Five individuals and their families were honored this week for their contributions to Waxahachie ISD - their impact and legacy to be remembered through the naming of campuses and buildings.
“We are extremely honored to make these recognitions,” WISD board president Dr. Joe Langley said. “We’ve been looking forward to this for several months.”
With three new campuses in its future as a result of the most recent bond program, the board has approved the following names in honor of long-time educators and contributors to the district:
Margaret L. Felty Elementary Oliver E. Clift Middle School Eddie Finley Sr. Seventh Grade Center Robbie E. Howard Eighth Grade Center Ron Appleton Agriscience Building
On hand for the standing-room-only recognition ceremony were Margaret Felty, Robbie Howard and Ron Appleton, with family members present for the late Oliver Clift and the late Eddie Finley Sr.
District director of public relations Nicole Mansell read the following tributes, as roses and plaques were presented to each honoree by board members.
“Ms. Felty was a master teacher who began her teaching career with Savola Shackelford at Ferris Ward Elementary. Under Ms. Shackelford, she did her student teaching. Thereafter, she began her teaching career at Northside Elementary in the early 1960s, where she remained for 19 years. Ms. Felty was awarded the outstanding elementary educator award in 2006 by the Waxahachie Ex-Students Association. In 2005, she was chosen first lady of Waxahachie. Congratulations to Margaret L. Felty.
“Oliver Clift was a 1921 graduate of Waxahachie High School (now Global High). He was a major supporter of Waxahachie schools during the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. He served on the school board during the 1930s and 1940s and used his banking skills to keep the school district afloat during the Great Depression. The land that the new school will sit on was also donated by the Clift family and had been in the family for more than 150 years. Congratulations to the Oliver E. Clift family.
“Mr. Finley graduated from Oak Lawn High School in 1940. After completing his studies at Paul Quinn College and later East Texas State University, he also went on to study at Oxford University in England. Mr. Finley served as an educator for more than 37 years, with 36 of those years being in Waxahachie ISD. He taught math at Turner High School for 19 years and later went on to serve as principal of Turner High School and later Turner Middle School. He also served as assistant principal at Waxahachie High School and principal at Waxahachie Junior High School and as director of Title I programs. Congratulations to the Eddie Finley Sr. family.
“Ms. Howard attended Oak Lawn High School and graduated at the head of her class at the age of 15. She began her teaching career at the age of 19 after she received her teaching certificate from Prairie View A&M University. She taught for many years for Waxahachie ISD and was selected as one of the teachers to help model the way when Waxahachie ISD integrated in the 1970s. She was loved and respected by children and adults alike. Congratulations to Ms. Robbie Howard.
“Serving the district for more than 19 years as an agriscience instructor and 20 years as an administrator, Ron Appleton led the Waxahachie FFA to become one of the premier FFA programs in the state of Texas. His dedication to the program and his students is an example for others to follow. Mr. Appleton continues to serve the district in a number of capacities, extending his service to the district now for more than 40 years. Congratulations, Mr. Ron Appleton.”
With tears in their eyes, the honorees and families expressed their delight and appreciation for the honor extended them.
“You can’t realize what it means to me,” Felty said. “I have never been so surprised in my life as when I was called. I never expected something like this. … I’m just so very grateful to this town, which has been so kind and sweet to me and my family. You don’t know how much I appreciate this.”
Gretchen Lewis spoke on behalf of her late father and the Clift family.
“It makes me feel so very honored and happy for my father’s memory to be connected with the Waxahachie school district,” she said.
“On behalf of Eddie Finley Sr., we would like to say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of our hearts,” said his daughter, Edith Finley. “This is a legacy that will go on and on and on.”
Finley related how her father, on what would be his last trip to the junior high campus after he retired as its principal, commented on his way into the building, “This is a beautiful campus,” repeating those same words as he left later after watching his grandson’s basketball game.
“It must have been a miracle for that school to now be named after him,” she said. “Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.”
Howard noted the honorees’ long-time ties to the profession of education, ties that extend beyond their own lives into the lives of their extended families.
“This is so very important to me because of two things,” she said. “The first, of course, is to know that people in this community and on this board say I did something worthy of this honor. The second is the family association with this district that began many, many years ago.
“It starts before I was born,” Howard said, talking of her father being a member of Oak Lawn School’s first graduating class and how after her mom passed away at an early age, her stepmom - an educator - encouraged her and her siblings, with Howard and a brother going on to teach in WISD.
“All of these comments help me feel very close to Waxahachie school district,” Howard said, expressing her appreciation for the honor. “I heartily thank all of you.”
Appleton described himself as “very humbled and very honored.”
Noting two of his former ag students on the school board, Appleton said it has been important to him to see those he taught come back and give to the community.
“It has been such a privilege to me and an honor to me … to see our name continue in this district,” said Appleton, whose son, Ryder, is now a campus principal with WISD.
“When you start a career, you don’t think about a building being named in your honor,” Appleton said. “That honor extends beyond a lifetime.”