AHS honors two alumni

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2002

Someday James Huntting, Jr. and Marno McDermott will be the twin answers to an Austin High School homecoming trivia contest.

In response to the question "Who were the first recipients of the AHS Distinguished Alumni awards?" their names will be the correct answers.

Huntting and McDermott are the toasts of the town this homecoming weekend in Austin. The AHS Alumni and Friends Association bestowed their inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award on the two graduates Thursday.

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"It feels great," said Huntting, a member of the AHS class of 1945. "It's an honor I won't forget."

McDermott, a member of the AHS class of 1856, said he has received honors from his college fraternity and business associations, "but this is as good as any of them and possibly better as far as I am concerned."

The awards were presented Thursday morning at an assembly in Richard L. Knowlton Auditorium.

They were feted at a banquet Thursday night and today they are slated to participate in the homecoming parade, halftime ceremonies at tonight's game, a pancake breakfast fund-raiser for the AHS Alumni and Friends Association and a radio interview with another AHS alumni, Mike Cotter.

Corrine Johnson, Austin Public Schools superintendent, and AHS principal, Joe Brown, were among the dignitaries at Thursday morning's assembly.

Jeni Beckel Lindberg, Peggy Benzkofer, Jim Ruud and Mike Ruzek represented the alumni organization.

Ruzek, a member of the AHS class of 1964, said the association specifically sought to find opportunities for the award recipients to "connect with students." That was, in part, accomplished later Thursday, when the pair visited AHS classrooms to interact with students.

Ruud, a member of the AHS class of 1958, said the pair can serve as positive role models for today's students, who can themselves aspire to become distinguished AHS alumni in their lives.

Also part of Thursday's assembly were members of the AHS class of 2003 homecoming royalty. Homecoming King Ray Bissen and Queen Alyssa Lorenz presented the pair with gifts.

Huntting is the former president and CEO of Huntting Elevator Company. He was one of the founding members of the Austin Public Education Foundation.

He and his wife, Joanne, donated $100,000 to establishing the Huntting endowment of the Austin Public Education Foundation.

In his remarks to the assembly audience, Huntting read a sports clipping from a 1945

homecoming game, when AHS defeated Albert Lea, 32-0.

He also said memories of the years he spent as an AHS student and the many teachers who prepared him for life are fondly recalled.

McDermott founded Chi'Chis, Fuddruckers and Two Pesos restaurant chains.

He also created a successful homeless shelter in Phoenix, Ariz.

McDermott told the student-dominated assembly audience not to underestimate the value of an education. He added that students should also appreciate the value of self-education or learning outside the classroom.

Nominations for next year's Distinguished Alumni awards should be submitted to AHS. For more information, call 433-0433.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com