The story of John Wilkinson, Greenwood Class of ‘63, has been commemorated in the Fabulous 50s exhibit and the Route 66 Arts and Entertainment Display at the History Museum on the Square in downtown Springfield.
John Wilkinson (1945-2013) was raised in Springfield and attended Greenwood Laboratory School. Wilkinson’s father was a professor of psychology at Missouri State. Dr. Bion McCurry, Wilkinson’s music teacher at Greenwood, noticed his love of music and encouraged him throughout his 13 years at Greenwood to try various instruments. Wilkinson started on the guitar at six years of age and later became proficient on the banjo at a young age as well.
In the early 1950s, when Wilkinson first saw Elvis Presley on TV, he did not like the way Presley played or treated his Martin D18 guitar and wished that one day he could tell him just that. Presley came to Springfield on May 17, 1956 and was second bill to Hank Snow. They were appearing at the Shrine Mosque and 10-year-old Wilkinson had heard it on the radio and seen it in the paper. His classmates at Greenwood had talked about Elvis Presley at school as well. On that very day, young Wilkinson decided he needed to tell the singer exactly what he thought about his guitar playing. The sound checks were taking place, and Wilkinson decided to ride his bike to the Shrine Mosque to see if he could speak to Presley. After discovering the young performer (only 21 years old) in a dressing room, Wilkinson told him what he thought of his guitar playing. “You can’t play the guitar worth a damn,” said the young musician. Presley laughed and challenged Wilkinson to play guitar for him. Against the wall was an old Gibson J45. Wilkinson played and sang, and the star was really impressed with this kid. Their warm conversation was soon interrupted when two big guys entered the room and wanted to know what the boy was doing there. Presley told them that Wilkinson was his friend and he had just given him (Presley) a guitar lesson. Before leaving, Presley told young Wilkinson that he knew one day they would meet again.
During his stay in Springfield, Presley caused a stir with his entourage, and the Springfield Police were searching for him on St. Louis Street (Route 66). He and the band stayed at the Rail Haven Motor Court, which is still located on Glenstone and St. Louis Street (Route 66). (Today, owner Gordon Elliott has created an Elvis room and a room honoring his close friend John Wilkinson.)
Growing up in the late 1950s, Wilkinson was always into folk music and listened to and copied groups like “The Kingston Trio” (who he later performed with in the mid 70s), “The Weavers,” “Peter, Paul and Mary” and “Gordon Lightfoot.” Wilkinson formed his own band at Greenwood High known as “The Coachmen.” He started performing at just 13 years of age, sometimes earning $25 a show.
In 1968, there was a position for a rhythm guitarist, and Presley wanted Wilkinson to fill it. Wilkinson accepted the offer and the deal was sealed with a handshake. Wilkinson was the band’s rhythm guitarist from 1969 until Presley passed away in 1977. Wilkinson never missed a show, and he performed over 1,100 shows with the “King of Rock & Roll.”
*Text and photo used with permission of the History Museum on the Square
Don’t miss your chance to reconnect with friends, catch up on the latest Greenwood happenings and celebrate long-time Greenwood traditions. Many memories have been made at Greenwood Homecomings past. Make plans to attend the Homecoming 2013 celebration, which will be held October 4 and 5.
Join fellow Blue Jays Friday, October 4 for the Homecoming BBQ and soccer game where the Blue Jays will face the West Plains Zizzers on the field at Cooper Sports Complex. Greenwood alumni and special guests will gather on Saturday, October 5 at Highland Springs Country Club for the annual Homecoming Brunch and Awards Ceremony. Event highlights will include Greenwood school updates, as well as presentation of the Greenwood Alumni Association award recipients. The individuals to be recognized include Dr. Tonia Tinsley, Award of Appreciation; Mr. and Mrs. Brent Garrison, Outstanding Friends of Greenwood Award; and Dr. Charles Sheppard, ’63, Outstanding Alumni Award. Reserved seating and special recognition is available for Greenwood reunion classes attending the brunch. Please notify the alumni office in advance at 417-836-5654.
Friday, October 4
5 p.m.- Greenwood Homecoming Blue Jay BBQ, Cooper Sports Complex
Purchase tickets in advance at the Greenwood office, $10 per person. $12 per person at the door.
Please contact Cynthia Sharp for more information: 417-880-6966 Sponsored by the Greenwood Athletics & Debate Booster Club
7 p.m.- Soccer Game at Greenwood Lab School Field at Cooper Sports Complex
Greenwood Blue Jays vs. West Plains Zizzers
Homecoming Queen Coronation at Halftime.
Saturday, October 5
9:30 a.m.- Brunch and Awards Ceremony at Highland Springs Country Club
Social Time 9:30 a.m.
Brunch 10:00 a.m. Awards ceremony to follow.
$18 per person; reservations required. Hosted by the Greenwood Alumni Association Register for Brunch
“My favorite thing about “back to school time” at Greenwood was seeing all my friends again. It was also exciting to see if there were any new faces in the class! The two fondest memories I have of the fall semester at Greenwood are the Chili Suppers and Friday night football!” -Susan Barnes Smith, ’95
Fall semester at Greenwood brings with it renewed energy and excitement. The Greenwood family welcomes new and returning students and faculty. Students look forward to fall traditions- athletic events and rivalries, school pictures, Homecoming and many more.
What do you remember most? Share your fondest memories of back-to-school time by leaving a comment below.
Hometown: Columbus, Kan. Education: Bachelor of Arts; Master of Science, both Pittsburg State University Family: Wife, Mary; children, Stephanie, Stacey, Brian and Brent Position: Retired Science Instructor (currently teaching Science on a temporary basis)
Tell me about your career path.
I taught in the public schools for 29 years starting in Iola Middle School for one year, Hickman Mills Ervin Junior High for two years, and Springfield R-12 School District for 26 years. I worked at Cox Health System for eight years as a toxicologist, and taught science at Greenwood Laboratory School for nine years before I retired.
What do you find unique about Greenwood?
The students, parents and faculty make Greenwood unique. I enjoy working with the students, and the parents have always been supportive. I think it’s this combination that allows the students to be so successful.
What has been your most meaningful experience or moment in working with students? I have had students go on to have very successful careers in all areas of science.
What is the one thing you most want to impart to students? Have a positive attitude, and use GPAR (Goals, Plans, Action, Results) as a guide to check your progress through life. Take time for yourself, and remember that you ‘get what you give.’
How do you like to spend your free time? My wife and I are currently enjoying traveling around the country in our Roadtrek. We recently completed a 7,000 mile journey from San Diego up the Pacific Coast Highway to Seattle, stopping to see Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and returning to the May 3rd snow in Springfield. Our next trip will be in Key West, Fla. this winter.
The Greenwood Class of 1969 recently contributed a memorial bench to the Sustainable Solutions Student Courtyard. Cathy Long, ’69, and Mike Long, ’66, coordinated the donation on behalf of the group. The courtyard features a xeriscape garden and was designed by the Sustainable Solutions student group, which was formed in 2011 to build awareness of recycling for students, faculty and staff and to support the Greenwood family in living a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Several members of the Class of 1969 were present at the courtyard ribbon cutting ceremony held April 22. The event was also held in celebration of Earth Day 2013. Adam Millsap,’98, of Urban Roots Farms was the keynote speaker for the event.
“It’s not often that a group of current students get the opportunity to work so closely with Greenwood alumni,” said Riley deLeon, Sustainable Solutions founder. “I cannot express enough appreciation for the gift that the Class of 1969 contributed to the student courtyard. Their gift is so much more than a bench. We look forward to bringing alumni and students together again in the future.”
Sustainable Solutions also announced new leadership for the 2013-14 academic year during the ribbon cutting event. Senior Hallie Sutton is the new president of the organization. Junior Nikki Shah is vice-president. Junior Ann Weston Sistrunk is secretary, and Junior Kameron Haake will serve as treasurer.
Family: Wife, Denise. Son, Brooks; daughter, Claire. Education: Greenwood Laboratory School, 1979; B.S. Finance, 1983, Southwest Missouri State University; J.D., 1991, University of Missouri-Kansas City Current position: Chief Judge, Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District
1. What did it mean to you to be chosen as an award recipient?
It brought back a flood of fond memories of my days at Greenwood, and it left me with a great sense of gratitude for an institution that played a major role in bringing about any success I may have been able to achieve.
2. You are currently Chief Judge with the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District. Talk about that position and your greatest challenge and reward.
The position of Chief is purely administrative, although to a certain extent the title makes you the public face of the court during your term. The greatest challenge has been living up to the expectations that have been generated by my predecessors in the office. I am blessed to serve with some of the most intelligent, generous and hard-working individuals I have ever known.
3. You practiced law for seven years before you were elected Circuit Judge for the 31st Judicial Circuit (Greene Co.) in 1998, followed by your appointment to the Court of Appeals in 2008. Why did you choose this career field?
My father was a lawyer and a judge, and he was someone I greatly admired and respected. He also truly seemed to enjoy his work and to gain a great deal of satisfaction from it. Those things were all attractive to me.
