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Columbus East Alumni Association honors inaugural Wall of Fame inductees

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A reception for the first class of the Columbus East High School Wall of Fame was just as much for those who influenced the inductees as it was for those being honored.

Parents, former teachers and former coaches mingled in the new Wall of Fame hallway Friday evening to recognize the notable graduates: Marja Harmon, Jeffrey Holmes, Sam Hou, Ashley Risk Morrison and Maria Stack.

In a corner stood Gilbert Maupin, a former Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. teacher who retired more than 20 years ago, watching the door anxiously.

He was hoping to speak with Sam Hou, a 1985 graduate who has since gone on to start his own investment firm and manage portfolios worth more than $16 billion.

Maupin taught Hou in sixth grade at Parkside Middle School. The last time he heard from him was Oct. 10, 1980.

“I think he’s probably one of the smartest kids that ever went through this school system,” he said.

He pulled from his jacket a yellowed but crisp envelope postmarked in 1980 — a letter from Hou.

“Thanks to you, I am thoroughly understanding and enjoying algebra, one of my favorite subjects,” he wrote neatly in cursive. “I know my sister has you for math and she says you are a brilliant teacher, and I think so too. I also know many, if not all, of your students respect and like you.”

Maupin said he didn’t get many letters from his students, so he cherished this one.

“When I’m feeling sad and down, I pull this letter out,” he said.

When Maupin learned Hou would not be attending the reception, he was disappointed — until the alumni association asked him to accept the Wall of Fame award in Hou’s honor.

He said he will send a copy of the letter with the award.

Bob Kasting, a retired teacher at East, remembers another inductee sitting in his physics class nearly three decades ago.

He said students normally take physics their junior year, but Jeffrey Holmes came to him as just a freshman.

“He was really good at it and could do work beyond the scope of the course, but I kept him challenged,” Kasting said.

He told Holmes to take a look at biomedical engineering — a field he is now teaching at the University of Virginia.

Harmon was not in attendance Friday because she was hard at work rehearsing for her newest job: a role in the “Book of Mormon” at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York.

Her father, Tom Harmon, attended the reception to accept the award and he reminisced about the many times he visited East for school plays and musicals.

“She still considers Columbus her roots and acknowledges her experience here for getting where she is today,” he said.

The two Wall of Fame inductees in attendance — national business news anchor Ashley Risk Morrision and basketball star Maria Stack — shared the same sentiment.

“Columbus East gave me a work ethic that has continued into my work life,” Stack said. “I hope the Wall of Fame can inspire others and motivate them to work hard.”

That was one of the hopes when the Columbus East Alumni Association launched the Wall of Fame project, its first major undertaking.

President Chuck Wells said he hopes the Wall of Fame will help current students see all kinds of possibilities in their own futures.

“We haven’t had a mechanism to do special things for our kids at East,” he said. “That stops tonight.”

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