While it's not certain Mary Virginia Polson Stapleton is the oldest Jefferson City High School alumni alive today, at 99 years old she's definitely a member of an exclusive club.
On Tuesday, she'll be recognized at the Jefferson City Public School Foundation's annual gala to be held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. This year, event organizers are celebrating the school district's 175th anniversary. The gala is held annually to raise funds, but also honor the contributions of the education community's leading benefactors, volunteers, teachers and alumni.
Although slightly hard of hearing, Stapleton is spry for her age. She still drives and takes a walk around the neighborhood daily.
"I'm not in perfect health. Everybody has a few aches and pains," she said.
Stapleton, who graduated with the Class of 1931, moved to Jefferson City with her family from Moberly after the Wabash Railroad folded up and her father sought new work.
"I was thrilled to death to go to a brand new high school with a swimming pool," she said.
One of her most vivid memories was serving as an attendant in the high school's homecoming court on what is now the Miller Performing Art Center's stage.
Karen Enloe, who serves as director of the JCPS foundation, said she's delighted Stapleton is available to attend.
"She's an accomplished pianist," she said. "And she still drives, although she told me she's planning to quit when she turns 100."
Gary Kremer, executive director of State Historical Society of Missouri, will emcee the gala.
Throughout the evening's proceedings, he will be weaving in anecdotes about the school district's history and talking about turning points that changed the district's direction.
The event also will feature the contributions and achievements of seven individuals: Janie Potts, Russell and Betty Holt, Dennis and Roberta Licklider, Dorothy Williams and Paul Sugarbaker. The JCPS's Teacher of the Year, Aaron Gillam, and the 2013 outstanding Educator, Melanie Thompson, also will be recognized. The event also recognizes up-and-coming teachers with less than three years of experience.
The event starts at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by a dinner and program at 6:45 p.m. The JCHS drumline and Thorpe Gordon Elementary choir - showcasing musical instruments purchased by the foundation - will provide additional entertainment.
Enloe said the event also serves as an opportunity to showcase the foundation's work.
"We try to show as much as possible about what we do in as short a time frame as possible," Enloe said. "Most of all it's a way to say thank you to patrons and donors and show that the money we raise really is invested in our children's education, whether that's music, literacy, science or technology."
Tickets are $40 per person and are available by calling 659-3549 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Enloe suggested that people interested in attending should contact her by Monday.
Paul Sugarbaker is a foe of cancer.
With medical interests in gastrointestinal cancer, gynecologic malignancy and mesothelioma, much of Dr. Paul Sugarbaker's work has focused on liver and peritoneal metastases.
He was born in Baltimore, but moved to Missouri as a young child. He graduated in 1959 from JCHS.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Wheaton College in Illinois, he graduated from Cornell University Medical College in New York and completed his surgical training at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now known as Brigham and Women's Hospital) in Boston.
In 1983, while working as a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., he received a master's degree in immunology at the Harvard School of the Arts and Sciences. After a brief stay in Atlanta at Emory Clinic, he moved back to Washington in 1989 to become medical director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Malignancies at the Washington Cancer Institute. He also serves as chief for the program in Peritoneal Surface oncology.
Sugarbaker is a strong critic of surgical tradition, believing that major changes in the technology of cancer resection are necessary. His theme, "It's what the surgeon doesn't see that kills the patient," summarizes the concepts behind many of his publications in both peer-reviewed medical literature and the press.
He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Ilse. They have three daughters.
Born and raised in Carthage, Potts attended Missouri Southern State University in Joplin where she received a degree in computer information science. She has been employed since 1986 with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In addition to working full time, Potts has been a committed member of the Jefferson City Public Schools Parent/Teacher organizations at Moreau Heights Elementary School, Lewis and Clark Middle School and Simonsen 9th Grade Center since 1999. She also has contributed to the Citywide Parent/Teacher Council.
She has been the chairperson for various committees including: "Fundraising," "Just Say No," "Newsletter," "School Suppers and Luncheons" and "Football Stand Concessions." She also served on the Moreau Heights 50th anniversary committee, the JCPS Foundation Teacher of the Year committee and was an active member of the Jay orchestra Boosters.
She currently is involved with the Jefferson City High School PTO and Project Graduation.
Her willingness to help is not isolated to education. She also volunteers her time with Boy and Girl Scouts, and local figure skating programs.
Dennis Licklider is known for caring about his student-athletes.
He played football for Central Missouri State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's of science in education. He also has a specialist's degree from the University of Missouri.
Licklider taught driver's education at Jefferson City High School for 32 years. He coached football for 22 years and track and field for 31 years, serving as the head coach for 24 years. He was the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association's "Coach of the Year" 13 times and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2003.
He currently sits on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of the Capital City and was voted "Lion of the Year" for the Jefferson City Host Lions Club.
Today, he is retired but still helps with track and field events. He and his wife, Roberta, have four children and enjoy traveling to St. Louis to watch their twin grandsons play sports.
A Jefferson City native, Roberta Bruemmer Licklider grew up in a Catholic family with four sisters and one brother. She graduated from Helias Catholic High School in 1972, the same year TItle IX passed.
In college, she studied physical education at Central Missouri State University and played on the tennis team.
In 1976, she began her 33-year teacher career at JCHS, where she taught physical education. She also served as head volleyball coach for 11 years and assistant track and field coach for 32 years. In 1984, she earned her master's degree for counseling at the University of Missouri and married fellow coach Dennis Licklider.
She was honored as Assistant Coach of the Year by the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association and as a Zonta Club Woman of Achievement nominee in 2008.
In retirement, Roberta enjoys time as a homebound teacher and a volunteer for the Boys & Girls Club after school program. She is an active member of St. Andrew's Parish.
In 2009, the school district named its track and field facility "Licklider Track" to recognize the couple's contributions to the program.
Dorothy Williams began college at age 16, earning a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Culver-Stockton College. She began her teaching career in 1958 in Meadville, where she taught second grade for three years. She taught in California and Russellville before joining the Holts Summit district, which eventually was annexed into Jefferson City's.
Williams received her master's in elementary education from Lincoln University in 1967. She taught first grade at West and North Elementary Schools and transferred to Callaway Hills Elementary School when it opened in 1980.
After almost 40 years of teaching, she retired in 1997.
Williams has served as president of the CTA/MSTA and Cole County Retired Teachers Association; vice president of programs for the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation; and as an officer in Delta Kappa Gamma.
She is active in the Capital City Women's Club, and she volunteers at First Methodist Church in Jefferson City.
She and her husband, Daniel, have three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Seven of them are JCHS graduates.
Russell and Betty Holt - a banker and a teacher - were generous donors to the Foundation through scholarships for seniors going into the field of nursing. They also supported the practical nursing program at Nichols Career Center with scholarships for many of its LPN students.
Russell Holt was born in 1926 on a farm near Holts Summit. After graduating from New Bloomfield High School, he served in the Korean War. He began his banking career in 1946 with Exchange National Bank and eventually retired from the bank as vice president in 1989.
Betty Carter Holt was born in 1925 on a farm near Carrollton. After earning a degree from Central Missouri State Teachers College in Warrensburg, she began her career in the Carroll County rural schools and the Independence Public School District, but eventually took a job in the Jefferson City Public Schools.
After 32 years of teaching kindergarten and first grade students, she retired in 1990.
The couple was married in Kansas City in 1951. Together, they raised two children - both doctors - Elizabeth Holt of Baltimore and Charles Holt of Indianapolis.
Betty died in 1999, and Russell died in 2010.