Dr. Lonnie Boaz, a 1975 graduate, and the entire 1965 basketball team, the first to play an inter-racial high school game of any kind in Chattanooga, were honored by the Notre Dame High School Alumni Association on July 23 at the annual Alumni Awards reception that kicked off Alumni Weekend.
Dr. Boaz received the Jim Phifer Service Award, given to honor the person who has shown a selfless commitment to the school. Mr. Phifer, who passed away in 2003, was the school’s principal from 1974 to 1992.
The 18 members of the basketball team received the Distinguished Alumni Award en masse.
“We are very proud to honor these men this year,” said alumni president Barry Courter. “We’ve honored a great many people over the years that have done great things and represented the school well, and these guys are no exception.
“Like Coach Phifer was during his life, Dr. Boaz is a fixture at so many events there to this day. He just always seems to be there supporting everything the school does.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award is normally given to someone who has distinguished himself or herself in his or her community or vocation, Mr. Courter said. “But that game marked such a key moment in the city’s history, we wanted to honor them and that moment on the 50th anniversary of its occurrence.”
The basketball team played Howard High School on Jan. 11, 1965, at the old Notre Dame School in the old gym on East Eighth Street in front of a crowd so large that people watched through the windows from outside. The first inter-racial game in the state involved Father Ryan and Pearl in Nashville, and the ND-Howard game was only the second.
It should be noted also that Notre Dame was the first high school in Chattanooga to integrate, which it did in 1963.
“Needless to say, these teammates we’re honoring would have had nothing to do with arranging that game as they were just teenagers on that ’64-’65 squad,” said current school president George Valadie, “but we honor them for the way they conducted themselves during that game and that season. During a difficult period of our nation’s history, they represented our school that day with exceptional class. Had the game gone differently, who knows how long interracial competition in our city would have been set back.”
Team members are Mike Keene, Donald Varner, John MacGuire, Wales Standifer, Stan Sumrell, Pat Eckenrod, Brian Cook, George Hubbuch, Lyn Arnold, Vince Provenzano, Carlisle Ghiden, Ron Zuker, Rick Herbst, John Popham, Lebron Wright, Tony Gilmore, and Ronald Varner.
After leaving Notre Dame, Dr. Boaz earned a B.A. degree in chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 1979 and then attended Morehouse School of Medicine, earning a dean’s award for scholastic achievement and leadership. He received his M.D. degree from Howard University College of Medicine in 1983.
He practiced gastroenterology in Chattanooga while serving as a clinical instructor at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga Unit. He retired in 2001 and has since remained active at both Notre Dame and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, serving on several boards at both. He is also active on the Baroness Erlanger Foundation Board and as president of the Morehouse School of Medicine National Alumni Association.
Daughters Ashley, ’09, and Alexis, ’11, both graduated from NDHS.
“We’re excited that the Phifer family has chosen Dr. Boaz as their honoree,” Mr. Valadie said. “He gave so much of his time and energy to Notre Dame even though his schedule as doctor, teacher, and dad was incredibly demanding. We remain very appreciative.”