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Mullen loses longtime teacher and friend

Mullen High School teacher Frank Sferra, 77, died July 30 after an extended illness.

“The Mullen community and the Denver Catholic community have lost a friend and a saint,” said Mullen president and CEO Carl Unrein.

Sferra was born in Denver Oct. 16, 1936. He graduated from Regis Jesuit High School and Regis University, and held a master’s degree in communication from the University of Colorado. Sferra began teaching at his alma mater RJHS in 1957, followed by two years at Bishop Machebeuf High School. He started at Mullen in the fall of 1960.

“People who teach in Catholic schools are so lucky,” he told the Denver Catholic Register in January 2013. “We live in a faith community … and there’s a dynamism that’s incredible. You can feel it.”

At Mullen, Sferra was a speech, debate and public speaking teacher; as well as a celebrated coach, for 54 years. He mentored many national level competitors in speech and debate including three individual national champions and several national team awards. In addition, he served on the National Forensic League (NFL) district committee beginning in 1956; the NFL Council for nearly 40 years, 10 as president; hosted the NFL tournament twice; and chaired the Colorado State Tournament 14 times.

He is a member of the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, the NFL Hall of Fame, the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, and the National Federation of High School Activities Associations Hall of Fame. In fact, Sferra was the first speech individual inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame.

In 1985, he received the Pellham Award for Contribution to Forensic Education, in 1996 was named Colorado Teacher of the Year for the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1998 named Forensic Educator of the Year. In 2012, Sferra became a Seven Diamond coach in the NFL, an honor few educators in the country receive. In June, he was presented with the inaugural NFHS Section Six Heart of the Arts Award for his work in speech activities.

“It’s not a job,” he said in 2013. “It’s just ‘what I do.’ Every day is exciting.”

To honor his contributions, Mullen opened the Sferra Library and Resource Center in 2001.

“Frank was such an integral part of Mullen’s history and our Lasallian Mission,” Unrein said. “(He) impacted the entire Mullen community with unmatched dedication to its students and an unrivaled commitment to excellence and integrity.”

Services for Sferra will be Sept. 2 at Mullen High School’s Rilko Chapel at 3601 S. Lowell Blvd. in Denver. Recitation of the rosary will begin at 9 a.m. with a funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Services will conclude with fellowship at Mullen. There will be no classes that day, to allow the community the opportunity to attend his services.

Sferra is survived by an extended family, including his cousin Ed (Inez) DePinto. Memorial contributions can be made to Mullen High School.

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