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Austin alumni return to their roots Thursday

Two Austin High School graduates returned their roots Thursday to speak about the values of their AHS education and to give students a bit of insight.

The school recognized Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, AHS class of 1957, and former Miami University (Ohio) President David Hodge, class of 1966, as the 2016 Distinguished Alumni, a recognition chosen by the AHS Alumni & Friends Association.

Brede told students the story of being a student manager for three seasons for the AHS baseball team after he thought he wasn’t good enough to make the team, but he tried out for the Austin Junior College team and became starting shortstop. After he helped turn several double plays in a scrimmage against the AHS team, coach Dick Seltz asked why he never tried out for the AHS team, which instilled a lesson in Brede.

“Don’t let your lack of confidence stop you from trying something,” he said.

Brede and Hodge spoke highly of their time at AHS.

“I had a great time in high school; I was challenged; I was supported; I was encouraged; I met all the drama of growing up,” Hodge said. “Of course, my family will assert that I never achieved that goal, as I continue to wander my way though life.”

Hodge praised the great teachers and coaches for establishing a strong base for this life. He spoke of four key qualities to form a foundation for life: the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, to solve complex problems collaboratively, and to be creative.

“These four general qualities are often seen to be the difference makers in success,” he said.

Hodge also encouraged people to embrace adversity rather than avoid it and remember that they are a member of a community, with all of the benefits and responsibilities that go with that.

Hodge, of Oxford, Ohio, served as president for Miami University (Ohio) for a decade and just retired this summer. Hodge was the university’s 21st president and left it with record applications for fall 2015 enrollment of 27,250 first-year applicants and two years after a successful $500 million capital campaign.

Hodge also led Miami University to the No. 1 national ranking for undergraduate education for public universities for five straight years and the No. 1 ranking for the most-efficient national university for producing high-quality results.

Prior to Miami University, Hodge served for 31 years at the University of Washington, including as a geography professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1998 to 2006. He also served as program director from 1993 to 1994 for the National Science Foundation and on the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ Board of Directors.

Throughout his career, Hodge, a 2000 inductee to Austin High’s Athletic Hall of Fame, has been guided by the logic of servant leadership, seeing the world through the eyes of those being served and looking forward and sideways to prepare people and institutions for success. He also has carried a relentless desire to improve.

Brede, the mayor of Rochester since 2003, worked for more than 43 years in administration at Rochester Methodist Hospital and Mayo Clinic. He retired in 2003 several months after starting as Rochester’s mayor.

During his mayoral tenure, Brede has helped Rochester grow significantly and plays a big role in the new Destination Medical Center initiative to make the city even bigger and better.

Brede also has served on the League of Minnesota Cities board; Regent Candidate Advisory Committee for the University of Minnesota; Minnesota State Arts Board; U.S. Conference of Mayors; Regional Council of Mayors; and United Way of Olmsted County, among many other boards and groups.

Brede tries to live by the “Golden Rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He believes in listening well to others, showing compassion, becoming involved in your school or community, volunteering and valuing diversity.

AHS will play its homecoming football game at 7 p.m. in Art Hass Stadium against Albert Lea.