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Deer Park Rotary honors high school principal Joe Feist with Rotarian of the Year award

Joe Feist, principal of Deer Park High School, has been named Deer Park Rotary’s Rotarian of the Year. Feist raised money for scholarships without the annual tournament.   (COLIN MULVANY)
Joe Feist, principal of Deer Park High School, has been named Deer Park Rotary’s Rotarian of the Year. Feist raised money for scholarships without the annual tournament.  (COLIN MULVANY)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Traditionally, the end of September sees golfers, Rotarians and sponsors on the links of the Deer Park Golf Club for the Deer Park Rotary Golf Tournament.

The yearly event raises money to fund scholarships for three area high schools.

This year the fundraiser was canceled due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop tournament organizer Joe Feist from rallying sponsors to contribute to the scholarships despite not being on the green.

That’s one of the reasons Deer Park Rotary selected Feist as the club’s Rotarian of the Year.

“Joe’s the main guy that runs our golf tournament,” outgoing president Wes Player said.

The club awards two $1,000 scholarships, one academic and one vocational, to students at Deer Park, Springdale and Riverside high schools.

“When the tournament was canceled, Joe offered to contact the sponsors to see if they’d still be willing to contribute,” Player said. “He was able to raise $4,500 without a tournament.”

Feist, entering his 14th year as principal of Deer Park High School, said he’s been a member of the club for 10 years.

“I wanted to get involved in the community outside school,” he said. “I admired the projects and charities that Rotary supported.”

Though the golf tournament had been a featured fundraiser for several years, Feist’s leadership breathed new life into the event.

As an avid golfer with a home on the golf course, Feist relished the challenge of revamping the tournament and has served as event chair for the past six years.

“Last year we had 27 teams with over 100 players and raised approximately $10,000 during the one-day event,” he said.

The lifelong educator dreaded the thought of losing that kind of support for the scholarships, so he got busy reaching out to supporters and sponsors.

“He’s got great connections in the community and is very well respected,” Player said. “He’s an amazing guy.”

Feist shrugged off the praise, choosing to focus on the individuals and businesses that support the scholarships sans tournament. When accepting this award, he said the ultimate reward for his work with Rotary is the joy expressed by local students when they receive one of the scholarships.

Though in-person meetings have been rerouted to weekly Zoom sessions, Feist said the active members of Deer Park Rotary are extremely giving, unselfish people.

“I’m humbled by the award,” he said. “I have so much respect for the members. For them to give me this award means a lot.”

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