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September 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

A Look Back at SBF Award Winners

The pupil transportation industry has been graced by individuals who have contributed to its betterment at the local, state and national levels. The following people were recognized by SCHOOL BUS FLEET for their efforts.


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James Dunlap (left), then SBF's editorial director, presents the Contractor of the Year award to James DeVeau of Minnetonka, Minn., in 1975.

James Dunlap (left), then SBF's editorial director, presents the Contractor of the Year award to James DeVeau of Minnetonka, Minn., in 1975.

SBF’s Contractors of the Year

J.W. “Skip” Tinnen (1968)
SCHOOL BUS FLEET honored Tinnen with the first-ever Outstanding Contribution Trophy, which would later come to be called the Contractor of the Year Award. In addition to operating school buses, Tinnen also owned a school bus dealership, which frequently brought him in contact with other bus operators. This contact spawned the idea to organize a state association of school bus operators, and the Missouri Association of School Bus Contract-Operators was born. Soon he realized the need for a national organization, and he founded the National Association of School Bus Contract-Operators (NASBCO).

Mel Sherman (1969)
Sherman of California was recognized for his many valuable contributions to NASBCO. He served on the board in 1967 as the first vice president.

Joe Cottrell and Clarence Geiger (1970)
Cottrell, president of Cottrell Bus Service in Buffalo, N.Y., and Geiger of North Merrick, N.Y., were both past presidents of NASBCO. Both contributed time and money to the efforts of the association.

Bill Betzold (1971)
Betzold, of Tuscola, Ill., started in the school bus business in 1953 as a manager and mechanic for C.A. Rice in Tuscola and three years later purchased the company. In 1960, he helped to found the Illinois School Bus Contractors Association and served as its president for three years. He also promoted the idea of a national association for contract operators.

Theodore Schaefer (1972)
Schaefer is credited with saving school bus contracting as a viable industry in Maryland. He was largely responsible for securing two seats for contractors on the Maryland Transportation Advisor Committee, allowing the private sector to have a voice in the decisions that affected pupil transportation.

Otto Berchtold (1973)
Although a baker by profession, Berchtold bought Arcola Bus Co. in Paramus, N.J., in 1952 and successfully grew the enterprise. He was active in the New Jersey School Bus Contractor Association, serving as president from 1964 to ‘67. During his term, New Jersey joined the national association.

Paul Peterson (1974)
Peterson was assistant vice president of Willett Motor Coach in Chicago. He was given the award at the meeting when NASBCO became the National School Transportation Association (NSTA).

James DeVeau (1975)
DeVeau, president of DeVeau Bus Co. in Minnetonka, Minn., was recognized for his many years of devoted service to NASBCO as well as to the entire school bus industry. He served on the association’s board in the late 1960s, receiving the Golden Merit award in 1969. He also received the NSTA’s Hall of Fame Award in 1993.

R.W. Harmon (1976)
Harmon received the award posthumously, having died earlier in 1976. Harmon started his company in 1946 with a one-bus contract in Hickman Mills, Mo., and grew it into a sprawling family business known as R.W. Harmon & Sons that included school bus sales. His company received the Golden Merit Award in 1971.

Leon Robinson (1977)
Robinson Bus Service, in Evanston, Ill., was one of the first black-owned bus companies in the U.S. Robinson was recognized for his many contributions to the industry, including his service on the NSTA board, including a term as president. He also served on the board of the Illinois School Transportation Association.

Murray Dorsey (1978)
Dorsey of Dorsey Bus Co. in Corvallis, Ore., was recognized for his contributions to the contractor industry. He received the NASBCO’s Golden Merit Award in 1969.

Ed Larson (1979)
Larson of Larson Bus Service in Sauk Rapids, Minn., received the award at the annual meeting in Duluth, Minn. He was honored for operating a top-notch contractor program and for his contributions to the contracting industry. He received the NSTA’s Hall of Fame Award in 1999.

John Murphy (1980)
Murphy of United Truck and Bus Service in Providence, R.I., was a long-time board member of NSTA, including a term as president. He received the Golden Merit Award in 1973.

Joan Corwin (1981)
Joan Corwin got her start in pupil transportation in 1963 as a bus driver for the Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services. She later was promoted to transportation supervisor. In 1970, she joined Chappaqua Transportation and later was named president. She received the Golden Merit Award in 1977.

Bud Lee (1982)
Lee of Martinez (Calif.) Bus Lines, was president of the California organization within NASBCO in 1971. For his contributions to the contractor industry, he received the Golden Merit Award in 1972.

Richard Harney (1983)
President of Palomar Transport in Upland, Calif., Harney entered the school bus contracting business in 1970. Thirteen years later he was managing 290 buses and 285 employees. During his time with NSTA, he assisted in the organization’s financial turnaround, taking it from struggling on a month-to-month basis to an institution with sound finances.

Gary Zeh (1984)
In 1961, Zeh took over as the head of Haverstraw Transit in New York. He managed 118 buses and a bus dealership firm. Four major bills that the industry supported were signed into law during his tenure as president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association. He also served as a member of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.

Terry Van Der Aa (1985)
Van Der Aa was recognized for his enterprise and initiative. President of Vancom Inc. during the company’s 60th anniversary in 1985, Van Der Aa managed 1,200 vehicles operating out of 15 facilities. A two-time president of NSTA, he also served on the board of the Illinois School Transportation Association. He received the Golden Merit Award in 1973 and the Hall of Fame Award in 1997.

Larry Durham (1986)
Durham was president of Durham Transportation before it was acquired by National Express Corp. in 1999. He was recognized for his leadership in resolving the NSTA’s insurance crisis and bringing sound business practices to the field of pupil transportation during his two terms as NSTA president. He was also recognized for pioneering school bus contracting in the state of Texas.

Lyle Stephens (1987)
Stephens, who was president of Special Transportation when he was honored, was recognized for his contributions to the field of special-needs transportation. He helped to spearhead the development of guidelines for a transportable wheelchair. He received the NSTA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2006.

Michael DeGroote (1988)
DeGroote, chairman and CEO of Laidlaw Transportation Ltd., helped to expand the marketshare of North America’s largest contractor. He was recognized for turning the attention of the financial community to the pupil transportation industry.

Karen Finkel (1989)
Finkel served as the executive director of the NSTA for 19 years before leaving the association in September 2000. She was known as an effective representative of the industry on Capitol Hill and a tremendous resource for anyone involved with school transportation.

Robin Leeds (1990)
Leeds has contributed on multiple fronts to the pupil transportation industry, serving for several years as executive director of the Connecticut Operators of School Transportation Association and sharing her knowledge about pupil transportation at industry conferences. Currently, she is an industry consultant for the NSTA.

Chuck Hey (1991)
Hey, president of School Bus Inc. in Sioux Falls, S.D., was recognized for his leadership and service to private contractors, large and small. He served on the NSTA board and was president for a term. He received the Golden Merit Award in 1982 and the Hall of Fame Award in 2000.

John Nolan (1992)
Nolan was an esteemed veteran of the pupil transportation industry, serving as president of National School Bus Service in Barrington, Ill. He also served on the NSTA’s board and contributed strongly to the New York School Bus Contractors Association. He received the Hall of Fame Award in 1998.

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