It was a time to look back, remember and say thank you for five Wethersfield High School graduates as the Wethersfield Academic Foundation inducted this year’s group into its Hall of Fame Saturday night.
The banquet and ceremony were held at The Kewanee Dunes, where two retired staff members were also inducted this year.
In the five years since the Wethersfield Academic Hall of Fame was founded, 27 graduates and 10 retirees have been honored.
The 2013 inductees were Rev. Dan Craig (Class of 1967), Judge Dana McReynolds (Class of 1968), Diane Dungey (Class of 1977), Dr. Hipolito Lopez III, DDS (Class of 1985), and Capt. John Hollein, U.S. Army (Class of 1996).
Retired staff members inducted were Jim and Jane Carney, teachers for more that 30 years at Wethersfield and founders of the Scholastic Bowl team.
In accepting the honor for his father, who had to be out of town, his son Jason read from a letter Dan Craig had sent in which he related that his high school years at Wethersfield under choir director Nellie Lazar and band director Charles Bickhuas taught him to appreciate music “and how to lead a choir (or band) and respect those who were in it.”
Craig went on to earn degrees in music and Christian education and for 26 years was minister of music at churches in Indiana and the Rockford area. He is now minister of music at First Baptist Church of Kewanee and pastor of the Church of Peace. He is the great-nephew of Frank Craig, Wethersfield’s first superintendent, and said when he was in high school he was one of eight students, all related, with the Craig name.
Dana McReynolds, a Henry County Circuit Judge for 23 years, accepted the honor “with a deep sense of humility and pride” as a tribute to his late parents, Don and Lucille McReynolds, who he credited for instilling him with a set of values “from the first day of kindergarten in the basement of the Blish” that if you work hard you will be rewarded or experience personal satisfaction.
McReynolds also recalled how he and a group of fellow students approached the school board with a request that led to the formation of the first golf team at Wethersfield.
“I’m glad to see it’s (the golf team) still going strong,” McReynolds said.
Diane Dungey, now Deputy Managing Editor of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, said she was fortunate to have four formative years at Wethersfield High School. Attending kindergarten at Wethersfield, where she made best friends she still has contact with today, she spent her grade school years at Visitation. Returning to Wethersfield for high school, she said teachers and staff “made a kid from Visitation feel welcome.”
Page 2 of 3 - A life-changing experience was a summer in Turkey as an AFS student. “I had never been on a plane and there I was, 5,000 miles from home. I learned to respect other cultures and other people. You never know when something you learned at Wethersfield will come back to you,” Dungey said.
Lito Lopez said his educational experience at Wethersfield taught him how to build relationships with classmates and teachers. “You get to know your educators outside of their subject area,” he said. “(Learning) just doesn’t happen overnight. It takes nurturing,” which doesn’t often happen in the larger schools where he now lives. Lopez is a partner in Rockford Dental Care. He also said he was grateful for “the pure acceptance” of the Kewanee community of his parents — both doctors and recent immigrants from the Philippines — when they moved here with their family and set up medical practices in the 1960s.
Finally, he said his Wethersfield education gave him the foundation to learn and deal with what’s ahead in life.
John Hollein, stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, was unable to attend and was represented by his father, Bill, who said both of his children, John and Joan, now serving with the Army in Germany, received “great educations at Wethersfield.”
In a letter to the committee, Capt. Hollein said he realized later in life what Wethersfield does for its students. “I realized Wethersfield is great at taking advantage of opportunities for students…and treat students like adults.”
Bill Hollein said Wethersfield has “outstanding administrators, teachers and staff” but students must be determined and receive encouragement from their parents.
The Carneys taught at Wethersfield for more than 30 years — Jim teaching math, physics and chemistry, and Jane teaching biology and other sciences and, for a short time, art.
Jim Carney once had three of his former students attending the University of Illinois at one time and all three were on the dean’s list.
In 1970 they formed the first Scholastic Bowl team and continued as coaches until retirement. They were among the pioneers of scholastic competition in Illinois. They built the Wethersfield Scholastic Bowl program into one of the top in the state, which it still is today.
“It was something students were supposed to be doing anyway but were rewarded for it and got recognition they got nowhere else,” Jane Carney said of Scholastic Bowl competition. Both shared stories from their years of working with scholastic bowl teams and students.
“Wethersfield was a fun place to teach,” Mrs. Carney said. “We liked each other — the teachers liked the students and they liked us. It was home.”
Page 3 of 3 - Annual selections for the WHS Academic Hall of Fame are based on nominations submitted by the public. Nomination forms are available on the school’s website at www.geese230.com/foundationinfo or from the unit office.