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Elgin High School honors alumni hall of fame inductees


Five Elgin High School graduates set out to help their alma mater recognize efforts of alumni after they noticed a Wall of Fame erected in 2001 contained only four plaques

"We see this (Wall of Fame) of course, and there were only four plaques originally," said Chandler Swan, of the Class of 1960. "Working in the archives, you come across all kinds of people you know are pretty famous and done some pretty cool things."

Today, there are nearly 40 plaques in the Elgin High School Hall of Fame, which was dedicated Thursday. During the ceremony, Elgin High School honored the accomplishments these alumni, including actors, artists and scientists.

From 1869 through 1978, newspaper clippings, sports programs and yearbooks tell the stories of the school's most distinguished alumni, Swan said.

"It's something we're all proud of," Chandler said of the effort to recognize alumni.

Jerry Cook, principal of Elgin High School, said the efforts of volunteer archivists from the Class of 1960 should not go unnoted, he said.

"Every Wednesday, they come in and spend hours here organizing and then sharing that information with our school," he said. "We really thank them and appreciate all of their work."

Daniel Brewbaker, a graduate from the Class of 1969, was one of many graduates recognized during the induction ceremony. He said the event carried a lot of meaning for him.

"I'm very grateful to the people who are doing this to recognize people who achieve so much in their lives," he said. "So much of it, I owe to Elgin High School — teachers and friends and girlfriends."

When Brewbaker began his career as a composer, he served as an educator at Julliard, Hunter Queens College and the Westminster Choir College. Further studies took him to Rome and other European music centers where he became acquainted with major composers of the last half-century.

Brewbaker said he attributes the success he's had to his days at Elgin High School.

Sarah Melissa Hart, a Class of 1960 graduate, said it feels great returning to her alma mater.

"It's wonderful to be a part of it," she said. "This was my second high school, but it was the high school that I feel most supported by and connected to. A lot of that is due to Chandler Swan who has really kept our class together."

In reflecting on high school memories, Hart said one moment stands out to her. Hart noted that, at her first high school, she'd already been singing a lot but hadn't done much acting. She said she started learning a song in which her acting teacher helped her to understand what it is to embody somebody else and that led her pursue a career in acting.

Hart was recognized as Miss Elgin in 1962, and her career accolades include being a Tony-nominated actress, a Second City alum and a leading character in a touring musical.

Hart said if there's one piece of wisdom she can share with current students, it's the meaning of hard work and following your passion to wherever it takes you.

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