Class of 2017 inducted into Woodford schools Hall of Fame
The career achievements and life accomplishments of the 10 newest members of the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame were celebrated Saturday, Aug. 26. Speaking for the Class of 2017, Dr. Mark Gormley Jr. said coming home to Versailles on Saturday was a reminder of how much he missed this community and the people who live here. "That's the wonderful thing about this community," Gormley said, "is they give back." All of the inductees had wonderful accomplishments to get in the Hall of Fame, "but each and every one of them has given back to their community ... and that has helped foster the development of other children," explained Gormley. "On behalf of all the inductees," he added, "I want to thank everybody for everything that you've done for us. And I hope that we can continue to foster those values that are integral to Woodford County and Versailles in developing those future Hall of Famers." His feelings of appreciation for this community were echoed by another inductee before Saturday's induction ceremony at Woodford County Middle School. "There are teachers all over Woodford County that were more than teachers (to their students)," said Woodford County High School graduate Teresa Jones James, who moved back to Woodford County with her family in 2008. "It's just nice to come home," she explained, "to be with the people who care about each other and love each other in this community ... (Our teachers) taught us about life and how to treat each other." Prior to the Class of 2017's induction into the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said he continues to be amazed by "those who have walked the halls of our schools and who have gone onto do such incredible things in their careers." Academics A graduate of WCHS in 1979 and class valedictorian, Mark Gormley Jr. has become one of the world's leading experts in pediatric rehabilitation medicine. In addition to caring for children, Gormley, a University of Louisville School of Medicine grad, has presented lectures to physicians in more than 20 countries and has helped conduct research projects. He served as the youngest chief of staff at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul before becoming its director of pediatric rehabilitation medicine. "I just wanted to try to do the best that I can to help other people," said Gormley of his life's work during an interview. After John Lodmell graduated from WCHS with highest honors in 1992, he received an appointment to the U. S. Air Force Academy, where he was graduated in the top six percent of his class while earning a degree in astronautical engineering. Lodmell managed a $200 million satellite constellation for the U. S. Space Command before earning his MBA at the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management, where he once again graduated at the top of his class. "From the time he was little, he was just an achiever," said his mother, Donita Lodmell, who accepted her son's Hall of Fame plaque on his behalf. She said her son's involvement in Boy Scouts and a variety of other activities set him up for success and set a standard for his six younger siblings. Today, John Lodmell works in the world of finance, where he analyzes data for financial services while leading a team of 30 economists, statisticians and software developers. "I'm proud of the person that he's turned out to be, that he uses his talents to help others," said Donita Lodmell. Arts and Humanities Megan Schenck Dragoo grew up dancing in her mother's studio - Jane's School of Dance in Versailles - before moving to New York City. The 1998 graduate of WCHS was a dancer with the Radio City Rockettes, from 1998 to 2001, and again from 2004 to 2007. In between her stints with the Rockettes, Dragoo was an original cast member of a Tony Award winning revival of "42nd Street," where she shared the stage with older sister Joni Schenck Lanza. "It's a huge honor," said Dragoo, who joins her sister (Class of 2016) in the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame. "I feel very blessed to join so many other talented people from this town. It's incredible. And to have two (in the Hall of Fame) from our family, there aren't words to describe it. I'm super-excited." Reflecting on her career as a professional dancer, Dragoo said, "I loved being a Rockette. I loved being on Broadway." And now as co-director of Jane's School of Dance - a business started by her mother, Jane Schenck - Dragoo said she gets to instill "some awesome values" in her students as they pursue their dreams in dance and, more importantly, life. Athletics Bill Bland, who graduated from WCHS in 1966, was an outstanding athlete in basketball, baseball, track and field, and cross country at Versailles High School and WCHS. After earning a basketball scholarship at Tennessee Tech University, where he was a three-year starter, Bland came back to WCHS. He coached for 32 years, while also teaching health and physical education. His "sincere desire to help and serve others" - words spoken by former WCHS Coach Gene Kirk - elicited the first of two rounds of applause for Bland, his former assistant coach. The longtime coaching partners led WCHS to its only Sweet 16 appearance. One of the players on that team, Jeff Moffett, described Bland as a coach "who taught us intensity while staying under control. He never seemed to get flustered or lose his composure. And that was great for young athletes to see ... Coach Bland is a great person and the world could use more people like him," which elicited a second round of applause. While Bland and Kirk, who joined the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2016, may not get together often, they remain "friends for life," according to Bland, who spoke while sitting next to Kirk during Saturday's induction ceremony. "He's not only a great coach," said Kirk of Bland, "but the work he did in the school itself, teaching kids" set him apart from other educators. "He had a way of motivating ... (students to) get the best out of the kid individually. He was (also) a great motivator" and "taught kids how to behave, while having "a sincere interest in their lives," added Kirk. Joe Carr Jr., a 1997 graduate of WCHS, won four KHSAA State Wrestling titles and finished with 242 career wins, while becoming one of the most accomplished high school wrestlers in state history. He was a first team All-American