SBR: `Wall of Fame’ can inspire students

By G. Kent Stewart, School Admin Prof. Emeritus, KSU, bcsgks1@cox.net

Interestingly, the `Wall of Fame’ is a high school public relations activity from which the school board reaps the greater benefit.

Walls of Fame grace the corridors of many high schools throughout the country; yet, a lot more have yet to adopt this high payoff activity. Some have been part of the school’s bragging rights for over 100 years. Downey (California) High School started its Wall of Fame in 1903. Referred to by various names — walls of fame, profiles of famous graduates, notable graduates, and so on — they all have one thing in common: They inspire and motivate high school kids to do their best work.

By whatever name, the theory supporting showcasing famous graduates is simple. Kids will read the profiles and become motivated to do their best school work whether manifested in academic excellence or earned through athletic prowess. It’s good theory because a lot of kids are inspired by graduates before them who in adulthood distinguished themselves sufficiently to be recognized and honored in perpetuity.

When I was in school we held Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in highest esteem and were becoming acquainted with a new young hero to be named, John Wayne. The girls also loved the movies and were enamored by glamorous film stars of the silver screen. Every boy wanted to be like John Wayne; and the girls dreamed of becoming film stars and fashion models. Granted, only a few made the cut, but all of us had dreams and goals.

Kids also had local heroes and heroines; and today it remains critically important, perhaps even more important that kids have adults to look up to as role models. Therein is largely the rationale for the high school Wall of Fame. But don’t overlook the political capital reaped by the school board. The Wall of Fame produces a big dividend from a small investment.

So, how does a high school begin showcasing and profiling its famous graduates? Some don’t have to start; rather, they start themselves. Football great Jordy Nelson graduated from Riley County High School, USD 378. Similarly, Silver Lake High School (USD 372) is home to college basketball coach, Lon Krueger. Manhattan High School’s Joan McInroy Finney became the first female governor of Kansas. My home school district in Clay County, Indiana, saw Jimmy Hoffa through his elementary school years. Needless, to say, Jimmy’s name isn’t on the wall of fame; but Ivan Fuqua’s name has been prominently displayed since 1932, when he won an Olympic Gold Medal. How many kids has Ivan inspired and how much money has the Fuqua family contributed to the school district?

Selection criteria can be simple. Let the local school foundation leaders draw the criteria and select the recipient, thus relieving school personnel of the political fallout that can accompany choices. As names, pictures and profiles appear on the Wall of Fame, high school kids will have heroes and heroines from whom to pattern their lives, and the school foundation will probably receive some donations. But the real winner is the school board, because that’s where all eyes turn when something good happens at school.

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