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Ed Foundation announces 2015 Hall of Fame inductees

A librarian, a high school English teacher, an elementary school teacher, a middle school science teacher and a principal are the 2015 inductees into the Henderson County Education Foundation Hall of Fame, the foundation announced.

The public is invited to honor the new inductees during the 13th annual TD Bank/ HCEF Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony and dinner on April 16 at the Blue Ridge Community College Conference Hall.

"This year's competition for the Hall of Fame honor was more intense than in the past because HCEF's Board decided to limit new inductees to no more than five each year," said Dr. Paul Knott, executive director of Henderson County's Education Foundation. "After thoroughly reviewing and ranking each nomination we have come up with an outstanding roster of new Hall of Fame inductees."

Each year since 2003, the HCEF has honored individuals who have made significant contributions to local education by recognizing them in the foundation's Hall of Fame. To date, 105 teachers, principals, volunteers and education staff have received the honor. This year's honorees include:

  • Barbara T. (Susie) Brown, librarian and Media Center teacher: Rejecting advice to pursue a "more practical" degree in elementary education, Ms. Brown earned degrees (Bachelors and Master of Arts) in Information and Library Sciences. As Balfour Elementary School's first librarian and media coordinator in 1974, she stayed on top of the latest technology. While inspiring students with a love a literature, Ms. Brown moved Balfour into the computer age, teaching students and teachers computer skills. In her final years at Clear Creek Elementary, she developed a huge media center. "As a result of her personal initiative, strong desire to think outside the box and explore new approaches, the library became a beehive of exciting, creative and wonderful opportunities for children to learn," says Corum Smith, her former Balfour principal. "She possessed an amazing gift for learning new skills in computer technology which she shared with the students and faculty. "
  • Julia Justus Lappin, high school English and drama teacher: Former students, including New York Times best-selling author and Green River native Robert Morgan, credit her with instilling them with a love of writing and an introduction to poetry. Known to her students as Ms. Justus, she began teaching at Flat Rock High School in 1950. She directed student dramas, advised the school staff and served as the senior class advisor. She was awarded several National Defense Education Act (NDEA) fellowships, designed to inspire students to pursue higher education. Morgan praises his teacher's encouragement to write about personal experiences and memories and credits her with motivating his own writing. "She encouraged her students to think and remember and connect," Morgan says. "By permitting us to write short personal essays, she let us bring our writing alive, finding words that were bright, significant, true."
  • Shirley McGee, elementary and middle and high school teacher, assistant middle school principal and elementary school principal: As a principal, Ms. McGee knew each child at Fletcher Elementary School by name and encouraged teachers to send children to her office for praise. She spent 35 years in education, retiring in 2007. She taught at Fletcher Elementary, English at Rugby Middle, language arts at West Henderson High, served as Apple Valley Assistant Principal and returned to Fletcher Elementary as principal, 1997 to 2007. She was honored by her peers in 1988 as Rugby's Teacher of the Year and as Henderson County's Teacher of the Year. James Case, former principal at Rugby, says McGee was extremely popular with students and parents. "Her deep compassion and concern for each student made her a respected and beloved teacher. Her devotion and understanding of children was unsurpassed. Her classroom was alive because of her high energy level and her enthusiastic method of teaching." Dan Lunsford, now president of Mars Hill University, promoted McGee through the Henderson County Schools. Says Lunsford, "In all her roles, she exhibited a strong work ethic, positive engagement with parents; she demanded quality from the students and exhibited loyalty to the school system."
  • Peggy C. Simmons, elementary school teacher: During her 30 years of teaching fourth graders at Balfour Elementary School, Ms. Simmons developed a reputation for motivating her students to achieve academically and to be well-behaved. In fact she was so patient and compassionate with students, Ms. Simmons was frequently given the most behaviorally challenged students in the school. The joy she put into teaching and received from her students is well remembered by her peers and students. "More than teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, she taught us with her soft voice to respect others, listen carefully and wear our thinking caps," says former student Andrew Riddle. " She reached beyond the required curriculum and nurtured life's lessons for students to grow and become responsible adults."
  • Shirley Ray Whitmire, middle school science teacher: An award-winning science teacher for 30 years, Ms. Whitmire inspired students at Flat Rock School/Junior High School from 1960 to 1975 and at Rugby Junior High/Middle School from 1976 to 1989 when she retired. Ms. Whitmire's work was so outstanding that she received numerous local awards during her career and was honored as the state of North Carolina's Outstanding Earth Science Teacher in 1979 and as the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for the entire Southeast in 1981. She also taught academically gifted students at Rugby and sponsored the Quiz Bowl. "As her principal, it was pure joy for me to go into her classroom and watch her perform her magic with her students," says James Case, former Rugby principal. "Shirley had the rare and unique ability to personally relate to each student in the classroom."

Tickets to the dinner and celebration, $40 each, are available from the Foundation. Before dinner, Hall of Fame honorees are invited to attend a reunion of all Hall of Fame recipients at 5:45 pm. Other attendees are invited to arrive at 6 p.m.
Reservations and tickets can be purchased online at or through the Foundation office; call 828.698.8884 or email For more information about HCEF and its programs, please contact Dr. Paul Knott at 828.698.8884 or