Remembering NPHS icon, Mr. H. James Finnemeyer


Man at the Mic – Mr. Jim Finnemeyer presides over a the mock presidential convention, which he created at NPHS. (KC FILE PHOTO)

TOWAMENCIN – Every spring at North Penn High School a thousand students say their final goodbyes and every fall a thousand students say their first hellos. Teachers are hired and teachers retire and change remains inevitable. With the constant adjustment to students and staff, it seems impossible for any individual to create an ever-lasting legacy. But it’s not impossible. Not if you’re Jim Finnemeyer.  

On April 20, 2023, the North Penn community’s hearts were broken after being told of the death of Jim Finnemeyer. Harry James Finnemeyer, known by most as Jim, was a dedicated history teacher in the North Penn School District for 35 years. But he was not just a history teacher. Alongside the role of husband and father Finnemeyer also served as the executive director for PASC, the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils, as well as North Penn High Schools Student Activities Director. Finnemeyer put his heart and soul into North Penn and wore his many roles at the school like badges of honor. 

He was so dedicated to his work. He gave everything 125%. All day and night he worked on things for the school

— Linda Law - NPHS Athletics Secretary

“He was so dedicated to his work. He gave everything 125%. All day and night he worked on things for the school,” Finnemeyer’s former secretary for activities and longtime friend Linda Law stated. “He was just constantly involved with the kids”. 

Law worked alongside Finnemeyer for thirty-plus years and watched as he impacted the lives of others and her life as well. 

“Jim was so knowledgeable and bright, and informative,” Law stated. “He impacted so many students and adults not just from North Penn but from many districts”. 

Finnemeyer started his career in the district at Pennfield Middle School in 1967 before making the switch to teaching at North Penn High School in 1971. At Pennfield, Finnemeyer gained some experience and knowledge in the SGA field by serving as the Student Council Advisor for Pennfield. Once he moved to the high school, Finnemeyer quickly took on the role of Student Government Association (SGA) Advisor and remained in this role until 1995. Finnemeyer also picked up the role of Student Activities Director in 1988 and even after retiring from his position as a history teacher in 2002, he remained the Student Activities Director until 2007.    

“Back when I was a student, Jim was always the guy with the microphone that stood in front of the auditorium,” former student and current Student Activities Director Kyle Berger stated. “I always try to do my best Jim Finnemeyer impersonation every day here as the student activities director and if I can do half of what he did I would be happy with how it went.”

I always try to do my best Jim Finnemeyer impersonation every day here as the student activities director and if I can do half of what he did I would be happy with how it went

— Kyle Berger - NPHS Activities Director

When Berger accepted the role as the Student Activities Director and SGA advisor it was a whole new world in which Berger had little experience. From his time spent as a student at North Penn, Berger immediately remembered who could help guide him through the difficult transition. 

“When I first started as the director of student activities here I was talking to Jim all the time because he had all the knowledge,” Berger revealed. “He kept meticulous records of everything. At his house, you would walk into a room and there would just be four-foot-high stacks of papers and brochures and conference materials and literally every single thing. I  actually have a little  folder in my filing cabinet of some things he gave me that I call the ‘Finnemeyer File’ and I still refer to it on a couple of things.   

Finnemeyer worked diligently day in and day out to provide for his students and the school. One of his biggest achievements was in 2005 when Finnemeyer lead the school in hosting the National Student Council Conference. For years, Finnemeyer planned the conference on top of teaching and leading other student activities. In the end, there were a total of 1,776 delegates that came to North Penn for the conference and although it rained the whole time, it still ended as one of Finnemeyer’s many successes. 

“When you talk about having a legacy for an event, that was it for him,” Berger shared. “He hosted 1,776 people here and he had to arrange hotels and coordinate hospitality in the city, and the convention was overall a huge success. That was a big accomplishment for him”. 

Even after his years working as the SGA advisor and executive director of PASC, Finnemeyer continued to return to the school to spread his knowledge and lead the kids toward success. About 10 years ago, North Penn applied to host a state conference for student council. The process required a group of student leaders to create a presentation that they would present in front of the PASC council in hopes of being chosen as the school to hold the state conference. Throughout the whole grueling process, who else was there but none other than Jim Finnemeyer. 

“Having the former executive director of PASC in your corner was such a benefit for the kids. We had a couple of meetings after school and in the evenings where Jim would come in for a couple of hours and give us the framework to make a good presentation,” Berger explained. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to host the conference but Jim’s guidance through that process was remarkable and the students who were a part of that group went on to do incredible things. Just gleaning that knowledge and organization they saw from Jim was just such a great experience”. 

One thing about Finnemeyer is that he never did his work alone. In fact, he made all of his work through the school a family affair. 

“The whole family worked together,” Law stated. “It was always Jim, his wife Barrie, and his two sons Drew and Mathew”. 

As involved as Finnemeyer was in the school, his wife Barrie was equally as involved. Barrie was a science teacher at North Penn and like her husband, was involved in numerous other things. From being the cheerleading coach to the advisor of the National Honors Society, Barrie made sure she made her contributions to the school as well. Barrie even went to every state conference with Jim and greeted people at the registration table.

They were just thought of so reverentially by our staff and faculty just because they gave their lives to this school as well as to kids across the state and even across the country

— Kyle Berger


“They were just thought of so reverentially by our staff and faculty just because they gave their lives to this school as well as to kids across the state and even across the country,” Berger noted. “I don’t know that in this day and age, you will ever see two people be as entwined in a school and community as Jim and Barrie were. To see two folks that were so ingrained in the culture of North Penn, and student activities and academics. They were here at every event to the point where I swore they had a house here.” 

Although Finnemeyer did so much for North Penn and the community, that is only half of what makes up his legacy. The other half is purely built on the fact that there was never a day that went by where Finnemeyer didn’t radiate kindness and positivity. 

“If he was having a bad day you never knew it,” Berger shared. “I never saw Jim angry, I mean I saw other emotions but never anger,” Law revealed. 

Although Finnemeyer is no longer around to share his knowledge with the world, those who knew him personally will continue to turn to his memory and legacy for guidance. 

“It’s crazy because now I am the guy with the microphone and I have to know how to engage with students in a large setting like that. Whenever I am struggling I just think ‘Well how did Jim do that when I was a student’. I mean I have developed my own thing over the years but getting to use him as a role model is great,” Berger revealed. 

While Berger still turns to his memories of Finnemeyer, it saddens him to know that someone he looked up to for so long is gone. 

“I am sad he is gone because he is just one of those people that you thought would be around forever,” Berger shared. “It was unfortunate that his time ended so quickly and you always say you wish you could have visited him one more time”. 

Law reflects similarly on her feelings surrounding Finnemeyers’s death. 

For me, he was more than just a boss, he was a friend

— Linda Law

“For me, he was more than just a boss, he was a friend,” Law stated. “His illness was very hurtful. He went through a lot. I did get to say goodbye to him before he passed and that was very special.”

Though it is difficult to overcome the loss of such an incredible individual, those who knew him best choose to focus on all of the light he brought to the world. After all, Finnemeyer would never want anyone to be sad. 

“There is a reason that our Teacher of the Year award is named after Jim,” Berger stated. “He represented everything that we want our faculty to be whether that was through being a great educator or just being someone who encourages students and enables them to achieve their goals. I think continuing his legacy is so important.”

Creating a legacy is certainly no easy task, but it’s not impossible. While there may be others who find a way to create a legacy for themselves at North Penn, no one will ever quite live up to the legacy of Jim Finnemeyer, because that task is actually impossible.