Respect from one's peers is probably the highest compliment that can be paid to a person.
That's why Jon Vallina was humbled by the words of Jack Fullen, the longtime athletic director at Blackhawk High School who had this to say about his colleague at Burgettstown Area High School:
"Jon Vallina has been a shining star in interscholastic athletics in the state of Pennsylvania for close to 30 years. Burgettstown is losing a great guy."
Vallina is retiring after 39 years of service to the Burgettstown Area School District, including the past 28 as its athletic director.
Terry Havelka, Burgettstown's football and wrestling coach, has been hired as Vallina's replacement, beginning on Aug. 1.
"I've been working with Jon for 33 years," Havelka said. "It's almost frightening to go into the upcoming school year without him. He's done so much for the Burgettstown School District. Nobody can replace him."
Added Fullen: "Just look at what he accomplished at Burgettstown. He raised more than $100,000 [$120,000] to fund scholarships for Burgettstown seniors. He lined up a grant [of $38,000 from the Highmark Foundation] to finance a fitness center, that's open to the community. He also raised $50,000 to replace the lights at [Hill Memorial] stadium, and $12,000 to purchase a scoreboard for the district's baseball field."
Vallina is also a Burgettstown alumnus. He graduated in 1968, then graduated from Slippery Rock University with a pair of degrees. He served as a health and physical education teacher at Burgettstown for 37 years.
"I retired from teaching two years ago, but stayed on as athletic director and golf coach," Vallina said. "I had hoped to stay on as AD for another year or so, but we couldn't come to an agreement, so I decided it was time to retire."
Vallina took over as Burgettstown's athletic director in 1985. He also served as an assistant football coach for eight years, and an assistant wrestling coach for 16 years. He's also been the Blue Devils golf coach the past 28 years and has a 352-82 career record.
"I will be staying on as golf coach for one more year," said Vallina, whose last day as athletic director is July 31. "I will also continue to run the Southwest Pa. Junior Golf Tour."
Vallina became president of the Southwest Pa. Junior Golf Tour in 1990.
"We have approximately 240-250 high school golfers compete in 11 tournaments during the summer," Vallina said.
Vallina has been a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association since 1986 and a member of its executive council since 1988. He served as president from 2000-02. He also served as chairman of the Gift Committee, Computer Committee and Membership Committee, along with a stint as PSADA's secretary from 1992 to '99.
Vallina was named PSADA Athletic Director of the Year in 1999 and 2002. He also received the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Award of Merit in 2000 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2012.
"John Vallina has been a very valuable asset to the WPIAL," WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. "He has served as a member of the Golf Steering Committee, and the WPIAL Board of Control, in a few different capacities. His retirement came as a surprise. He will be missed."
Vallina served as a member of the WPIAL Golf Steering Committee from 1991-2001, and was its chairman from 1999-2001. In 2001, he became a member of the WPIAL Board of Control and will complete his 13th year of service.
Vallina served as treasurer of the Board of Control from 2006-2010, then moved up to the position of vice president. His term ends when he steps down at the end of July.
"Jon is the only administrator from Burgettstown to serve on the Board of Control," said Fullen, who is also a member of the Board of Control. "He's also one of the few from Washington County to serve. He's represented the schools in Washington and Greene counties well."
Vallina also served as a member of the PIAA Board of Control from 2000-02 and 2006 to the present.
"I would like to stay at Burgettstown as a school board member," Vallina said. "I ran as a write-in during the primary election. I'm now on the ballot for the November election. There's only one other guy running against me, so there's a good chance I will be on the school board."
Vallina will also do some traveling with his wife.
"I will probably do some traveling during the winter, but I'll make sure I'm back to watch the postseason wrestling tournaments."