences I had, my time on the Tower staff was very much at the top of the list. Much like my experience with my own father and the GPS baseball program, the Tower was not a class to me. It was a championship caliber team and a family, and Jeff was the coach and the father.
In a space and time where many high school students care more about their lives outside of the classroom than in, Jeff Nardone found his niche in this world. Jeff truly connected with his aspiring young writers at a level that rendered talent and brought results. There is and always will be a tremendous fan club for Nardone and what he represented. Jeff created his own microcosm of a community that will continue to write, live and love in his legacy.
Tudi Harwood, Colleague
He (Jeff) first arrived to South when my son Ben was a senior and the Sports Editor in the fall of 1994. He and Laurie Mayk, who was the Editor at the time, have continued to keep in touch with Jeff (as so many alumni have) and I believe, were very influenced by Jeff’s sound advice and counsel. Their paths would be very different if he had not been in their lives. You can use anything I have said below, and I will look for a picture from those early Tower days in 1994 when he first came to South. He was a good friend to me and my hope is that he got back as much as he GAVE to all of us — staff and students. No one was more intuitive to the pulse of South High than Jeff, nor as quick to act when there was a need. He was our ombudsman, mediator, peacemaker, brother and friend….always among the staff who stepped out first to speak the collective mind to administration or staff, when others just whispered behind the scenes– afraid to get involved. His calm philosophy was applied to every decision he influenced. When he arrived with all the new, young teachers at South in the fall of 1994, he was a leader — proving to the skeptic senior staff that they were all smart, capable and as committed to South as anyone, even if they hadn’t grown up in the Pointes or taught for 20 years in the district. They were smart and are amazing. That group from 1994 has the experienced, seasoned teacher leaders, mentoring the 20-something new teachers and fine young student minds. I am so proud to have worked with everyone at South but especially with Jeff. He was my rock in so many ways through all of our political and emotional turmoils in the South community. Pushing us to be better, kinder and smarter, even when we felt we couldn’t. He fought his setbacks and health issues better and longer than many of us could, but I am grateful he is at last out of pain and at peace. I believe he knows how much we all loved and admired him. He would have deflected an compliments quickly to others, rather than take the recognition himself. It would take a whole
wall to contain the awards he has received during his career. Jeff was a true leader by example and South will miss him terribly. We all know it takes many people to make South the most wonderful place it is to learn, work and live. The Tower will move forward, with his legacy of continued excellence in spirit and word. So those of us left will remember him and say…Go Tower…..Go South….and Go Spartans Jeff!
Ben Harwood ’95, Tower Staff
How would Jeff handle this?
That was the first question I asked myself, when I faced my biggest challenges as the newspaper adviser at Seaholm High School.
Decades earlier, Jeff had advised my Tower staff. He had always made it look so easy. Some of the specifics were hazy, but the lasting memories were of a tireless advocate, who demanded our best, while being relentlessly positive.
Now, my role had changed. Instead of developing sources, editing stories and designing pages, I was navigating the murky waters of angry parents, nervous administrators and school rumor mills.
Being an adviser can be a lonely job. You’re in the English department, but no other English teacher publishes each test for the world to see. It’s a safe bet that research project on Moby Dick won’t bring local TV crews to park in front of the school. I’m not sure a report on The Grapes of Wrath needs a teacher’s guidance and scrutiny to avoid a libel suit.
So when that email, phone call or situation brough about a moment of pause, Jeff was always the first person I turned to.
And every time I did, he always answered.
Whether it was experience or his uncanny ability to know the right thing to say or do, Jeff always knew the solution.
It didn’t matter that he had his own paper to advise, his own classes to teach and his own challenges to face, Jeff always took time — often within minutes — to send advice and offer help. As an adviser, I can’t begin to describe how much that meant to me.
My goal was to create a “Tower” atmosphere in Birmingham, and become an adviser like Jeff Nardone. There was no other standard to follow. To me, The Tower and Jeff were *the* standards.
Jeff’s passing is a profound loss for South and the world of journalism.
But what he built in his image is truly remarkable and a testament to the impact he had on his students. His first graduating class alone at South produced a who’s who of professional journalists and a White House staffer. For the next 19 years, the parade of talented graduates continued. Certainly, the awards and accomplishments speak for themselves.
Losing Jeff is heartbreaking, but I’ll forever be thankful of his guidance and the impact he had on my life.
David Harris ’12, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone taught me the power of words, and here I am not knowing what to do with them.
Every high school morning started with me walking into the Tower room a few minutes after the bell rang. He would promptly call me a knucklehead or some other word of endearment, knowing I had no reason for my untimeliness, and then tell me to eat a bagel. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I sat down to talk with him one day about some Tower things. I remember none of the Tower business we discussed. It was a rough time in my life. Too much going on, struggling to stay afloat. I only remember when afterward, the simple words he asked, “David, how are you?”
Nobody walked out of the Tower room the same person they were when they walked in. The character I am today is because of the impact Mr. Nardone had on me, because he cared. He was a true teacher, in every sense of the word. And for that, there are no words to express my gratitude.
