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Friday, May 6, 2016

Remembering high school days

Monday, May 5, 2003

Sue Ann Grey, Carolyn Dix and former BHS cheerleader Steve McCullough lead about 100 people in the Brazil High School fight song, "On Brazil," during dedication of the BHS memorial at the YMCA on Sunday.

It can be argued the real monument to any high school is the lives of its graduates. That is undoubtedly true of Brazil High School, but on Sunday, its alumni dedicated a visual, brick and limestone monument to the school's 68 years of service.

The monument was the product of about 18 months of work by a dedicated committee. The project was endorsed by the Clay Community School Board of Trustees and Superintendent Thomas Rohr, committee Chairman Jesse Pitts said at the YMCA Community Room.

The program featured a rousing chorus of "On Brazil" sung and clapped in time by about 100 alumni and friends. The song was led by Sue Ann Grey, Carolyn Dix and former BHS cheerleader Steve McCullough, while Matt Huber and children, Janelle and John, gave musical accompaniment.

Dr. Patricia Hayes Andrews, BHS class of 1966 and now an author and Indiana University professor, spoke of what BHS meant to her and her parents. All three were graduates of BHS.

Andrews said she was a serious student, but also remembered being made to sit in the hall for whispering in class. When her father admonished her for the misbehavior, her mother produced a grade card saying he had been guilty of the same misdemeanor -- being "too talkative" -- in the same teacher's classroom when he was a BHS student.

Dr. Andrews expressed appreciation to the faculty and administration who gave her the tools she needed to succeed in the world.

"Any school is shaped by the values of its leadership," she said.

She remembered Principal Jesse Pitts as being a strong leader who was respected, but not feared, by the students.

"He was supported by talented teachers" such as Paul Tilley, Juanita Shearer and Russian teacher Bob Atkinson.

"Think about it," she said. "Back then there weren't too many high schools that offered Russian language classes. These teachers deeply touched the lives of so many of us."

When Andrews began her freshman year at IU, she was intimidated by the large number of students. One class had 350 students, twice as many as her BHS graduating class.

When she received a grade in a theater class, she was too nervous to look at the grade report in the classroom. She waited until she was outside to open the blue book and find she had received her first A-plus, an achievement she credited to the BHS faculty.

"I knew then I was up to the challenge," she said. "Ours was a high school education that nurtured lifelong learning and achievement."

Dr. Andrews feels very close to her classmates and she appreciates the education she received.

Even years after graduation, her classmates remained supportive of Andrews and her parents in their declining years. One classmate was a caring neighbor, another helped her mother at the grocery store and a third helped care for one of her parents in the nursing home.

Lastly, Andrews credited BHS for instilling a strong sense of "civic engagement" in its students. Graduates became Sunday School teachers, band boosters, city council members and people who "voted every election".

"Join me in remembering BHS as a caring community that fostered civic responsibility," she concluded.

The oldest BHS graduate at the program may have been Thelma Kumpf, class of 1928, celebrating the 75th anniversary of her high school graduation this spring. She and husband Carl founded Brazillian Lanes, the city's bowling establishment.

Also present was Harriet Hicks, a BHS graduate and long-time high school teacher and librarian, whose eyes shown brightly through the program and who greeted Dr. Andrews after the program with a prolonged hug.

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