Pioneer High School Celebrates Its Robust History

. October 16, 2017.
Hall of Honor Opens to Recognize Famous Pioneer Alums
Hall of Honor Opens to Recognize Famous Pioneer Alums

The list reads like a Who’s Who of Super Success: Ken Burns, Bob Seger, John Harbaugh, Jack Lousma, Bruce Kimball, Kara Lynn Joyce, Don Dufek, Howdy Holmes, Aaron Bailey, Zach Putnam, Eric Zorn, Iggy Pop. Or, to describe the same list another way: award-winning documentary filmmaker, global rock star, Super Bowl Champion Head Coach, astronaut, Olympic diver, Olympic swimmer, NFL stalwart, Indy Car driver turned Corporate CEO, another NFL stalwart, MLB pitcher, Chicago Tribune Columnist, another rock star. And that’s just a sampling of the 63 former Pioneer students who were inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Honor in the initial induction ceremony on Friday, October 6th.

Inductees (from L to R) Don Dufek Jr., Howdy Holmes, Tim Wadhams

Inductees (from L to R) Don Dufek Jr., Howdy Holmes, Tim Wadhams

Both the ceremony and the Hall of Honor itself (located outside of Schreiber Auditorium in the hallway connected to the school’s “Flagpole” entrance) are the brainchild of former Pioneer Athletic Director Lorin Cartwright. “I started this about five years before I retired,” she says. “We shouldn’t just be honoring athletes. Let’s find out who these people are and let’s see if we can inspire students to aspire in all kinds of fields.”

This idea of inspiring current students by introducing them to the grown-up and successful versions of former Pioneers was a big impetus for developing the project, which consisted of a schoolwide assembly for the induction ceremony and then breakout sessions where inductees could speak more in-depth about their experiences. “These people didn’t become famous because they were great in high school,” Cartwright says. “Somebody gave them the opportunity to grow; somebody encouraged them, and that was the motivation for doing this.”

Harbaughs in the (Purple) House

Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, parents of John and Jim Harbaugh, represented John (who couldn’t be present seeing how he’s busy coaching the Baltimore Ravens). “We’re just proud parents,” Jack said. “Just excited to be part of it. Jackie is the foundation and the rock of our family. She did all the hard work, all the heavy lifting.”

“All our kids set goals for themselves,” Jackie added, “and they worked very hard to do what they wanted to do. They persevered.”

The Power of Diversity

One quality about Pioneer several of the honorees pointed to as influencing them in their success is the diversity of the student population.

Former NFL player Aaron Bailey and retired Pioneer Athletic Director Lorin Cartwright

Former NFL player Aaron Bailey and retired Pioneer Athletic Director Lorin Cartwright

“When you’re growing up in Ann Arbor,” said Aaron Bailey, Class of ‘89, who played football at Louisville University and then went on to play five years in the NFL, “diversity in the building prepares every student for life afterward. A lot of people are successful, doing great things in life.”

Tim Wadhams, Class of ‘66, and former CEO of Masco Co., a Fortune 500 company, agrees. “A big school like Pioneer offers lots of opportunities,” he said. “To be successful, I would put emphasis on communication skills, how to sell ideas and develop relationships with all kinds of different people. Public schools do a real good job in that area.”

Howdy Holmes, also Class of ‘66, and the Indy driver turned CEO of Jiffy Mix, echoes Wadham’s sentiments. “The best part of Pioneer,” he said, “was the large number of relationships that were fundamental. The beauty of a big school is there are lots of people to learn from.”

The diversity among the inductees dates all the way back to George Jewett, class of 1889. Represented by two great-granddaughters at the ceremony, Jewett played football for U-M from 1890-1892 and was the first African-American football player ever in the BIg 10.

Inductee Major General William Henderson, flanked by the great-granddaughters of Georeg Jewett

Inductee Major General William Henderson, flanked by the great-granddaughters of Georeg Jewett

Major General William Henderson, Class of 1960, who spent 35 years in the military as one of Pioneer’s most highly decorated alums, offered strong opinions about the current state of global affairs. “I respect the Commander-in-Chief,” he said, “but he’s doing some things I really wonder about. If North Korea goes wrong, that could be the end of civilization as we know it.”

Student Response

Senior Yasine Baccouche, one of the primary student-organizers of the event, zeroed in on the power of the alums to motivate current students to push themselves toward success. “These people walked the hallways just like you,” he explained about what he hopes the day would communicate to present-day Pioneers. “They were nervous about the future and now look at them. Look at how they’ve changed. Everything can better for you too.”

The message seemed to sink in for Bryce Scott, a sophomore. “I learned a lot of new things,” he said, “and how even people who made it to the elite level still had troubles, and how troubles can’t stop you from doing what you want to do.”

“Hard work pays off,” added Scott’s classmate Andrei State. “Never give up on your dreams. Work hard every day until you win the fight.”

Pioneer Counselor Colleen Creal, a Class of ‘84 alum herself, summed it up by saying, “It’s a great thing. A great day to be a Pioneer.”

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