Archer Hauck ’14, Tower Staff
Nard was a teacher different than the rest, and his relationship with his students was unique and unparalleled. He was not always nice, but you always knew he loved the paper and his students. His commitment to the Tower manifested itself in late nights, block scheduling rants and delicious breakfasts, and I will never be the same for experiencing those things.
Every day, I would sit at the same table with my friends, talking about all things but Tower. He would chime into our conversations, adding a funny anecdote or laughing at whatever petty high school topic we were talking about. That was his style, get the work done, goof off, and make sure you do both not just one. You could see it in his Honors Journalism classes; there would be days of long, boring lectures on libel law, and then there were days when you would walk into class and see a glint in his eye that meant he had something exciting to talk about.
I almost feel bad using the word talk to describe words coming out of Nard’s mouth; if he said it, he ranted it. The man had such passion for any issue he thought would affect the school. To him, the six-period day was anarchy, and block scheduling was Armageddon.
If there is one thing he left me with, it was to have passion and commitment for any endeavor I undertake, and for that, I will be forever thankful.
Goodbye, my teacher, my mentor, my friend.
Ginny Hayden ’15, Tower Staff
What is a life well lived?
With Mr. Nardone’s passing I took some quiet time to reflect on his life and the lessons he would want me to learn from him.
Since he spent his life teaching, I realized that many of the lessons he left behind weren’t from the pages of a book but from the pages of his life.
Mr. Nardone was meant to teach. He poured his soul into the Tower and made sure that every student and every staff member felt his passion. He not only changed lives of students, but how students experienced journalism. With sarcasm and a charming smile, Nardone was able to make kids feel welcome and happy to be part of his class.
He made the Tower staff feel and act like a loyal family every year. Like all families, the Tower room was a safe haven for some a place to refuel for others and an environment to learn to lead. He made his room feel accomplished and important, like we could really influence others. And we always looked forward to every life lesson on how to cut in line at a Tigers game and how to make the best of our Saturday nights.
Nardone truly cared not for just his paper, but for his students and their futures. Teaching wasn’t talking in front of a board for him, but inspiring students to be passionate in whatever they do. He showed us that digging deeper can make a better story and a better person. He showed us the fine line between too far and far enough. Nardone taught us the power of words and how to use them when fighting for what we believe in.
He would always stress how important it was that we were to be “spirited” and “passionate” not just when we write, but as we live. Perseverance was second nature for Mr. Nardone, always pushing himself as far as he could go. His incredible fight was, and still, remains contagious.
As an avid baseball fan, I think that he would have liked his lesson to be, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” –Babe Ruth
Patrick Healy ’99, Tower Staff
The first thing I ever did for Jeff Nardone was ruin the last days of his summer. It was right after Labor Day of 1997, and the first thing I wrote for the Tower, this hallowed institution, this sacred tradition at South, was a dumb column that tried to be funny, and in doing so had seriously angered a local business owner. One morning, Nardone — in Hawaiian shirt — walked up to me and said, “We’ve got a problem.” It took a lot of meetings and contrition to extricate myself and the newspaper from the morass, but Nardone was there every step of the way, supportive and patient, standing up for one of his students and for our right to occasionally stick our foot in it. He also made sure to call me a “doofus.” A lot.
As a Tower kid, you always wanted to do better for him. Now, I find myself wanting to do better by him, to live up to the example of a man who spent so many late nights and early mornings, drank so many cans of Diet Dr. Pepper, bought so many bags of bagels, dedicated such a huge piece of a too-short life to his students. This doofus will owe him forever.
Marcus Hedenberg ’11, Tower Staff
I’ll never forget how much I laughed during my first lecture with Jeff Nardone. It was so rare to hear a high school teacher skip the formalities and break out the black humor. There was a vibrant energy to him that I had never seen before. It was also rare to hear a teacher be so brutally honest. He never hesitated to tell me when my story sucked. We were all “knuckleheads” with so much to learn. He wasn’t just trying to teach people to write well. He was trying to teach people to suck it up and stop making excuses for why something could not be done. There was never a time when he didn’t have the students’ best interest at heart. I don’t think I’d still be involved with journalism without him. Being on Tower made me realize how much I enjoyed writing. In retrospect, I wish I had told him that when I last saw him over the summer. I’ll always be grateful for having had Jeff as a mentor. So thank you, Nard-One, wherever you are.
Greg Heffner, Colleague
…..I always thought of myself as an extremely loyal MSU and Detroit Tigers fan but Jeff’s passion and commitment to ‘his teams’ made my loyalty pale in comparison….. both teams have lost their most ardent crew-cut fan……..
My favorite memory of Jeff was spotting him in Spartan Stadium, with his sons, leaning over the railing to High Five Sparty and all the football players as they ran along the edge. The boys were 8 or 9. It was the perfect Father-Son moment…a moment every Spartan father wishes for when their children are born…..being in Spartan Stadium together. (Mothers hope the kids don’t fall over the railing !)
Jane Hess ’14, Tower Staff
I owe my position, my personality, and the person I am today to Jeff Nardone. He found my strength in talking to others, helping others and pushed me to pursue it. His passion for teaching pushed my passion of people. And what makes Jeff a legend is that he didn’t do it for just me, he did it for everyone. He individually molded each student and worked around everyone’s strength to create not only the best editors, but the best people too. Nard’s strength is that he could find the best in anyone, magnify it and mold an even better person. The love he had for others shined through despite everything he went through. His light never dulled and that’s the beauty of Jeff Nardone. His passion.
