Vigo County School Corp. honors 2024 recipients of Circle of Honor

May 10—Thirteen individuals whose accomplishments have shined a light on Vigo County schools were recognized Friday during the third annual VCSC Circle of Honor program.

The celebration took place at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.

The 2024 Circle of Honor Recipients are Sandy Billing; Jill Brewer; Karen Goeller; Evangeline Harris Merriweather; Rev. Teresa Hord Owens; Louis "Pete" Jones; Robert Mardis; Dr. Michael Meneghini; Clara Lee Parsons; Michael Phillips; Sister Dorothy Rasche; Donald Shepherd; and Donald Turner.

"We have some fantastic people who have given back to our Terre Haute community," said Superintendent Chris Himsel prior to the program. "We want to make sure we celebrate and uplift them and hold them up as role models for our current youth on what they can achieve."

Hord Owens is general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a mainline denomination in North America; she is the first Black woman to hold the office and the second woman to lead the church.

"Terre Haute is my hometown," she said. "When the place that really raised and formed you wants to say, 'We think highly of you,' that really means a lot."

Established in 2022, Circle of Honor was created to recognize those who have demonstrated a commitment and support of Vigo County Schools.

It includes prominent alumni of Vigo County schools, along with staff, administration and community members who have made substantial contributions to Vigo County Schools throughout its history.

During the program, School Board member Jackie Lower and South Vigo teacher Jim Mann took turns presenting biographical information about each inductee, who then accepted the award from Himsel.

Goeller was a VCSC teacher, assistant principal and deputy superintendent for 36 years; she spent 20 years as deputy superintendent overseeing curriculum and instruction. She retired last year but is still assisting the district with some grants.

"I've been fortunate to work with many talented and generous individuals that have not only helped me in my journey, but they've given their all to this school corporation, both seen and unseen, to better the lives of our students," she said.

It's a team effort, Goeller said. "I've been blessed to have worked with the best."

Rasche, a Sister of Providence, is director of The Connecting Link in West Terre Haute, a ministry she begin in 1997.

Connecting Link brings together organizations to address larger community issues in West Terre Haute, and it provides referrals and advocacy for families and individuals to address their pressing needs related to social services.

"I'm humbled," Rasche said. "It's the community of West Terre Haute working together that I feel is being honored today."

The late Mike Phillips, a standout athlete at Gerstemeyer High School and Indiana State University, was described as a "gentle giant with a heart of gold."

He was employed at ISU as director of financial aid and later as ombudsman. "He will be remembered as a mountain of a man with a determination to see every student succeed," according to comments made during the program.

Among those attending the Circle of Honor program was his son Marc Phillips, a lieutenant with the Terre Haute Police Department.

"We as a family appreciate it," Marc Phillips said. "He's been gone 17 years" and the family is grateful that he's still being remembered for the impact he had on the community.

Another honoree, artist Don Turner, taught art for 35 years in the Vigo County School Corp. and was chairperson of the art department at Terre Haute North.

"I appreciate it. I think it's wonderful," he said of the recognition. "I didn't expect it."

More honorees

Sandy Billing — A retired VCSC educator, she was described as "one of the mainstays of the Vigo County Educational Heritage Association Museum since its founding." Billing taught many years at Consolidated Elementary.

The museum "is still going strong after 22 years and we are now housed at the old McLean School," she said.

Jill Brewer — A music educator, she taught in Vigo County schools for more than 40 years, both at Otter Creek Junior High and Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

She has been an orchestra director and taught students how to play string instruments. Brewer also has played professionally, including in the NBC orchestra. She played in the Denver Symphony for seven years and the Indianapolis Symphony for five years.

Evangeline Harris Merriweather — Born in 1893 and raised in Terre Haute, her most widely known accomplishment is as an author. In 1938, she published a series of readers titled, "The Family." Her contributions to children's literature offered African-American children positive depictions of other African-American people, including prominent people in history. She was a founding member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in Terre Haute.

Louis "Pete" Jones — He was well known in the track community in Terre Haute, and he coached and mentored students at Terre Haute North High School, Sullivan High School and Honey Creek Middle School.

"There is no way to count the lives he touched, spending the better part of his life encouraging and mentoring young athletes, being a voice in the community and always giving a helping hand to any in need," according to a biography.

Jones died in 2018 at age 81.

Robert Mardis — He was a principal from 1952 until 1989, including many years at Franklin Elementary. He was named state principal of the year in 1977 by the Indiana Association of Elementary School Principals.

Mardis, who died in 2007, was active in many civic organizations and received several awards. In 1976, he was appointed by Gov. Otis Bowen to represent educators as a charter member of the Indiana Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group.

"We're appreciative and proud," said Susan Mardis, retired VCSC principal and Bob Mardis' daughter-in-law.

Mardis' son, Mike, was among family attending the ceremony. "He would be honored to be included" with Circle of Honor inductees being recognized Friday, Mike Mardis said.

Dr. Michael Meneghini — He is CEO and founder of Indiana Joint Replacement Institute and has over 19 years of experience with hip and knee replacement.

He is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading expert on joint replacement.

He attended Rose-Hulman, where he graduated magna cum laude in engineering. He received his medical degree from Indiana University.

Clara Parsons — She was the librarian/media specialist at Lost Creek Elementary School for 40 years and retired in 2003.

"Clara championed books, reading and computers at every level and fostered the love of reading," according to her biography.

She was very involved in the media fair and had many winning students at the local, state and national level contests.

Parsons died in September 2022.

Donald Shepherd — He became a sixth-grade teacher at Otter Creek school in 1957 and spent 42 years teaching there. He volunteered in many school district athletic programs.

"Don wanted to help create opportunities for youth to become involved in athletics and was an instrumental part of starting intramural for our county's youth, volunteering hundreds of hours introducing young men to football, basketball and softball," according to his biography.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on X at @TribStarSue.