The Brookfield Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame was created to honor Brookfield High School graduates who found success in life and made significant contributions to society.
The members of the inaugural class, though, didn’t look at their inductions as an accolade in and of itself. Instead, they tried to present their accomplishments as examples of what today’s students can shoot for.
“The reason we’re here is we really want to inspire you and get you to think big,” inductee Elizabeth Drummond, a 2003 graduate and staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee, told students.
The two-day induction included inductees making presentations to students on Sept. 20 and being introduced at the home football game later that day. They also were feted at a banquet Sept. 21 at the Gentry in Hubbard.
Drummond tried to inspire students by speaking at a girls-only assembly about the obstacles women still face in their careers and how to succeed in male-dominated fields. Francis McCabe, a 1997 graduate who went to law school after a decorated career in the Marines, spoke on setting goals and taking advantage of opportunities.
Author Barbara Gregorich, Class of 1961, spoke on the need for persistence throughout a career, and that past success does not mean anything will be handed to you. Dr. Brian Noble Jones, a 1993 graduate and associate dean of admissions at Wesleyan University in
Middletown, Conn., gave students practical advice on preparing for college and applying to colleges.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Sawtelle, a 1998 graduate, talked about growing up in a family with “hardly any money,” and being a bullied kid who left Brookfield with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. It’s a story that he hoped would resonate with his audience.
“I’m from where you’re from,” he said. “We live in the most wealthy country on the planet, whether you feel it or not. Everyone in this room has access to more resources than billions of people – billions of people. There is nothing stopping you from getting you where you want to go.”
Carrying on that theme, McCabe said Brookfield is providing students with what they need, although they might not realize it until they’re older.
“You have all the basic tools you need to be successful and do anything you want,” said McCabe, a recipient of the Purple Heart.
The hall of fame also inducted the late Judge Raymond J. Rice, who became his family’s bread winner while still in high school and ended up receiving his diploma in 1944 – while he was overseas serving in the Navy Air Force during World War II.
Here are the inductees and some of their comments:
Elizabeth Drummond: Prior to taking the job with the U.S. House, she worked in business development and public policy management for Bloomberg L.P. in London; as legislative director for U.S. Rep Donald Norcross, New Jersey; as legislative assistant for business development at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems; and as legislative director for the Navy League of the United States.
“Thank you everyone for supporting Brookfield schools. This has been such a positive experience, and I think it should be a chance to reflect on how much quality and positivity that can come from something like this and inspire other students. I hope this is an avalanche. I hope this continues.”
Barbara Gregorich: author of nonfiction works such as “Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball,” and “Charlie Chan’s Poppa: Earl Derr Biggers,” novels such as “She’s on First” and children’s first readers and works of poetry.
“I really want to thank, above all, the Brookfield-Masury community. When I was growing up in the late 1950s, the area was kind of a combination of the rural and the urban. There seemed to be as many farms as there were factories. I partook of both of those worlds. I learned how to shovel manure on my uncle’s farm and I think that built my character. I got to take advantage of the culture of the area. It was a very wonderful environment to grow up in.”
Dr. Brian Noble Jones: Prior to his job at Wesleyan, he worked in admissions at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio; the University of Georgia; and Berry College, Mount Berry, Ga. He earned a doctor of philosophy in higher education in 2018 from the University of Georgia.
“It’s truly an honor. I just am blown away having such amazing people in the room who really played such a fundamental role in creating who we are and who we’ve become. Thank you all for the recognition.”
Francis McCabe: A 2015 graduate of George Washington University Law School, Washington, McCabe is an associate at Linklaters LLP, advising clients on energy and infrastructure projects and financing those projects. The graduate of Virginia Military Institute served in the Marines from 2001 through 2008, his tenure including three combat tours in Iraq. He also has worked in the private sector for firms that served the military.
“It’s quite amazing to see the impact that the school system, the teachers and administrators have had throughout Brookfield on the lives of the students that pass through the school system. They were truly influencers long before the term became fashionable. They’re influencing lives every single day and they continue to do so. I hope this becomes an annual tradition.”
Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Sawtelle: He represents the Four-Star Commanding General of the U.S. Special Operations Command to Congress. He has been a special operations officer planning high-risk missions in Afghanistan, and served four combat tours there. He is the author of a book on leadership and studied meteorology, music and math on an ROTC scholarship at the University of North Dakota.
“This trip has surfaced unexpectedly some very powerful emotions in me. I found myself two days ago thinking about things and places and dates and times and faces that brought pain, that brought fun, that brought hope. One thing is for sure, the alumni award is not about me, it’s about the opportunity that I have to reinvest my experiences of life back into the students in the community of Brookfield.”
Judge Raymond J. Rice Sr.: a posthumous award to a long-time attorney, county court judge and public servant. Among the groups he served with are the Brookfield Fire Department, Hubbard Optimist Club, Boy Scouts of America and Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce. His daughter, attorney Teresa Rice Daugherty, accepted for Rice.
“Dad, being the man he was, would not have sought out this award, if he were living today. He was humble and honorable. He worked hard his entire life for everything he achieved. He was a devoted man, who also loved his community and would do anything to help it grow and thrive. He loved and served his country and traveled with his family to show them the beauty of it. He was a man determined to learn, and no one could stop him. He is an example of what all Brookfield graduates can become: productive and valued members of the community, who would take it upon themselves to be leaders and leave our community a better place because they were here.”