Four community members donned caps and gowns to pick up honorary diplomas Friday alongside the 211 Red Elephants who graduated from Gainesville High School.
Lucile Carter, Marvin Orenstein, Durward Pennington and Curtis Segars were awarded the school’s first honorary diplomas.
Bill Lightfoot, chairman of the Gainesville High School Charter Council, devised the honorary diploma program with the help of the committee’s 10 members. Gainesville High students, parents and faculty members selected the first four recipients.
Lightfoot said the committee chose community members who had not graduated from Gainesville, E.E. Butler or Fair Street high schools but have supported Gainesville schools for many years. He said the committee wanted to honor members of the community who are excellent representatives for the mission and values of Gainesville High School.
"These four really stood out," Lightfoot said. "What they gave and what they contributed has some real staying power. That’s why we felt so good about these four because it really sets a high bar."
Lightfoot said the council may award honorary diplomas on an annual basis as worthy candidates emerge.
Carter was one of the founding members of the Gainesville Booster Club. Since its inception 26 years ago, the club has raised more than $250,000 for Gainesville schools under Carter’s guidance as club treasurer. Carter also served on the Gainesville Board of Education for 13 years and has volunteered her time to many school programs.
Orenstein, owner of Gem Jewelry, has donated a watch to Gainesville High’s most valuable football player each year since 1946. "Mr. O" has personally presented an engraved watch bearing the player’s name at 63 football banquets. In recent years, he extended the watch gifting tradition to Hall County high schools’ most valuable football players.
Pennington came to Gainesville High in 1966 as an assistant football coach and teacher. Since he left his position with Gainesville High, he has volunteered as a football coach specializing in kicker training. Pennington has also been a supportive volunteer baseball coach at the high school.
Segars began teaching at Gainesville High in 1963 and soon became an assistant football coach. He also served as a basketball coach, counselor and did "anything else that needed to be done." Segars became principal of Gainesville High in 1968 and retired in 1986. He continues to volunteer with community youth football programs.