Gym rename approved

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Albert Lea School Board votes to honor former teacher, coach with scholarship

A former Albert Lea teacher, counselor, referee and basketball coach will likely be forever remembered at a school where he once taught.

The Albert Lea School Board unanimously approved renaming the Albert Lea High School gymnasium in honor of Orrie Jirele on Monday. Approval is contingent on $2,000 being raised for scholarships in honor of Jirele.

The gym, to be named Orrie Jirele Gymnasium, would have signage near the concession stands and a plaque is planned for the upper level. The initials O.J. will likely be painted on the gym floor.

Teacher Jim Haney said last month he hopes the gym will be dedicated during a Feb. 25 game between Albert Lea and Austin. Jirele is an Austin native.

Teacher Max Jeffrey said he has talked with a half-dozen people who said they would contribute to the effort.

“This is going to be sustainable,” he said. “We would like to be able to offer scholarships this spring in Orrie’s name.”

The goal of the effort is to honor students through Jirele’s memory, Jeffrey said.

“I can tell you that our intentions are good,” he said. “And our intentions are real. If Orrie were still alive today, he would do anything in his power to help students, and I truly, truly believe that.”

Jeffrey thanked fellow presenter Haney for his work in the process.

“If it weren’t for this man right here, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” he said. “The love that Jim had for Orrie, and myself included, along with many others. This is why we are here today, because there are a lot of people that approached us since late last spring, probably over the summer, trying to gain momentum for this.”

Jeffrey said initial scholarship money raised will just be the start.

“We want to grow it,” he said.

An Albert Lea basketball day is planned in the gymnasium to include fourth grade through varsity girls’ basketball games to help fund the scholarship.

Jirele started working with the district in 1973 and continued regularly until 2002. After his retirement, he continued to help the district in several roles, including as a substitute teacher and as an instructor for Adult Basic Education.

In 14 years as head coach for Albert Lea boys’ basketball, Jirele compiled a 165-108 record. His teams won three Big Nine Conference championships, made three regional finals and he was named conference Coach of the Year at least once.

Jirele was also a boys’ tennis coach.

Jirele died in September 2013 of a heart attack while duck hunting on the northwest corner of Pickerel Lake near the dam.

“We’re excited the board approved it,” Haney said. “And we’re looking forward to honoring Orrie and all of the contributions that he’s made to Albert Lea High School. We think it’s going to benefit students and staff and everybody that is going through that building for the next 50 to 100 years.”

In other action, the board:

• Recognized outgoing board members Julie Johnson, Bill Leland and Linda Laurie for their years of service. The board members gave short speeches. Johnson was absent from the meeting due to a work commitment.

• A few agenda items were removed because of a water main break at Brookside Education Center. The building will be closed today.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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