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Rocket scientist Morrie Pongratz gets a lift out of watching sports and also enjoys mentoring teens. He has spent the last couple of decades in an endeavor that melds the two activities together quite nicely — announcing ‘Topper sports for Los Alamos High School.
“I started announcing because no one was doing the girls games and that didn’t seem quite fair,” Pongratz said. “Also, I go to the games anyway and this gives me a good seat.”
LAHS athletic director Vicki Nelms spoke about Pongratz’s contributions to the schools saying the high school is very fortunate to have a man of Pongratz’s caliber so involved.
“He is awesome to work with,” said Nelms, who’s going into her fourth year helming the athletic office. “If he can’t be there he always finds someone to stand in for him. The biggest thing is that he cares about the kids, he cares about the community and he cares about the schools.”
Nelms describes Pongratz as a very knowledgeable man when it comes to sports. Because of all he has done for the school and the athletics program over the years, Nelms recently nominated him for the Public Address Announcer of the Year Award with the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers.
“He didn’t win and that’s OK,” Nelms said. “We wanted him to know that we sure appreciate him and everything he does for us and for this community.”
Pongratz went to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1975.
“I flunked retirement, so I’m back at work babysitting sensors on some GPS satellites,” he said. “One thing retirement has given me is more time to announce C Team and (junior varsity) games for volleyball, basketball and football.”
Pongratz is well known throughout the community as a youth advocate who volunteers countless hours each year to a variety of activities. He served for several years on the local board of education. He also served on the Los Alamos County Council for 14 years and founded Youth Working for Youth in 1983.
Pongratz is a member of the Los Alamos Kiwanis Club and has served in that capacity as the LAHS Key Club advisor for years.
At a Key Club district convention in April, he was selected Advisor of the Year. LAHS also celebrated its Key Club’s 60th anniversary and was selected as an honorary distinguished club at that same event.
Pongratz is president of the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation and vice chair of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB).
“Getting young people off on a positive path is very important,” he said.
Forty-five years ago Pongratz married Cheryl Pongratz who also is involved in community activities. She served for several years as assistant superintendent of the Los Alamos Public Schools, also is a member of JJAB and the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation and is director of the Counseling Center at Los Alamos Family Council.