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Press Release: VPA Announces its Hall of Fame Class of 2023

MONTPELIER – Seven standout student-athletes, three successful coaches, one outstanding administrator and one excellent official have been selected for induction into the Hall of Fame for the Vermont Principals’ Association in May. Since the creation of the Hall of Fame in 2001, the VPA has honored more than 280 student-athletes, coaches/advisors, administrators, officials, media members, and contributors for their efforts on behalf of students across Vermont. Below is a list of the new inductees with brief biographical information on their outstanding achievements and strong sportsmanship through involvement with VPA activities.


Dan Gandin of Leyland, North Carolina was a successful basketball coach for 40 years. He won four high school state titles with U-32. His coaching record is 634-257, making him the winningest high school basketball coach in Vermont history.

Richard “Dick” Wilcox of Mendon was a basketball coach at Proctor from 2000-2012. During that time, the teams he led won five state Division IV championships, including a 95-game undefeated streak. He finished with a 200-68 record and was recognized as the Division IV Coach of the Year on two occasions.

Jay Wilson of Rutland Town has been coaching for 48 years. He has primarily coached basketball and soccer at Mill River, Rutland, Proctor, and Fair Haven. While at Mill River, he was the assistant coach for a Division II state soccer championship in 1985 and basketball state championships in 1982 and 1989. Wilson was Division II boys’ basketball Coach of the Year in 1989.


Paul Trono of St. Albans has officiated Vermont High School Football and Vermont High School Lacrosse for 50 years. He was one of the first lacrosse officials in Vermont. Trono is considered a top official with numerous playoff assignments and state title games. He has served various functions with the Vermont Lacrosse Officials Association Executive Board including serving as Secretary/Treasurer. He continues to teach Hunter Education as a volunteer with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Bob Johnson of Danville served as Associate Executive Director of the VPA for 19 years. Before joining the VPA, Johnson served as a guidance director, coach, athletic director, principal and was active on VPA committees before joining the association full time. Under his leadership, Dance, Ultimate Frisbee, Bass Fishing, Bowling, Snowboarding, and Unified Basketball all became VPA-sanctioned sports. He also began the Scripps Spelling Bee program, brought the Geo-Bee to Vermont and started the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. In his time with the VPA, Johnson helped lead interscholastic activities focused on sportsmanship and increased access to safe and meaningful learning opportunities for all students. Over the last two decades, he has been the face of VPA sports.


Meredith Bagley of West Hartford, Connecticut was an outstanding three-sport student-athlete for Rutland High School. She was a four-year starter for the soccer and softball teams, earning all-state honors in both as a senior (1995), while skiing alpine in the winter season. She led RHS to alpine team championships in 1993 and 1994 with dual individual championships in slalom and giant slalom each year. Bagley went on to play both soccer and softball at Harvard University.

Riley Blankenship of San Antonio, Texas was a standout track and field and basketball student-athlete for Lyndon Institute, class of 2012. Blankenship was a two-time state champion in both the shot put and javelin, and also won a state crown in the discus. She went on to be part of three national champion rugby teams at Norwich University.

Rebecca Bright of Springfield, Virginia was a star student-athlete for South Burlington. She was an all-star field hockey goalie and reached the Final Four each season as a basketball player, including winning a state title her senior year (‘91). Bright reached over 1,000 career points. She was a state champion in shot put and discus in ‘94 and ‘95, competing in the New England track and field championships three years in shot put and discus and one year in the triple jump. She received a full scholarship to play basketball for the University of Rhode Island becoming the program’s third leading scorer in program history with 1,665 career points. Bright is in the South Burlington High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Joe Shield of Avon, Connecticut was an exceptional student-athlete for Brattleboro Union High School class of 1980. Shield is considered one the best three-sport student-athletes in Brattleboro school history. He played basketball, was a standout football quarterback when Brattleboro went to the state championship in 1978. Shield was a .400 career hitter in baseball. He was the Vermont Shrine football Co-Captain (1980) in the victory vs. New Hampshire. After high school, Shield was a multi-sport athlete in college, where he threw for over 6,600 yards at Trinity College (CT), and was a member of the Green Bay Packers in 1985 and 1986.

Bruce Stryhas of Ludlow was an outstanding three-sport student-athlete for Black River High School class of 1962. Stryhas played soccer, was a great pitcher and hitter in baseball, and really shined on the basketball court. He was Black River’s first player to score over 1,000 career points, leading Black River to three appearances in the final. Stryhas was a great passer as well, he had 21 assists in one game. He went to the University of Connecticut for one year before transferring and being a standout starter for some of the top St. Michael’s College teams.

Ashley Valley of Avon Lake, Ohio was a remarkable student-athlete in the class of 2001 at Rice Memorial. Valley helped lead Rice to two straight undefeated seasons and three Division 1 Girls State Basketball Championships, scoring over 1,000 career points. She was also a striker for Rice’s Girls’ Soccer Team, leading the team to both a D1 and a D2 State Soccer Championship. At the time, she set the all-time record for goals scored at Rice. She went on to play basketball at the University of Connecticut and was a member of three national champion teams.

Morgan Valley of West Hartford, Connecticut was a star student-athlete for Rice Memorial High School in the class of 2000. In her time, Valley helped lead the team to two straight undefeated seasons, scoring over 1,000 career points. Valley was a standout soccer goalie for Rice, which won the Division I state soccer crown her as a sophomore and in a shutout in the title game as a senior. Considered by some as the most accomplished basketball player of all time from Vermont, Valley went on to play 108 games and was a part of three national championship teams at the University of Connecticut.

Induction Dinner & Tickets are Available Now:

The VPA Hall of Fame class of 2023 will be formally inducted on Friday, May 12 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Montpelier. Social hour begins at 5 p.m., a buffet dinner at 6 p.m., and the induction ceremony at 6:45 p.m. Tickets for the Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony can be purchased through the ticket order form on the VPA website or by calling the VPA office at (802) 229-0547. Tickets are $50 each.

Each year, nominations are accepted throughout the year from the general public to honor those that have helped with sports and activities at VPA-member schools. The VPA’s Hall of Fame Committee considers the nominations based on the criteria outlined on the website. For more information about the nomination process, the criteria for selection, the current listed of inductees, the committee, and more, see: