Sunday, April 03, 2011

National Honor Society – Part 2

While most of the school clubs and sports were open to anyone who wanted to join, NHS was different—you had to be invited to be a member. Varsity sports teams were exclusive in that they had only a certain number of positions available and if more kids wanted to play than there were spots and equipment to accommodate them, then the coaches would pick those they thought the most capable and cut the rest. Straight forward enough.

NHS, by virtue of its exclusivity, was probably the most desirable of all the school clubs. The basic requirement was a 3.5 GPA, but even then, during the years we attended, grades alone were not enough…you still had to be invited to join by a faculty vote. Beyond that, I don’t have any knowledge of just how selection process worked; but I do know that the report card shown at right was not good enough for selection in 1961…causing some degree of irritation to its owner.

The third year, 1963, there was no induction ceremony. Rumor had it that Principal Roy C. Johnson had received substantial criticism from parents of young people who had the grades (a 3.5 GPA) but had been passed over for induction in May 1962; and Roy had caved in to the parent pressure. The 1962 & 1963 NHS invitation letters shown below provide evidence of a rift, most likely between Mr. Johnson and the faculty led by Mrs. Dorothy Conway, the well-regarded sponsor of NHS at EHHS since its inception.

Apparently at Mr. Johnson’s direction, the faculty was instructed to eliminate the traits of Character, Leadership, and Service from their selection of new candidates for NHS induction. However, there was a problem…those traits were the cornerstones of the NHS since its founding in 1921 and the NHS pin contained the letters, L, S, S, and C, which signify the 4 traits.

Mrs. Dorothy Conway, the NHS sponsor and one of the two school counselors, was a well regarded, refined woman, where Mr. Johnson was more of a rough-hewn sort. I can only imagine the exchange of words that must have taken place between them over this matter. For the 3-years we attended EHHS, Mrs. Conway was NHS, and set a splendid professional standard. They were both about 50 years of age at the time.

I think Mrs. Conway may have had the last word in this matter. Almost certainly, she was the author of the letters shown above. Note the very significant word deletions and changes between the 1962 and 1963 letters. Note also that the letter was held until 8-days before our graduation ceremony leaving no time for student protest.

The result was that a lot of new 1963/64 inductees were invited via an impersonal “Dear Student” form letter where in previous years, the form letter was at least somewhat personalized.

Before a haphazard school assembly new inductees were unceremoniously called to the stage, handed a pin, and made members of NHS, where in the years before 1963, the NHS induction ceremony was a very formal, scripted affair.

I never saw a list of the 1963/64 Highlander NHS inductees, so I have no idea how many there were, but from what I vaguely recall from the assembly, there were a lot of them.

However, 1964 Highlanders were the first generally recognized “baby boomer” class, so maybe in a sense this sad event was one precursor of the coming changes in public education.


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