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Hall of Fame wall expands collection by ten members this fall

October 12, 2017

This year is Central’s 19th annual Hall of Fame which will be honor and induct ten new nominees from graduating classes ranging from 1922-1990.

Central High’s foundation executive director, Michele Roberts is the behind the scenes expert when it comes to preparing and making the ceremony happen.

In order to become an inductee, one must be nominated first, “anybody can nominate anybody,” Roberts said. Once a nominee is selected, their name sits in a nomination pool for two years until Central Alumni Hall of Fame Selection Committee choses 10 inductees. “Every year there is a great pool of people,” Roberts said. The nominees are chosen based on the highest levels of achievement in business and community service.

The selection committee is made up of Central’s alumni from different graduating decades. They hold their positions for two years on the committee then a new batch of Central’s alumni replaces them.

There is a set ratio between living and deceased nominees. “No more than three deceased nominees per year,” Roberts said.

This year the Hall of Fame inductees are: Kimera Bartee, Natalie Brown, Howard Chudacoff, Henry Cordes, John Emery, Muriel Frank, Sanford Friedman, Paul Phillips, Edson Smith and Lawrence Thomas.

The selection process occurs from January to April. Once the nominees are chosen, the foundation committee sends out invitations for the nominees to either accept or decline the invite. Every once in a while someone may decline the invitation simply because they can’t make it. But they still qualify to be nominated for the upcoming Hall of Fame.

Roberts and her team begin planning the Hall of Fame ceremony in July that takes place in October. Around 200 people attend the ceremony every year. The ceremony costs $50 a person, $400 per table for eight or $500 per table for ten. All the money goes to catering, rental and inductee Hall of Fame plaques. Each Hall of Fame plaque costs $150. But each inductee gets two, one to take home and one to go on the Hall of Fame wall in Central.

One of the inductees this year, Bartee, graduated in 1990. He is the first Central grad to play baseball in the major leagues. Drafted to Baltimore in 1993, Bartee received his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1996. He is now passing on his skills and knowledge to the next generation. Nine seasons with the Pittsburgh minor league, Bartee was base running and outfield coordinator. Now he is the Pirate’s first base, outfield and base running coach.

Brown, graduated in 1985. She has a three-decade career as a U.S. State Department diplomat. She has given her time and service to countries such as; Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait and even Ethiopia. She was a senior watch officer in the State Department operations center during 9/11. Though she has encountered lots of danger she considers it the “best job in the world.”

Chudacoff, graduated in 1961. He is an Ivy League history professor. He is a co-author of an influential college history text book and many others books covering diverse academic interests. He earned his doctorate degree and became a full professor in 1970. In 2003 he was recognized as one of the first recipients of a new Brown award for excellence in teaching and advising. Since 2002, he has held a position at Brown devoted to American history and urban studies.

Cordes graduated in 1981. He has worked with the Omaha World Herald for four decades. He has been recognized as one of Nebraska’s most influential journalists.

He has been awarded five times for the UNL Sorenson Award for Nebraska’s most distinguished work of journalism. He served as president on the Omaha Press club and is the father of two Central grads of 2017, Thelma and Lucy.

Emery graduated in 1956. He oversees higher education by his success in Nebraska’s insurance industry. He helped found the RD Marcotte agency in Omaha, a Mutual of Omaha affiliate. He has established more than 90 offices across the country for TransAmerica under the John Emery & Associates. Emery was appointed by Governor Ben Nelson to serve on the Nebraska’s Postsecondary Commission for Higher Education.

Frank graduated in 1936. She helped start the anesthesiology department at the Methodist Hospital. She became the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Omaha Medical Society in 1989. She worked four decades in the medical field, 15 years of which she was the chief of anesthesiology at Methodist Hospital. She has inspired many women to conquer the careers in medicine. Friedman graduated in 1964. He is a successful salesman, trouble-shooter and entrepreneur. He obtained an insurance agency that within 12 years it became the largest independent agency in Omaha. He has helped a number of Omaha businesses finalize their ideals before retirement. He has also served on many community boards within Omaha such as, Girls Club of Omaha, the Omaha Symphony and the Jewish Federation of Omaha and Anti-Defamation League.

Phillips graduated in 1932. He led the Urban League chapter through the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He became a voice for racial discrimination and took over the Grand Rapids Urban League in 1946. He was the first African American to be elected on the Grand Rapids school board. The recreation center in Grand Rapids carries his legacy known as the Boys and Girls Club carries his legacy.

Smith graduated in 1922. After high school he went onto Harvard Law School. He became an assistant U.S. attorney and worked his way up to solving the Tom Dension crime case. He had two daughters that followed him into law, one becoming the first female federal judge in Nebraska.

Thomas graduated in 1954. Thomas help build and enhance ConAgra Inc. into one of the world’s biggest food companies also one of Omaha’s significant employers. He served as ConAgra’s vice President and right hand man to ConAgra’s CEO. Thomas has generously donations to Omaha nonprofits such as; the Salvation Army, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, the Joslyn Art Museum and much more.

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