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O-M's Haley Albertsman is the winner
By Charlie Haeffner
ODESSA, June 15, 2022 -- This is my favorite award.
The Susan B. Haeffner Sportsmanship Award was first presented to a high school student-athlete on June 8, 2005 in the Odessa-Montour High School's Fetter-Brown Auditorium -- during the school's Sports Banquet night.
The recipient, held secret until the moment of announcement -- was O-M's Sally Wilcox, a fine and very determined athlete who I remember most for her basketball exploits, in particular draining free throws at key moments of big games with stunning, dependable left-handed accuracy.
I initiated the award that year, seven months after the passing of my wife Susan from complications related to cancer treatments. I was living a nightmare, and wanted Susan remembered because of the remarkable woman she was.
Now, 17 years later, I am still presenting it -- The Susan Award -- on an annual basis
This year, The Susan Award goes to a tough, determined and -- at her base, like Susan -- kind-hearted senior at Odessa-Montour High School.
Her name is Haley Albertsman (pictured at right), a member of the school's varsity soccer team who has impressed me not only with her determination on the playing field, but also for her determination in life as she aims toward a career in education -- specifically, she told me, teaching first or second graders.
Education has played a recurring role in the presentation of The Susan Award. Two previous recipients, Felicia Johnson and Nicole Colunio, are on the staff in the Odessa district, while another, Joe Collins, works in the O-M district office.
This strikes me as serendipity, for education was important to Susan throughout her life. She was, after graduation from Watkins Glen High School, SUNY Cortland and Syracuse University, an elementary school teacher in Northern New York and, later, a Special Education teacher working for various agenices under contract in several Southern Tier counties.
Haley, a strong student academically and highly recommended by O-M Superintendent Chris Wood, plans to attend Corning Community College in the fall -- a step toward her career in education.
She was surprised when presented with The Susan Award, a fully expected reaction considering her humility.
"She's really a great role model for the younger students," said Superintendent Wood. "She does the right thing. She sees the bigger picture. And she is very mature for her age."
Yes, and with all of that -- as evidenced by her ability to be in the right place at the right time on the soccer field -- she is intuitive.
There is an iron will there, too -- a determination. Just like Susan had.
Good luck to you, Haley.
With your drive, intelligence and core of kindness, you will be a great addition to any teaching staff, whether at O-M or elsewhere.
Back in 2005, at that first Susan Award presentation, I tried to explain in a speech what I was looking for in a recipient.
This is what I said, after presenting my first O-M Athlete of the Year Award to Katie Taber.
"This second award I'm presenting is very special to me. It is named after my wife, who -- though not a sports fan for most of her life -- became one through photography in her final years. One of the last jobs we worked on together was last year's NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. She said it was 'very cool.'
"But sports aside, my wife possessed those qualities that I find important in the makeup of sportsmanship: A core of kindness, which is essential; a drive to succeed, a focus on the goal at hand, a loyalty to teammates -- or, in her case, to family -- and a morality that does not condone immature behavior or cheap shots on the playing field or in life.
"This award -- which hopefully will become an annual one -- is named the Susan B. Haeffner Sportsmanship Award. It is being presented to a person I have had occasion to observe and admire for years; a person who has shown a dedication to several sports and a drive to succeed at them, and displayed consistently ethical behavior ... and a core of kindness that defines her.
"I considered many fine athletes for this honor; but the one I selected struck me as the person who most possessed those qualities embodied by Susan Haeffner (pictured at right) throughout her life. This athlete struck me as someone who would not only be honored by the award, but would honor its intent by her very nature -- by the way she competes on the playing field, and by the way she lives her life.
"It is my pleasure to award this trophy ... to Sally Wilcox."
(Sally then came up from her seat in the auditorium to receive her trophy -- a golden cup atop a square-shaped wooden base -- and as I held out my hand to shake hers, she did me one better. She gave me a hug and said in my ear, earnestly: Thank you. I hugged her back, and then retreated to my seat, tears welling in my eyes.)
Those same words still apply. This time, these many years later, they apply equally to Haley Albertsman.
Photos in text: Haley Albertsman (top) and Susan Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869