East Wall of Fame inductees celebrate the memories

The Columbus East High School Wall of Fame induction felt more like a family gathering than a high school reunion.

Olympians past and present filled the hallway leading up to the school’s main entrance during the reception preceding the induction ceremony.

They talked, laughed and reminisced about days gone by with the friends they once saw every day in the classroom.

And for the four inductees and their families — Bryan and Sandy Brown, Amy Huntington and Russell Evans, who was inducted posthumously — the ceremony proved that they are connected by much more than the honor they received from their alma mater Friday night.

“We were good friends with Amy Huntington’s parents, and Sandy lived right next door to us,” said Jean Evans, who attended the induction ceremony on behalf of his son.

Jean Evans beamed as he realized the young kids he had known as his son’s classmates had grown up and found success in life, the same way Russell Evans had. Before he died in 2011, the younger Evans had built a career in business management and finance while also finding time to take two trips around the world.

As he took in the crowd of people who had turned out to congratulate his son and the other honorees for their achievements, Jean Evans said he couldn’t be prouder of the way Russell’s life work was being honored.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “He wouldn’t have believed it. He would’ve been proud.”

Amy Huntington, who is president of Philips Lighting Americas, chatted with old friends as she moved throughout the crowd of nearly 70 people who attended the induction ceremony.

Although she grimaced at the thought of her photo hanging on the walls of Columbus East High School forever, Huntington said she is honored that the high school that served as the launching pad for her career would choose to immortalize the work that she’s done.

As an executive in several lighting companies, Huntington’s work has been seen all over the world, including in Times Square in New York City, where light bulbs from her company illuminated the famed New Year’s Eve ball drop.

“I never thought I would get to see the things I’ve seen and do the things I’ve done,” she said.

But Friday night’s ceremony wasn’t about work for Huntington — it was about catching up with the friends she hasn’t seen in a while.

Bryan and Sandy Brown approached their induction onto the Wall of Fame with the same attitude.

The Browns, who have each worked in the world of finance and securities, said they were so busy reuniting with the people from their past, they hardly had time to even notice their picture hanging on the wall along the school’s main hallway.

“I didn’t have a reaction to that,” Sandy Brown said. “For me, it’s about the friends.”

For the Browns, the Wall of Fame induction held a deeper meaning — they dedicated their award to a friend they had both known from their time in Columbus, but who later died.

Their friend’s sister was able to attend the induction ceremony, and Bryan Brown said getting to see her there made the ceremony that much more special.

Although the three inductees at Friday night’s ceremony have traveled the country and the world, they each said without their time at Columbus East, a school that promoted innovation and new ideas, the successful careers they now enjoy would never have been possible.

Inductee bios

Bryan and Sandy Brown built careers in the world of investments and securities. Sandy Brown has served in vice president, board chairwoman and director, chief financial officer and CEO positions with Bank of America, World Horizon Funds, Bunker Hill Income Securities Funds, Transamerica Securities Sales Corp. and SB Consulting. Bryan Brown worked for Exxon Production Research Co., a think tank, and spent 30 years as a securities analyst on Wall Street. Sandy Brown holds degrees in dental hygiene, technology and accounting, while Bryan Brown holds degrees in chemistry and English. They now reside in Beverly Hills, California.

Amy Huntington graduated from Purdue University in 1988 with a degree in industrial management/industrial engineering and began her career with Square D, a subsidiary of Schneider Electric. She earned her master’s degree in management in 1993 and then became a senior vice president with Schneider in 2001. After that, Huntington became president and CEO of Juno Lighting Group, a subsidiary of Schneider and Square D, in 2006. In 2009 she was promoted to chief operating officer of Schneider’s North American operating division and president of Schneider USA. She joined Philips Lighting in 2013 and became president of Philips Lighting Americas in 2015. She resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Russell Evans joined General Electric in 1980 after earning a degree in finance. He held several positions within the company, including finance/accounting, plant controller, manager of internal auditing, various director positions and finally chief operating officer for consumer services. He joined The Boeing Co. in 2000 as the vice president of corporate audit, and later became the vice president and chief financial officer. He ended his career with the Amway Corp. as an executive vice president and chief financial officer. Following his death in 2011, his wife, Marie, relocated to Chicago and his son, Michael, is a freelance writer in Beijing.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.