Six alumni of Willard High School were inducted into the first class of the Distinguished W. The goal behind the award is to identify, recognize, celebrate and honor those alumni who have distinguished themselves through public service, academic achievement and professional contributions which serve to enhance the prestige and excellence of the Willard City School District.
According to Jeff Ritz, superintendent of the Willard City Schools, the creation of the Distinguished W award was spearheaded by the Willard High School Teen Leadership Corp and Student Council members. The idea was to recognize alumni from their past as well as identify role models for current students to aspire to follow.
The Willard City School District started in 1875. Since that time, there have been a number of professionals who have become civic and professional front runners in education, medicine, science, law, business, entertainment, art, literature and music. The WHS Student Council and Teen Leadership Corps made the decision to recognize those who are chosen to receive the Distinguished W during Homecoming.
At the awards ceremony, accomplishments of each candidate were shared.
Randy Adams, Class of 1972, is a Tony Award winning producer and founder of Junkyard Dog Productions, a theatrical production company dedicated to the development and production of new musical theatre. “Memphis” was the winner of the Tony Award in 2010 for best musical.
Currently, Junkyard Dogs Productions is represented on Broadway with “Come From Away,” which is the winner of awards the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Helen Hayes and Dora Award for best new musical for 2018. Since its beginning, JYD has also produced “Make Me a Song, The Music of William finn off-Broadway and in London and “Vanities, A New Musical.”
Daniel Barnett, Class of 1982, attended North Central Technical College and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Ohio State University and his master’s from Webster State. His military education included Infantry Officer's Basic and
Advanced courses, the Combined Arms Services Staff School and the Command and General Staff College.
Barnett has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Start, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asian Service Medal, War on Global Terrorism Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal and earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Bade, Ranger Tab, Pathfinder Badge and Senior Parachutist Badge with combat jump device.
Bruce Durr, Sr., Class of 1975, attended both Willard High School and Pioneer Career and Technology Center. He received an associates degree in business administration from North Central State College and his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the Community college of the Air Force and was a USAF academy graduate of the NCO, Senior NCO and Security Police.
Durr was with the United States Air Force from July1975 until April 2005. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Ohio Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, air Force Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
Jean (Fitzwater) Murray, the Class of 1972, was a 1977 graduate of the Willard Police Academy and a graduate of Drug Enforcement Training, as well as numerous law enforcement classes. She was an EMT-A and on the first ambulance crew for the Village of Greenwich and was one of the first females trained as a police officer, serving on the Greenwich and Wakeman Police Departments. Prior to her death in 2015, Murray was an embedded civilian photographer/journalist for the Ohio Army National Guard Fort Ohio and was a correspondent for the Willard Times-Junction.
Murray was awarded the Ohio Distinguished Service Medal, which is the highest award a civilian can receive from the U.S. Army. She was also the recipient of the Osman Hooper Award for news photography. She was an honorary firefighter with the Willard Fire Department and was one of the few civilians as a member of the M-1 for Vets Rifle Team made up of disabled veterans.
Jim Ludban, Class of 1966, attended the Ohio State Highway Patrol Peace Officer Training Academy and completed college work at the Institute of Applied Science, Illinois Valley Community College, University of North Florida and Bowling Green State University.
Ludban volunteered for the draft and was a member of the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969 and served in the Military Police Corps. He served on the Willard Police Department in 1966 as a dispatcher, in 1967 as a police cadet and from 1969 to 1970, he was a patrolman. He served is interim chief deputy of the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office.
Ludban was involved with the railroad for 30 years with experiences in labor, management, executive and corporate positions, board of director, administrative duties, financial responsibility and international experience in railway systems. He has served on the YMCA Board of Directors, Willard Chamber of Commerce, Scipio Township, Huron County Planning Commission, Kiwanis International, American Association of Railroad Superintendents, Rotary, Fraternal Order of Elks, Loyal Order of Moose, Fraternal Order of Eagles, American Legion, Sons of the American Legion and is a lifetime member of AMVETS.
Richard Vogel, Class of 1949, graduated from Capital University with a bachelor degree in business and obtained his masters degree from George Washington University. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and was a tactical fighter aircraft flyer.
While flying his 88th mission, Vogel was captured by the North Vietnamese after his F-4 aircraft was shot down and was a Prisoner of War from May 22, 1967 until his release on March 4, 1973. He was awarded three Silver Stars, two Legion of Merit honors, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Prisoner of War Medal.
During halftime at the Homecoming Game, the recipients and their representatives were introduced.
They included Randy Adams; Tom Barnett representing Dan Barnett; Bruce Durr, Sr.; Jane Ernsberger representing her late twin sister, Jean Murray; Jim Ludban and Sally Richards representing Richard Vogel.