Eric Huebner ’11, Tower Staff
It seems odd to think of Jeff Nardone as a teacher. He was so much more than that to so many. He was a friend, a confidante, a counselor, even a surrogate parent to some. At first glance, it seems a grave disservice to think of Jeff as simply a teacher. But that’s what he was. He was a teacher in the truest sense of the word. He gave of himself regularly, never hesitating to find the time to give his students advice. It was nothing for Jeff to sacrifice his own free time to ensure the happiness and success of
his students. To him, teaching wasn’t a job. It was a way of life. Jeff didn’t care if his students left his classroom with perfect GPAs. He only cared that they left with a better understanding of themselves and the world around him.
Jeff taught me a range of incredible lessons; far too numerous to list here, save for one. Jeff taught me
to believe in myself. Through long days and nights at Jeff’s side in the Tower Room, I learned to be confident in my own work, to put forth maximum effort, and most critically, to follow my dreams, wherever they might lead.
Jeff Nardone brought knowledge to those who lacked it. He brought confidence to those who lacked it.
He brought inspiration to those who lacked it. He was a mentor, a friend and a teacher. And he will be missed.
Matt Isbell ’96, Tower Staff
One of my favorite memories with Jeff was the MIPA Summer Camp. Jeff’s groups had a reputation of winning the team building karaoke contest. The year I went, our team decided last minute to compete against the Jeff juggernaut. Our team picked the old theme song Rawhide, whereas Jeff’s team did “We Will Rock You.” I still have no idea where the whip came from (but one of our group members had an honest to god Indian Jones-style whip with them), but our team ended up beating Jeff’s group, probably due to the whip, and getting bragging rights for the rest of the conference. What was important about this experience as I look back, was not actually beating Jeff but seeking his approval and in getting it, knowing you did right by him. Jeff held us all to a gold standard (or a star standard for articles and publication layout) that we all wanted to meet. Even years later as I attended MSU and would meet Jeff at football tailgates, I would go to him, tell him what I was doing and wait for that approving cockeyed-smile. Thank you Jeff. I hope you will continue to smile on us all as we try to meet your gold standard in everything we encounter in life.
James Jahnke ’98, Tower Staff
I can’t believe Jeff is gone. There’s no teacher I more associate with my high school days than him.
Jeff’s first year at South was my first year at South. Under his tutelage, I went from being a dangerously scrawny freshman to a comfortably scrawny senior. But Nardone was great, both as a person and for the environment he fostered with The Tower. He had a real gift for finding the balance between letting kids be themselves and have fun and mature while also cracking some skulls when he had to. I fondly remember Tower planning sessions at his house in Harper Woods or Eastpointe or whatever it was, with his sports-shrine basement and nearby Tim Horton’s (one of the first in the U.S.). Frankly, it was just cool to be in a teacher’s home, almost as though you were equals.
As a senior, Jeff gave a couple of us his front-row tickets for an MSU-Ohio State game and met us in East Lansing to walk into the stadium. The next fall, when I was a freshman at State, I’d stop by his tailgate at Kobs Field to say ‘Hi.’
Paper plate awards. Stars on stories. Predawn editorial board meetings. Tales about how he almost became a cop. We spent a heckuva lot of time in those two classrooms on the first floor.
And then there was his legendary performance of “Mickey” at MIPA summer camp, in full cheerleading garb. Classic. If only footage somehow would surface on YouTube …
I think the last time I saw him was about three years ago, at a MIPA conference in Lansing. We chatted here and there, but it was hard to get much time with the most popular guy in the room. Wish I had known it would be our last meeting. RIP, Jeff.
Andrew Keating ’13, Tower Staff
Mr. Nardone changed my life. Before I took Mr. Nardone’s class, I hated writing. I wasn’t good at, and I had no desire to become better at it. But Mr. Nardone taught me something no teacher had been able to teach me before: he taught me how to love writing.
To Mr. Nardone, writing was more than spitting out five paragraphs about a topic nobody cared about. He taught me that writing could be a way to report on events or influence ideas, that writing could actually be relevant.
Now, four years later, I love writing. I write almost daily, getting my work published frequently in campus publications. Whenever I see “Andrew Keating” in a byline or masthead, I have Mr. Nardone to thank.
But what made Mr. Nardone truly special was that my story isn’t unique. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of excellent writers who took Mr. Nardone’s class and now owe their skills and love of writing to him.
On behalf of myself and every other person you inspired, I say thank you, Mr. Nardone. You weren’t just a teacher or mentor – you were a hero.
Sydney Keller ’14, Tower Staff
The fact I ended up in journalism was a last second decision. My eighth grade teacher told me something along the lines of, “I hear the teacher is wonderful.”
And he was. Mr. Nardone taught us everything we needed to know about journalism from conducting meaningful interviews to writing successful stories that people wanted to read. He taught us to schedule that one extra interview and to re-word our leads one last time. He set high expectations for us because he wanted us to be the best we could be. That is why awards line his room. That is why we can say we are the Tower with pride.
