COLUMBIA — The Columbia Public Schools Foundation wined and dined some of its top alumni Thursday at Stephens College. The foundation has raised $1 million and is looking for its next million.
The foundation’s annual Hall of Leaders celebration honors alumni, educators and volunteers. The school district’s goal for the event was to raise between $35,000 and $40,000 to support area school programs.
Since 1996, the foundation has granted over $358,000 to Columbia schools and in 2006 its endowment reached the $1 million mark. Last year, the foundation awarded five grants, including $15,000 to the Critter Program, which places animals, such as doves and iguanas, in schools to get children involved in the classroom and interested in reading and science.
When Lynnanne Baumgardner, president and co-founder of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, visited first-graders and their doves, she said teachers told her how the animals helped get even the shy students involved in class.
“They could tell you all about the doves,” she said. “They learned so much. They were so excited and they had read so much.”
Baumgardner said she grew up in Tulsa, Okla., but after 12 years on the school board, teaching and participating in the Parent Teacher Association in Columbia, she realized the schools needed more funding.
There are “teachers with wonderful ideas but no funding,” Baumgardner said. To make up the difference, the foundation created an application process for teachers.
“I think we’re very open-minded and we know, clearly, everyone wants all children to learn as well as they possibly can,” Baumgardner said.
The Columbia Public School Foundation has recognized the contributions of alumni, educators and volunteers for the last eight years. The Hall of Leaders event sells tickets for $100, making it the largest fundraising event of the year. Friends, family and co-workers submitted letters of nomination on behalf of the honorees, recounting to the foundation’s committee the positive impact the honorees have had on Columbia. The alumni graduated from Columbia Public Schools, while the educators and volunteers served students of Columbia.
Kent Fewell coached baseball at Hickman High School for 26 years. Under his leadership, the team won the state championship in 1990. He is known for the guidance he provided students who experienced tragic events. He is also an honoree of the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
“I had some great role models in junior high school and role model coaches,” he said. “That just kind of took me and I decided then I wanted to do the same thing.”
Dave Griggs is a 1963 alumuus of Hickman High School. He owns David Griggs’ Flooring America and is a board member of the Boone County Fire District. He studied geology at MU until the Vietnam War cut his time short. He is the former president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
“Obviously, if we’re going to attract jobs education is critical, and the school system has consistently done a good job preparing students,” he said.
Chuck Headley served on the Columbia Public School Board for nine years, and as president and vice president of the board for two years a piece. His third term expired in April of 2006. Before his retirement, he taught agriculture economics at MU. His parents’ involvement in his education encouraged him to get involved with the Columbia Public Schools.
“I felt all through my life that public schools were important and people in the community have a right to serve those schools,” he said.
John Henage taught at Rock Bridge High School and coached football and golf. He led the football team to a state championship win in 1977. He received several awards, including an induction into the Missouri High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. He became an honoree of the Rock Bridge High School Hall of Fame during the 2002 school year.
“That’s one of the reasons we moved to Columbia, because we wanted our kids to go to a good school system,” he said.
Harold Logan graduated from Douglass High School in 1957. He retired after 44 years with IBM in Irving, Texas, but still works as a human resources consultant. He received a basketball scholarship to Southern University in Louisiana, but later transferred to Lincoln University to study business administration and economics. During his time at Douglass High School he helped foster stronger communication between black students and the administration, easing a tense situation that almost led to a boycott by the students.
“A lot of people have done a lot of things (at the Columbia Public Schools) and I think it’s all very positive,” he said
Cathy Barton Para graduated from Hickman High School in 1973. She is a folk singer and musician who hosts festivals that teach children about history through music. She completed her undergraduate degree in humanities at Stephens College and her master’s in folk studies and historic preservation at Western Kentucky University. She has won several awards, including an award from the Boonville Chamber of Commerce celebrating her and her husband’s Big Muddy Folk Festival.
“I feel like folk music is a real important way for kids to know about their heritage,” she said.
Beulah Ralph worked for the Columbia Public Schools for 58 years. She spent 20 years at Douglass High School as a secretary and 38 years as the director of home-school services, leading the Home-School Communicator Program. She graduated from Hickman High School and attended college at Lincoln University. Ralph received awards from MU, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.
“It’s my home where I’m proud to have lived all my life,” she said. “I enjoyed having to be at home and I had an opportunity to help students and to be with them.”
Cal Roebuck volunteered his time to support Rock Bridge High School as the president of the Rock Bridge High School Booster Club. As president, the booster club helped raise money for the construction of Rock Bridge Stadium. He moved to Ohio 22 years ago but returned for good to Columbia on Tuesday. He said he hopes to still contribute to Columbia Public Schools.
“If somebody finds something that’s interesting I’ll help out and when we do we play to win,” he said.
Don Rupp worked as teacher from 1963 until his retirement in 2001. He plays trombone and worked as band director at West Junior High School for 25 years and at Gentry Middle School for eight years. He has received numerous awards, including Outstanding Junior High Educator and Teacher of the Year.
“I think probably one of the reasons I came to Columbia was because it was a strong music program,” he said. “We, as Columbians, can boast we have a fine instrument and music program — district-wide.”
Wayne Sells dedicated myriad financial resources to help Rock Bridge High School and Hickman High School. He donated football and baseball uniforms, provided buses for transportation to games and was one of the pioneers of girls’ basketball fundraising. The Rock Bridge field is named after him because of his $100,000 donation to the creation of an artificial turf field.
“The Columbia Public Schools are the foundation for Columbia,” he said. “To me, the Columbia Public Schools, that’s why Columbia has grown so much.”
Greg Steinhoff is a 1977 alumnus of Hickman High School. He is the director of economic development for the State of Missouri. He studied pharmacy at UMKC. He previously served on school task forces and presided over the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. The chamber named him Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2001.
“There’s not an economic development meeting I go to where we don’t talk about education,” he said.
Karen Kemper-Wingert graduated from Hickman High School in 1969. Kemper-Wingert said she loved Hickman so much, she moved her children from Kansas City to attend Hickman in Columbia. Kemper-Wingert works as a clinical associate professor of physical therapy at MU. She graduated from MU with a degree in physical therapy. She offers therapy at the Women’s Health Clinic at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and previously served as a board member of the Missouri Red Cross. She received the Kappa Alpha Feta Faculty of the Year award in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
“I really am honored because I just do things I love to do,” she said.