He’s been a student, a star athlete, a teacher, a coach, an outstanding community member and now the 2016 Distinguished Alumni of the Year. Sycamore Community Schools is proud to announce Steve Imhoff as this year’s Distinguished Alumni inductee.
Imhoff has often been referred to as “Mr. Sycamore” but he doesn’t see it that way. He points to former Sycamore teacher, administrator, and coach Dan Henke for that title. Imhoff graciously and humbly accepts the honor bestowed on him this year.
“Sycamore doesn’t owe me a thing. I have gotten so much more from Sycamore than I can ever give back,” Imhoff said. “My wife, my kids, my parents, my coaches, teammates, students, colleagues, and every player who played for me all deserve to be honored.”
Imhoff became an Aviator in 1957 when he first attended Montgomery Elementary as a kindergartener. Over the next 13 years he would attend Maple Dale, and Sycamore Junior High and High School. He graduated second in his class in 1970.
Back in those days, Imhoff was known as “Chipper” on the baseball mound, leading the 13-6 Sycamore Aves to the District Championship game in 1970. In his three varsity seasons, he pitched 9 shutouts, 2 no-hitters, and one perfect game. He knew from the time he was a young boy that he wanted to play baseball for Sycamore, watching the Aviators and Coach Dan Henke, who were his heroes.
“I lived across the street from Coach Henke’s sister. Anytime he was over at her house, I would ask my mom or dad to go out front and toss with me. He is the guy that I aspired and still aspire to be.”
He smiles when reminisces about the days with his teammates and coaches, who he remains in close touch with even to this day.
“There isn’t one game in particular that sticks out to me. When I think back to those days, I just remember how much fun we had,” Imhoff said.
During the 1970 Senior Sports Awards, Sycamore surprised Imhoff by retiring his number 25 baseball jersey, something that had never been done before.
When he wasn’t on the diamond Imhoff was on the football field and the basketball court. He even had a one-time stint on the wrestling mat that he chuckles about because he didn’t have his contacts in and couldn’t see out of his headgear. He became a member of Sycamore’s 3,000 Point Club. Again, he credits his success to his coaches and teammates.
Imhoff’s performance in the classroom was just as stellar as his performance on the field, graduating second in his class. He was a member of the National Honor Society and The Log yearbook staff. During his senior year, he was elected homecoming king and was a member of the prom court.
He received the “That’s My Boy” Award from the Southwest High School Football Coaches Association and was inducted into the Buddy LaRosa’s Hall of Fame.
After graduating, Imhoff received a scholarship to Davidson University to play football. But after only a few practices, he realized his heart was back in his hometown. He transferred to Miami University, where he had to sit out for two years before returning to baseball and helping the Redskins to two Mid-American Conference Championships.
“Sitting out for two years turned out to be a blessing. I was really able to focus on my academics,” said Imhoff. “I thought about all the people who had impacted my life. They were all my coaches and teachers. That is what inspired me to get into education.”
While he may have been a Redskin, green and gold were still running through his veins. Imhoff returned to Sycamore as a volunteer assistant for the football team. When it came time to student-teach, there was only one place that Imhoff wanted to be.
A brand new Sycamore High School had just opened on Cornell Road when Steve student-taught. He laughs as he remembers being nervous and calling his former teachers by their first name for the first time.
Imhoff graduated from Miami University in 1974 and began teaching math at Sycamore High. He also seized the opportunity to become an assistant football coach and the junior varsity girls’ basketball coach. A year later, he became the varsity girls’ basketball head coach and boys’ baseball head coach.
Over the next three decades, Imhoff continued to coach baseball, football, basketball and softball at the high school and junior high. He can’t remember how many years of each sport, but he can remember the faces and names of all of the players and coaches.
“I couldn’t have asked for better people to coach and work with,” Imhoff said.
In 1995, he was inducted into the first class of the Sycamore Athletic Hall of Fame.
Imhoff became known as “Banner Boy” around Sycamore, hanging up banners to promote school spirit. Imhoff says it made him feel good to see his students and colleagues light up when their achievements were recognized.
“What makes Sycamore special are the great people. I have been blessed to experience life with some of the best people in the world.”
One particularly difficult time in Steve’s life is a direct reflection of that statement. In 1999, a tornado destroyed his family’s home. That’s when the Sycamore family stepped up to help.
“I remember going over to Sycamore Junior High,” Imhoff said. “I returned to the high school auditorium for a staff meeting and all of the faculty was there with so many gifts to replace the things we lost in the tornado. I will never forget that.”
Imhoff retired in 2005 after 31 years of teaching Math, Physical Education, and Skills for Living at Sycamore High School. Since then, his passion for Sycamore has never wavered. He helped found the Sycamore Alumni and Friends Association (SAFA) in 2006, serving as president of the organization a few years later.
“Steve Imhoff is a great teacher, a great coach, and a great friend,” Tom Gregory, longtime friend and teammate, said. “He is the epitome of what we strive to be here in Sycamore.”
Imhoff played amateur baseball until the age of 55, winning one AABC National Championship and four NABF National titles. He continues to throw batting practice for the Reading Blue Devils, the Cincinnati Spikes, and occasionally the Midland Redskins. But his most important roles have been a husband, father, and grandfather.
“I am nothing without my wife and my kids,” Imhoff said.
Imhoff met his wife, Sheryl, during their freshmen year at Sycamore. The two have been happily married 42 years.
“Steve is highly dedicated to Sycamore-- the school, the community, the students, the parents,” Sheryl said. “He is always willing to go the extra mile, put in the extra time, or reach out to lift someone up. He looks at every interaction as an opportunity to teach. He is a natural leader and as long as I have known him, people have been drawn to him because they found him approachable, enthusiastic, and genuine.”
Their daughter Carrie, is a personal trainer, health and wellness coach here in Cincinnati. Their son Casey, is part owner of The Sweatbox in Columbus. Their two grandchildren, Grady, 6, and Mallory, 4, are future Aviators.
“I am so fortunate to have had my kids and now my grandkids go through Sycamore,” Imhoff said. “This place is special. So many people have left and come back and I think that says a lot.”
Once an Aviator, always an Aviator. It is obvious that Imhoff feels there is still work to be done. He accepts the honor of Distinguished Alumni if only to recognize those who helped him along the way and to inspire a renewed spirit and pride in Aviator Nation.
“If I could describe Sycamore in three words, it would be family, spirit, and it sounds corny, but love.”
Steve Imhoff will be honored at the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Reception on May 22 at the Original Montgomery Inn from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Tickets are available at www.oursafa.com or by Sycamore High School at 513-686-1770 and ask for the Alumni Office. Imhoff will also be speaking at Sycamore High School’s Commencement on May 23 at the Cintas Center.