Hall of Fame honorees or family representative in attendance at the Hall of Fame/Alumni Day Celebration. From left, seated: John McConnell, Ph.D. ‘42; Roger Wexelberg ‘77; Paul Palmer, M.D. ‘48; Larry Mitchell ‘66; George Egofske ‘49; Ray Jakubiak ‘66; James Kreske; David Johnson ‘66. Standing: Joe Puglise ‘77; Roy Inlow; Janet Chisholm Wahl; Tom Peppard (son of) William Peppard; Allan Pizzato ‘70; James Kirkham; Loyal Mehnert ‘94; Richard Johnson ‘81. Unable to attend in the afternoon and not pictured: Milton Davenport III DMD ‘97. Unable to attend the event: Richard Cargill ‘56; Barry Gardner ‘94.
A Gathering of Thornton Greats
By LaMarr Thomas ’66
The long, unbroken, and continuing legacy of Thornton accomplishment and Thornton spirit was on impressive display with the gathering on May 3 of the 2013 Hall of Fame honorees. From 1942 to 1997, these high-achieving alumni represented six different decades of Thornton history and Thornton pride. Whether in medicine, film, sports, TV, philanthropy, veteran affairs, politics, education, civic affairs, or business, these Hall of Fame inductees were justly recognized as some of Thornton’s very finest!
These 18 distinguished Hall of Famers were each formally introduced to the Thornton faculty and staff (and supporting friends and family) in a special ceremony that was part of the afternoon program in the Auditorium.
Before this ceremony of introduction, Judge Lorna Propes ’62, the Keynote Speaker for the day, spoke in compelling terms about how much had changed in society regarding the opportunities for girls and women to pursue a higher education. She described how when she was a student at Thornton, it was generally assumed that young women didn’t need to go to college. Lorna said it was certainly unimaginable to her family and to her that she would one day become an attorney, not even to speak of one day becoming a judge.
But it was her teacher (and mentor) at Thornton, Joyce Broo Upton, who through her personal example encouraged and inspired Lorna and helped her to overcome her doubts and fears about pursuing a higher education. Lorna said that she was sure that the 2013 Hall of Fame inductees, too, had had fears and uncertainties about their talents and their futures when they were in high school. But their highly successful careers clearly demonstrated they had won out over any doubts they may have had about themselves. Then speaking directly to the students, Lorna called on them to be bold, like the Hall of Fame inductees. “Ask yourselves,” Lorna said, what would I do if I were not afraid? And then go do it!”
Following the afternoon program, the unveiling of the 2013 Hall of Fame photos took place in the main corridor of the school building. Principal Tony Ratliff, in stirring, powerful fashion, provided the opening remarks that can be heard “‘round the alumni world!”
Idlewild Country Club was again this year the picturesque, elegant setting for the dinner and the awards ceremonies. During the evening program TALF’s first President, Jane Halagiere-Martin ’67, announced two new and important TALF initiatives: 1. The Jobs Program: This is a major project to provide additional vocational/technical career options for Thornton students through the establishment of a welding/machinist training program in the Technical Building. 2. The TALF Vanguard 300.
After Jane, Lorna spoke about the principal difference between Thornton today and the Thornton when she and many others in the audience attended high school: The widespread absence today of the manufacturing plants that were “the engines that supplied the money to equip [our] high school.” Lorna said that TALF wants to help current students have the same great experience that she and Thornton graduates of earlier periods had. “We want,” Lorna said, “future kids to say that I’m where I am because of Thornton, not in spite of Thornton. We want to make Thornton a star!”
One of our special guests, Fred Furth ’52, kindly offered a few remarks, including a wonderful reference to his former Thornton teacher Jennifer Hance, who, Fred said, was the person most responsible for his subsequent success as an attorney. Fred also informed everyone that he had visited the high school and communed with the spirit of perhaps the most iconic figure in all of Thornton’s history, the Lincoln Statue.
Before the presentation of the awards, a special recognition was held for Dan Ustian ’68 for his invaluable and greatly, greatly appreciated support of TALF. Dan’s (and Navistar’s) co-sponsorship of the Wildcat Open enabled TALF to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and just as important (if not more so), Dan was responsible for bringing the diesel mechanic training program to Thornton. Because of his far-sighted leadership and his generous support of Thornton and Thornton student programs, Dan holds a special and honored place among the galaxy of great Thornton alumni.
The evening ceremonies ended with what is unquestionably the high point and the highlight of the entire day: the presentation of awards and the “acceptance” remarks from the Hall of Fame inductees. These moving, heart-felt, uplifting comments—in all their uniqueness, and in all their variety—all invariably spoke to the enduring impact, the life-lasting experience, of being a Thornton faculty member, of being a Thornton student.
Next year will mark the fifth annual Hall of Fame/Alumni Day celebration. We’ll be announcing the date of this special event very soon, and we look forward to alumni, friends and family once again coming together to commemorate Thornton achievement and to revel in Wildcat pride!