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Education Foundation announces 2016 Hall of Fame honorees


The Henderson County Education Foundation will induct five new honorees into Henderson County’s prestigious Education Hall of Fame this spring.

The 2016 inductees include a teacher of exceptional children, two principals, a high school English teacher and a high school health and physical education teacher and coach.

The public is invited to help celebrate the new Hall of Fame inductees at the Pardee Education Celebration 2016 on Thursday, April 21, at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall at BRCC. This year’s event also will include a new recognition of outstanding current school leaders. Tickets to the dinner and celebration are $50 and are available from the foundation.

“Our Hall of Fame Selection Committee has chosen an outstanding roster of new Hall of Fame inductees,” said Dr. Paul Knott, executive director of Henderson County’s Education Foundation. “We look forward to honoring these new Hall of Fame recipients along with past recipients as we celebrate the leaders of yesterday and today.”

Since 2003, the Education Foundation has honored more than 110 teachers, principals, volunteers and education staff who have made significant contributions to local education by recognizing them in the foundation’s Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees include:


Don George Bryant, guidance counselor, assistant principal and principal
Described as an “answer to a prayer” by the principal who first hired him as a guidance counselor in1980, Bryant served Henderson County students for 25 years. As a guidance counselor at Rugby Junior High School, Bryant made an immediate, positive impact. Over the nine years he spent at Rugby, Bryant also served as its summer school director, athletic director, and assistant principal. When he left Rugby in 1989 to become principal at East Flat Rock Elementary School, the students dedicated the school yearbook to him. They wrote:: “He graced our lives with quietness and dignity and we felt as if he was a true friend.” Bryant served as principal at East Flat Rock Elementary School through the 1993 school year. He moved on to serve as the first principal of the new Upward Elementary School at the start of the 1993-1994 school year. He was selected as Henderson County Public School’s Principal of the Year in 1998 and was named the Junior Achievement Principal of the Year in 2004. After retiring in 2005 Bryant continued to serve the community on the Education Foundation Board from 2005 until 2011 and as HCEF’s board president from 2006 to 2008. Bryant currently serves as president of the Henderson County Association of Retired School Personnel.

Sharon Smith Burlingame, pre-school and exceptional children teacher
Former student, John Mooney, writes that “Mrs. B” “made school a wonderful place to be.” Employed by the Henderson County Public Schools for nearly 30 years, 1979 to 2008, Burlingame’s teaching career started at Huron High in Ann Arbor, MI and included international stops in Fiji and Nepal. She was dedicated to “mainstreaming” severely hearing impaired children at Balfour Elementary School during the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout her tenure, Burlingame divided her time between morning classes at Balfour and traveling to instruct hearing-impaired students at all 14 county schools as an itinerant teacher in the afternoon. When preschool services for exceptional children were added in the 1980s, she obtained advanced training at Western Carolina University and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She opened the first preschool Exceptional Children classroom at Balfour. In the uncharted area of preschool in the public schools, she worked closely with exceptional education directors and principals at Balfour, Upward, Clear Creek and Glenn C. Marlow Elementary schools over 11 years. One of her supervisors described Burlingame as “a shining star.”


Christine McCorkle Croft, elementary and high school English teacher
From World War II until the mid-1970s, Croft served as a teacher at Flat Rock High School, Fletcher High School, Rosa Edwards School and Hendersonville High School. Croft’s nominators say she had the ability to mesmerize her students and to draw students of all types into the unique educational environment she created. Former student and later teaching colleague Tom Orr described how she “could make poetry spring to life as she stood and recited to her class by heart from her ‘memory bank’ of poems and stories.” She expected creativity, a careful adherence to excellent sentence structure and grammar, and overall high quality, something nearly every junior at Hendersonville High School experienced from 1955 until 1977, when she retired. Her focus on excellence was recognized by the establishment of the annual Christine Croft Cup in 1976 to honor the HHS class that does the most to give back to the community and HHS. Croft impacted thousands of students during her teaching career and influenced many to become teachers. She is characterized as the kind of teacher “who gave out of the fullness of themselves.” She died in July of 2001.


Philip H. Croft, elementary and high school science teacher and high school principal
Returning from combat in Europe, including service in the Battle of the Bulge, Croft followed his wife, Christine, into education. He attended Western Carolina’s Teacher College (later Western Carolina University) where he graduated in 1951 with training as a science teacher. While teaching at Christ School in Arden from 1951 – 1957, he earned a master’s degree in education from Columbia Universty in New York. In 1957 he began a 20-year career with Henderson County Public Schools, teaching science at East Flat Rock Elementary and later at Flat Rock High School. After the move from Flat Rock High to the new East Henderson High in 1960, Croft taught biology, chemistry and physics until he became principal at Edneyville High School in 1967. During his decade-long tenure as principal, he oversaw growth in Edneyville High’s size and educational quality until his retirement in 1977. Former student and nominator John Whitmire described how Croft “treated his students with respect, with helpfulness, with friendliness, and often with a sense of humor.” Many of his former students say Croft “made me a better person.” For 10 years as principal at Edneyville High School, he influenced the students by demanding quality academics and, more importantly, provided them an “education of maturity” that helped his students become solid, productive citizens. He died in February of 1999.

* Louise Newman Whitmire, high school health, physical education, science and typing teacher
After a one year stint teaching in Virginia Beach, VA, Whitmire was recruited to teach at the newly-formed East Henderson High School in 1960. She would spend the next 34 years at the same high school, working to inspire both boys and girls to a lifetime of physical education and personal wellness, until her retirement in 1994. In addition to teaching, she served as advisor to the student council, coached the girls basketball team and coordinated the cheerleading squad. Demonstrating her “get the job done” attitude, she also taught typing classes. A tireless worker, Whitmire led many fundraising efforts, generating thousands of dollars for special programs and school needs not supported in the regular budget. Her “pride and joy” was establishing the first gymnastics program for “everyone and anyone who wanted to participate in sports at the high school level.” With the help of teaching colleagues, community members and volunteers, Whitmire presented an annual “Springnastics” event to the community. Whitmire showcased her students gymnastics’ skills through this annual spring production by “creating new opportunities for all students, even those not involved in the more traditional high school sports.”
Reservations to Pardee’s Education Celebration 2016 can be made by calling the HC Education Foundation office at 828.697.5551 or by email to celebrate@hcefnc.org. Tickets sales will start February 28 online at hcefnc.org/celebration. Additional event sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information about HCEF and its programs, please contact Dr. Paul Knott at 828.697.5551 or paul@hcefnc.org.