(Editor’s Note: The Pawhuska High School Honors Banquet will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. This is the first in a series of articles about the history of this event that recognizes academic achievement which will be held Monday, March 3.)
Twenty-five years ago, Bob Butts was in a check-out line at a local business. He overheard the cashier ask a customer three times, "What’s that?" Each time the customer answered, "Nerd Bowl." His question had been, "Where are your children?" They were actually at the "Quiz Bowl."
Butts felt sad to realize those students that found pleasure in excelling through learning were "put down" so many times. He began to think of ways that Pawhuska, as a community, might recognize these outstanding students. After talking with community encourager Alden Swartz, and then PHS Principal Charlie Brooks, a committee was formed to recognize the top ten percent of each high school class with an "Honors Dinner." The inaugural dinner would be held April 30, 1990.
Members of the first "Honors Dinner" planning committee included Criss Blackwood, Charlie Brooks, Bob and Joyce Butts, Sharon Corley, Juanita Hamby, Janette Murray, Debbie Reed, Jim Schooling, I. Alden Swartz, Charlie Wadsworth, Jim Wilson, and Nancy Woodyard. Dr. Kent Lashley from Northeastern State University would be the keynote speaker.
Freshmen honorees were Tara Justesen, Shaphan Parker, Joy Runte, April Strom, and Jeffrey Swan Sophomore honorees included Heather Bethel, Sarah Butts, Owen Byfield, Shawn Helmer, David Irby, Tabitha Lee, Justin McBride, Carrie Payne, Kerra Renfrow, Monte Roberts, Stacy Rogers, Jennifer Ryan, and Pete Swan. Junior honorees were Matt Conley, Tony Gamell, Dalena Gibson, and Jed Strahm. Senior honorees included Pam Abrams, Courtney Byfield, Chere Corbin, Donald Gibson, Heather Henderson, Lisa Hollis, Wayne Lamoreaux, and Ronni Sue Martin.
Each succeeding year, more of the community became involved. By the 20th anniversary of the Honors Banquet, over 600 students have been honored for academic achievements. Butts said, "I would hope we have helped them to stand tall and do a little extra because they are special."
The following is an excerpt from an article in the Pawhuska Journal-Capital about the first banquet:
"The Pawhuska Kiwanis Club, along with the Elks Lodge and a group of community supporters, have joined together to sponsor an Honors Banquet. This endeavor is to recognize the students from Pawhuska High School who have excelled in scholastic achievement. Those to be honored ranked in the top ten percent for grades nine through twelve.
"The banquet will take place at the Elks Lodge on Monday, April 30, 1990. Educational excellence is to be the focus of this special evening. It is the goal of the sponsors of this event to give recognition to those young people who have applied themselves to achieve this standard of excellence."
The criteria for selecting honorees for the banquet is that the student must be in the top ten percent of the Pawhuska High School student body, based on the previous spring and fall semesters. In addition, honorees shall have no letter grade lower than a C in any class the previous spring and fall semesters. In the case of students transferring to PHS, every effort will be made by the high school counselor to equate the students’ incoming GPA with GPA requirements at PHS.