during his senior year at WCHS. He then qualified for the NCAA Tournament on four occasions while earning 101 wins at West Virginia University. Reflecting on his son's wrestling accomplishments at WCHS and West Virginia University, former WCHS Coach Joe Carr Sr. said Joe Jr. had the commitment, dedication and desire "to strive to be the best" from an early age. "He had that it," concluded Joe Sr. during an interview. Joe Carr Jr. joined another former WCHS wrestler, Jeff Fitch, as the only wrestlers in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Career Achievement Teresa Jones James became a nationally recognized expert in health and human services programs after graduating from WCHS in 1980. The Eastern Kentucky University and University of Kentucky graduate has been a clinical social worker for nearly 30 years, and was appointed Commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services in 2012. As an educator of issues related to domestic violence, James has trained thousands of medical professionals so they can recognize abuse and neglect. She was elected into the UK College of Social Work Hall of Fame in 2014, and credits her former health careers teacher, Faye Crews Daniel, and other WCHS educators for nurturing a passion within her to advocate for vulnerable populations in the commonwealth. During a career spanning 39 years, James McAfee (VHS Class of 1947) was a teacher, coach, education leader and state administrator. His legacy of service included stints as a teacher and basketball coach at Mount Sterling High School and VHS. He later became a principal at Mount Sterling and Danville high schools before becoming a service advisor for the state Department of Education for 18 years. Combined with McAfee's 12 years with the Kentucky Department of Surface Mining, his life's work spanned 51 years. Patsy McAfee, his wife of 64 years, accepted her late husband's Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame plaque. Patron In addition to achieving success and national recognition as a leader in the automotive sales industry, Jack Kain has become known locally for his ongoing support for Woodford County schools. His local Ford dealership has provided vehicles for the WCHS driver education program while also supporting Project Graduation and a variety of other fundraisers and events supporting the local school system. Specifically, "Drive for Your School" has raised over $50,000 to support Project Graduation and booster clubs. "I'm accepting (this Hall of Fame recognition) for my family because I sure couldn't do it (alone)," said Kain during an interview. "My wife and my children they're the ones who elevated me to this position." The longtime owner of Jack Kain Ford still remembers what he told a group of seniors at WCHS four decades ago. "Find something you enjoy doing," he told them, "and then you'll never have to work. But whatever you do - give it your all. Be the best at it." Public Service After graduating from Simmons High School in 1943, Walter Bradley Jr. became a civic leader and historian in Midway. Bradley was the first African-American elected to Midway City Council. His service as a councilman spanned 24 years. The Midway native and U.S. Army veteran was active in church and civic organizations - serving as president of the Midway Lions Club. He was also named Lion of the Year in 1990.
Bradley also contributed articles to The Woodford Sun as a way to educate others on the many accomplishments of black inventors and leaders. Since his death in January 2004, his wife, Mollie Bradley, who shared her husband's passion for the past, has continued contributing articles to The Sun to commemorate Black History Month. "When he passed away," Molly Bradley said she knew, "...now it's the time for you to write" about "our people." Most recently, the City of Midway named its public park - the Walter T. Bradley Memorial Park - in his honor. But his greatest accomplishment in life, according to his widow, was being "a wonderful husband ... a wonderful father." Decima Carl Osborne began her long career educating the young children of Woodford County at Millville Elementary School, where she spent seven years. She later became the owner and director of Jack and Jill Pre-school. For 38 years, Osborne educated countless children, including Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and former U.S. Congressman Ben Chandler, who served as the master of ceremonies for Saturday's induction ceremony. "Decima," said Chandler, "has helped raise two generations of Woodford County residents." In addition to her years at Jack and Jill, Osborne served as the arts and crafts director for Woodford County's recreation department for 30 years. Reflecting on nearly 50 years of serving the young children of Woodford County during an interview, Osborne said, "I never thought I'd be this lucky." She described taking care of younger kids as her "cup of tea. I love it. They bring me up and leave me up. I just love it." Team recognition In addition to inducting 10 new members into the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame, WCHS's 1986 State Champion Mock Trial Team and its coach, Dan Cassity, received a special recognition for becoming the first team to represent Kentucky at the National Mock Trial Tournament. After winning a Kentucky state title while competing against 80 other schools in its first year of existence, the WCHS mock trial team - Sarah Andrea Adler, Anthony D. Atwood, William Evan Bledsoe, Geri L. Etherington, John M. Meholovitch, Tanya S. Mirilovich, Gitanjali G. Minors, Lucy Gentry Vance and Brenna Nicole Venix - advanced to the national tournament in Phoenix. Cassity, who always enjoyed teaching political science classes because of its importance to students in their daily lives, said mock trials were an opportunity for them to "learn by doing." His students learned about the judicial system while they gained an understanding of how to speak, analyze and think in a mock trial setting. "Teaching is what connects you to every kid," said Cassity during an interview. The former football coach at WCHS worked closely with two local attorneys, Bob Swisher and Ralph Combs, on mock trial. Combs said he enjoyed coaching alongside Cassity, who he described as the "inspirational leader of the team." Working with the WCHS mock trial team also "inspired me to get excited again about practicing law, being a lawyer," said Combs, a longtime Versailles attorney.