Kennewick High starts Hall of Fame

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writer April 9, 2010 

Michael Farris has a lengthy resume that includes being named by Education Week magazine as one of the top 100 faces in education of the 20th century.

But the Tri-City native said he considers being inducted into Kennewick High School's newly created Hall of Fame an even greater honor.

"There's something about being back in your high school, being recognized," he said.

Farris, who graduated from Kennewick High in 1969, was founding president and now is chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

He was in Kennewick on Thursday for the Hall of Fame ceremony. Earlier in the day, he visited with current Kennewick High students.

He told students in a Contemporary World Problems class about his experiences as an attorney working on international law, education and political matters. He touched on everything from health care legislation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And the students especially perked up when Farris talked about his time at Kennewick High.

He said he took classes in the same building they were sitting in. He was on the school's debate team and also announced the football games.

He talked about former teachers and about classmates who went on to make notable accomplishments -- such as a Homecoming queen who became a leading expert on autism.

Farris said he wanted to visit with students in hopes of inspiring them to dream big for their lives after Kennewick High.

"I was hoping they'd be encouraged to continue their education" and learn that hard work can lead to great things, he said.

Chelsea Jordan, 18, a senior, said she was inspired. "It was really cool. I didn't know so many Kennewick High people did interesting things like that," she said.

Jordan's teacher, Phill Dron, led the push for a Kennewick High Hall of Fame. The idea is to honor the past of the school and also show today's students there's no limit to what they can do, he said.

A Hall of Fame committee selected this year's inductees from a pool of nominations submitted by the community. Requirements included having excelled in the arts, science, athletics, the military or in community service after graduation.

The other inductees this year are: Blanche Dickinson Pratt, Class of 1921, co-founder of the East Benton County Historical Society, posthumous; John Dexter Smith, Class of 1943, inventor, posthumous; Ray Mansfield, Class of 1959, professional football player, posthumous; and Jim Jesernig, Class of 1975, politician.

Dron said another round of alumni will be inducted next year.

"We'd love to keep building it each year" and keep using the school's history to inspire current students to make history themselves, he said.

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