A LIVING AND LASTING LEGACY
Everywhere you looked last Saturday evening in the banquet room of the Dubose Porter Center, you saw legacies. There were legacies finished. And, there were legacies still in progress. Some legacies had yet to be started. In just eighteen years, the teachers of Oconee High School planted the seeds which grew into legacies of faith, hope, dedication and love of community and country. Barbara Sanders Thomas, the keynote speaker for the evening, spoke of where her desires to leave a legacy began and challenged her fellow alumni to do just that - to think back and to always think forward for the future of the world we all leave behind.
The Oconee High School National Alumni Association was organized by former students and faculty to preserve the OHS legacy of excellence, spirit, and pride through sponsorship of events and reunions; promoting education through scholarships and training; supporting the welfare of people and communities; providing a presence and voice when needed; and maintaining visibility in the city of Dublin at large. The theme of this year's reunion is "Building on the Trojan Legacy While Embracing Current and Future Challenges."
Presiding over the evening festivities with comical humor and charming wit, was Robert L. Brown, Jr., '69, a noted Atlanta architect and business leader. James Fambrough,'65, welcomed more than two hundred and fifty alumni, their guests and friends. Minister Cheryl May-Holmes, '66 gave an inspirational invocation. Another member of the Class of '66, Rosalyn Clark Gray, spoke of the occasion of the evening.
Introducing the keynote speaker for the evening was Ann Sanders Stephens, '60, who introduced her sister, Barbara Sanders Thomas. Mrs. Thomas, a 25-year veteran of CBS Radio and the company's first African-American female vice-president, challenged the alumni to keep the name of Oconee alive and to continue the legacy of building the Trojan theme. She thanked Cheryl May-Holmes and others for helping her to reconnect to the alumni organization.
"We are all warriors, we have been trained by the best, the teachers and staff of Oconee. They taught us to never give up even if we had to disguise our strength, as the Greek warriors did, to accomplish our goal," Thomas said as she spoke of the legacy passed to her while she was a student at Oconee. Her role models at Oconee were principal Charles Manning and teachers, Nellie Coleman and Marine Bacote. "They made me believe I could do anything I wanted to do," she fondly recalled. After serving with CBS in its finance department, Thomas took a new life course. "I took an early retirement and decided that what I wanted to do with my life was to go out and help nonprofit corporations," she proclaims. As for the future, Barbara proclaimed, "There's a lot of work ahead of me, a lot of work I want to do."
The theme of Thomas's speech was, "What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind when you die?" "Every life leaves a legacy. If you leave a legacy that is greater than you, and if you want to leave a legacy that will impact generation after generation, and if you live your life to leave something that will be great, all you need is wrapped up in three, profoundly simple yet inspiringly deep, thoughts: I fought the good fight. I finished the race. And, I kept the faith," Thomas asserted.
She called upon the legacy leavers and reminded them, "We are stewards of this world. We should leave this world better than we found it." In reminding those present of their legacy leavers, Thomas said, "We are the legacies of the teachers of Oconee High School. We are the fruits of their labor."
Although Barbara Thomas has enjoyed much success in her business career, she told all, "I don't want to be a legend, I want to live to leave a legacy." In comparing a legacy to a reputation, the Executive Director of the National MBA Foundation said, "A reputation is made in a moment. A legacy is built in a lifetime."
Thomas outlined the steps of determining your legacy; Understand your legacy. Chose your legacy. Focus on your legacy. Establish a life sentence. Live your legacy.
As a child Barbara wanted to be a pastor. Later she wanted to be a great communicator. Now she says, "I want to add value to leaders, leaders who will multiply value to others." She encouraged everyone to take time to learn as much as you can and to pass that knowledge onto your children and their children. "We are the baton passers who pass that information on." Mrs. Thomas concluded.
Robert L. Mason, Jr., '67, recognized the former Miss Oconees in attendance. President Darlene Blocker, '70 and 2nd vice-president Jerry Davis, '69, made special presentations to those in attendance, including John W. Tillman, who traveled the longest distance, all the way from Texas. The classes of 1966 and 1968 tied for the most members in attendance.
A special recognition was given to principal Charles W. Manning. Manning, who in 1959 succeeded Lucius D, Bacote, as the second and only other principal of Oconee High School, which opened in 1952 and closed in 1970 when Dublin city schools were integrated.
Eclemus Ricks was presented an award for his most generous contribution to the Alumni Association's work. The Trojan Award, which epitomizes the spirit of Oconee High School was awarded to Dublin city councilman, Jerry Davis, who tirelessly worked to put on the event and placement of the historical marker. President Blocker gave the President's Award to Jerry Chapman for his work on behalf of the Alumni Association.
Awards were presented to those who contributed to the placement of a historical marker on the site of the school. The ceremony took placed earlier in the day as scheduled. Unfortunately, the carrier lost the sign, which will be formally dedicated at a later date.
President Blocker thanked all of those who participated in putting the 2011 reunion together. The evening's ceremonies ended with a rousing rendition of Oconee's Alma Mater led by Odis Brower, '63. The school song was written by the late Lonnie Gene Woodum, USN, who lost his life aboard the U.S.S. Bennington in the service of our country in 1954.