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Column: North alums make Hall of Fame

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COMPARED to some of their academic peers, Columbus’ high schools have been late in getting into the hall-of-fame game.

Columbus North High School, the successor to the original Columbus High School, which held its first commencement in 1872, inducted its first class only last year. Columbus East High School, with a much shorter history that began in 1972, announced its first class of notable grads this year.

Obviously North has a lot of catching up in the years ahead, which might explain why the inaugural class of inductees last year was so large (nine). The second class — to be inducted Sept. 26 before the homecoming football game — is smaller in number (six), but it more than measures up in the achievements of the inductees.

Given the fame they acquired in high school and later life, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that North’s first Hall of Fame group was weighted to athleticism. Five of the nine inaugural members — college coaches Ray Eddy (Class of 1929), Sandra Bridges Newkirk (1956) and Paul “Dutch” Fehring (1930), record-setting high school coach Bill Stearman and tennis shoe (Chucks) entrepreneur Charles “Chuck” Taylor (1919) — achieved what could be described as household name status.

The other four members — three-term Columbus Mayor Bob Stewart (1947), Four Freshmen co-founder Ross Barbour (1947), longtime CHS educator Shirley Lyster (1947) and entrepreneur Thomas E. Spurgeon (1956) — might not have been as well-known, but all made contributions that put them in a league of their own.

Surprisingly the 2014 North High School Hall of Fame class has cast a wider shadow in a variety of fields touching on politics, medicine, architecture, business, education and humanitarianism.

Only one of its members, Rick Stoner (standout football and basketball player on Bull Dog teams in the early 1960s), continued his post-high school athletic career (at Yale University), but the Hall of Fame recognition is primarily tied to his public service, most notably his work with an international aid organization called Save the Children.

The other five members have made societal contributions in a variety of ways. Arguably the best known would be Indiana governor, former U.S. representative and possible presidential aspirant Mike Pence. Ironically, he is the first Hall of Fame inductee to have graduated from Columbus North (1977).

Another member with national credentials is Robert Zerbe (1968). He has affected the lives of millions through his research work. He was a member of development teams that produced nine drugs, including Lipitor and Prozac.

The other three members might not have cast such wide geographical shadows, but they certainly had an impact on this community.

Josephine W. Armuth (1921) touched the lives of thousands of students who went through the halls of Columbus High School. During her 46 years as a teacher and administrator in Bartholomew County schools, she was an instructor and a mentor, especially when she was dean of girls at the high school.

Although much of Columbus’ architectural fame is derived from the cadre of international designers who have their names affixed to scores of local buildings, Jim Paris (1957) has left his own impressive mark on the built environment locally. His redesigns of Fire Station 1 and the old pump house, which served for several decades as the senior center, gave both structures a continuity that was especially appreciated by those who have called Columbus home for several decades.

Albert “Ab” Schumaker was a successful businessman, but he was an even better local statesman for whom bipartisanship was a religion. A lifelong Democrat, he developed lasting partnerships with people of all political persuasions during his 32 years as a member of Columbus City Council and his 16 years on the Columbus Park Board.

This newest class brings to 15 the number of those who will make up the Columbus/Columbus North High School Hall of Fame. They’re pretty unique, given that the selection committees have 144 graduating classes from which to choose.

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