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10-12-23 — Five Inducted into Alumni Wall of Honor

Oct. 12, 2023 ~ Five outstanding individuals — three alums of the Olathe School District and two longtime employees —were inducted into the Olathe Public Schools Alumni Association Wall of Honor Oct. 11. The induction ceremony was led by Olathe Board of Education President Brad Boyd.

Becky (Milloy) Vrbas, co-chair of the association’s Wall of Honor committee and 1974 graduate of Olathe High School, emceed the evening which included the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance by the American Legion Color Guard. Rev. Ryan Kapple of Leawood Presbyterian Church and 1989 graduate of Olathe South High School, gave the invocation. Superintendent Dr. Brent Yeager greeted the audience and congratulated the honorees. He enjoyed seeing many people in the audience who positively impacted his life, and welcomed a group of high school seniors who will be future alums of Olathe Public Schools.

The Olathe South High School Southside Singers, under the direction of Elise Peterson, entertained everyone by singing and later served the evening meal.

Vicki Kohl, retired district teacher, shared memories of Dr. Nicholas Carnes when he was her student at Olathe South. Carnes graduated from Olathe South in 2002 and is now referred to as a “rock star” by his students at Duke University where he is a professor of public policy. Kohl also read comments from Carnes’ colleagues.

Cooper Sax, a 2013 graduate of Olathe North High School, introduced his former teacher Sarah Hanson who was honored for her work to help develop the Sports Medicine and Exercise Science Academy at Olathe North High School. Hanson, a 1984 graduate of Olathe South, was honored for her love of students and passion for teaching. Sax noted that Hanson inspires students and teaches creatively.

Dr. Brad Steinle praised colleague and honoree Dr. Kimberly (Quackenbush) Poecker as a dedicated physician who works with stroke, spinal cord injury and amputation rehabilitation patients at Saint Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, which she helped open in 2019. Dr. Poecker graduated among the top 10 in her graduating class of 1997 from Olathe North. Dr. Steinle also admired Dr. Poecker’s ability to seamlessly manage her personal and professional lives.  

Retired Olathe educator and civic volunteer Tom Kearney reflected on the wide variety of ways honoree Diane Gossage has impacted the community. As one of this year’s Distinguished Persons of Honor, Gossage worked in the district for 25 years in myriad roles, and dedicated countless hours to Olathe Noon Optimist Club, Retired Employees Association and the Community Organizations group.

Lila Courtney, filling in for Olathe historian Bob Courtney, shared stories of how the late Corinthian Nutter worked to make sure Black students in Johnson County received an equal education in the 1940s through 1972 when she retired as principal of Westview Elementary School in Olathe. “Schools shouldn’t be for a color. They should be for children,” she testified in one court case.

Each of the honorees reminisced about their years in the district, whether as a student or as an employee, and about how that bond impacted their lives.

Olathe Public Schools Director of Community Development AND Olathe South 1988 graduate Heather (Devocelle) Schoonover closed the evening by thanking the various sponsors and reviewing some of the alumni association’s worthwhile projects including scholarships.

“We are all tied together as one Olathe,” Schoonover said, no matter which school an Olathe Public Schools alum graduates from.