Two Columbus East High School alumni were added to the school’s Wall of Fame on Friday evening, joining 11 other Olympians who had been recognized earlier for their accomplishments.
Family members and one of the inductees, Barry Nelson, attended a reception at the high school. A second alumni, the late Jeremy McQueary, was inducted posthumously
Both graduates were formally recognized by the Columbus East Alumni Association during halftime of the Columbus East boys basketball game against East Central.
Nelson, who graduated as class valedictorian from East in 1975, is a Northwestern University professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. He came to the reception wearing his high school letter jacket and said he was honored to receive such a recognition from his alma mater.
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“Some of my best memories of my life were at Columbus East High School,” Nelson said.
He credited his education at East in shaping him as an individual, saying he was well prepared for college because of a modular schedule format that was in place during his high school years. Nelson also extended gratitude to his high school math teacher, Dan Dixon, one of many individuals who had a positive influence on him.
Nelson, who participated in football, track and cross-country while a student at East, worked at Ohio State University for 11 years before joining Northwestern. He was joined at the reception by his family members, including his father LeRoy, who served as Columbus East principal from 1972 to 1977. The high school library is named for him.
Barry Nelson also had some words of advice for students in high school today, encouraging them to take advantage of doing more than what is assigned.
“The farther you go in school, the more you get to focus on what you like and are interested in,” he said.
McQueary, who graduated from East in 2002, was represented by his wife Rae, their son 7-year-old Hadley and other family members. McQueary was in the Marine Corps and died Feb. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan while conducting searches for improvised explosive devices.
Cupcakes in the shape of a heart, covered with frosting to depict the American flag with the words “Remembering and Honoring Jeremy,” filled a table at the reception.
Rae McQueary said she thought her husband would not have expected the award, but noted that he would be excited about receiving such a recognition.
“He was just always the happy go-lucky, bigger-than-life kind of person,” she said. “I think he would be truly touched by everything people have done since he passed. It’s been amazing really.”
Chuck Wells, president of the alumni association and publisher of The Republic, spoke warmly about both Nelson and McQueary as individuals.
He said McQueary made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country.
“If there’s anybody that belongs on our Wall of Fame, it would be Jeremy,” Wells said.
He said Nelson also exemplifies what the alumni association is trying to do with the Wall of Fame, highlighting accomplished individuals.
“When kids walk by that wall and see what they’re doing, hopefully it inspires others to pursue a similar path,” Wells said.
Barry Nelson is the Walter P. Murphy professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a distinguished visiting scholar at Lancaster University in England.
He was on the faculty at Ohio State University for 11 years before beginning his career at Northwestern.
Nelson was valedictorian at Columbus East High School for the class of 1975, the first class to spend all three years at East. Nelson received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and computer science from DePauw University. He also has a master of science and a doctorate in industrial engineering from Purdue University.
The late Jeremy McQueary graduated from Columbus East High School in 2002 and had planned on joining the military after high school graduation. But when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurredd, he decided to complete high school a semester early to join the military as soon as possible.
After boot camp, he joined the Marine Corps in January 2002, serving in Okinawa, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan in several units, including the Motor Transportation 7th Battalion, Special Operations Training Group, Water Rescue and Second Battalion Combat Engineers — Route Clearance Team 3.
McQueary, 27, died on Feb. 18, 2010, in Afghanistan while conducting searches for improvised explosive devices. He is survived by his wife Rae and son Hadley.