By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Maybe Don Sodrel said it best as he approached the microphone to begin his acceptance speech Sunday at the seventh-annual New Albany High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“Wow,” Sodrel said looking out at the more than 240 guests inside the school cafeteria, with former and current inductees in the crowd.
Wow indeed. Twelve new members can now call themselves NAHS Hall of Famers. All living members of the 2012 class were in attendance to accept their honor. They came from as far away as New Mexico and New York City.
“There is no greater honor than when your school honors you,” said John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs, who served as emcee for the ceremony. “This school has so much tradition and I know it’s something special to each one of you.”
The 2012 inductees included: Sodrel, class of 1950; Frank Clipp, class of 1913; James M. Hammond III, class of 1966; Michael B. Hammond, class of 1968; Kenny Head, class of 1965; Thomas “Bucky” Landgraf, class of 1965; Paul Poff, class of 1951; Magdalene Deuser Reimann, class of 1936; L.S. “Doc” Rose, class of 1923, faculty 1931-1970; Rubin Sher, faculty 1964-1986; James Thornton, class of 1946; and Phil Thrasher, faculty 1955-1995.
Here is a short recap of the 2012 inductees:
Clipp, who excelled in athletics during his youth, went to work at Mutual Trust and Deposit Co. following his graduation. He became president of the bank in 1939 and held that position until his death in 1961. He belonged to several organizations including the Rotary Club and the hospital board, and was one of the city’s most active civic leaders.
The Hammond brothers, James and Michael, overcame humble beginnings and have flourished in the business world and working for nonprofits. To honor their mother, the two give scholarships each year to New Albany High School seniors. To date, 45 students have received financial assistance from the brothers. Jim is president and CEO of INARF in Indianapolis while Michael, a graduate of Vanderbilt law school, is an investment banker in New York City.
“I am really honored and proud ... to join this special alumni group is a big wow,” Jim said.
Michael said NAHS had a huge affect on his life and said he is “very proud” to be a graduate of the school.
Head is known as the fastest man to ever graduate from New Albany — and with good reason. He was a nationally ranked runner who still holds the school record in the 100-yard dash. He was a two-time state champion and the state record holder in the 440. He received a track scholarship to the University of New Mexico and just missed making the 1968 Olympic team. In receiving his honor, he praised former New Albany coaches Don Loughmiller and Damon Sims for getting the most out of him.
“Coach Sims had a great influence in my life,” he said. “I am extremely proud to be part of this group.”
Landgraf was a four-time state finalists and set seven school records in swimming. He also excelled in the pool at Indiana State University where he was a three-time Indiana Collegiate Conference first team member. As a coach at Ross Sterling High School in Texas, his teams won nine district titles, and as a water polo coach at Clear Lake High School in Houston, his team won four state titles.
“One of the things I learned here at this school was that learning was important,” he said.
Poff was an all-state basketball performer at New Albany and was a member of the 1953 Indiana University NCAA championship team. He scored 1,026 points at New Albany — at the time a school record. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
“To join my high school coach, Gordon Raney in the hall of fame is a sense of pride for me,” he said. “I am honored that I made some small contribution to New Albany High School.”
For more than 60 years, Reimann was involved at the local, state and national levels of the Women’s Auxiliary of the United States Postal Clerks. She was president of the national organization for 14 years. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Democratic Party for meritorious service. She died in 2010.
Rose was both a graduate of the school and a 40-year faculty member. Not only was he a chemistry teacher at the school and sponsored the science club, he also received a law degree from the University of Louisville in 1936. He was known for his toughness in class, which helped build his reputation as a character according to his Hall of Fame bio.
When Sher began the orchestra program at New Albany, he had only 12 players and four quit after the first day. But he eventually built the program to more than 700 students and later started the Southern Indiana Orchestra. Known as the father of youth orchestra in Floyd County, his wife Nancy called him “a master recruiter” in accepting the award.
Sodrel has been involved in numerous civic clubs including Rotary, where he served as president and district governor, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana. He was instrumental in starting the Boys and Girls Club in New Albany. He retired from the Navy and later received an MBA from Michigan State University.
“I am a Hoosier by birth but a Bulldog by the grace of God,” he said after receiving his award. “I am humbled by this honor.”
Thornton was a star athlete at New Albany and a star in the business world following graduation. He first leased an abandoned gas station on Corydon Pike, expanded beyond one station and his company became Payless Oil. In 1971, the Thornton Oil Corporation became a reality. There are now 166 Thornton’s locations in five states.
He said New Albany High School prepared him for the workplace.
“It’s a wonderful town and I am very proud of this honor,” he said.
Thrasher founded the wrestling program at New Albany in 1955 and was the coach and faculty member at the school for 40 years, retiring in 1995. His teams won 14 sectional titles, six regional crowns and three semistates. The 1961 team was state runner-up. He also coached five individual state champions. He also was instrumental in starting the wrestling programs at Floyd Central, Providence and Corydon high schools.
Thrasher excelled in wrestling at Bloomington High School and Indiana University.