By BOB LEWIS
A long-standing tradition at Broken Arrow High School will be extended on Oct. 25 with the annual naming of a new class of Great Graduates.
Representatives of the BAHS Alumni Association said all four of this year’s honorees were selected because they have brought considerable acclaim to themselves, their school and their city. They will be recognized at the annual homecoming parade and at halftime of this year’s homecoming football game with Yukon.
The newest class of Great Graduates includes the late W. David Beverly, Kenneth L. Collins, Russell Gale and Debra Lewis Wimpee.
Classmates from the Class of 1964 say it’s fitting that Beverly is being honored during the year in which the world is applauding the 50th anniversary of man’s first footsteps on the moon. That’s because as a leader of NASA’s flight hardware electronics reliability and testing team, he played a key role in making that historic accomplishment possible.
An avid motorcycle rider, he also founded the Johnson Space Center ‘Space Riders’ and led that group in conducting a myriad of services for charitable organizations around the Gulf Coast area. Later, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Camille in 1969, he was among the first to step up to help those who lost so much.
In recognition of his excellence of service, a motorcycle patch that once flew to the International Space Station now hangs in the Space Center’s testing laboratory that NASA named after him. His beloved motorcycle club has also been renamed. It is now “Dave’s Space Riders” and continues to carry on the traditions he established.
Representing the Class of 1967 is Kenneth L. Collins.
A Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam era, Collins is probably best known locally as a patriot who helped save the Vietnam Memorial Monument and oversaw its relocation to the Military History Center that he helped build.
As part of the nomination process, a former boss pointed out that during his time with APAC-Central, Inc., Collins totally revamped his division’s ineffective safety program and in so doing was credited with saving the lives of many of his fellow employees.
Representing the Class of 1974 is Assistant City Manager Russell Gale.
Colleagues note he has earned the unofficial title of “Mr. Diversity” around City Hall for the number and variety of undertakings he has overseen during his 41-years-and-counting career.
It all began following his graduation from Oklahoma State University when then City Manager Jim Whitlock picked him to fill an open administrative assistant position. Three years later Gale became the city’s first Human Resources Director. Now, he serves as Assistant City Manager of Administration.
In undertakings ranging from bond issue campaigns to support of BA schools and twice serving as Acting City Manager, associates say he has demonstrated a quality and diversity in service that has enabled Broken Arrow to gain recognition as both a safe city and a great place to live and work.
Representing the Class of 1990 is City Councilor Debra Wimpee.
One of Broken Arrow’s most visible citizens through the retail store she once owned and operated on Main Street, she is being applauded for her contributions to the Chamber of Commerce and Salvation Army as well as an array of unique special events she created to boost the visibility of Broken Arrow in general and the Rose District in particular.
City Manager Michael Spurgeon calls Wimpee the city’s best cheerleader. It’s a position she says she intends to grow by using her seat on the City Council to build upon her BA Buzz creation which employs social media to spread the word about all the good things happening around town.