Novak family shines brightly at Brown Deer's field house dedication

Surprise donation highlights evening

Mike Novak prepares to accept a congratulatory handshake from emcee Dr. Deb Kerr while his wife Jeanne embraces their son Steve during opening ceremonies for Brown Deer High School’s new field house, which was named for the Novak family, Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Mike Novak prepares to accept a congratulatory handshake from emcee Dr. Deb Kerr while his wife Jeanne embraces their son Steve during opening ceremonies for Brown Deer High School’s new field house, which was named for the Novak family, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Photo By Dave Haberkorn

April 16, 2013

Brown Deer - Ever since he was young, current NBA player and former Brown Deer basketball star Steve Novak remembers his father, Falcons Athletic Director Mike Novak, talking about the creation of a grand field house facility at the school that Mike jokingly referred to as the "Nova-Dome."

Well, that wish became reality April 10, as Steve Novak helped put the finishing touches on the multimillion dollar School District referendum project by announcing at the dedication ceremony/community pep rally that he had donated $100,000 to the process.

And because of his generosity, the grand field house facility, replete with four-lane indoor track, rock-climbing wall and a state-of-the-art scoreboard, will have a name in keeping with Mike Novak's long-ago dream.

It will be called The Brown Deer Novak Family Field House.

"My dad fantasized about building a dome," said Steve from a podium at center court of the new field house. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you dreams do come true. I can't tell you how much this means to have all my dad's hard work and my family recognized this way."

The gesture was a complete surprise to Mike Novak, who could be quietly seen saying 'Wow!" when Brown Deer Superintendent Deb Kerr made the announcement. The vast majority of the large crowd in attendance rose to their feet and applauded this fine act of generosity from one of their own.

Such was the emotion of the situation, that both father and son could be seen tearing up during Steve's prepared comments that followed the announcement, as this was truly a tribute worthy of the best father and son moments one can recall.

In fact, Steve had to take a couple of pronounced pauses as he was choking up a bit.

"This was a mix of his vision, his work, his sweat, blood and tears," Steve said of his father. "From the time I was born, I was destined to be a Brown Deer Falcon, because that's what he was. He taught me how to love and how to give 100 percent to everything that I did."

Credit to leaders, community

Steve Novak also profusely praised Kerr for her leadership and the community of Brown Deer for approving the vast majority of the funds for the badly needed rebuilding process.

"The people of Brown Deer had the vision and generosity to see that this building could set the community apart," he said. "It is truly a beautiful thing and an honor to be part of all this."

The overflow crowd at the event was treated to a catered snack bar, a Marine Honor Guard, performances by the Dean School fourth-grade drummers, performances by the Brown Deer Concert Choir and the high school band as well as unofficial tours of the facility. The Milwaukee Brewers' Racing Sausages also turned in the first "official" race on the track with the Chorizo "winning."

The dedication was the culmination of a process that was nine years in the making and officially got the green light two years ago when voters in the village approved two referendum questions totaling $22 million though the final cost is projected to be well under that.

The district reconstruction process creates a two-school campus, with the renovated high school to house seventh- through 12th-graders and the rebuilt middle school taking in kindergartners through sixth-graders.

School Board President Gary Williams said this decision by the board and then the community's approval of the project showed a belief in the future and a love for Brown Deer's children.

"This'll go down as one of the greatest moments in Brown Deer history," he said.

He cited a passage from a poem from the great poet and World War II martyr for freedom Dietrich Bonhoeffer to emphasize his point: "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children."

Kids proud of school

Mike Novak expanded on that thought noting that the renovation has greatly improved morale at the high school.

"It's unmistakable," he said. "The kids are walking with a different swagger. There's a different sense of pride in their school and the community that was absent before then. You give the kids a 21st-century facility and they'll react in kind."

Steve Novak recognized that thought and said that he was interested early on in donating to the project. He jumped at the chance of appearing at the final ceremonies though scheduling was an issue.

"We stayed connected and worked hard at it, but this was literally the only day that would work," he said. "... It was just an honor to be approached to do this."

Steve Novak's NBA team, the New York Knicks, played at Chicago on April 11, making his participation in his alma mater's "Shining Moment" (as it was billed) geographically possible. The Novak clan went down to see Steve play that night, as the Knicks lost an overtime thriller.

But all the memories were on the evening before and one indelible thing stood out.

Well after the ceremonies were done and long into the night, Steve Novak extended this tribute to his father and family as well as to his old school by signing every autograph, shaking every hand and posing for every picture that was requested of him.

As that process went on longer and longer, his father finally chuckled and said "Now it becomes a matter of how do we rescue him?"

But Steve Novak didn't need rescuing, because he was fulfilling the role of a favorite son making good, as well as that of a son honoring his father by respecting his dad's work.

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