Thursday, February 6th, 2014
By Kathy Thompson
St. Henry hall of fame to induct first members
  ST. HENRY - Three graduates will be inducted into the first-ever St. Henry Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday between the boys junior varsity and varsity basketball games.
Chosen for the honor posthumously was Luke F. Beckman, who graduated in 1918 and died in 1988. Also tapped was Dorothy Gast Abernathy, a 1974 graduate, and Douglas Woods, a member of the 1989 class.
Abernathy will be attending the ceremony along with members of the Beckman and Woods families.
School superintendent Rod Moorman said he wanted to establish the recognition program for quite a while.
"We recognized athletes and athletic team accomplishments, student accomplishments, coaches and school," he said. "It's time to take a look at what St. Henry graduates have done."
A notice was sent to residents and the community asking for nominations. To be eligible, nominees must have graduated at least five years ago, have distinguished themselves in either service to the school system, community or Mercer County, and shown leadership in religion, education, business or industry.
Candidates also must have achieved local, state or national recognition in their profession, made significant contributions to their community or performed meritorious service to the country through community service.
Six nominations were received, Moorman said. Those not selected will be considered in the future.
Beckman's daughter, Mary Niekamp, 83, of St. Henry, said her father would be "very pleased" with the award.
"Dad was an outgoing, strong minded, ambitious, smart and honest person," she said. "He taught us to always be honest. That was a big thing with him."
Beckman played on the basketball team in 1918 and served on city council and the board of public affairs. He was an active member of the St. Henry Commercial Club and a charter member of the Knights of Columbus.
Other accomplishments include his service as state chairman of the Manpower Commission and the Industrial Draft Board of Ohio during World War II. He also served as president of the Ohio Canners Association from 1948 to 1949, president of the National Canners Association in 1970, and was school board president in 1939 when the town voted to build a new high school.
Beckman formed the Beckman and Gast Company in the village. In 1922, it was the largest general store in the county, she said.
"We are just very honored," Niekamp said. "His daughters admired him so much, even as we became adults. We lived in a very happy home."
Abernathy is current bureau chief of the Associated Press in Virginia and served in that position since 1989. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism.
She said she is honored to receive such an award and credits her father's guidance for her choices.
"I told him I wanted to be a teacher when I was in high school," she said of her father, William Gast, who died in 2012. "He told me there were enough teachers in the family so maybe I should look at another career."
Abernathy served as president of the Virginia Coalition for the Open Government Board and covered the collapse of the Hyatt Hotel skywalk in Kansas City in 1981 for The Star Newspaper; more than 100 people died in the disaster. The Star later won a Pulitzer Prize for the coverage.
Abernathy also directed news coverage for the D.C. sniper shootings, the Virginia Tech campus shootings and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Woods, who is currently the head of the department of psychology at Texas A&M University, is a leading expert in comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics - a type of therapy that does not include medication. "I think this is really great," Woods said of the award. "St. Henry has taught me a good work ethic, to stick with things and integrity."
Woods said two of his past teachers, Fran Guilbault and Linda Schwegman, helped influence his career.
Guilbault, who taught high school English and coached basketball at the school for many years, taught him how to write, he said. Schwegman, an English literature teacher, was the one who opened his eyes to "other worlds and cultures," he added.
"Other teachers taught me motivation and critical thinking," Woods said. "It's a great community, a strong community with a great school system. I encourage everyone to support it and they should all appreciate it."
Woods has published more than 130 journal articles, 42 book chapters and has been on the Tourette Syndrome Association Medical Advisory Board since 2005.
His mother, Jane Woods, a retired St. Henry schools teacher, laughs as she recalls her son playing high school football.
"He wasn't that great," she said. "But he kept trying because that's his personality. He works hard at whatever he does. Sometimes I think he's a workaholic."
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