By Colleen Lehmann
It was standing room only in the Douglas County Museum Saturday afternoon, Oct. 4, 2014 as 140 alums, citizens, family and friends gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s TCHS Hall of Fame inductees.
This is the biggest crowd to date for the event, which was revived approximately six years ago to honor high-achieving alumni and help underscore the valuable role education and community plays in children’s and teens’ lives.
Danny Matthews, Class of 1974, introduced classmate and inductee Dr. Greg Skuta, president and CEO of nationally recognized Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City. Matthews noted Skuta’s rise to become a world renowned ophthalmologist, helping others around the world who suffer from eye disease.
“Greg shared the gifts he got—from being raised by great parents Richard and Jackie Skuta—and the Tuscola community. And I think it speaks well of you that approximately one-third of your class is here to celebrate your accomplishments.”
Skuta thanked Matthews for his kind words, saying it is “incredibly gratifying, as I have such great affection for my fellow alumni. I’m proud to be a Tuscola native, and am a particularly proud member of the Class of 1974. The educational experience we got from TCHS was vital to the contributions any of us have made. I’m also grateful for the unwavering, unconditional love and support from my parents—which allowed us to pursue our dreams and passions.”
Skuta offered a brief PowerPoint presentation featuring photos of his wife and three adult children and workplace, along with humorous running commentary, starting with this quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country!”
Added Skuta, “It’s great to see that alum are helping run the city, the county, and contributing to the world. This town is filled with people who have done whatever they can with whatever they have and have made an enormous difference. They have left an indelible transformational impact, not only in Tuscola but around the world. The top three things I’ve learned throughout my years on this earth—leadership matters, educators are infinitely important and have lifelong impact, and family is a tremendous blessing and joy.
Scott Day, Class of 1983, offered remarks for Class of 1981 inductee Rick Mooday.
“We have our three inductees who went out into the word and did great things. What a wonderful thing that we can say they went through Tuscola High School. If you can go out in the world and do what these inductees have done, then it’s very apparent we had a great curriculum and continue to have one.”
Mooday, who attended EIU and UIUC, joined the Navy after graduation, feeling he owed the country his service. Deployed to Iraq, he flew 23 combat missions in Desert Storm, then went on to Texas Tech, where he earned a Ph.D in chemical engineering. He accepted a post-doctoral research position at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1999, working in weapon materials, materials science, stewardship and refurbishment of U.S. nuclear weapons systems, intelligence, and assessment of foreign nuclear weapons.
Said Mooday, “It’s great to come from a place with a broad view of success; Tuscola is a wonderful place to be from. Coming back for this event, it was wonderful to see the investment in the town, and was an honor to speak at the high school yesterday.”
Mooday reminisced about USI picnics, taking swim lessons at the Tuscola pool, and reaffirmed the difference dedicated educators made in his life.
“Mrs. (Kay) Kleiss was such an energetic teacher. She and Miss (Janet) Cox had a great work ethic. They always had great feedback and smiles on their faces. I remember Miss Cox telling me ‘How are they going to know what you know if you won’t tell them?’ That moment has stuck with me all my life.”
The inductee said he stayed in national defense “because it’s something I loved and felt like I could contribute to. I just felt it was my duty.”
Sue Reece, Class of 1962, did the honors for her husband, classmate and inductee Morrie Reece. She confessed to secretly filling out the forms and mailing them to event co-organizer Marci Shoemaker, who suggested a co-worker or friend send in an application.
And that’s when supplemental offerings arrived from Janet Wozniak—whose husband Steve was a co-founder of Apple Computers along with Steve Jobs.
“Through Morrie’s work at Apple, he made the world a better place,” wrote Wozniak.
After distinguished careers in the Navy’s power nuclear reactor division and later in the field of education, Morrie Reece joined a small company named Apple Computer in1982 to work in the newly formed education division. For the next 30 years he held a variety of management positions within that division, and during his last 12 years with Apple, was the company’s senior education development executive. He worked and consulted with over 120,000 educators in 32 states.
Reece noted, “My work has taken me to hundreds of schools, but I always thought South Ward—where I began my school career—was one of the most beautiful.”
Reece recalled with fondness his time spent in chorus at Tuscola High School, included being selected to the 1972 All-State Chorus his senior year.
“While we were there, a special audition was held to assemble 60 voices from Illinois to sing at the National Music Educators Conference. I was fortunate to be chosen, and we later spent four days in Chicago, singing in front of 13,00 music teachers.”
Now, he quipped, “The music I record is a big hit in the Tuscola and Newman nursing homes.”
In his life at Apple Computers, Reece has trained 120,000 K-12 teachers and over 11,000 higher-education teachers. He has received the Golden Apple—the company’s highest achievement award—15 times.
“I can still recall being at a dinner with Steve Jobs in October 1983 when Steve said, ‘Guys, we’re going to change the world.’ That was the day they had introduced their first Macintosh to Apple employees,” said Reece.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
While the three inductees were well aware of the kudos coming their way on Saturday, there was another Tuscola native in attendance who had no idea she was to receive some honors as well. Hall of Fame co-organizer Marci (Hausman) Shoemaker was given some love as well, via committee member Susie Harbaugh.
“This last part of our program has to do with leadership. Six years ago, Marci created a spark–she wanted to bring back and expand the old Homecoming tradition. She took a chance, made some calls, held meetings in her home, started an e-mail group. And I know you won’t believe this, but Marci Shoemaker got excited,” quipped Harbaugh.
“I remember the questions she fired at me. What about a newsletter? What about an online presence? What about selling a few items with a Warrior logo and raising some money for a scholarship? What about offering a tour of the high school for people who are coming back? What about encouraging classes to have their reunions during Homecoming weekend? What about bringing back the Hall of Fame? And this year, when she said what about teaching these youngins how to build a class float?
“With that infectious smile and tireless enthusiasm Marci is, and will always be, a Tuscola Warrior at heart! I believe that if your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more and become more that is leadership, and you, my dear Marci, are an excellent leader,” said Harbaugh.
That said, members of the Hausman/Shoemaker family joined Harbaugh onstage to present Marci with a handsomely framed pencil drawing of Marci done by local artist Jeff Edwards. The inscription burned into the black-and-gold mat read, in part: “In recognition of your Warrior pride and dedication to Tuscola High School alumni.”
A visibly moved Shoemaker responded, “Seven years ago, I told (then TCHS principal) Mr. Ransom that Homecoming sucks. We need to make this about the alumni. I couldn’t do it without the work of the whole committee. It’s been great to be able to bring back the Hall of Fame, which someone had already started, and to give out these awards. I love doing it.”
That sentiment is no surprise to anyone who has worked with Shoemaker on the event, or attended any of the ceremonies held the past six years.