Monday, November 5, 2012

Past and present inducted into Education Hall of Fame


Both the past and present stepped front and center at the 17th annual Mid-America Education Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at Kansas City Kansas Community College Saturday night.

Four individuals were inducted into the Hall of Fame for their countless contributions to education over the past 40 plus years while two organizations were honored for not only their past accomplishments but what they continue to do in educating the youth of America.

20/20 Leadership, which is in its 20th year, and PREP-KC founded in 2005, were joined by educators Marlin Cooper, George Breidenthal, Al Frisby and Dr. Ron Wimmer in the gala induction ceremonies held in the J. Paul Jewell Student Center, site of the Hall of Fame. A KCKCC Endowment Association fund-raiser for scholarships, the induction ceremonies were emceed by NBC Action News anchor Christa Dubill and drew a near record of almost 300.

Several students and graduates of 20/20 Leadership who are in college or already in successful careers were on hand to show their appreciation for the direction and guidance provided by the program administered by Marilyn Alstrom and Sally Dannov.

“When we started this program in 1993 with 36 students, I asked how many of them planned to come back and work in Wyandotte County and only one or two raised their hands,” said Alstrom, the Executive Director. “Now we don’t even ask the question. They’re proud and want to come back and give to their community.”

“I want to thank 20/20 Leadership for showing us how we can be great examples in the community,” said one of the graduates of the program that today teaches life skills and opens up career avenues to more than 350 juniors and seniors in 23 Kansas City area high schools.

PREP-KC, an acronym for the Partnership for Regional Educational Preparation, was founded by Susan Wally in 2005 with a mission to increase college readiness and access to high-quality employment for thousands of mostly low income students in the Kanas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., school districts.

Since then four additional Missouri school districts – Center, Hickman Mills, Grandview and Independence – have been added, increasing the number of students served to more than 63,000.

“I’m accepting this for a wide circle of people,” said Wally. “We have a wonderful team of people, one, Ewing Kauffman, who gave me the opportunity for the beginning of the idea for PREP-KC.” Wally also praised Dr. Ray Daniels for his support of the program as did Marilyn Alstrom for Daniels’ support in the founding of 20/20 Leadership in his role as Superintendent of the KCK Public Schools. Now retired, Dr. Daniels is a member of the KCKCC Board of Trustees and the Education Hall of Fame.

Marlin Cooper, who taught instrumental music at KCKCC for 27 of his 44 years in music education, had three former students in attendance, Mark Howard, one of Kansas City’s top saxophone players; Brandon McCray, who is pursuing a doctorate in saxophone study at KU; and fellow inductee George Breidenthal.

“Looking back over my notes, I see in 1996 I was on a committee that created the Education Hall of Fame,” said Cooper. “That was a long time ago but we got it going to raise money for scholarships. At the time, I thought it was just a place for my students to perform and now I’m in it.” During his 27 years at KCKCC, Cooper raised money for tuition for 900 students.

Countless students have been affected by George Breidenthal’s nearly 30 years of serving on boards for the KCK school district, Donnelly College and Emporia State and his many generous philanthropic gifts to education.

“I’ve walked through the Hall of Fame many times and been overwhelmed by the stature of the people in it but never in my fondest dreams did I ever think I would be among those honorees,” said Breidenthal. “I would invite everyone here tonight to do everything they can to help those around you.”

A three-time Kansas Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching recipient, Al Frisby spent 41 years in the classroom including 30 at SM Northwest and six at Liberty. He gave the audience a lesson in inquiry by illustrating how light slows plant growth and the reason a plant bends towards the sun is the side away from the sun grows faster.

A large delegation from Boards from both the Olathe and DeSoto school districts were on hand to honor Dr. Ron Wimmer, whose more than 40 years in education included 14 years as superintendent of the Olathe district and two at DeSoto. “I’m not deserving of this award,” said Dr. Wimmer, “I was just an instrument to make things happen. If you can develop a relationship between leadership and fellowship, you can accomplishment much.”

During his 14 years as Olathe superintendent, enrollment increased from 15,527 to 23,699 students, 16 new schools opened and three bond issues were approved totaling $325 million.

However, none it might have ever happened had he not been expelled from one school.

“I was headed for juvenile delinquency so I made a choice, started over and got myself turned around,” said Dr. Wimmer. And into the Education Hall of Fame.


PHOTO: Six new members were inducted into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame Saturday, Nov. 3. The inductees are (from left) George Breidenthal, Marlin Cooper, Al Frisby, PREP-KC represented by Executive Director Susan Wall, 20/20 Leadership represented by Executive Director Marilyn Alstrom; and Dr. Ron Wimmer. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)