By Becky Koppenhaver
Belmont High School alumni are raising money this summer to name the school’s newly renovated stadium after a much-loved teacher who taught at the campus for 39 years. The stadium, complete with new artificial turf and an all-weather track, will be named “Erdmann Stadium at Montgomery Field” in honor of Dentler Erdmann, who taught at the school from 1959 to 1998.
Erdman, who was affectionately called “Erdie” by his students, was a business teacher but was also involved in almost all goings on at Belmont. He served as a Student Council advisor, yearbook advisor, the Sentinel newspaper advisor and counseled and mentored many students of all backgrounds, said alum Colleen Miyano, who now works as a teacher trainer at the high school, which serves Echo Park and Historic Filipinotown. Erdmann was named California State Teacher of the Year in 1975.
“Dentler Erdmann was an influential figure to all the students who attended Belmont during those years,” Miyano said. “He was more than just a classroom teacher. A long tall Texan, he was a positive role model who engaged students and supported them both intellectually and emotionally. He attended most athletic events and took pictures for the yearbook, Campanile. He loved Belmont and we loved him!”
Jack Hansen, a former Belmont coach and a member of the class of ‘68, Belmont said that in Erdmann missed only three varsity games in his 39 years at the school. “He could always be found on the field taking pictures of the athletes for the yearbook,” said Hansen. “In the spring he supported the athletes by volunteering to work at all the track meets. He bled green and black and spent more time on that field than anyone I know.” Erdmann was named California State Teacher of the Year in 1975.
Hansen along with Belmont coach Gregg Barden are reaching out to other alumni to help raise approximately $1,200 to complete the final task of hanging Erdmann’s name on the large wall in the bleacher section of the stadium. Some recent graduates of Belmont voiced objections to the naming, but once Hansen explained who he was they all agreed Erdmann deserved to be honored.
And if you are wondering whether Erdmann himself, now 78, will be at the dedication ceremony scheduled to take place this fall, he says he wouldn’t miss it. The former teacher returned to Texas for his retirement, and now spends his time working in his yard and hanging out at a local café in Lubbock, where he says a bunch of ex-coaches are his source of never-ending entertainment.
When asked how he feels about having Belmont’s stadium name after him, Erdmann said it’s difficult to find the words. “Even now, as I approach the four-score mark, when it’s deep in the night and the sleep won’t come, I think about my days in the cotton fields of Texas and wonder how in the heck I got this far in one piece… I’m still trying to figure out how I got off the farm. So for me to describe the feeling of Erdmann Stadium is impossible.”
Erdmann says one thing is for sure, the fondness with which he is remembered by his former students is reciprocated. “I have had trouble over the years trying to explain the incredible kids that came through Belmont … I know that other teachers will talk about their students and schools in much the same way, but I know, I just know, that the kids at Belmont were special.”
The dedication of Erdmann Stadium at Montgomery Field is scheduled for September 23, 2011.
If you would like to donate to the sign fund, please email Jack Hansen: JHBHS68@aol.com.
P.S.: So, who is Montgomery Field named after? The field was named in honor of the first boy’s vice principal at Belmont, according to Erdmann.
- Always Montgomery. Belmont Sentinnel
Becky Koppenhaver is a freelance writer covering schools. You can send Becky story tips and ideas at becky@theEastsiderLA.com