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Retired educator, coach this year’s Christian Brothers Dinner honoree

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 18, 2020

 Retired De La Salle Collegiate High School teacher and coach Gary Buslepp, of Grosse Pointe Farms, will be this year’s honoree at the 39th annual Christian Brothers Dinner April 30 at Penna’s of Sterling in Sterling Heights.

Retired De La Salle Collegiate High School teacher and coach Gary Buslepp, of Grosse Pointe Farms, will be this year’s honoree at the 39th annual Christian Brothers Dinner April 30 at Penna’s of Sterling in Sterling Heights.

Photo provided by De La Salle Collegiate High School

METRO DETROIT — For all his years of dedication as a teacher and coach at De La Salle Collegiate High School, Gary Buslepp is being recognized.

The Grosse Pointe Farms resident will be this year’s honoree at the 39th annual Christian Brothers Dinner April 30 at Penna’s of Sterling in Sterling Heights.

“I was humbled,” Buslepp said. “I’ve been to previous Christian Brothers Dinners. The list of (honoree) recipients is pretty impressive.”

The Pilots are the mascot of De La Salle, where Buslepp basically did three tours of duty, first in Detroit and again after the school relocated to Warren in 1982.

“There’s a lot of people to thank over my career,” Buslepp said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with former players, teachers and alumni at the dinner.”    

“For generations of Pilots, Gary Buslepp has been an exemplary presence in our De La Salle community,” DLS President John M. Knight said in a prepared statement. “It’s an honor for us to thank him for his years of service to numerous young men in metro Detroit.”

Buslepp graduated from Detroit Austin Catholic High School in 1969. He then enrolled at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids before returning to Austin to teach and coach sports from 1973 to 1977.

Something that really caught his attention in his early teaching days occurred during a Saturday morning basketball game at DLS. Although it was not a school day, the educator noticed “a lot of activity” among students at the all-boys Catholic school, where students were working in the photo club, tutoring, painting and practicing for the upcoming spring play.

When enrollment at Austin began to decline and a position opened up in 1977 at De La Salle, Buslepp “never forgot” that busy Saturday morning. If he had to change schools, he knew DLS would be a good fit.

The longtime educator began as a biology teacher and baseball coach at DLS. Over the years, Buslepp broadened the students’ horizons by teaching health, physical education and life skills classes.

“It wasn’t your traditional life skills class. We talked about the pressures of school and the pressures of college,” the Catholic League Hall of Fame coach said. He also brought in mindfulness and tai chi.

Buslepp coached varsity basketball at DLS from 1981 to 1988. He also coached varsity baseball from 1978 to 1981. Buslepp left DLS for the first time in 1988 to join Ricky Byrdsong’s coaching staff at the University of Detroit, which later became the University of Detroit Mercy. While at the college, Buslepp also served students as an academic support coordinator. It was there that he met his wife, Barbara, several years after he saw her for the first time.

“In 1977, we stood up in a wedding together,” Buslepp said.

When he saw her again 11 years later working as an associate director of admissions at the University of Detroit, Buslepp knew she looked familiar. She reminded him of the wedding several years earlier. The couple married in 1990 and have three children: Matthew, Ann and Elizabeth. Buslepp left the University of Detroit Mercy for DLS once again.

“De La Salle and I reconnected in 1991,” Buslepp said, when he returned as a vice principal and biology and life skills teacher. He continued as vice principal until 1999-2000, but had stopped teaching.

Buslepp left DLS again in 2000 when he accepted a vice principal position at Grosse Pointe South High School, a role he held for four years. From there, he served as Pierce Middle School principal, where he “had 10 wonderful years till I retired in 2014.”

In 2015, the veteran educator returned to DLS a third time to assist in the school’s academic support area. He officially retired in 2018.

Buslepp was inspired by his cousin, Christopher Markowski, to coach and teach. Markowski was a paraplegic who excelled in wheelchair basketball, playing for the Detroit Sparks, where he received All-American honors. Markowski died at the age of 24 in 1973 due to heart surgery complications.

“His resilience and encouragement offered to me and his brothers were key motivators for me,” Buslepp said. “Teaching and coaching are very similar. The teaching profession — kids don’t care about how much you know. They care about how much you care. I think that’s what teaching means the most to me.”

“Perhaps best known for leading the Pilots’ varsity basketball team to several milestones in school history, Buslepp finished with a 124-66 overall coaching record, including a 53-27 mark in the Catholic League Central Division. His basketball teams captured three state regional championships in five years, reaching the Class B state finals in 1982 and the Class A semifinals six years later,” a DLS press release states. “The ’82 hoops team — led by Roy Dixon, Bob McGinnis, Dave Wolf, John Bencie, and twins Mike and John Bautista — is still the only squad in school history to play in a state basketball championship game.

“The Pilots won regionals again in 1984 and 1986. And the highly touted 1988 squad, which was guided by Chris Snyder, Michael Kenley, Joe Smythe, Brady O’Toole, Jerry Luzynski and All-American Mike Peplowski, won the school’s first Catholic League championship with a thrilling 52-51 victory over Redford Bishop Borgess,” the press release states.

Tickets for the 39th annual Christian Brothers Dinner are on sale at thepilothangar.com or by calling the school’s advancement office at (586) 778-3356.