Outstanding grads honored Friday

Published 12:22 am Saturday, October 4, 2014

Andalusia High School’s 2014 recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Award have made their marks on science, education, and business, but each credited the local school system for parts of their success.

Rudy Bray

Andalusia native Murray Findley (Class of ’48) introduced his childhood friend, Rudy Bray, as “the Thomas Edison of Alabama.”

“He came out to visit in Las Vegas and he said, “this place needs some shade,” Findley said. “Next thing you know, there’s an artificial cloud out there.”

Bray, who is a Class of ’48 graduate, was trained as an electrical engineer, but has spent much of his life identifying needs and developing products to meet those needs.

Bray, who along with his son is still developing new projects at their company, Vertec, Inc. in Pensacola, brought along one of his earlier inventions as an example

“If any of you had a pacemaker put in about 1985, or know anybody who did, you probably had one of these,” he said, holding up an electronic box. “It’s a transmitter, and it allowed you to check your pacemaker over the telephone from anywhere in the world. Before this, you had to go to a doctor’s office to get it checked.”

Bray said there are two types of technologies to watch in the future, and his company is working on both.

“One of them is drones,” he said. “Like them or not, they are here to stay because they do such a good job at so many things.

“We’re using them today in Syria blowing up buildings,” he said.

“The other technology can keep your eyes on will change the way you get your electricity at your house,” he said. “In the future, you’ll be using fuel cells. These are chemical devices where feed hydrogen to it, they produce electricity, and the byproduct is water.”

The technology uses natural gas, he said, adding that Google’s offices, and one of largest Walmart locations, are using the technology now.

“It is exciting to watch,” he said.



Jim Krudop (Class of ’65) introduced Bill King, a Class of ’69 graduate who returned home to join his father in the practice of dentistry.

“If you look around our school system, and see success, Bill King has very much been a part of that,” Krudop said. “You don’t hear his name spoken very often, but from 1996 to the present, he’s been right in the middle of the leadership.”

In accepting, King said, “I have to give credit to my family and my teachers. My family taught me the importance of honesty, working hard, and respecting others.

“When I left here, I had no idea that Andalusia High School prepared you so well for college,” King said. “I was able to actually skip some classes because I was so well prepared here. As a student, you don’t appreciate that until you leave. “Some of those teachers are here today,” King said.

Many things have changed during his time on the school board, he said.

“But some things have remained same,” he said. “Andalusia has always strived to keep your students excellent in all aspects of their lives.”


Les Rue

Harvey “Pete” Donaldson (Class of 1961) recognized Les Rue.

“I represent today my friend, Coach Shelby Searcy, and his wife, Rachel, who is here,” Donaldson said.

Searcy spearheaded the effort to nominate Rue, who was his former student. Rue was to be inducted as an Outstanding Graduate in 2013, when Searcy was, but travel plans prohibited his attendance. Searcy died just weeks after last year’s ceremony.

Ivan Bishop, Rue’s classmate from 1963, said he thinks of Rue as his “project friend.”

“Les always has a project,” Bishop said of the retired professor of business who currently lives in Aiken, S.C. “He was not one of those who came home and sat in front of TV. He was refinishing antique furniture, remodeling a room in his house, or working on one of his many wooden boats.”

Bishop recounted how the two of them started a business, Rue Bishop Woodworks, when they were 9 or 10, and built specialty items and furniture.

“Les was the only kid I knew who had a jigsaw in his bedroom,” Bishop said.

“Growing up in Andalusia was very similar to growing up in Mayberry with Andy Griffith,” Rue said. “I never owned a key to my house the whole time I lived here, because we never locked the door. We walked or rode a bicycle to school until we were 16 and could drive a car to school. Pickup football games were not run by adults, they were run by kids.

“Andalusia was a great place to grow up, My kids went to one of the better private schools in Atlanta,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade my educational experience with theirs for a minute.

“I think back to teachers we had,” he said. “On Fridays, we had singalongs with Naomi Prestwood leading them. Into high school, we had Anna Lee and Clyde Simmons – what great teachers they were. And of course, there was James Arthur Wilson, known to all students as JAW.

“As you go through schools, there are always certain ones that make an impact on you,” he said. “One of those is here for me. Rachel Searcy and her husband, Coach Searcy, are dear to my heart. He was one of those individuals who taught me to get back up when get knocked down. I just wish Coach was here so I could tell him again today.”


DeJuan Stroud

Earl Johnson (Class of 1965) introduced DeJuan Stroud.

The 1977 graduate of Andalusia High School earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1996, he left a career on Wall Street, and together with his wife, Andalusia native Debra Merrill Stroud, formed DeJuan Stroud Inc.

“No one who knows DeJuan’s mother is surprised that his work sets the standard for events not just in New York City, but across the country,” Johnson said. “In fact, Debra is not with him today because she is managing a company event in Miami.

Stroud said his trip to Andalusia this week marks 15 years since he’s been home.

“First of all, I keep abreast of all that goes on, talking to my mom each week and reading in the online Star-News,” he said. “So I know a lot that is happening, but driving around yesterday, I was amazed at the changes, and the expansion, in town and at the schools. It actually came over me, ‘Am I in the same town?’

“I am extremely, extremely proud, that Andalusia is not some “old, tired town’ like in the opening of To Kill a Mockingbird,” he said.

Stroud said he’s often asked how he got started. Two events come to mind: a job he had as a teen delivering flowers on Valentine’s for a flower shop, he said. “The other was decorating the junior senior prom at AHS in 1976.

“One other thing Andalusia gave me was my wife of 33 years,” he said. “I have to say of this honor and award, half of it goes to her.

“Reflecting on all of this, today may be for me a little backwards,” Stroud said. “I need to be pinning this (award) on the City of Andalusia and its schools. The kernels of experience and opportunities here, I continue to carry with me.

“Andalusia still has so much more to give its alumni and young people, and that makes me so very proud,” he said.

The AHS Outstanding Graduate Committee, founded by the Class of 1948 Foundation, is chaired by Earl Johnson. Other committee members are Suan Riley Salter, Harvey (Pete) Donaldson, Sheila Williams, John Thompson, Daniel Shakespeare, Linda Whitman, Ted Watson and Michele Gerlach. The committee accepts applications year-round, and selects honorees each April. For information on nominating someone, contact any committee member.