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From left, J.P. Fitzgerald, Lisa Springer and Mike Mathews were honored as the 2018 El Reno High School Distinguished Alumni.

Those officiating at the banquet last week honoring three El Reno High School alumni were impressed not only by the people being recognized, but also by the crowd’s enthusiasm and support for the trio.

The event was the annual Thousands of Reasons Gala of the El Reno Public Schools Foundation. It was held at the Canadian Valley Technology Center. The distinguished alumni were formally recognized for the contributions they have made to the city and beyond. Teachers of the Year were also revealed, and local educators were given grants for the funding of classroom projects.

The alumni honored at the event were Lisa Springer, Mike Mathews and J.P. Fitzgerald. 

Springer graduated from El Reno High School in 1970 before earning degrees in education and geography at OSU. She has worked with Mercy Health Communities of Oklahoma for nearly two decades, and she is now vice president of Mercy’s Strategy and Planning Division. 

Springer thanked her friends and family before emphasizing the importance of education.   

“I was raised to have a lifelong love of learning, and it still rings true for me,” she said. “The American dream is still alive, and I believe that dream starts right here, in an education system like the one El Reno provides. It’s touched my life, my family’s lives, and the lives of many students.”

Mathews, a 1980 El Reno graduate, has earned degrees in industrial safety from UCO and OCU. He has had a long and successful career with OG&E, and is currently vice president of Transmission and Distribution Operations. 

Mathews thanked his family and explained why El Reno will always be important to him. 

“Many milestones in my life happened in this town. I was born here, and I accepted Christ, graduated high school and started my family and my career right here in El Reno. I can’t tell you how much this award means to me and how much I appreciate it. It’s an honor to be here.”

Fitzgerald, president of BancFirst in El Reno, graduated from EHS in 1984. He went on to earn a BA from OU before finishing graduate school at SMU. 

After thanking his family and his co-workers at BancFirst, Fitzgerald shared a piece of advice for any young person in attendance.

“Surround yourself with good friends, be a lifelong learner, and be aware of what you feed your mind. Do more than you’re paid for, and leave things better than you found them. Never settle for average.”

After opening with prayer, the alumni were introduced by Jay Emory, president of the El Reno Public Schools Foundation. Teachers of the Year and the grant recipients were then named by Craig McVay, superintendent of El Reno Public Schools.

“For me, it’s one of the highlights of the year,” said McVay. “It’s always amazing to see such high-level accomplishments made by El Reno graduates. It’s affirmation for me that you can graduate El Reno High School and become anything you want to be.”

Teachers of the Year are Olivia Melvin of Hillcrest, Rebecka Mitchum of Rose Witcher, Kendra Taber of Lincoln, Kylie Schnellier of Etta Dale, Davee Deaton of El Reno High School and Scott Shackleford of the Canadian County Education Center. District Teacher of the Year is Nathan Leonard, band director for the district. Grants were given to 37 El Reno educators to help ensure their continued impact upon the growth and development of local students. 

After the ceremony, Thunder basketball tickets and homemade bread provided by the Von Tungeln family were auctioned to audience members. The meal was provided by Marilyn Arnold and served by members of the El Reno High School Leadership Class.