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CHS graduates join inaugural Hall of Fame

Honorees excel in science, athletics, national leadership

     CARIBOU, Maine — Six people who went on to do remarkable things, from working in the United States Senate to becoming an astronaut, were honored last Saturday for their shared experience of attending Caribou High School.

     The Performing Arts Center was full of proud community members as six outstanding CHS graduates were honored at the inaugural Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

     Honorees include Olaf Pierson (posthumous), inventor of the modern french fry business; Gregory Johnson, an admiral in the U.S. Navy; Susan Collins, a United States Senator; Kris Doody, CEO of Cary Medical Center; Jessica Meir, an astronaut with NASA; and Jason Griffeth, grounds director at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway.

     With the exception of Pierson, who died in 1993, all honorees gave a speech during the ceremony, with Meir and Griffeth (both located in the southern U.S.) making their remarks via Skype.

     “One of the most important things in our society is building the collective social fabric of our communities, and events like this are an important part of that fabric,” said Admiral Johnson, who happened to be great friends with Pierson’s son throughout high school. “I think in some small way, I hope it energizes and expands the educational and career aspirations of all the students who are here. Thank you for all the hard work.”

     Senator Collins, who was also a member of Caribou’s National Honor Society, spoke about the significance of growing up in the most northeastern city in America.

     “Although I have learned how to deliver a filibuster, I promise not to do one this evening,” Collins joked. “I too had wonderful teachers, principals, staff at Caribou High School. They made me who I am today, along with my wonderful family. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in Caribou and to have learned the values of hard work, community, and integrity. Those are the values that guide me in my work representing the people of Maine at the United States Senate each and every day.”

     Cary Medical Center CEO Kris Doody also spoke about the significance of Caribou’s community and school system.

     “Tonight’s not about Cary Medical Center, “ Doody said. “It’s not about the U.S. Senate, the military, or Daytona. It’s about Caribou, Maine and the Caribou school system. Tonight brings back some fond memories of wonderful teachers, classmates, principals, folks that we have all had our journey with throughout the years. Tonight is about our community, there are some wonderful businesses in our community that I’m sure we remember fondly: Sesme Car Hop, eating pizza after school at Reno’s, or stopping at Burger Boy for an ice cream on the way home.”

     A Skype call from NASA Astronaut Dr. Jessica Meir was projected onto a large screen to the right of the stage.

 “Like Kris mentioned before, this is not about everything we’re doing now, it’s really a tribute to the Caribou school system and community, which really shaped all of us. To me, Caribou High School was so many things: the soccer team, the band, French club, dances, proms, winter carnivals. Remember those snow sports we would play outside, snow soccer in six feet of snow? Who else does that? It was amazing.

     “More than anything, Caribou was home. Home full of family friends, and teachers who provided with me with countless memories, and the foundations of an education that were truly paramount in getting me where I am today,” she said.

     Daytona Grounds Director, and the youngest inductee, Jason Griffeth, also used the Internet to address his hometown crowd. Griffeth also mentioned Woodland Consolidated School, which he attended before CHS, and stressed that, with enough motivation, anyone can see their dreams become a reality.

     “I wish I could be here tonight,” said Griffeth. “I’m blown away to be included in the very first Hall of Fame class. When I look over at all of your accomplishments, I’m not sure where a guy who grows grass for a living fits in.”

     Griffeth took a moment to thank basketball coach Mark Baxter and FFA Adviser Tom Hale, who were particularly inspiring.

     “Mark was the best coach I ever had while playing athletics,” said Griffeth. “He pushed us hard to be the best we could be, way better than we ever thought possible. The one thing that sticks in my mind, is that he taught us to play the right way. All of his lessons transcend basketball and were valuable for everyone on that team.”

     “Mr. Hale was my ag teacher in FFA, but he was way more than that,” continued Griffeth. “I remember being in his class and shooting the breeze with him, and dreaming about all the big jobs out there. His response would always be the same: ‘Someone’s gotta do it. Why not you?’ I thought about it and realized he was right. Instead of dreaming about those jobs, I set them as a goal and dedicated myself to making them become a reality. Mr. Hale remains a cherished friend and a mentor to this day.”

     Before being brought to the stage to unveil a large framed photo to be placed in the Hall of Fame, a member of the NHS read a brief biography of each inductee. Each inductee received a standing ovation from the audience as they approached the stage.

     Once the photos were unveiled, Maine State Representative Carol McElwee presented the honorees with official Legislative sentiments.

     NHS Members Benjamin Ezzy, Maria Espinosa and Donovan Savage were also presented with engraved medals, as they are the founders of the new CHS Alumni Hall of Fame.

     A reception and meal followed the ceremony, and was sponsored by Cary Medical Center.

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