I will always remember how passionate and committed Mr. Nardone was to the Tower. He spent so many nights with us checking every story, every cutline and every headline before it went to the printer. I’ll never forget all the cards he wrote each of us to express his appreciation or the meetings he had with us at the end of each quarter. Mr. Nardone made being a part of the Tower the best experience I’ve had during high school. With all of the staff dinners, summer picnics, national convention trips, Editorial Board bonding activities, parties and more, Tower wasn’t just another class.
I know this tribute isn’t perfect. My paragraphs are over 60 words, my lead starts with “the” and by the time this prints, there will be things I wish I had said. But as Mr. Nardone taught us, sometimes you have to accept your work as being the best it can be because deadlines must be met.
So as we continue to produce our award-winning, weekly publication, I just want to let Mr. Nardone know, in the words he spoke so often to us:
This isn’t my paper. It’s yours.
Ann Marie Klotz ’97, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone was the first teacher to ever make me feel like I was smart. His unwavering belief in students, combined with his thoughtful humor made him a once in a lifetime kind of teacher. He’s the kind of person you come back to see when you visit Gross Pointe over the holidays and he’s on the list of so many wedding invitations because of his long-lasting impact on students. Thanks Jeff for your care and support of so many young Tower kids. We will never forget the difference you made a difference. Your legacy lives on in us.”
Olivia Lang ’15, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone was a man who both met and set high expectations. Besides the name “The Tower,” he is the only common denominator among the slew of accolades the publication has been awarded over the past two decades. However, this is only a snapshot into his legacy.
Nard was a teacher beyond the textbook; Honors Journalism and Tower were as much about character and integrity as they were journalism. I would trade so many life necessities if it meant I could hear him go on a rant about something like block scheduling, a six-period day or paper towels in the bathroom one more time.
During the two years and two months during which I was honored to know Nard, he taught valuable lessons that I will keep forever: to give credit where it is due, to consider every outlook, to write with purpose, to never volunteer for something I cannot complete, that the calories in a bagel are not important when you are hungry and most importantly to form my own opinions. Teaching these lessons, each invaluable in its own right, was beyond the calling of any teacher, but that was Nardone’s most admired feature; he constantly exceeded expectations, and in doing so, he bred a fleet of journalism geeks who do the same.
Goodbye, Mr. Nardone.
Bernie LeMieux, Retired Administrator
I am sadden to learn that Jeff has passed on….although I did not have the privilege to work with him….I had the honor of interviewing Jeff and working with others to hire him. The interview clearly showed that Jeff would be (and was) an educator’s educator….those whom he encountered along the way are all the better for that experience. Thoughts and prayers for his family.
John Lund ’03, Tower Staff
I can’t say enough about how much of an impact Jeff Nardone has had on my life. Switching into that Beginning Journalism class on the second day of school was the best move I ever made. His passion for journalism ignited my own. His faith in making me managing editor on the Tower and a constant sounding board throughout my high school years instilled a sense of confidence in myself that prepared me for life beyond South, and as a professional in the journalism world. It was Jeff that I could still check in with as I was getting my masters in journalism and working in TV news. He was always eager to help put me in contact with the right people, especially as I parlayed my journalism experience into teaching it- hoping to give the other students the same quality guidance, instruction, and passion that I was so lucky to receive under his tutelage. A true mentor and friend up until the end, we’re all better people because of Jeff Nardone.
Alexa Lysik ’15, Tower Staff
Honors Journalism was easily one of the best experiences of my sophomore year. Each day, I was excited to come into the class and hear whatever silly story Mr. Nardone had to tell us, or work on an article just for it to be perfected by one of the greatest – no, THE GREATEST – journalism teacher that has taught at Grosse Pointe South. Mr. Nardone gained respect not only through his determination to be the best, but also his encouragement to students, and his humor. Everyone remembers him for these qualities and more. He was dedicated, caring, and an overall entertaining man. Mr.Nardone has left a legacy at Grosse Pointe South – one of creating an award-winning paper and a strong, united staff. If it had not been for Mr. Nardone’s commitment to each student on Tower, none of us would be able to succeed at what we do for the newspaper today. Although I only had Mr. Nardone for one year as an Honors Journalism student, I appreciate everything he taught me, both about working on staff and as a person overall. He taught us to push ourselves to achieve our high standards and to maintain excellence. Mr. Nardone was one of those teachers that everyone liked. Even if it seemed he was being hard on us, it meant that he cared about us and wanted us to strive to be our best. As a junior on staff now, I will always remember everything I learned from Mr. Nardone. Thank you for the lectures, thank you for the stories, thank you for the memories, Mr. Nardone.
Emma Maniere ’11, Tower Staff
I have spent much of the last day rifling through letters, e-mails, and texts I have traded with Jeff over the past five years. It has been both a heart-wrenching and cathartic process. The only element of our exchanges that was more evident than his sharp wit was precisely what made him such a great teacher, mentor, and friend: his genuineness. I had no clearer source of guidance during my high school career than Jeff; he made me feel valued, respected, intelligent, and loved. I have many memories of talking with him, and very rarely about journalism. Among those memories are lighter recollections involving Harry Potter trivia and Secret Santa. More often, though, our conversations were about parents, friends, college, life. I always left his classroom feeling calm. Jeff made sense of things. I fully believe those conversations I so treasure have made me a better person, the person he thought I was, and the person I therefore strove – and continue to strive – to be.
I am immensely grateful for these memories, and yet more grateful for the way that Jeff’s thoughts and words have permeated my own self-concept and world views. That way, he is always with me.
Dexter Mason ’10, Tower Staff
Being one of the few African-Americans in the hallways at Grosse Pointe South was sometimes a daunting endeavor, but being the only one on staff became one of the best experiences of my life.
After finishing the Honors Journalism course at the conclusion of my junior year, Mr. Nardone—or better known as just “Jeff”—granted me the opportunity to serve as Page One Editor for my senior year. Not only was I shocked by this request, but more honored to serve a publication with amazing tradition and history. When I asked Jeff if I were the first African-American to become Page One Editor, he responded:
“How would I know? I just need you to get the job done.”
That is what I loved most about Jeff. He did not care about race, but more importantly, he wanted to make the Tower the best high school newspaper in the country.
During my experience on staff, Jeff treated every student with the same respect or disrespect; however you reacted to his wisecracks. Overall, my favorite moment on staff was when Jeff allowed me to write my first opinion piece in response to the historic election of President Barack Obama. That moment meant the world to me and I will always cherish it.
From the Secret Santa exchanges to trip to New York City to allowing Tower to be the foundation for our senior class prank without knowledge, I want to thank you Jeff for making me feel part of the Grosse Pointe Community for the first time in my life. It was 15 years coming.
Sam Metry ’13, Tower Staff
Mr. Nardone was the most important and impactful teacher I have ever had. He not only taught me journalism but he taught me how to be a better person. I have so many great memories of him at MIPA Camps, in Minneapolis, New York, and San Antonio but my favorite ones came from in the Tower Room. If I was having a bad day he would go out of his way to try and make me feel better, usually in the form of a joke or a bagel. If it wasn’t for him and the Tower I would have been lost in high school but the atmosphere he created always gave me a place to go and feel comfortable. Reading his letter of recommendation to Michigan made me realize how much he actually cared for not only me but for all of his students, if more people teach like Nard, the world will be a better place. To say that the Tower Room became my home and the Tower Staff became my second family isn’t far off from the truth, and I owe all of that Nard. Thank you so much Jeff, I love you and I’m going to miss you.
Emily Mlynarek ‘14, Tower Staff
Looking back on my experiences with Mr. Nardone, I only now realize the impact he had on the lives of each and every one of his students. I remember one of the first days of Honors Journalism, when Mr. Nardone pointed out all the photos of graduated Tower staffers that lined his classroom; I saw just how many lives he has impacted.
Mr. Nardone clearly cared about making our education interesting and quality, and making sure that we achieved our full potential. One of the things that I most appreciated about Mr. Nardone as his student is how great he was at telling stories. Whether it was a rant about block scheduling or that one story he would always tell our Honors Journalism class about how he broke up a fight between students in the hallway, each story was full of passion and was a story everyone enjoyed listening to.
It is truly inspirational how much passion Mr. Nardone had for his job, his family, his students, and the Tower. Mr. Nardone’s passion for doing what he loved is something I could only hope to one day achieve.
John Monaghan ’06, Tower Staff
As a former member of the Tower staff, when I heard of Jeff Nardone’s untimely passing, I felt overwhelmed to put my memories of Nardone down in writing. And how appropriate, given all he taught us about journalism and life.
He taught me to ask questions and actually listen to the answers – that an intentional pause could draw out information. He forced us to confront the greater questions surrounding the management and policy of our school, district, and community, initiating a level of engagement in our surroundings that will last a lifetime.
He gave us a level of independence unheard of for a group of teenagers. There was something so empowering about creating a product for the school to see and knowing that it was you who worked so hard to make it exist.
We were able to take complete ownership over a product and Nardone’s trust in his students allowed us to fail and to succeed and to ultimately grow.
But more importantly than anything else, he brought together a diverse group of people from across the school and somehow turned them into a family. That I still consider some of those people my closest friends is a testament to the strength of the bonds created in the bizarre little clubhouse we called the Tower room.
I may not work in journalism but the life lessons that grew out of my experiences in Tower will always be some of the most formative and directive in my life, and Jeff’s support and guidance through that time was essential to creating that environment.
If I could relay any message to Mr. Nardone’s family it would be that, while his life was cut far too short, his impact in that period of time has been far greater than many of us can hope to aspire. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
We did Challenge Day together. It was emotional and we all felt closer as a staff. Part of Challenge Day was hugging. For months, when Jeff and I would see each other in the hall, we would tell each other we needed a hug. We would hug it out and it literally always turned my frowns upside down.
Also, there was a year when Jeff would email me when one of my students would spend tutorial in the Tower room. He wanted to learn some French so I would respond with a different French expression to thank him for the notification every time, followed by the phonetic spelling. It became our daily/weekly French lesson.
Alex Morgan ’03, Tower Staff
Jeff taught me how to take my opinions and turn them into effective arguments for or against school and district policies. He taught me how to win people over and how to twist the knife. In time, I could take an idea at 8 a.m. and turn it into a story by the end of my regularly scheduled school day. Jeff took me from being an average student to being a hard-hitting journalist. He brought out the best in me.
Since that time, I’ve become a teacher myself. Granted, I teach kindergarten, but I still try to teach my students the same lessons of fairness that I learned in Jeff’s class. I aspire to have them question the world around them and recognize that there’s more than one side to every story.
We lost Jeff, but we will never lose his spirit. He lives on in each and every one of his students. The beauty of Jeff’s work is that he let a bunch of kids pretend that they were hard-hitting journalists and in turn they became – among many things – writers, editors, producers, teachers, and lawyers who understand the importance of ethics and love the written word.
Jill Murphy ‘02, Tower Staff
Stepping into a new class, whether it’s your first year or last, can result in any random story. Jeff Nardone taught us to question everything and follow the unknown. Through his use of humor and realism, I learned to embrace my quirks and find my hidden talents. During his first lecture, the combination of his love for Hawaiian shirts and his passion for literature left me curious about the year ahead.
Little did I know my four years of high school would lead to becoming a learner, a writer, and a friend. Nardone saw through me and helped me find my random stories. He always let me be myself whether I was watching Teletubbies or goofing around with other Tower buddies.
The best kind of teacher is one who never changes their students, but instead molds them. This is exactly what Nardone did for many others and me. I am happy to say that I had the privilege of being his student, his babysitter, his Harvard neighbor, and most importantly, his friend. Jeff Nardone, a.k.a. Frankenstein, thanks for being you and we’ll all miss you.
Matt Myftiu ’95, Tower Staff
I was a member of the first group of students who worked with Jeff on the Tower in the 94-95 school year, I still remember nearly twenty years later just how exciting that year was and how having Jeff around made it so much more successful and fun.
He helped all the staff grow as young journalists, and we helped him settle in at his new school. It was not an easy task, with the Tower’s stellar reputation to uphold, but Jeff did it well and kept that reputation going strong throughout the subsequent years. I can honestly say my career in journalism wouldn’t have blossomed as it has without Jeff’s teaching that year and lessons in leadership skills.
Jeff Nardone was not just a teacher to me. He was a friend. I remember coming in early that year and having discussions with him about everything under the sun — and you could tell he cared about his students. When I moved on to MSU, I was glad to still be able to see Jeff on Saturdays in the fall when he would faithfully come up to tailgate. He was just a great person to be around.
It’s clear I am not the only person whose life was affected by Jeff, as countless students through the years have been blessed with his teaching and friendship. By sharing his lessons to us with the world, about journalism and beyond, his legacy will live on.
Brianne Nadeau ’98, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone was not simply a teacher. To me, he was a coach, mentor and friend. The hours upon hours he spent with his Tower students were opportunities for us to learn from him about writing, but also how to pursue the truth, live with integrity and passion, and stand up for our principles. He didn’t simply teach us how to be good journalists. He taught us how to be good people. By keeping in touch with Jeff over the years, I had the opportunity to continue learning from him. He was always available to provide a bit of levity in a difficult situation, reflect on old times or offer advice. Today I am more mindful than ever of the many things he taught me, and there is no one else in my life who has had as much of an impact on my goals and aspirations as Jeff did. May his memory be a blessing to all who knew him.
Chris Norris, Social Studies teacher
The man had a real talent for organizing staff BBQ’s. He made lot of work SEEM so simple and his events played out seamlessly…maybe because HE never ate until he was certain that everyone else was well fed.
Thanks for the opportunity to share.
Katherine Palms ’10, Editor in Chief
Jeff Nardone created a community and a lasting bond for students. Being on the Tower was and is more than just being part of a school newspaper, it was and is being a part of a lifelong family.
Nardone challenged us to push ourselves and grow; he encouraged us to simply enjoy life. On deadline night he would stay late hours, helping to read copy, organize photos and he wasn’t afraid to kick out the “hoodlum” students who would hang out making it difficult for page editors to focus. He goofed off with us, sat through numerous gag gifts at Christmas, organized classes so students could bring in a gross amount of bagels, and he made sure there was always dinner for the editorial board members on deadline night.
I know that without his encouragement and support I would never have had the confidence to be Editor-in-Chief of The Tower or to make a strong impact on my college newspaper, The Denisonian. He taught me so much, from basic interview skills to teaching me what it takes to lead 65 other students. I will never forget everything that I learned from him, just as I will also never forget his big laugh and smile that he never ceased to share with others.
Thank you Nardone for all you offered during your time here, thank you for continuing to look out for us from above.
Nicholas Provenzano, English teacher
I’m not sure I would still be teaching if it were not for Jeff Nardone. The first few years of teaching are always rough on teachers. There were so many times those first few years that I felt so completely lost and didn’t think I would ever make it. He was always the voice of reason with a ready smile or slap on the butt to let you know things were going to be ok. The reason I was in the Tower Room so much was because I was trying to learn everything I could from him. Being part of the Tower staff has been one of the best parts of my teaching career and I owe it to Jeff. His trust in me to create The Pulse and make it work meant the world to me. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I will miss him every day and I will do my best to be the teacher he knew I could be.
Peggy Ptasznik, retired English teacher
I was privileged to be part of the English Department with Jeff from the fall of 1994 to June 2006 when I retired. My memories are fond ones of a man who was devoted to his Tower staff, his Journalism and Freshman English students, and to his colleagues. He believed in developing a sense of community for all of us with in-service day picnics, Friday Denim Days for charity, and a great sense of fun while maintaining South’s traditions.
Leanne Tonn Reilly, Shamrock Staff
I was in the first class Jeff taught at East Detroit High School back in 1989. He was an amazing teacher, a great mentor, fellow Spartan and even better friend. I would not be a teacher today without his influence. He inspired me. He will be truly missed.
Doug Roby, Social Worker
There will be many things I will remember about Jeff over my 17 year friendship with my brother, but a big one was his desire and ability to bring others together in celebration. Whether it was in or out of school, Jeff was always coordinating social events. I remember when Jeff and Tom Briske and myself brought our own grills in for an end of the year staff BBQ. Now, thanks to Jeff we have our own bonus grill and hopefully a tradition that will go on forever. I will always love you Jeff and sadly, once again, you bring us together.
Leah Schilling-Westphalen ’02, Tower Staff
Jeff wasn’t just a teacher. He was a mentor. Most of all, he was a friend and an important leader during a time in our lives when we need direction the most. He also was one of the first adults who made me feel trusted and gave me the confidence to tackle any challenge that presented itself. It would take pages for me to illustrate his greatness and how much of an impact he had on me and every other student that walked into his classroom. I am lucky to have had the honor to learn from him 10+ years ago and feel comfort in knowing his legacy will continue through The Tower, MIPA, and through every single life he touched. Thank you for your tireless dedication and friendship, Jeff. Rest In Peace.
Mara Shorr ’01, Tower Staff
To say Jeff Nardone made a difference in the lives of the students he worked with is an incredible understatement. For me, personally, he was the one who was there on the summer day my mother walked me into the Grosse Pointe South office to register for classes as a 16-year-old transfer from Pennsylvania, and told me that, although it was technically too late to get into the journalism “class,” I still could. He was the one that crammed AP Style down my throat that year, and the next year suggested I take the position as The Tower’s editor-in-chief. That helped me get into my college’s newspaper, which helped land my first job, which led me to where I am today as an entrepreneur and regularly published writer.
He was the one that helped me fit into a town that, if we’re being honest, I needed help fitting into.
He shaped my work ethic and my career path, and I know he did the same with hundreds of other students.
Tammy Slank, retired Physical Education teacher
I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I always felt like the sister that Jeff never had. What will I miss the most? Checking in every day at work? The Buffett concerts? The MSU games and tailgates? My 3 kids love him like an uncle. My husband loves him like a brother. That pretty much explains Jeff. One in a million, one in a billion trillion.
Alyssa Sullivan ’09, Tower Staff
I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Nardone as my teacher for all four years of high school. In his journalism class my freshman year, I remember being so impressed by Mr. Nardone; his passion and pride for reporting and The Tower were inspiring. I knew I wanted to be a part of the Tower staff.
Thankfully, Mr. Nardone did select me as a member of The Tower and I spent my next three years growing as a writer, a leader and as an individual under his guidance. Mr. Nardone had a way of teaching that motivated all of us to want to be the best 100% of the time. He treated us like journalists and empowered us to make our own decisions, some easy, others much more difficult. Above all, Mr. Nardone respected each and every one of us. I am so thankful for the time I spent on Tower and for the years I had with Mr. Nardone as my teacher.
Julie Thalgot ‘08, Tower Staff
Jeff Nardone will forever be a household name in the Thalgott home. He helped to shape our young minds both as a mentor and as a friend, and for that we will forever be grateful. Every lesson taught was meaningful, thoughtful, and personal. Our family adored Jeff and will never forget his great sense of humor, and the impact that he has had on us.
Lewis Thomas ’12, Editor in Chief
“There are no words.”
This was my first thought when I heard news last Friday that my beloved advisor, Jeff “Nard” Nardone, was going to be moved into hospice care the following Monday. Two days later, I received a call that he would not make it through the night; soon thereafter I received a call that he had moved on, but my thoughts remained the same, “there are no words.”
Why were there no words? It was not because I couldn’t think of any, but because they were gone, taken with the man that taught them to me. Not only a Journalism teacher, but a friend, mentor, personal support system, advisor and ally was lost. He essentially crafted me into the man I am today, giving me not only a traditional education, but lessons in time management, personnel management, friendship and how to properly eat a bagel.
It is because of this, that I know Nard is not gone. Because he made such an impact on me, and my development, I know he must have done it to more. I would not be going to a top 20 university if it weren’t for Nard, and countless others can say the same. He lives on in each of these students, and he lives on in me. Having come to this realization, I rose from my bed after sobbing for 30 hours; I loved Mr. Nardone, and there are still no words.
