John Nwachukwu

John Nwachukwu

John Nwachuku, a 1981 Bennett graduate, was All High 1st singles in tennis as a freshman and then as a sophomore at Burgard High School. After transferring to Bennett High School for his junior and senior years he again made All High first singles in tennis both years. This accomplishment borders on the miraculous. As far as is known no local Buffalo High School tennis star has ever accomplished this feat of being the number one Buffalo high school tennis player for four years in a row. Nwachukwu, who was and still is built like a body builder, relied on his punishing and powerful ground strokes to completely over power his opponents. “I owe a great amount of my success in tennis to Hank Banas, my tennis coach at Burgard, and Brian Vickery, my tennis coach at Bennett.” Nwachukwu was also instrumental in developing his brother Ross who became one of the greatest tennis players in WNY history. For the past 34 years he has been a hero as a Buffalo fireman. He has has three children that he is very proud of. They are: Noah 23, Michael, 18, and Tiffany 16.

Steven J. Samson

Steven J. Samson

Steve had an active athletic career while at Bennett, competing in Cross Country in the Fall of the year, Swimming in the Winter and Baseball in the Spring. Steve’s best performance was in baseball. A four year varsity player, he was a starting outfielder in his junior and senior seasons.

Steve achieved All-High and All-WNY honors in baseball in 1987 He was also an All-High swimmer in 1986 and ;87. The championship teams Steve played for include Columbia Cup Cross Country champs in 1986, and Cornell Cup baseball co-champs in 1985. Steve was captain and team MVP of his swimming squads that finished in third place three years in a row in Syracuse Cup competition, and captain of the 1986 Cross Country squad that finished a respectable 5th place in Section VI, Class B competition.

The popular Steve Samson was also voted as Class President in his senior year. Steve still resides and works in the WNY area.

Jennifer Whissel Simpson

Jennifer Whissel Simpson

Jennifer was a star performer in three sports while at Bennett. She competed four years in Cross Country, 1982 – 1985, three years of varsity swimming and four years of varsity girls track. To top it off, Jennifer was an All-High performer in all three sports. Additional career highlights include city track records in the 2 mile and 3,200m. relays,, Team accomplishments a Cross Country Columbia Cup championship in 1983, with second place finishes in 1984 and 1985. Her track teams were league champions in 1984 and 1985, with a second place finish in 1983. Her swimming squads finished in third place all three years. Despite devoting all this time to athletics, this well rounded student / athlete managed to finish her academic career as the number two student in the senior class of 1986.

After Bennett, Jennifer carried on her athletic career at SUNY Buffalo, running Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track. Jenny was the team captain of the track team in her senior year at UB, and has since competed in many marathons in the Boston and New York City areas.

After college, Jenny devoted her life to cancer care, working as a nurse at the Roswell Cancer Institute. Upon completion of her PhD degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Jennifer is now the co-President and CEO of a Biotechnology Company in Manhattan. Jennifer now resides in Westfield, NJ, and is the proud mother of two children, Cailly 20 and Devin 16.

Virginia Kuhlmann

Virginia Kuhlmann

Virginia ( Ginger ) Kuhlmann was a groundbreaking athlete who excelled in two sports during the pre- Title IX era at Bennett High School.

She played one year of Pre-Title IX basketball, and two years of varsity tennis. Quite an accomplishment at a time when there were no girls interscholastic sports in the Buffalo Public Schools.

Ginger transferred to Bennett in 1971, after two years at Holy Angels Academy. At Holy Angels, Ginger played two years of Monsignor Martin basketball and varsity tennis, plus participating in intramurals and the Ski Club. Ginger brought her knowledge of basketball to help Bennett’s “uncoached”, pre-Title IX basketball team to a 11 win, 2 loss season. She excelled in defense, rebounding and leading the fast break offense, while scoring 7.7 points per game.

In the spring of 1972 Ginger broke the all male barrier becoming the first female on the varsity tennis team at Bennett. As a junior Ginger played at first doubles, helping Bennett to an 11 – 0 record in Dr Bapst league play. As a senior, Ginger played at second singles, helping the Tigers to an 8 win, 3 loss season.

After high school, Ginger attended college for one semester, then started to travel. her first adventure took her to Israel in 1973. There she lived on a Kibbutz for 6 months, ultimately becoming a lifeguard at the swimming pool. She then completed 3 years at SUNY Buffalo. In 1977 she moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There she opened a painting and wallpapering business that is still in operation today. While there, Ginger became an avid skier and made her first skydive. She now has accrued over 6,500 jumps. She was part of the organizing team that still holds the Guinness Book of World records for the largest formation, made with 400 people from 28 countries, to celebrate 60 years of Thailand’s reigning monarch. Ginger holds 6 world records and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Breast Cancer research. In 2008 she organized a 125 person skydiving event in Ecuador, S.A. under the auspice of her good friend and student, the First Lady of Ecuador, to raise money for underprivileged children.

Ginger has traveled to all 7 Continents, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to 19, 341 feet, has over 300 scuba dives around the world and had snow skied at the best of resorts. These days, the well travelled and well rounded Ginger Kuhlmann plays ice hockey, fishes, rides bikes and of course, jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.

Jeffrey “Rick’ Mccarley

Jeffrey “Rick’ Mccarley

Jeffrey “Rick” McCarley was a three sport performer at Bennett in the early 60’s. Participating in football, basketball and track, Ricky enters into the Bennett Sports Hall Of Fame as a first team All-High member of both The Buffalo Evening News and the Courier Express 1962 basketball teams. His sterling play at point guard on the hardwood was instrumental at earning All-High honors at that position. As captain of the Bennett team, McCarley possessed quickness, dazzling ball handling skills and scored a team leading 16 points per game average. He was the unquestioned leader of the 9 wins, 2 losses Tiger team in his senior year. His play enabled Bennett to finish among the top schools in pursuit of the Yale Cup.

Rick’s court savvy enabled him to continue to play at the collegiate level after graduating from Bennett. Rick matriculated at Kentucky State University, and had the privilege to play under revered and legendary head coach, Hall of Famer John McClendon Jr. Among the numerous accolades McClendon received were, the first coach to defeat a U.S. Olympic squad with an amateur team, the first African American coach on the professional level, the first coach to win three national championships. McCarley, playing under such a prestigious and caring mentor, helped him form the values that led to a successful life after basketball. McCarley continued to play locally following his collegiate days, including stints on championship teams in MUNY, YMCA and Masten Boys Club squads.

McCarley taught physical education for 32 years at school #53 in Buffalo. Rick and his wife of 48 years, Hattie, raised three children. The McCarley family were also blessed with six grandchildren and one great grandchild. Ricky will be long remembered as a positive influence over countless people that were fortunate enough to know him.