Award is tribute to teachers at AHS

Published 12:53 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

A few weeks ago at Homecoming I was honored to receive the second ” W. Robert Brown Outstanding Graduate Award” – the first being given to Bob a year ago, when the award was named for him. I stood next to Bob in our 1948 class picture, so I like to think some of his DNA rubbed off on me. It was a signal honor that I will cherish the rest of my life – but, more importantly, a tribute to the fine teachers of the Andalusia School System. As I drove up historic Devereaux Hill on my way into town the day before, a large sign with a picture of the school greeted me with these words, “Andalusia High School, A Tradition of Excellence.” Today, the U.S. is ranked 19th in the world in high school graduates. You and I can make a difference and change that ranking to Number 1.

When my family left suburban Brooklyn (not downtown, mind you) in 1940 with all our worldly possessions on a stake body truck bound for Andalusia, I sat in the back on a corn shuck mattress with my dog, Jim, and my mother’s chickens along with sacks of corn for feed. I didn’t think about where I was, but only where I was going, having left a seven-months school for the big city and Church Street Grammar School. I still remember fondly my 5th and 6th grade teachers, Ms. Powell and Ms. Phillips, and my participation in dancing the Virginia Reel during May Day ceremonies. I learned early that education was the key to who I was and who I wanted to be, and I want to thank all the teachers at Andalusia High School for helping me to realize my dreams. To mention only a few; there was Ms Rawlings in 8th grade English who cast me as Lawyer Bad English in a school play, Virginia Anthony who introduced me to quadratic equations and geometry, the incredible Arthur Wilson who prepared me to make an “A” in college chemistry after struggling for “C” in his class, and who could ever forget Ms. Clyde Simmons who imbued me with a lifetime love for Shakespeare.

Just as Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream, I have a vision that one day Andalusia High School will be the top college preparatory school in the South. Families will move here for the school system alone, and the town will become revitalized – just as Auburn has grown because of a superior school system that allows people commute to work in Montgomery while their children are attending school in Auburn.

The Class of 1948 had many outstanding graduates, as succeeding classes have had also. I encourage the citizens of Andalusia and former residents to nominate these outstanding people who have excelled in their life’s work while giving back to their respective communities. The “W. Robert Brown Outstanding Graduate Award” is a symbol of recognition for a lifetime of accomplishment and service to others. Just as John McCain learned in a Hanoi prison to “serve a cause greater than yourself,” Muhammed Ali put it best when he said, “service to others is the rent we pay for our space on this earth.”

Editor’s note: The Outstanding Graduate Committee is beginning to collect nominations for next year’s award. They may be mailed to committee chair Suan Salter at P.O. Box 27634, Panama City, FL 32411.