River View gym renamed Ken Roloff Gymnasium

River View gym renamed Ken Roloff Gymnasium

By Brian Roebke


What was known at River View Middle School as Gym B and is known to many Kaukauna High School graduates from the mid-60s and earlier as the “the gym” and those after that as the “old gym” now has a new name.

The Kaukauna Area School District held a dedication ceremony for the Ken Roloff Gymnasium on June 16 at River View Middle School.

Emcee Jack Pautz, who made the nomination to the board of education, said Roloff was a gifted athlete, dedicated educator and coach, community-minded server, and a respected family man.

“In terms of being the person to have this gymnasium dedicated to him, Ken Roloff checked all the boxes,” he said.

Pautz told a story of how he learned about Roloff from one of his former colleagues when he taught at Pulaski, Fred Kestly, who was two years behind Roloff at UW-Stevens Point.

Kestly told him what an outstanding classmate and collegiate athlete Roloff was when they played together, but he never heard any of that from Roloff himself.

“He realized he had special gifts but never was boastful or full of pride,” Pautz said. “Instead, he used what was given to him to pay it forward to benefit other young people in their lives.”

Pautz also pointed out that Roloff was kind, one of the more significant dispositions we should strive for in our lives and one of the most important qualities we should model for others.

“He had such an amazing positive outlook on life from my experiences,” Paultz said. 

Ken’s son Chris thanked the crowd of about 60 people for attending what was a happy and joyful day.

“You’re either here because you had history with my dad or thought enough of him or you’re here to support my mom and I,” he said.

When his mother came to him with the idea, Chris could not think of a better space or place to do it than this gym.

“My dad boxed in there when he was a freshman in high school. It is where he played three years of varsity basketball … and he played numerous post-graduation basketball games with some of the really good basketball players who came through Kaukauna High School over the years.”

He often came out on top of those games and one-on-one matches.

Al Borchardt said Roloff beat him both left-handed and right-handed.

“It’s also where he was based for teaching phy ed,” Chris said. “In all those years he taught phy ed, this place was near and dear to his heart. It’s where his office was.”

He explained the office was dark and cave-like with every issue of Sports Illustrated from when it started publishing until that week. 

“He loved that place. That was truly his home away from home,” Chris said. 

Chris asked if the gym was dedicated to his father because of his athletic ability, coaching, teaching, or personality traits.

“I think the answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes.”

Fred Barribeau, who came to Kaukauna in the 1940s, once told him around 1990 he had never seen a more pure athlete come out of Kaukauna than his dad.

As a coach, his highest profile was 1969-74 when he was the varsity football coach and the teams were known for being tough.

“My dad did have a gift for offensive scheme and between his offensive game plans and people executing them, like Karl Mueller, like Warren Hacker, and Reed Giordana for his entire tenure here, his scheming and their execution were quite a formidable opponent,” Chris said.

He noted his dad loved teaching kids who never were in school sports after school or had outstanding talent.

His curriculum was diverse and challenging, but line dancing was gone by the time Chris got to high school.

Chris thought his dad’s personal qualities were why so many people were there for the ceremony.

“Personal qualities, integrity, and a caring demeanor are what relationships are really built on,” he said. “There are a lot or relationships here in this room with my dad in this room.”

Barb said he had heard more about her husband that day than ever before.

“You have all been so great to be here to share this with us, and I’m so proud of the relationships I have with all of you,” she said. 

She thanked Pautz for his hard work to get this done and offered hugs to everyone who came to pay tribute to her late husband.

She said Chris perhaps knew more about Ken than she did but she pointed out she was rolling on the mats in the gym in 1936 when she was 3 years old.

Brian Roebke photos 

Chris Roloff spoke at the Kaukauna Area School District’s dedication ceremony to name a gym after his father, Ken Roloff, on June 16 at River View Middle School.

Barb Roloff spoke about her late husband when the gymnasium known as “Gym B” at River View Middle School was named the Ken Roloff Gymnasium.