by Emily Armentrout
On Saturday, Aug. 23, Wabash City Schools held the inaugural induction ceremony for the Wabash City Schools Hall of Distinction, inducting 13 former graduates and four non Wabash High School graduates. These members were inducted “in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in life, dedicated service to others, enriching the history of Wabash City Schools and maintaining the highest standard of conduct and character.”
“The committee felt like there have been people who have had incredible influences, like Mark Honeywell, that should be in the Hall of Distinction. We span 145 years of our history. John Olsen graduated from Northwestern University but he didn’t graduate from high school. If you said we were only going to honor those who graduated from the high school then I think we were going to limit some people,” explained Wabash City Schools Superintendent, Jason Callahan.
With the long history of Wabash High School and the recent creation of the Wabash High School Athletic Hall of Fame, WCS felt like they were missing people who had profound influences on the school and the city of Wabash in only honoring athletics.
The ceremony began with a welcome from WCS Superintendent Jason Callahan, with the National Anthem sung and a performance by Symphonic Voices. The ceremony was followed by a reception and tour of Wabash High School.
The members included graduates from 1874 to 1970, with professions like educators, physicians, philanthropists and vocal performers. The 17 members of the Wabash City Schools Hall of Distinction are Adelaide Steele Baylor, Rose Kidd Beere, L. H. Carpenter, John W. Corso, Jerry L. Ferguson, Richard E. Ford, Crystal Gayle, Mark C. Honeywell, Margery Stewart Johnson, Martha Biggerstaff Jones, Ruth and Claude Minnear, Johnny Olsen, James W. Parks, James M. Ridenour, Asa J. Smith, and Jennie Wade.
Adelaide Steele Baylor graduated from Wabash High School in 1878. She was the first woman principal of Wabash High School and superintendent of Wabash City Schools. Baylor was also a renowned state and national educator.
Rose Kidd Beere also graduated from Wabash High School in 1878. She was the first woman physician to serve in the Spanish American War and was the head physician at the Denver, Colo. state hospital.
L. H. Carpenter graduated from Wabash High School in 1914. He was principal at Wabash High School and superintendent of Wabash City Schools.
John W. Corso graduated from Wabash High School in 1948. He is an Emmy winning set designer. He has also been nominated for an Academy award. Corso has designed sets for over 50 television shows and numerous feature films.
Jerry L. Ferguson graduated from Wabash High School in 1959. He is the co-founder of Biomet Inc., and a leader in the medical device industry.
Richard E. Ford graduated from Wabash High School in 1956. He was the sponsor of numerous artistic and cultural opportunities for students, parents and patrons of Wabash City Schools.
Crystal Gayle graduated from Wabash High School in 1970. She is a Grammy winning vocal performer. She has won Female Vocalist of the Year and is a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star recipient.
Mark C. Honeywell was the creator of the Honeywell Center, the Honeywell Foundation and recreation facilities for the benefit of all.
Margery Stewart Johnson graduated from Wabash High School in 1938. She was the official U.S. Army WWII poster girl, a RKO movie star and model.
Martha Biggerstaff Jones graduated from Wabash High School in 1929. She was an English teacher at Wabash High School for 26 years and a member of the Board of Trustees at Wabash Carnegie Public Library.
Ruth and Claude Minnear are sponsors of a scholarship trust, which has enabled hundreds of students to attend Indiana colleges and universities.
Johnny Olsen has been on Broadway and in motion pictures. He is one half of the renowned Vaudville team of Olsen and Johnson.
James W. Parks graduated from Wabash High School in 1947. He was the president and CEO of AAA Hoosier Motor Club and on the Board of Trustees at Ball State University.
James M. Ridenour graduated from Wabash High School in 1960. He has been the Director of the National Park Service and Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Asa J. Smith graduated from Wabash High School in 1911. He was the lead attorney responsible for the removal of the Ku Klux Klan from power in Indiana.
Jennie Wade graduated from Wabash High School in 1874. She was the sponsor of a scholarship for Wabash High School students, which continues to the present day.
While most of the inductees have passed on, three of the four remaining inductees were in attendance at Saturday’s ceremony. James Ridenour, John Corso, and Jerry Ferguson were able to join the community for the induction ceremony. Crystal Gayle was unable to join the festivities due to a previously scheduled performance. “Of the four still living, everyone was able to make it, except Crystal, and she had a performance in South Dakota, but she sent along her gratitude and well wishes to us,” added Callahan.
The Hall of Distinction committee made sure to look at the achievements of the inductees success after school as opposed to the Athletic Hall of Fame members who saw the majority of their athletic success in school. “As we voted and debated, we felt like younger people who have already made an impact on society are certainly worthy, but there is probably more story to be told, so you’ll see an older group. We will continue on an annual basis and narrow the field down to four to six inductees in the future,” continued Callahan.
The public is welcome to nominate members of the Wabash community who they believe has had a profound impact on Wabash City Schools and the City of Wabash. If you have nominations for the next class of inductees, contact Jason Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.