My comments upon being inducted on Saturday into the Lee’s Summit High School Hall of Fame:
To the High School administration, to the selection committee, to those who are with me tonight . . . thank you for this honor, one that has more meaning to me than I expected or supposed. I am deeply grateful!
There’s a kid inside here somewhere who remembers the smells and sounds of these hallways 35 years ago. (Well, perhaps not this hallway, since this has been built since I graduated . . . .) That kid played in band and orchestra, sang in choir, dated his school counselor’s daughter, wanted to do more theatre, wrote for the school newspaper, kept stats for four years for school basketball teams.
The Carters have been in Lee’s Summit since 1971. I went to Pleasant Lea Elementary and was at Pleasant Lea Junior High the first year it housed both 7th and 8th graders. My sisters opened Meadow Lane Elementary. My mother taught at Hazel Grove. My father led the local blood drives, and was a pastor at First Baptist Church. My mother is buried just up the road at 3rd street and 291. My father remarried not long after that, to the mother of my high school locker partner and best friend from Lee’s Summit High School.
That kid has deeps roots in Lee’s Summit.
Living over the last 35 years in other cities in Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana, he has never strayed far from Lee’s Summit, from this town that helped form him, from the house just off Langsford Road where he grew up, from the First Baptist Church that was an integral part of his upbringing.
That kid tonight needs to mention a few people . . . and perhaps tell a couple of stories.
But first, an apology.
Shannon Lawrence [who was also inducted in the same ceremony]: you are two years older than me, and you always played the French horn better than I did. In your senior year, I challenged you in orchestra for the first chair seat. And I got it, for some reason. That was travesty number one. The second travesty was the major mess I made of that horn call in Strauss’s Tales of the Vienna Woods, in a solo that you should have had, and in a wreck of a night that left me humbled and mortified. I think the next day in 4th hour orchestra, I was sitting in the third chair seat when you arrived, which is where I belonged. I don’t recall that anyone said anything at all about my shame, so obvious was the reason. This was 37 years ago, and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to say I’m sorry. But I am.
OK . . . that’s been bugging me for a few decades…..
This many years later, I don’t remember all the names of my teachers. But I do recall those whose influence has stayed with me, and who in their modeling, their teaching, and their care have helped me be the professor and administrator that I am today.
Kay Ford is simply one of the finest teachers I recall. Her 9th grade civics class was one of my favorites, as was my freshman biology class with a teacher I only recall as Mrs. Magruder. She was funny and vivacious and I loved dissecting the frog.
Mark Ballentine opened to me a world of science in his chemistry class my sophomore year. I think that he was a brand new college grad in 1976. I recall his moustache, and the magnesium strips we got to burn.
Jerry Voss opened to me a world of literature and connections and cause/effect as part of an elective I took. We read biographies of great figures and studied them from a social science perspective. This class, and that teacher, continue to stick with me.
Of course, you would expect that the music faculty are at the top of my list, and they are, almost. Verna Brummett was my elementary music teacher. She is here this evening. Nearly 40 years since I had a class with her, I can still point to her as a key and formative part of my musical life. That I was in 4th grade in love with Julie Andrews, and that I thought Miss Brummett looked like Julie Andrews, only added to my adoration of her.
Irene Young and Robert Huemann and Richard Miller have moved on to other things and are long-gone from the high school here. Others like Vance Riffie have gone on to glory.
Russ Berlin gave me encouragement and opportunity and support. I owe so much to his confidence in me. Decades ago, he told my parents that I had the only perfect score he had ever seen on the fifth-grade band aptitude test. And he wanted me to play the oboe. So did I, if I recall. But my father had other ideas, and I ended up on French horn, which was well and good and beneficial. Again . . . sorry, Shannon….
The single most important teacher in life . . . in my LIFE . . . was Sandy Simpkins, with whom I had English Lit and then my senior-year college-bound writing class. She gave me the only F I have ever received. And she woke me up to my own fuzzy writing. I have committed few comma faults since 1978. I can spot a preposition a mile off. I wrote for her what she called the most boring term paper she ever read, but with incredible documentation . . . typed on a Royal manual typewriter that was my father’s . . . and she pointed out for years to other students that I had bored her to tears, but fabulously so. I stayed in touch with Sandy until her death from cancer in 1996. I still have the Shakespeare bookmark she gave me as thank you for being her grading assistant my senior year. And I still say to my own students, as she did to me and my classmates, “Prick up your ears.”
We are each a product of our upbringing and the gifts we are given along life’s journey. This school district, and the piano lessons I received from Hall of Fame member Gladys Alkire, gave me the best musical foundation I could have had. I am so pleased to see that musical legacy continue in Lee’s Summit schools, and so very glad to be a part of the long line of musicians who got their start right here at LSHS.
I count my time at Lee’s Summit High School as a gift . . . moreso now than I did then, of course . . . but a gift that has allowed me to prosper and grow and help change lives the way these adults and this school helped form my own many years ago. Thank you, Lee’s Summit High School, for helping me have the tools to live this life with grace and humor and knowledge that I hope has led to wisdom. Thank you for this honor, and for the gifts that have helped set me on my life’s course. Thank you very much.