Oxford High School honors distinguished graduates

Photo by Chris Barber Gathering for a picture after the Distinguished Alumni assembly are, from left, David White, Martin Sumner and James McLeod.

EAST NOTTINGHAM -- Oxford Area High School honored another three outstanding graduates at its eighth Distinguished Alumni Regognition Ceremony on Friday.

Jim McLeod, Martin Sumner and David White received accolades and told their stories to the student body at an assemblynt a l that followed an honorees’ luncheon.

Each of the honorees was escorted to the dais by a student who introduced them and gave a brief summary of their careers. They were them presented with plaques and posed for pictures.

McLeod who graduated in 1969, spent a long career in owning and operating an automobile and real estate business in the Oxford area. He has also been involved with Red Cross disaster air, founded the Jennersville YMCA and Oxford Educational Foundation and has for the past 30 years planned the local Halloween Parade. He currently serves as the director of the Oxford Area Senior Center.

McLeod recalled that when he was in high school he was part of a rock and roll band whose members later also penned a proposed fight song for the school’s football team.

He told the students to maintain a life theme of making a positive influence on someone else’s life. Like the honorees who followed him on stage, he spoke of overcoming adversity.

“It’s a jungle out there. Everybody gets knocked down. It’s not how you go down, it’s how you get back up that matters,” he said.

Sumner, was an athlete and valedictorian in the class of 1992. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn’s Wharton School of Business and a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University. He has risen through the ranks of the investment firm the Carlyle Group and has been involved in the acquisition and overseeing of companies whose portfolios are valued at more than $5 billion. He told the students he had three messages: Be the best you can be, be a problem solver and be open to others.

He spoke of having been assigned by his father when he was young to dig a crawl space under a home. He said he first resisted, but then found proud fromn the accomplishment,

Regarding his advice to be problem solvers, he said when he arrived at University of Pennsylvania he received straight C’s in his first semester -- something he was not at all used to. Not only that, but the professor in one class held up his paper as an example of bad writing.

Sumner said he decided to do something about it, got a tutor, worked harder and climbed out of the academic funk. “Being the underdog isn’t that bad. It can propel you to success,” he said.

When he referred to being open to others, he said that the late Jim Herr was a mentor for him, and that students should always find mentors. “Look around. There are always people out there who want to help you,: he said.

White is a graduate of the class of 1960 and the class of 1964 at Lincoln University. He taught in the Baltimore city schools, where he coached lacrosse, football and various other sports. He earned Coach of the Year after leading his football team to the state championship title.

He said he was proud to step up to challenges, especially those of students in the inner city, and he always asks himself, “What have I done to make the world better?”

Regarding his successful coaching and teaching record, he said, “I don’t like losing.

He also spoke of his life teaching in an urban environment. “The inner city is a place I love. Don’t believe how bad the inner city is. Those kids want the same as other kids, and they prevail,” he said.

He added the caveat, however, that he would like to have taken his kids to a school as great as Oxford, up on a hill surrounded by open fields.

Oxford’s Distinguished Alumni tradition began in 2006 when they honored Ellizabeth Surla, Carl Fretz, Ray Stata, Viscount Nelson and Marilyn Ware.

Superintendent David Woods told the students, “These people have had an influence in places they never even heard of when they were in high school.”

He urged them, “Apply their words to your own experience.”

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .