By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — The Mt. Vernon Township High School Foundation celebrated students from the past who have excelled and the positive changes the foundation will make in current students’ high school careers.
The MVTHS Foundation held its first Recognition Dinner at the Holiday Inn Saturday evening. Alumni from years past mingled with current students and foundation members at a dinner. The foundation gave five Outstanding Alumni Awards and five Distinguished Alumni Awards to men and women who had careers around the country and the world.
Norma Fairchild, former MVTHS Foundation president, opened the evening’s events with a few words about the foundation. She said the foundation was organized and established as a charitable organization in 2005.
“Tonight is all about MVTHS,” she said.
Fairchild mentioned some of the improvements the foundation had been able to help MVTHS with, including a Shakespeare writing lab, Smart boards, a writing lab for the Freshman Academy and other donations to departments in the school through grants.
“The endowment fund is now at $11,000,” she said. “This has come about of support of generous individuals from many sources. They have been instrumental in promoting education for our high school and we celebrate with them tonight.
Carl Miller, MVTHS Foundation president, revealed the foundation’s goal for the 2010 school year to be a $25,000 learning enrichment lab where students and teachers will be able to assess a student’s standing in adequate yearly progress on the Prairie State Achievement Examination.
“Students can go in with a teacher, take a test and it will tell where they stand and what they need to do to,” Miller said. “This will help to increase the number of students achieving AYP on the Prairie test.”
Miller introduced the men who received the Outstanding Alumni Awards. Bryan Stirewalt, a 1981 MVTHS graduate, is the current finance minister of the Emirate of Dubai; Mark Hassakis, a 1969 MVTHS graduate, is the president elect of the Illinois State Bar Association, and; Ralph Snodsmith, a 1957 graduate, majored in horticulture and turf management at the University of Illinois, taught at the New York Botanical Gardens, and made more than 5,000 appearances at trade shows and other events where he could share his expertise, Miller said. Two of the awarded were not present: Alfred Risi and Steve Richardson.
Dr. Michael Smith, MVTHS superintendent, presented the awards for Distinguished Alumni.
Sarah Capps, Demetri Hassakis, David Hodge, Dr. J.W. Sanders and Dr. Goff Thompson received the award. All were present to accept except Demetri Hassakis, father of outstanding alumni award winner Mark Hassakis, who passed away in 2003. Demetri Hassakis’ wife, Helen, accepted the award on his behalf. Many of the award winners expressed shock at being chosen.
“Thank you to the Foundation and all involved,” Capps, who recently retired from a career as a professor of art in several mediums, said. “I am flabbergasted. I owe a lot to MVTHS, because it gave me that head start.”
David Hodge, a 1981 graduate who currently is the president and CEO of Litania Sports Group in Urbana, said he was “unreasonably blessed” by God, and spoke to the educators present.
“Teachers, you are impacting kids like you can’t imagine,” he said.
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