Jim Finnemeyer

Jim Finnemeyer

Since its inception, North Penn High School has proudly graduated nearly 50,000 students. Each year, nearly 1,000 motivated, hardworking students turn their tassels and toss their caps in celebration and hope for the future. For most students, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For North Penn alumnus James Finnemeyer in 1964, it was the first of many commencement ceremonies that he would attend at North Penn High School.

James Finnemeyer's journey with the North Penn School District (NPSD) began far before he graduated from North Penn High School (NPHS) in 1964 and stretched far beyond commencement. Known as "Jim" by friends and family, he went through all 12 years of public education in the NPSD, attending "the old" Hatfield Elementary School-now the Biblical School of Theology-for grades one through six; North Penn Junior High School-now Penndale Middle School-for grades seven through nine; and North Penn High School-also presently Penndale-for grades 10 through 12. During Jim's time at NPHS, he was an Accolade Editor, a member of the band, an active drama student and a staff member for the Troubadour literary magazine.

Following graduation, Jim attended Millersville University, where he earned his Bachelors of Science in Education with a degree in comprehensive social studies in 1967. He then went on to take courses at Millersville University, West Chester University and Penn State University and earned his Master's Equivalency.

Straight from college, Jim returned back to his roots, teaching American History and Pennsylvania History and Civics at what was then known as Pennfield Junior High School from 1967 to 1971. It was here that Jim got his first taste of what would become a long, vested interest and expertise in student government, as he served as Student Council Advisor during his tenure at Pennfield.

Jim moved to the "new" North Penn High School in 1971, helping organize orientation programs and tours within the new building. There, he taught American History, Advanced Placement United States History and Political Science/Government for more than 30 years. "I absolutely loved every single day of teaching," said Jim. "For me, class had to be fun. I guess you could describe my style of teaching as old-school and energetic. My students used to do phenomenal impressions of me! Truly, spot on."

Jim furthered his passion for student government by acting as NPHS Student Government Association (SGA) Advisor for more than three quarters of his teaching career, from 1971 to 1995. Jim went on to serve as Director of Student Activities from 1988 to 2007. Although he retired from teaching in 2002, Jim remained at North Penn as Student Activities Director until 2007. Throughout Jim's career at North Penn, many milestones in the area of SGA were reached as well as programs installed which still run today.

With the help of the NPHS SGA students in 1973, Jim coordinated North Penn High School's hosting of the Pennsylvania State Student Council Conference. Nearly 30 years later, in 2002, NPHS hosted this program again under Jim's direction and with the help of the SGA and Class Government. Four years later, while Jim Finnemeyer was serving as Student Activities Director, North Penn hosted the National Association of Student Councils National Conference for more than 2,000 students and advisors, one of the many highlights of Jim's career, he noted.

In May of 1976, Jim's Political Science class created and implemented the first Mock National Political Convention at North Penn High School, a program that has since expanded greatly over the years and is still coordinated today by Mr. Brian Haley at NPHS. "The fact that the program is still run today... I just couldn't be more pleased," stated Jim Finnemeyer.

The Mock National Political Convention began with somewhere between 400-500 students. Fast forward to today, and the program includes over 1,200 juniors and seniors at North Penn High School. "The program was truly unique," said Jim. "To be able to find an opportunity in class and in school to talk about issues of that day by writing and debating political party platforms was huge. We wanted students to be able to tune into the conventions that upcoming summer, but we also wanted students to have an opportunity to speak their minds on the platform of issues of that day."

In 1990, Jim worked with then principal, Dr. Juan Baughn, and then Assistant Principal, Dr. Susan Cahill on a year-long proposal including a site visit for consideration of the National School of Excellence. As a result, North Penn High School received this award in 1991.

"Dr. Baughn provided tremendous opportunities for me to be able to talk to the administrative team on a weekly basis," explained Jim. "Much of the success we had at North Penn in the areas of SGA as well as the support for numerous other activities was because of this on-going communication. It was a coordinated effort, and Dr. Baughn was a wonderful help with that."

North Penn not only held a great deal of memories and importance to Jim, but to his whole family as well. Jim's wife, Barrie, taught chemistry at NPHS and worked with the gifted program from 1971 to 2006. In addition, she served as a cheerleading advisor for ten years from 1972 to 1982, National Honor Society Advisor from 1982 to 2007, and was also a substitute teacher from time to time from 2007 until 2009. Like their father, Jim and Barrie's sons Matthew and Andrew attended the North Penn School District throughout all of their public schooling. Matthew's journey included York Avenue Elementary, Pennfield Middle School, Penndale Middle and finally NPHS, graduating in 2001. Andrew attended York Ave., Penndale and NPHS, graduating in 2006.

Beyond North Penn, Jim Finnemeyer has held dozens of titles and high-level positions for many reputable organizations. Jim served as the Pennsylvania Chair for both the Century III Leaders Scholarships Program from 1975-1982 as well as for the United States Senate Youth Scholarship program from 1975-2013. Since 1992, he has held many positions within the Horatio Alger Association for Distinguished Americans' Scholarship Program, including Field Director for Pennsylvania and as a Counselor from 1995 to the present for the National Scholars Conference and Awards Program.

Jim served on the National Association of State Student Council Executive Directors' Executive Board from 1981 to 1985, and again from 2005 to 2009. He also served on the National Association of Student Councils Executive Board from 1977 through 1980. He was the Co-Director of the National Leadership Training Center from 1975 to 1981 and Pennsylvania Student Council (PASC) Leadership Workshop and Camp Director from 1976 to 2013. Additionally, Jim held numerous positions with the PASC, a 700-member organization of secondary school student council organizations, most recently including Executive Director from 1977 to 2013.

Today, Jim keeps himself very busy as Executive Director of the National Association of Workshop Director (NAWD), a position which he's held since 2014, leading a national organization of adults that promotes student leadership training and development, networking of activity advisors and the value of student activities in the nation's schools. He also acts as President of the Official Board at Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church in Hatfield, and serves on the Election Board for Hatfield Township as Judge of Election.

Jim has received many awards for his outstanding achievements and dedication to service both in the North Penn area and in the state of Pennsylvania. These awards include Lansdale Jaycees Outstanding Young Educator in 1971, National Leadership Workshop Director of the Year Award presented by the NAWD in 1987, and the Warren A. Shull Award as National Student Council Advisor of the Year in 2001.

Jim Finnemeyer has left a lasting impression on the North Penn School District which stretches students as well as his colleagues, many of whom ended up great friends. The North Penn School District is grateful and proud to call Jim Finnemeyer a successful alumnus and beloved retiree.