Columbus North students witnessed history — well before the significance of Friday’s events are added to history books that younger students will one day read.

Mike Pence, who was a senior at North 40 years ago, became vice president of the United States — and the historic moment, which occurred just before noon, captivated students who roam those same hallways.

The events delighted some North students, but not all.

The words, faces and body language of North students on Friday showed a contrast of reactions as they watched one of the high school’s most famous alumni take the oath as vice president.

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Senior Elizabeth Elliot, who described herself as a strong Pence supporter and member of the school’s Republican Club, watched inauguration coverage live during math teacher Nathan Schiefer’s Advanced Placement calculus class.

Elliot said she considers it an honor knowing that Pence attended Columbus North, having graduated in 1977.

“It’s inspiring that someone from Columbus, Indiana, someone from this high school, is now going to be in the White House and it just shows that no matter where you’re from, you can accomplish anything,” Elliot said. “Mike Pence put us on the map.”

Elliot said she hoped the Trump-Pence administration would make the economy a main point of focus as opposed to social issues.

Charlotte Verbanic, a senior and president of the school’s Republican Club, said she also backs Pence.

“I just think it’s a truly phenomenal experience for him and I’m so proud of him,” Verbanic said.

Another senior, Sarah Towsley, however, clasped her hands together in front of her face with her eyes closed during part of the time the inauguration was being streamed on a large projector screen in the school’s choir room.

Senior Sarah Pankratz, seated next to Towsley, also watched the coverage closely, her hand covering her mouth.

Towsley said she is not a fan of Pence’s platforms on immigration and the LGBTQ community.

As governor, Pence in 2015 signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, giving business owners the perceived right to refuse service to gays. Backlash — from corporations, LGBTQ and civil rights groups — triggered an economic threat to the state, and Pence soon after signed an amendment bill outlawing denial of services based on such factors as sexual orientation and gender identity.

Towsley said she wants to see Pence and President Donald Trump focus on the economy and health care, especially as Republicans contemplate dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

“I don’t think repealing it without a replacement is a good idea,” Towsley said, referring to reports that up to 20 million people could lose coverage based on changes that are being discussed.

But elsewhere in the room, students such as Madelyn Sanders and classmate Cullen Kane could be seen smiling as they watched the live coverage.

Performing arts teacher Janie Gordon, who graduated from North High School the same year as Pence did, was among about 20 individuals gathered in choir room.

“It’s a very historic and significant day for Columbus, Columbus North and the class of 1977,” Gordon said.

Gordon, who said she once lived across the street from Pence, said she isn’t surprised about Pence’s rise to the White House.

“I think I even said back then if anyone were to get into the White House, it would be Mike Pence,” she said.

Gordon sat next to junior Nathan Patton in the front row, pointing out Pence family members on the screen as the swearing-in ceremony was being televised.

Patton, who said he has met Pence, described him as a regular individual who respects others regardless of what political party or ideology they identify with.

Columbus North connection

Mike Pence, the nation’s 48th vice president, graduated from Columbus North High School nearly 40 years ago as a member of the Class of 1977.

While at North High School, Pence was:

  • President of the senior class
  • A member of the speech and debate teams
  • On the wrestling team
  • On the staff of the school newspaper, The Triangle
  • Was recognized as winner of the American Legion’s Indiana oratorical contest.

Pull Quote

“It’s inspiring that someone from Columbus, Indiana, someone from this high school is now going to be in the White House and it just shows that no matter where you’re from, you can accomplish anything.”

— Elizabeth Elliott, Columbus North senior

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com