By Barry Courter
Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga honored two of its most well-known alums July 27 as part of its annual Alumni Weekend festivities.
Dennis Haskins, best known as Mr. Belding on the hit TV show “Saved by the Bell,” was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award during the private event at the school.
Carl Labbe Jr., well known in the Notre Dame family for his endless enthusiasm, volunteerism, and many years of service directing the annual Catholic Youth Organization’s variety shows, was given the Jim Phifer Service Award.
Mr. Haskins graduated from NDHS in 1968 and has been a professional actor for 35 years, 11 of those on “Saved By the Bell.” Recently he made guest appearances on shows such as “I’m Dying Up Here” on Showtime, “New Girl” with Zooey Deschanel, “Hot in Cleveland” with Betty White, and “Jennifer Falls” with Jaime Pressly.
His Hollywood career started in Conyers, Ga., in the late ’70s when he was cast on the first episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” He recently starred in a music video satirizing his days at fictional Bayside High School that has gone viral. The clip features him dancing through the school and even spray-painting lockers to the song “Vacation” by Dirty Heads.
Mr. Haskins also graduated from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chattanooga and has been a loyal supporter of both schools over the years. “Dennis loves Notre Dame, and every time he gets back to town he makes it a point to not only visit but to take time from his schedule to meet with classes or groups of students,” said Notre Dame president George Valadie. “In addition to his great stories, he shares some real motivation for our students, regardless of whatever their field of interest.”
Mr. Haskins also is an avid fan of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs, having attended the school before leaving early to pursue his acting career. His scripts, as well as some mementos from “Saved By the Bell,” are currently on display at the UTC library. He received his degree from UTC in 2015 and was recognized by the Tennessee Alumnus Magazine in their 100th year as one of the Top 100 Alums of the UT system.
The Jim Phifer Service Award is given to a person who exhibits the same qualities of love for the school and service to community that Mr. Phifer did during his years as the school principal. Winners do not have to be a Notre Dame graduate.
Few have done that more than Mr. Labbe. A 1945 graduate of Notre Dame, Mr. Labbe has been a fixture at the school over the years supporting first his own children while they were there or now his grandchildren. For several years, he directed the annual CYO productions, many of which were presented at the Tivoli Theatre.
These were huge productions involving hundreds of students and hours of preparation and rehearsals leading up to them.
“There was a string of 15-20 years when almost every Notre Dame student came to know Carl Labbe,” Mr. Valadie said. “And virtually all of them love him for the time he sacrificed from his own family to give to them and what everyone knew as the CYO show.”
Along with the Alumni Awards Reception on July 27, NDHS’s Alumni Weekend also included an Every Class Bash on July 28, the 33rd annual Irish Classic Golf Tournament on July 28, a Golden Graduates Brunch on July 29, class reunions throughout the city on July 29, and an All-Alumni Memorial Mass on July 30.