4. What do you consider to be your most important professional accomplishment?
To have done my duty in seeing that every litigant before me, without regard to their intelligence, their background or their station in life, has been treated fairly and impartially in having their case resolved in accordance with the requirements of the law.
5. You were very active as a student at Greenwood. How do you feel Greenwood helped you prepare for your future career?
It gave me the opportunity to be taught by some of the most highly skilled teachers available; it gave me the opportunity to be with a relatively small number of classmates who became like family members to me; and it gave me the confidence and ability to succeed at the University level and beyond.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Springfield Family: Wife, Sarah. Son, Zach; daughters, Emma, Leticia, Anna, Isabella, Leta, Sophia, Grace and Ruth. Education: Greenwood Laboratory School, 1994; B.A. History, 2000, University of the Ozarks. Current position: Owner, Millsap Farms
Springfield Family: Wife, Melissa. Daughter, Bela; son, Owen. Education: Greenwood Laboratory School, 1998. Current position: Owner, Urban Roots Farm
This award is given to three siblings with one thing in common- a focus on raising awareness of the importance of healthy eating and sustainable food. Curtis, Adam and Amanda are dedicated to educating the people of southwest Missouri about the benefits of locally-sourced food. The trio grew up in a farming family and share fond memories of working in the family garden and visiting their grandparents’ farm. At the heart of what the Millsaps do is a concern for the environment, love of community and priority placed on quality family time. Curtis, Adam and Amanda truly demonstrate Civitas Discento, Citizenship through Learning, and they share their learning with so many!
Curtis Millsap graduated from the University of the Ozarks, Clarksville, Ark., with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He met his wife, Sarah, on a Wilderness First Responder Course in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Curtis taught in a gifted program at a non-conventional school in Taos, New Mexico before returning to the Springfield area. He then supported his family for several years working in the construction field until he and Sarah bought a farm north of Springfield and began a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA allows members, who pay a fee, to receive weekly shares of food for a season. Members also help with the production and harvesting of the food raised. Millsap Farms is well known at the Springfield Area Farmer’s markets for their organic produce. Curtis has also shared his love of gardening with students, including those at Pleasant View School. His work has been highlighted in the Springfield News-Leader on numerous occasions.
Adam Millsap and his wife, Melissa, own and operate Urban Roots Farm, which strives to provide local food to people of all income levels. Recognizing the convenience of living in town, the couple bought land in 2012 directly behind their home, which included 1 ½ acres and apartments. Urban Roots is in production all four seasons of the year and participates in Community Supported Agriculture as well. Produce from the farm is sold at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks and can also be found at retail stores such as Homegrown Food and Mama Jeans, as well as local restaurants. Adam and Melissa are passionate about educating and providing instruction to the community on the importance of growing natural food locally. They are founders of Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition (SUAC), the organization responsible for the “DIRT Project-Digging in R-12” that has planted schoolyard gardens at nine Springfield Public Schools to promote healthy lifestyles and environments through hands-on education about production and consumption of locally-produced, natural, health foods. Adam also serves as president of the board for Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks.
Amanda Millsap Owen earned a Bachelor’s degree from Drury University. She attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and was inspired during her time there by a store called “The Produce Place” that labeled all food with its origin. At the same time, she worked at an organic farm in Nashville, and became involved with the Camp Dogwood Project that supplied organic foods to food deserts in Nashville. After returning to the Ozarks, Amanda and her husband, Ryan, opened Homegrown Food, a neighborhood grocer selling locally grown food from area farms. The store offers regular, convenient hours and features locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, poultry, milk, jam, flour and even Askinosie Chocolate. The majority of the store’s inventory comes from within 225 miles of Springfield. Homegrown Food currently partners with local programs such as the YMCA “Local Sprouts” project. The most treasured community oriented project is the installation of a processing kitchen to provide institutional partners with fresh, local produce. The long term goal is to supply schools. Amanda was selected in 2011 as one of 417 Magazine’s 20 Under 30. She serves as a Community at Large Member on the Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks board.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award (cont.)
Col. William (B.J.) Thomas
Rogersville, Mo. Family: Wife, Diane. Sons, Preston and Baily. Education: Greenwood Laboratory School, 1984; B.S. Agronomy, 1989, Southwest Missouri State University Current position: Commander, Missouri National Guard 1107th Aviation Group
1. What are some of your fondest memories of Greenwood?
The Class 1A Football Championship, playing basketball at the Blue & Gold Tournament in McDonald Arena, Pie Suppers and general Greenwood campus life.
2. How do you think Greenwood helped you succeed?
The smaller size and family atmosphere was very important to me. Greenwood provided the educational foundation I needed to be successful in college. I also believe that Greenwood established my foundation of confidence that allowed me to serve as an effective leader.
3. Tell me about your career path and what motivated you to serve.
It starts with my upbringing. I was raised in a family that valued service. I enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard in 1986. I graduated SMSU and ROTC with my commission as an Army Second Lieutenant and departed for Flight School in 1989. Since graduation from flight school I have served in numerous key leadership positions and flown thousands of hours in the UH-1 Huey, AH-1 Cobra, UH-60 Blackhawk and the AH-64 Apache. I have served two tours in Iraqi and Afghanistan in support of OIF/OEF. My motivation to serve stems from my family upbringing and the values my parents placed in service to your country. Not to mention I really enjoy flying and working with soldiers.
4. You are currently the Commander of the Missouri National Guard 1107th Aviation Group. Talk about that position and your greatest challenge and reward.
I am responsible for 1,200 soldiers and an aviation inventory of 300 million dollars worth of assets. I have served as the Commander since appointment in 2007. My greatest challenge was deploying the Group in 2010 to three locations (Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan) simultaneously. Our mission was to provide graduate level aviation maintenance to the combat aviation brigades’ inventory of 1,000 helicopters. My greatest reward was the successful completion of that deployment and returning to the states with the unit intact and no combat losses.
5. How do you stay connected to Greenwood?
I have several close friends from my graduating class that I continue to see. I also reunite with old friends annually at the Blue & Gold Tournament, and we enjoy reliving our glory days as Blue Jays on the hardwood.
Outstanding Friends of Greenwood Award
Springfield Family: Husband, John. Chinese “daughter,” Chen Yajing. Education: B.A. Economics, 1969, University of Oklahoma; MLS, 1970, University of Oklahoma; MBA, 1977, University of New Mexico. Current position: Faculty Emeritus of Library Services
1. What do you think makes Greenwood unique?
Laboratory schools are decreasing in numbers across the nation. Greenwood has a history of over 100 years! That in itself has to be very special.
2. You were formerly the Dean of Library Services at Missouri State. Talk about that role and how it impacted Greenwood.
While I was Associate Dean of Library Services, we engaged in conversations with the Greenwood School and College of Education in regard to having the library become part of the University Library System, which happened in 1986. I have worked with the library since, particularly on space issues and to develop the plan for the current enhanced Haseltine Library. As an administrator, I was available to help with any issues, problems or projects. We added a full-time support staff position, provided computers for student use, allotted a budget for purchasing books and included Haseltine Library operations in all of the support operations for the University Libraries-acquiring, cataloging, and circulating materials. This operational help frees up the time of the Librarian, Mrs. Borneman, to be more fully involved in teaching/classroom activities.
3. Talk about how Greenwood is part of the University Library system and the benefits to both entities.
Being part of the University Libraries has expanded the range of resources available to Greenwood students and faculty. All of the processing work for the library is handled centrally at Meyer Library. Haseltine is part of the online system of the Libraries with the attendant technical support and equipment. There is a well-developed structure for collaborative endeavors between the Haseltine librarian and her colleagues in Meyer Library. Haseltine Library has benefitted in the area of development by being both part of Greenwood and part of the Libraries!
4. Your role at Greenwood has gone well beyond a professional relationship with the library. Talk about your personal involvement with Greenwood.
I enjoy spending time there. I have read to kindergarten students, judged spelling bees and made costumes for Greenwood.
5. What did you gain from your interaction with Greenwood students?
The students are bright, energetic and fun. I recently attended an evening presentation by 4th grade students about famous people in history. It was amazing to talk with the students about what they learned and how they used library research! The parents are so involved-that is critical for success.
“Everyone can learn the skills to be an artist if they are open-minded and practice,” said Sue Baldwin. Baldwin is an accomplished artist herself, and teaches art to Greenwood students K-12, tailoring art projects to each grade level.
Originally from St. Louis, Baldwin moved to the Springfield area in 1976. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in 1979 and a Master’s degree in 2004, both in Education, at Missouri State University. Baldwin taught three years in Fair Grove before deciding to work outside the art field while producing and selling her own art. Her passion is watercolors, which have been exhibited in numerous galleries in Kansas City and Springfield. During a ten-year span, she traveled to England to gather inspiration, wrote two watercolor instructional books and designed a line of Christmas cards. Today, Baldwin continues to do private commission work in watercolors and murals.
While doing her student teaching at Greenwood in the late ‘70s, Baldwin knew Greenwood was a place she could call home. She returned to Greenwood full-time in 1994. A focus in Baldwin’s classroom is teaching students to use critical thinking for solving problems in their creations. As an instructor, she admits one challenge is to keep projects fresh with new ideas from year to year. “It keeps you on your toes, working with so many different grade levels. It is also rewarding to see interests change from year to year.” Baldwin feels a sense of accomplishment when she sees students taking pride in their work or walks down the hall and hears students discussing their displays with classmates. “Some of my most meaningful moments have come when a parent tells me their kindergartener recognizes a particular master’s work hanging in a museum or when another tells me their child has found a strong interest in art and has never had such a drive for a subject before.”
Baldwin has been recognized for her own work as a five-time recipient of awards for watercolors at local and regional levels. She has presented at several national and state educational symposiums. In 2010, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Friends of Greenwood Award in honor of her loyalty and involvement at Greenwood. Baldwin has also been active in professional organizations such as the Springfield Visual Arts Alliance, Springfield Missouri Museum Association and Mid-Missouri Traditional Dance Society. The one thing she wishes to impart to her students and others through her instruction and community involvement is that, “Art is all around us, everyday, and anyone can appreciate the arts.”
“My fondest memory of Honor Day 1968 was that my father, Jim Millsap, gave a speech on empathy that people still comment on. Almost as dear was that my mother, Libby Davis Millsap, and her sister, Virginia Davis Welsh, were Fair Greenwood and my brother, Dave Millsap, was Sir Greenwood. I was honored to uphold the tradition for the school, as well as for my family.” – Paula Millsap, Fair Greenwood 1968
“Starting with my first Honor Day ceremony in 7th grade, I looked up to Fair and Sir Greenwood as role models and leaders of the school. I was very proud when I was recognized by my fellow students as someone who embodied the characteristics of Fair Greenwood. Honor Day is unique in my mind because it is a single ceremony that recognizes excellence in academics, music, arts and athletics. It was always a special experience to sit with my peers and hear how much each student had achieved during a single year. When considered as a collective whole, the results were always remarkable and uplifting.” – Kaleen Long, Fair Greenwood 2004
“Being elected Sir Greenwood, along with Fair Greenwood, Cynthia Farthing, was an honor and a highlight of my senior year. Being recognized in front of other students, teachers and parents was an honor for all students. Honor Day brought closure to the school year.” – Ken Wills, Sir Greenwood 1956
“For me personally, being selected Fair Greenwood was the crowning achievement of my senior year. Fair Greenwood is not a beauty contest, nor a personality contest. It honors citizenship, scholarship and depth of character. Who would not be proud to be honored for those attributes by your fellow students! Honor Day has been a part of Greenwood tradition for almost the entire history of the school. I returned for my 50th reunion in 2004 and was deeply gratified to find that the ceremony had not changed. It was still a simple, moving tribute to the students who had excelled during the year. I hope that never changes.“ – Kathryn Ryer Roberts, Fair Greenwood 1954
“The most memorable aspect of Homecoming for me was my senior year and the honor of serving on Homecoming Court. We got to be driven around the MSU football stadium on golf carts by our dads before the crowning at half time. That will forever be a wonderful memory for my dad and me.” – Hollie Elliott, ‘04
“Homecoming is a treasured memory and still a vivid one! I was honored to be part of Homecoming Royalty, selected as an attendant to the queen in 1966. Friday night prior to the game, GHS had a car caravan that went through the city and after the parade my family hosted the pep rally in our backyard. There was a huge crowd and school spirit was high!” – Nancy Rich Gordon, ‘67
“It was fun to decorate the halls with signs and streamers and we always had fancy ‘beat ribbons.’ They were usually plastic with ‘Go Jays,’ Homecoming and the year.” – Sarah Muegge, ‘71
“Looking back at Homecoming, each aspect was special in its own way. The Hamburger Fry was a great opportunity for secondary students to come together. The cheerleaders would do a skit which was always hysterical. Hall decorating was always a big deal–it was very competitive. Winners were announced during the pep assembly on Friday. I remember spending hours on a Sunday decorating. The crowning of the Queen was fun to watch, and after the game everyone would walk back for the PIKE supper. Then the Saturday night dance had its own special traditions. It was a fun week!” – Angie Pinegar, ‘89
“My father took my twin sister, Sarah, and me to Homecoming 1958 when we were in Kindergarten. He bought us each a big white pompom mum with a big blue ‘G’ made out of a pipe cleaner. I’ve loved GHS Homecoming ever since!” – Julie H’Doubler Thomas, ‘71
“My favorite Homecoming included an event for our class of 1945, held at my house in 1972. Nearly everyone came, and we had a wonderful time.” – Doris Fay Witt, ‘45
We want to hear your Homecoming memories! Share your own memory below by posting a comment.