It was time for Deb Lueken to move on after 33 years at Morton.
The Governors athletic director since 2015 will officially retire on June 27 after the conclusion of a special education day camp.
“It’s a lot more difficult to teach kids these days,” Lueken said. “It’s just become tough to do your job.”
Lueken taught and coached in the school city of Hammond for 36 years. She was head girls tennis coach at Morton for four years and spent time coaching basketball, tennis, cross country and volleyball at Morton, Gavit and Hobart, sometimes as an assistant and sometimes a head coach. She also spent a year as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Indiana University Northwest.
Lueken’s worked with the special needs camp for 31 years.
“I found my niche. I was a tomboy growing up,” Lueken said. “I played basketball. I was comfortable (as a coach). I wasn’t really a tennis player, but I fell in love with it and I got better.”
Lueken played college basketball at Western Illinois University. Before that, she was part of the first organized girls sports teams in high school history in the 1970s, playing volleyball, basketball and softball at Hinsdale South in Illinois. Her senior-year basketball team played in the first Illinois girls state tournament in 1977.
“I wanted to give back what my role models had given to me. Several of them were coaches,” she said. “I think I’m probably most proud of the fact that I taught a lot of kids how to swim. It was so rewarding to see a kid that was scared to death of the water to be jumping off a diving board, jumping off the side of the pool and the pride that they felt that they accomplished something.”
Morton special education teacher and coach Marie Herring said Lueken made a big effort to provide equitable resources to all sports.
“Once some time has passed, some people will really realize how much Deb was really involved with all the athletic programs and a lot of things beyond that,” Herring said. “That kind of commitment is such a rare commodity.”
Lueken taught two physical education classes at Morton in addition to her duties as athletic director. She said she would have been asked to take on another class next school year.
“If I would’ve been allowed to just be AD, I probably would’ve stuck around a little bit longer,” Lueken said. “I gave my whole heart and soul to the school city of Hammond for 36 years. I tried to do the best that I could as an athletic director with the tools that I had to work with.”
Herring has known Lueken for the duration of her time in Hessville. Herring said Lueken was committed to Governors athletics.
“As athletic director, I saw her involvement not only within the school but within the community really increase,” Herring said. “She really wanted everything to be a family at Morton. That was a huge goal for her, everybody helping each other out.”
Lueken plans to spend more time working with Guardians of the Green Mile, an animal rescue group out of Portage, and teaching swimming part time at Patti’s All American Gymnastics in Dyer.
“I plan on rescuing more animals, doing transports, doing fundraisers,” she said.