Matt Rossignol shares a love of history with a great personal sports legacy.
As for the latter, he was known as the “Baron of Van Buren” during the early 1980s, a flashy guard who led the Van Buren High School basketball team down from the St. John Valley to the Bangor Auditorium where the Crusaders filled the arena during tourney time with fans from around the state eager to witness his record-setting ways.
The Converse All-American and three-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine honoree followed his 2,257-point high school career by scoring 1,297 points at the University of Maine before returning to Aroostook County where he has remained connected to the sports sports scene as a parent, coach, soccer official and now the athletic administrator at his alma mater.
Rossignol also has been a long-time history teacher who recognizes the significant changes in his region, community and school from the time when nearby Loring Air Force Base and the region’s family based potato industry were thriving and Van Buren High School was Class A in soccer for a time and competed in Class B in other sports, including during his teams’ tourney appearances.
It’s now his goal to honor athletic success stories from the past to celebrate the school’s history and provide aspirational models for today’s student-athletes through the establishment of the Van Buren Athletic Hall of Fame, which will induct its first class in August.
“The demographics have changed, there’s no doubt about that,” said Rossignol, who was part of a graduating class of 100 back in 1985 at a school that now numbers approximately 75 students in grades 9-12 combined.
“But we like to think it’s still a great place to live, a great place for kids to grow up and get a great education, and a great place to aspire — and it doesn’t have to be sports but to aspire for greatness in whatever endeavor. I think the hall of fame is one way to promote that.”
Rossignol has worked to create an athletic hall of fame at Van Buren similar to those at such other Aroostook County high schools as Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield since becoming the school’s athletic administrator during the 2020-21 school year.
A hall of fame committee was established in January 2021, and after a year of monthly organizational meetings the panel announced last week its inaugural class of 10 individuals — including Rossignol — and the school’s first state championship team.
“And although it’s important to recognize the past, I think the hall of fame also serves as a beacon for our younger generation to aspire to, to achieve and to bring pride to our community,” Rossignol said.
Among the inaugural inductees of the Van Buren Athletic Hall of Fame is the 1976-77 girls basketball squad that finished 18-2 and captured the school’s first state championship by defeating Lake Region of Naples 62-53 in the title game.
Members of coach Jackie Desrosier’s team were Lise Morrow Williams, Gail Gagnon, Diane Morrow Cyr, Anna Morrow, Marie Morrow, Cynthia Cyr Bouchard, Darlene Rossignol, Sue Parker, Lisa Morrill, Sue Laplante, Diane Cyr, Suzanne Dionne, Monica Bearden and Lisa Cormier-Smith.
Other Individuals set for induction include Matt Rossignol’s daughter, Parise Rossignol Leffel (Class of 2014), who was All-Maine in soccer and basketball all four years of her high school career and is the state’s second-leading career scorer in basketball with 2,589 points. She also played basketball at UMaine, where she was the America East Sixth Player of the Year as a junior and a second-team all-conference selection as a senior.
Also selected for induction are Desrosier, a 1958 graduate and long-time teacher and coach who won state championships in basketball and softball; Monica Bearden, a 1977 graduate and an BDN-All Maine basketball player; Lisa Cormier-Smith, a 1980 graduate and the first 1,000-point scorer in UMaine women’s basketball history; and Sarah Roy Yates, a 1992 graduate and All-Maine performer in soccer with 104 career goals at Van Buren who set several soccer records at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Also, Steve Lapierre, a 1974 graduate and coach responsible for 10 regional titles and four state championships in soccer and nearly 600 career coaching victories at the school in soccer and basketball combined; Brian Hews, who coached the Crusaders to nearly 400 wins in soccer, basketball and baseball with three state championships and six regional crowns in girls soccer and a regional title in baseball; Ken “Pit” Martin, a 1972 graduate who won numerous All-Aroostook awards in soccer, basketball and soccer as well as all-tournament recognition in basketball during his playing career; and Larry Violette, a 1962 graduate and outstanding basketball player and member of the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s athletic hall of fame.
Financial contributions and sponsorship of the Van Buren High School Athletic Hall of Fame may be made by contacting Matthew Rossignol, president of the Van Buren High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Van Buren District Secondary School, 169 Main St., Van Buren, ME 04785. Tickets for the August induction ceremony will be made available at a later date.