Pietro Truba ’04, Tower Staff
I owe a great debt to Jeff Nardone, he helped make me into not only the occasional writer, but the driven person that I am today. I am positive of few things and one is that his work ethic and passion will continue for a long time through each and every member that was lucky enough to be a member of the staff. Through Nardone I learned that being consistently great was what garnered the result that you wanted, in everything you do. During my time on the staff at the Tower and at Grosse Pointe South Nardone not only helped steer the Tower through their only attempt at censorship by the Grosse Pointe South administration by empowering the staff to take charge of our paper, but he also helped me accomplish one my true passions with continuing with the Second Suburb comedy troupe. Though the Tower became second to me at the time Nardone never wavered in supporting me in something I was truly passionate about and for that I cannot thank him enough. Simply put through leading by example he helped shape countless writers into leaders themselves. I learned more in my two years on the Tower than I learned in four years of Journalism classes and Michigan State and for that I also cannot thank Nardone enough.
Thomas Vander Schaaf ’08, Tower Staff
My best memories of Jeff Nardone have nothing to do with Journalism. Whether it was umpiring
Kal and Cy’s Little League games as Jeff coached, tailgating with him while at MSU (they had a spot for many years literally on the banks of the Red Cedar), or getting him to sign me out of my Tutorial senior year to “work on Tower stuff,” Jeff connected with me and other students on so much more than just academics.
My fondest memory was the relationship we shared around the TV show “LOST.” We were both avid fans, and recapping and debating each episode every Thursday morning was the highlight of my week, at least as far as teacher-student conversations go. Being able to passionately converse about a mutual extracurricular interest worked wonders for our student-teacher dynamic. I’m still a little bitter he never approved my countless requests to write a weekly “LOST” recap in the Tower. My last meaningful conversation with him was when I went to South to visit (I was in college) after the show had ended to discuss it. To borrow a famous line echoed throughout the course of the show, Mr. Nardone:
“Cya in another life brotha.”
Becky Weiland ’13, Tower Staff
I will never forget the memories I made during my time as a part of the Tower Newspaper staff, and Jeff Nardone is one of the major reasons why. He taught me so much not only about journalism, but life in general. He taught me to expect a lot out of others, but also myself. He taught me to never settle for anything, to always aim higher and work harder. He showed me what true dedication and perseverance was, to always put others before yourself. Even when he was sick, his main concern was the Tower staff and overseeing an amazing publication, which couldn’t have been what it was without his overwhelming support. He not only changed my life, but also every other student’s life at South who was fortunate enough to have him. He, as well as the rest of my Tower family, will always hold such a special place in my heart. Thank you, Nard, for being the best teacher I could have had at South and helping me to become the person I am today.
Jim Woehrle, Newspaper adviser
Jeff Nardone was — in addition to a great teacher to the legions of South students lucky enough to have him — an inspiration to journalism students around the state and nation. As the adviser of the Midland High Focus, I recommended many of my students to take Jeff’s sports writing class at the MIPA summer workshop on the campus of Michigan State. These students worked hard all week — writing stories, taking field trips (to MSU athletic facilities and Lansing Lugnuts game) and polishing their prose until it was perfect. They loved every minute of it. For months (even years) afterwards, they raved about all that the learned in Mr. Nardone’s class. He inspired them them to do their best, and this benefited the students and the readers for all of their respective papers. As a friend and colleague, I cherish the opportunities I had to talk about the Tigers, Spartans and the Little League experiences of our sons. His Grosse Pointe South students were always polite, energetic, intelligent and friendly. They are a living legacy to the values he worked hard to instill. May he rest in peace.
Price Zimmer ’14, Tower Staff
For as stubborn and ‘tough-as-nails’ as he appeared, Mr. Nardone was secretly one of the best people I have ever met. His searing sarcasm, ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ attitude was only part of the charm, he endeared himself to me with how much he genuinely cared for people, how hard he fought to do what he thought was best for all students at South; now, it wasn’t always being best buddies or cuddly, but he gave each student what he felt they needed. He put effort into everything he did, his own personal mission was to make the world and the people he encountered better and it seems clear to me that having well-informed students, who demanded the truth in as few words as possible was how he went about such a lofty goal. But I know it wasn’t easy for him, Mr. Nardone struggled with illness frequently, yet he still gave his best effort until he had nothing left to give. He left us too soon, but he left a legacy that his family can claim with pride and one that makes all who knew him better for it.
Thanks Nard, you did more than anyone would ever dare to ask and that is what made you great, but I know you wouldn’t want me or anyone else to mince words, especially for you.
Devin Zoltowski ’09, Tower Staff
Dear Mr. Nardone,
I’m writing because I never really got the chance to say thank you. I wanted to let you know that I am working as a photographer in Walt Disney World currently-I know, it’s not a newspaper! But I spend my days chasing people around with a camera, trying to capture the perfect moment, much like I did in my Tower days; and frankly, I couldn’t be happier. And it’s all because of you.
I probably would have never considered photography as a career path-ever- if you hadn’t pulled me aside one day in my Junior year and told me you thought I was a great photographer, and made me photo editor for Tower.
When I look back at my life, I consider that the moment everything changed. I am where I am today because you pushed me to try new things and take risks. You’ve given me the background, experience, and most importantly, the confidence to do almost anything with my photography. I don’t know where I’m going next, but I know that I will try my hardest to make you proud. For now, I’m going to do what I do best…keep taking photos.
Thank you for everything. I will never forget you.