Inductees recognized for efforts
One inductee into the Tonganoxie School District Education Hall of Fame was said to have played poker with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while another might have invented a physical education game.
Plenty of stories and memories were shared Friday during a ceremony at Myers Hotel that honored the first class of the education hall of fame.
The late Tom Beatty, the late Charles Edward Miller and late Corrine Wooten Miller, as well as Jim Conway, Colene DeHoff, Robert Matthews, Marilyn Lobb and Phil Lobb, were inducted into the first hall of fame class.
During the reception, Tonganoxie Education Endowment Foundation member Ken Mark spoke about each inductee.
He noted that Beatty joined the Navy for World War I in 1916 at 17, and graduated from Kansas University, where he played basketball for Phog Allen. Though a longtime educator in Tonganoxie, he also worked for the National Youth Administration during the Depression. Through information submitted from one of Beatty’s nephews, the educator claimed to have played poker with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and traveled with Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of the NYA. He later was an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross during World War II.
It was said later during the ceremony that Beatty served as unofficial superintendent and athletics director — as districts didn’t have those administrators at the time. And, he was always fair with students. It was noted that one of his phrases was “Hell’s bells, why did you do that for?”
Tom Clark, one of Beatty’s former students, spoke about him, while JW Evans spoke about Charles Miller and his wife, Corrine Miller. Charles served on the school board and lost to Alf Landon in the 1934 governor’s race. Corrine also served on the school board. They established the Miller Scholarship in 1939 and in 1989 it was doubled by Peruvian Connection, a Tonganoxie-based mail order business that daughter Biddy and granddaughter Annie started. The business continues in operation today.
Evans spoke highly of the Millers and their contributions to the community. He also shared that Charles normally was late to school board meetings when he served on the board. When Corrine became a board member, she made sure she always was the first to the meetings.
The reception continued with the introduction of Matthews, a 1948 Tonganoxie High School graduate who had a career in education that spanned 40 years. He is retired from a top administrative position at San Diego Community College.
Matthews said teachers in Tonganoxie told him at a young age that he “walked like a college student,” and were very encouraging.
“In college I tried to determine how a college student walked. I haven’t figured out how they walk,” he said, triggering a roar of laughter from those in attendance.
He went on to say that Tonganoxie was extremely liberal when he was growing up, even though it’s also a conservative community.
Matthews gave the keynote address at Saturday’s academic achievement breakfast for current Tonganoxie students. After the breakfast, he explained his comment about the community. Matthews, who is black, said there were elements of segregation, but they were not “devastating” when he was growing up in the area.
Asked about being a member of the hall of fame, he said it was “fantastic.”
He said academic recognition is a dream come true, but “didn’t think it would be in Tonganoxie, Kansas.”
Jim Conway, who could not attend the event, served in the district from 1955-86 and was a longtime math and driver’s education teacher before becoming an administrator in the district. His son, Mike Conway, spoke on his father’s behalf. It was noted Beatty took a $5 pay cut so that money could be used toward Conway’s salary when he was considering teaching in Tonganoxie. Conway also was looking at a job offer from another area school at the time.
The reception continued with introductions of DeHoff, a 1947 THS graduate who served the district in various roles from 1958-92. DeHoff said she earned a bachelor’s degree at a cost of $300 and talked about being a longtime teacher.
“I’m finally the age you thought I was when I was teaching,” she said, which again caused the room to fill with laughter.
Mark finished the ceremony by introducing former teacher, coach and athletics director Phil Lobb, as well as Phil’s wife, Marilyn Lobb, who taught various subjects and coached.
He said Phil created the physical education game that the instructor called Drag-‘em.
“Football on a hardwood floor, no helmet, no ball, no pads,” Mark said.
After Lobb reached the podium, he talked about the game.
“It might have made me famous and it might have gotten my job,” he said. “Throw a towel in the middle of the floor, blow the whistle and come back at the end of the hour.”
Lobb, of course, was joking, but he was serious when he, like other inductees, gushed about what an honor it was to be inducted and be included in such an esteemed group.
Phil’s wife, like other inductees, mingled with old friends after taking the podium.
“It’s just been plain fun to see everybody,” Marilyn said. “It’s very special. People in this group — I never considered myself in this group. Mr. Beatty is very special.”
The inductees also were recognized at halftime of Friday’s homecoming football game. Plaques honoring the inductees soon can be seen on display near the performing arts center at THS.
Other activities homecoming weekend were the 20th and 40th class reunions for the classes of 1990 and 1970 respectively and the academic achievement banquet at the middle school.