Gerald A. Lasso – Morris Hills Teacher
A Korean War veteran from Brooklyn, Gerald A. Lasso was a Teacher of English at Morris Hills for 25 years - from 1962 until his retirement in 1988. He was elevated to Department Chair just four years after being hired and was Teacher of the Year 1984.
He extended his love of language by coaching the Forensics team members to at least four state championships during his tenure. In 1970 his team finished fifth in the nation. At the same time he was accomplishing this, he also coached the tennis teams - boys and girls - to their own string of titles.
Jerry retired to Florida with his wife, Catherine, and looked forward to visits from their children and grandchildren. He enjoyed tennis, golf and ballroom dancing there, winning many Senior Olympics championships. Sadly, he passed away too soon in 1993, at the age of 60.
In addition to his family, his true legacy is that his enthusiastic approach to teaching and to life inspired generations. As one student wrote, “Any teacher who provides life lessons that are still being taught 30 plus years later is a credit to teachers everywhere.”
Frank Elias- Morris Knolls Teacher
Frank Elias was a Physical Education and Health teacher at Morris Knolls High School for 36 years, from 1969 to 2005. He was instrumental in developing the Adaptive PE program. He volunteered at Special Olympics and served as “cook” at the annual field day. As Varsity Club advisor, Frank spent countless hours working the snack stand with his student athletes and coordinating service projects like his favorite, Toys for Tots.
Frank coached football for thirteen years and baseball for 30 years - nineteen at the varsity level- with unprecedented success. His teams won three conference, two county, two state sectional and two North Jersey State titles. He was named “Coach of the Year” four times and was honored as “Tri State Coach of the Year” by the Daily News at Yankee Stadium.
For 32 summers, Frank has been Director for the Denville Recreation Baseball Camp for children five to fifteen. He was also instrumental in the fundraising, purchase and installation of the Craig Allan Young memorial scoreboard that has been on the baseball field at Morris Knolls since 1989.
Bruce Patrick Bannon – Morris Hills Alumnus
A 1969 graduate, Bruce Bannon was one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of Morris Hills High School. Participating in track, wrestling and football, he was the second 9 letterman in the history of the school. Selected NJ High School Athlete of the Year and Class Valedictorian, he won a full academic scholarship at Penn State. Bruce played defense for the late Joe Paterno and received the 1972 Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete Award. He played in the Orange and Sugar Bowls, and was named Defensive MVP of the 1972 Cotton Bowl. He was selected as both a football and an academic All-American. Bruce also played in the Hula Bowl and All-Star Game versus undefeated Super Bowl Champ Miami Dolphins.
Bruce graduated second in his class with a BS in Geologic Sciences; was a Hall of Fame Scholar, Evan Pugh Scholar, NCAA Scholar and selected Top 10 Student Athlete. He was one of five All-American football players who went on a goodwill tour of all American bases in Vietnam during the war.
Bruce played professional football under Don Shula. He was Special Teams Player of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Week. He earned his ring as a member of the World Championship Team that won Super Bowl VIII.
After years in the aerospace and military markets in leadership positions at several firms, Bruce now runs his own consulting company, Growth Enterprises. The father of five now lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Lori.
Elizabeth DeFiglio – Morris Knolls/Hills Alumna
Elizabeth DeFiglio spent two years at Morris Knolls HS before transferring to Morris Hills to enroll in the Nursing Program. A 1967 graduate, she become a Registered Nurse at St. Clare’s Hospital before working as a traveling Critical Care RN throughout the US. She joined the NJ Disaster Medical Team, deploying to disaster areas from Potsdam, NY, during the ice storm of 1998 to Key West, FL, for Hurricane George.
Elizabeth received commendations for her work with the resettlement of 4000 Kosovo refugees at Fort Dix, for the 1996 Centennial Olympic games, and from the Hawaii Medical Association. In 2001 she traveled to Beijing to study the Chinese Medical System, and in 2005 became a member of the Red Cross in order to help during Hurricane Katrina.
On 9/11 Elizabeth volunteered at Ground Zero and stayed on site, treating firemen and workers, until a medical mobile emergency bus could arrive. She has since lectured on her experiences that day. Her love of adventure and travel has taken her around the world and throughout the United States.