The AP Room was loaded with iconic Wardlaw+Hartridge legends at the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony and Reception, which has become one of my favorite events every year. I still recall my first one as a member of the W+H staff way back in 2009 when my classmate Jill Kenny Christen ’83 was one of the inductees into our Athletic Hall of Fame. Fourteen years later, in the 40th anniversary year of my graduation from this wonderful institution, I still enjoy hosting the event.
As I said at the podium during my welcome and introduction on Saturday afternoon, the preparation for this year’s ceremony was the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the process. I’ve been told the event ran smoothly and that our guests enjoyed it, which is no surprise considering the enthusiastic and passionate recollections the honorees shared during the planning stages.
This year’s ceremony honored one legendary teacher, two individual athletes and two teams who epitomize the school’s proud heritage and tradition of excellence. Congratulations to Distinguished Faculty Award winner Sue Howard, athletes Gil Childers ’73 and Keith Mann ’03, and the State Prep champion 1971 boys’ and 1984 girls’ basketball teams.
Sue taught Lower School art at W+H from 1979-2020. She’s inspired thousands of young artists with her passion and expertise. Reflecting on her long tenure, she particularly enjoyed teaching children of her former students and very kindly made reference to my family during her remarks. My mother-in-law, Alice McMullen, who received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2004, attended the ceremony and remains incredibly sharp at the age of 92. Sue taught my wife, Macada, an alumna from the Class of 1987, and then all three of my children between 2011-2018. I still have much of that artwork on display in my home. Gale Goldman, who received the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2019, made a wonderful introductory presentation for her friend and former colleague. Several former and current Lower School teachers attended the event to celebrate with Sue.
I’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know Gil Childers in the past few months. Many folks may not realize that Gil received the Distinguished Alumnus Award way back in 1996. Gil remains very humble about his impressive professional accomplishments and likewise initially questioned his Athletic Hall of Fame credentials. Once he got rolling with the old stories, Gil started to realize he belonged in the Hall. Gil’s vivid memories of the accomplishments of the old Wardlaw teams was incredible. Gil couldn’t resist pulling out his old maroon Wardlaw varsity jacket, much like his brother-in-law Mike Lackland ’80 did at the 2011 ceremony when the 1977 football team was inducted into the AHOF.
Keith Mann was the one honoree I had not met prior to the ceremony, but I had heard so much about his amazing character, perseverance and athletic talent. The words he shared during his acceptance remarks were genuine and heart-warming. W+H teammate Mike Olim ’04 provided an excellent introduction for Keith’s presentation. Keith was the youngest of this year’s awards recipients, which means you can find the most information about him online. I encourage you to Google him.
The Athletic Hall of Fame Committee was looking to honor the school’s athletic history by inducting two teams at one ceremony for the first time. Both the Wardlaw boys of 1971 and Wardlaw+Hartridge girls of 1984 won the first state titles in the history of their respective programs. Jon Kovonuk, son of the late Hall of Fame coach Ray Kovonuk, accepted the award on behalf of his father from Gil Childers. Jon found a plaque commemorating Ray’s 200th win in 1983, which was my senior year at W+H. I remember celebrating with “Rayko” at that party. Gary Burdick ’73, the point guard on that team, found an old Courier-News article online that revealed some play-by-play details of that game and how the Rams came back from two 10-point deficits to prevail.
Doug Anderson, who coached several sports during his W+H stint in the 1980s, accepted the award from Patti Feeney ’84, one of his team’s leaders. Reconnecting with Coach Anderson was like a walk down memory lane, four decades later. I went to school with many of the players on that team and it was great to reconnect with them after so many years.
Celebrating with all of these folks, along with former teachers, school mates and colleagues, was a nostalgic experience to say the least. Forty years after my graduation from W+H, I’m fortunate to have decades of memories.