Parade through time
GPPSS marks 100th anniversary during GP Chamber parade
Alumni, staff and students continued the celebration of the school district’s centennial by marching behind the centennial banner in the Grosse Pointe Chamber holiday parade Friday morning.
Also participating was distinguished alumnus Thomas Van Tiem, a 1949 graduate of Grosse Pointe High School, who rode in a 1919 Model T owned and driven by Dr. Patrick Sweeney. They were accompanied by Superintendent Jon Dean and Board President Joseph Herd. (Read more about Judge Van Tiem below.)
Assisting in recruiting alumni and securing the historic Model T for the celebration was Grosse Pointe Alumni & Friends Association, an independent, volunteer-led 501(c)3 organization committed to supporting GPPSS with an alumni association and the Generations Endowment Fund.
Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South’s combined marching bands were the parade’s grand finale. Click here to view a highlight video created by Steve Geresy, who leads Grosse Pointe South’s TV production and Pierce Middle School’s broadcast production classes.
Alumni Through the Decades
Thomas A. Van Tiem
Class of 1949
Grosse Pointe High School
Before Thomas Van Tiem attended Maire Elementary School, he watched it being built. There was a big, muddy pond where water was pumped into during the construction, he recalls. When he lost his shoe in the mud, his mother made his older brother go find it.
“At that time during the war, WWII, you got only one pair of leather shoes every year,” he said.
After attending Maire from first through sixth grade, he went on to Pierce Junior High School for seventh through ninth grade. Students were placed in split classes at the time known as A and B, remaining in these groups from first through twelfth grade. Judge Van Tiem graduated from The High with his class in January of 1949, while the other class graduated in June.
One formative memory was from his days at Pierce, where he served as president of the Pierce Pencil Company. To sell maroon and gold pencils, the class elected a board of directors. The board of directors then selected the president. Judge Van Tiem was chosen for this distinction after having to write and submit his qualifications, he recalls. One of his other duties was to advertise the business on the public address system.
“It was a regular business just like the big corporations,” he said. “It was quite a learning experience for all the ninth graders.”
While in high school, he got up at 5 a.m. each morning to deliver papers for the Free Press, serving 100 customers on St. Clair and Notre Dame in the City of Grosse Pointe, where he lived. He also recalls getting in a bit of trouble when he skipped school. One of his friends had a sailboat, and “every time he had the sails over his shoulders, I knew we were going to skip school,” Judge Van Tiem said.
He was the first in his family to go to college, using his newspaper savings — $1,300 — to attend Michigan State University. When the money ran out, he volunteered with the draft and served two years as a company clerk in the Army’s Third Armored Division at Fort Knox.
In December of 1953, on a seven-day leave, he married his wife, Helen, after meeting her on a blind date. The couple were married 64 years and had seven children. Helen Van Tiem died in 2018.
Judge Van Tiem completed the final three semesters at MSU on the GI Bill, graduating in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in police administration, now known as criminal justice. While enrolled at Detroit College of Law, he worked midnights at the Ford River Rouge Plant. He earned a juris doctor degree in 1960 and, in 1965, he was selected to appear in the edition of Outstanding Young Men of America “in recognition of his outstanding ability, accomplishments and service to his community, country and profession.”
From 1981 to 1992, he presided as judge in the 36th District Court in Detroit, receiving a master’s degree in judicial studies in 1994 from the National Judicial College and University of Nevada. He later became a visiting trial judge, administrative law judge and mediator before officially retiring in 2013.
Judge Van Tiem currently lives on Jefferson in the City of Grosse Pointe, only blocks from where he was born.
He sums up his nine decades as follows: “I have been a lucky guy all my life.”
(Some of the information in this article was adapted from a Feb. 28, 2019 Grosse Pointe News Pointer of Interest.)
School Pointes is a publication of the Grosse Pointe Public School System. To submit story ideas or Pointes of Pride, email email@example.com.