Six Oberlin High School alumni were inducted last Tuesday into Oberlin Makes a Difference.
Juniors and seniors filled the Brubaker Auditorium to recognize honorees Mary Johnston, Edwin Berry, Henry Clark, Charles Butts, Lia Lowrie, and Dorian Wingard.
Awards were given posthumously to Johnston, Berry, Clark. Family members accepted on behlf of the latter two inductees.
Johnston, of the Class of 1908, was a black educator and librarian. In the last 20 years of her life she continuously financed black education at Oberlin College.
Tony Gaines, a nephew of Berry, attended the ceremony for his uncle. Berry was a member of the Class of 1976, a civil rights leader, and for 14 years served as executive director of the Chicago Urban League.
“Uncle Bill used to always say, ‘It’s not important to lead with your voice but with your actions,’” Gaines said. “’Move forward not only with your voice but with your actions.’”
He said his uncle always encouraged Gaines and everyone he knew to make sure they always back up their words with action.
Clark’s award was accepted by family member Jean Clark, who said the ceremony was like graduation day.
Also known as Kenny, Clark was a licensed real estate broker, bank chairman, and owner of Clark Brothers Construction.
He always “had Oberlin in his heart with everything he did and built,” Jean said. He was involved in land development, home building, and building restorations throughout the city.
“You have helped Kenny achieve his greatest goal,” Jean said. “Today is a proud day.”
Butts, who was unable to attend the ceremony, was a civil rights activist while attending Oberlin College and was elected to the 23rd Ohio Senate District in 1974 and in 1978.
As a freshman at OC, he traveled to Fayette County, Tenn., to help sharecroppers who had been evicted in retaliation for registering to vote.
In an event program, he was quoted in reference to news of lynchings there: “You’d think someone would have had to pay for that, or answer to some kind of authority, but of course that’s not the way it was in the South,” he said. “If you talked about it, then you might en dup being killed as well. I had read about this and knew about it before I went there, but to really understand that people actually lived that way was astonishing.”
Lowrie was a member of the Class of 1976 who received a master’s degree in medicine and became a pediatrician.
She spent 21 years at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and became chief of the division of pediatric critical care medicine. In 2011, Lowrie moved to Missouri where she became a professor of pediatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
Lowrie said her time at Oberlin, especially in choir, helped shape her into who she is today and made her try things she didn’t want to do.
“People tell you, ‘You can’t be a science major,’ so I did it,” she said. “I did a major that didn’t exist when I graduated.”
Lowrie said Oberlin High School allows students to pursue what they are interested in no matter what.
Wingard, of the Class of 1989, serves as the chief operations officer at the Columbus Area Integrated Health Services.
He is a member of the Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Court Community Advisory Board.
He said it was humbling to be at the high school and to be recognized as an outstanding leader.
“This to me means more than any other award I’ve received,” Wingard said.
Wingard told the students in the audience they are going to be the next world leaders, challenging them to help others.
“You have a commitment to make a difference,” Wingard said. “You have your whole lives in front of you.”
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Oberlin High School graduates and distinguished leaders are recognized at the Oberlin Makes a Difference ceremony.