Upon receiving the May 8 issue of The Leader-Union, I was pleased and excited to read the new section entitled “Where Are They Now?” That concept, presented by Mrs. LaDage and Mr. Roberts, is a great idea, and I look forward to many more excerpts.
For those of you who don’t know me, I was a school counselor in the Vandalia Community Schools for 22 years, living in Fayette County from 1973 until 2003 when my wife retired after 28 years with the law firm of Burnside, Johnston & Sheafor. I retired in 1994. With her retirement, we moved to Springfield (grandkids). We still subscribe to the L-U and enjoy it.
My main reason for writing via the letter to the editor is to suggest one change in the new column’s policy. Their intent is to showcase ONLY one past graduate per MONTH. I suggest it should be a WEEKLY column, like several other sections of the paper.
Here is my reasoning: There are a ton of potential candidates. You will only reach a tiny percentage of them with a monthly column. As stated in that issue, there are about 100 graduates per year. I believe it is almost always over 95, and there were 144 in my son’s senior class in 1982.
Let’s look at the numbers from a different perspective. Most graduates celebrate class reunions at least every five years, and many go beyond their 50th class reunion, with at least 90 percent still living at that time. Even if only 75 percent live for a 60th class reunion, the pool of VCHS graduates is more than 6,000. And each year, there is a new crop of potential column candidates.
What qualities should a candidate possess to be considered for the column? A successful occupation/career with an advanced degree would be typical, although there should be other avenues, too. There are many ways to excel in life.
Nationally, around 15 percent of high school graduates eventually earn a bachelor’s degree. About three to five percent might earn a master’s degree. Only one or two percent will acquire a doctorate degree.
The above individuals typically earned “good” grades in high school, but not always. Class rank is seldom known by the public, except for the announcement of valedictorian and salutatorian at commencement. Similarly, indicators of college potential, like class rank, are confidential matters. The ACT test score, another confidential number, is an indication of potential success in college, but not really valid.
Not all bachelor's degrees are equal. Those with majors in architecture, mathematics, chemistry, physics, pharmacy and maybe computers are tougher, often requiring five years of further education instead of the usual four. A CPA in business is difficult to achieve. It’s a lot harder to get into veterinary school than human medical school. Law school is a challenging advanced degree. Many think school administration is the easiest of the six-year degrees, often called a sixth-year certificate.
Many selected will have advanced degrees and respected employment. Leadership in high school, as well as later in life, should be expected. Being active in high school and community affairs should be a given. Outstanding awards picked up along the way should not be overlooked.
My second suggestion concerning the column is to concentrate on some of the older graduates first; if you wait too long, they’ll be in their grave, where many of the best candidates already are. Jason Tjaden was an excellent choice, but here are others I can think of.
June Squibb, award winning actress in the movie "Nebraska;" Pearl Willett, Shobonier gal who wrote several successful children’s books; Dr. Laurie Mabry, ISU professor and leader in women’s athletic movement; Dr. Jim Blythe, a St. Louis medical specialist now in Louisiana;
Mrs. Dave Orr, a lawyer in St. Elmo; Col. Bryan Radliff, former Air Force pilot with the Blue Angels; Ed Mills, son of Ed Mills, longtime VCHS biology teacher, is also an Air Force officer;
Arthur Langston, state wrestling champion; Seth Vonbehren, college baseball coach; Rich Rames, M.D., a sports medicine doctor in St. Louis; Karen Cox, PhD., brain research; Lori Wollerman, PhD, biology; Chad Johnston, PhD, in school administration; David Rademacher; and Karen Bennett.
My apologies for any incorrect spellings of first names, for omitting some with degrees unknown to me and especially to those I have personally known but can’t remember at the moment. I am certain other L-U readers will know many others.