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Education Hall of Fame announces 2014 inductees

The Henderson County Education Foundation on March 20 will enshrine nine more people into its Education Hall of Fame for exemplary contribution to local public schools.

The nine are former Supt. Dr. Dan Lunsford and these retirees: principal Julia Trimble Redden; basketball coaches-teachers Drew Brannon and Rick Wood, first-ever Child Nutrition Director Ruth Sass; and teachers Bobbie L. Caldwell, Madeleine C. Duncan, Linda B. Flynn and Sara Lee Nickell. All but Redden are living.
"The Class of 2014 is a very diverse class," Don Jones, HCEF executive director, said in a news release. "We have a college administrator (Lunsford), who was our superintendent for the merger. We have a 40-year coach (Wood), who has contributed on the school board, History Initiative (as current chairman) and Kiwanis Club. Drew Brannon has taught, coached, and he's served in Soil and Water Conservation for 40 years. Ruth Sass was our first child nutrition director. The teachers inducted have made distinctive contributions. And Julia Redden was the face of Valley Hill School for 43 years."
The keynote speaker is longtime Henderson County School Board Chair Ervin W. Bazzle.
The 12th annual TD Bank/HCEF Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies will be Thursday, March 20, in Hendersonville Country Club. A half-hour social time begins at 5:30 p.m. Dinner starts at 6 p.m., also downstairs in the large Horizon Room.
This is HCEF's main fundraiser, to help pay for scholarships and grants. Park Ridge Health and Selee Corp. return as banquet sponsors, joined by retired banker J.W. Davis and three universities — Lenoir Rhyne, Mars Hill and Wingate.
Each inductee, as plaques note, has shown "measurable influence or made significant contributions to the growth and development of education in Henderson County." To get nominated a person normally must have served at least 10 years in local schools, and be retired from local public schools for at least five years or else be deceased. Lunsford was superintendent for eight years, not quite a full decade locally. But he garnered such support that he was chosen, in Category III as "other contributor to education."
The hall is one of merely a handful across the state on such a scale and the only one in western North Carolina, State Supt. June St. Clair Atkinson said as banquet keynote speaker in 2006.


Here is more on the 2014 inductees:
• Dr. Dan Lunsford helped to shepherd through the merger of city and county schools in 1993, despite much objections initially. His initiatives included requiring athletic directors to be assistant principals and head coaches, creating the county's alternative school, Junior ROTC at East and West Henderson, lighting at baseball fields, and a food service warehouse. Supplemental teacher salary was uniform in his era. He has been president of Mars Hill since 2002. Mars Hill expanded into a full university last August. Lunsford is the most recent superintendent to join the HCEF Hall of Fame.

• Julia Trimble Redden (1878-1951) has the earliest legacy of 2014 inductees. She is considered among the very earliest female principals in North Carolina, going back nearly a century to the Twenties. She was Valley Hill School principal officially by 1927-28, but as early as 1923-24. She was at Valley Hill for 43 years, starting as a teacher in 1902. In earlier years she may have been classified as more of a lead teacher, when actually acting as a headmaster. She is described as authoritative. She taught grades 5-7, then high school grades by the mid-Twenties. She retired in 1945.

• Rick Wood is still involved in education, as a School Board member. He coached boys' varsity basketball for 40 years, the last 17 with West Henderson until retiring in 2006. Previously, he coached at Edneyville for two years. His Falcons were unbeaten before falling in the 1992 state title game. The 1994-95 squad produced current boys varsity basketball coaches Joey Bryson at North Buncombe and Ronnie Coren at North Henderson, and Luke Manuel who is West's athletic director. Wood emphasized teamwork, sportsmanship, citizenship and academics. He taught history, most enjoying going over Civil War battles. His autobiography is 40 Seasons: The Life of a High School Basketball Coach.

• Drew Brannon has also contributed to local education in numerous ways. He taught for 10 years at Mills River Elementary, and coached boys' basketball and track. Previously, he taught and coached at Dana Elementary for two years. He was in Mills River High School's last class, of 1960, before high school students went to then-new West Henderson. Brannon helped commemorate Mills River School, via the local History Initiative. He is a longtime major booster of West Falcon athletics. He helped Wood start recreation basketball on Saturdays, for seventh and eighth grade youth. Brannon has much impact in local farming, having served as county Soil and Water Conservation District chairman for 40 years.

• Bobbie L. Caldwell taught for 30 years, mostly home economics in Rugby Junior High. She started in Fletcher High School in 1957-59, as among merely five teachers there. She next taught in Fletcher Elementary for eight years, starting in 1965. Then she shifted to Rugby Junior High/Middle. She taught language arts, history, science and math as well as entry-level home economics "exploratory." Finally, she focused solely on home economics at Rugby for 14 years, from 1978-92. Skills included cooking, sewing, child care and interior decorating. Caldwell started Rugby's award-winning parliamentary procedure teams, molding leaders.

• Madeleine C. Duncan taught sixth grade for 30 years combined, at East Flat Rock Elementary then Flat Rock Middle School. She taught at Balfour Elementary for six years. After the school burned on her wedding night in 1971, classes were held in trailers. At Flat Rock, she mostly taught language arts. Students read the novel that spawned a hit movie, often preferring the book and thereby appreciating literature. In both schools, she put together a book of her students' poetry. She has volunteered since retiring in 2006, such as in helping monitor state testing locally.

• Linda B. Flynn taught for 31 years, mostly fourth grade in Mills River Elementary School in 1986 to 2007. She was very comprehensive about a subject, such as by researching the Wright Brothers' historic flight in person at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. She personalized history, getting a B-17 crew of WWII veterans including her father to talk to students. She shared values of her youth, working hard on a farm. She'd call on a struggling student to answer questions, to get that youth more involved. She rewarded her class daily with "story time."

• Sara Lee Nickell is among teachers cited by noted author and Green River native Robert Morgan as one of his most influential educators. She taught English and world history in Flat Rock then East Henderson high schools. She also taught drama at EHHS. She was among longest-serving teachers at East Henderson, teaching for 31 years from its opening in 1960 until retiring in 1991 as head of the English department. Her first year, 1955-56, was in East Flat Rock Elementary. She led East Henderson to victory in a statewide United Nations speaking contest in the 1960s, winning a week-long trip to the U.N. in New York City.

• Ruth Sass was the first child nutrition supervisor, in 1973-95. Previously, she was a hospital dietician then child nutrition consultant for schools statewide. She served both city and county schools in a joint service, for 20 years leading to the 1993 merger. Her menu analysis revealed half of schools were not meeting basic requirements. She standardized menus, improving nutrition. She saved money with bulk purchases. The local system gained an unusual honor when all of its schools received state awards of excellence for meal operations, and for several years.

The banquet price is $40 per plate. "We again anticipate a sell-out," Jones said. Paid reservations are available through March 15, and can be made online at or by calling Nancy Bracken at 698-8884.