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High school awards diplomas to community leaders
0522gainesville
George Groover, left, Myrtle Figueras, second from right, and Gene Beckstein, right, pose with Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, second from left, at a reception honoring the trio as this year’s honorary Gainesville High School graduates. - photo by J. Bryan Stiles

Three community members joined Gainesville High School seniors Friday night to pick up diplomas of their own.

Gene Beckstein, Myrtle Figueras and George Groover were awarded in the school’s second year of giving honorary diplomas.

The Gainesville High School Governance School Council developed the program last year and selected recipients who represent the mission and values of Gainesville High School.

“They all have a different story,” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “They have a deep connection and tradition with Gainesville City Schools.”

Beckstein has earned a GED diploma, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but he never received a high school diploma until Friday.

He started Good News at Noon in Gainesville in 1990 to help feed and shelter homeless people, remembering the time when he was homeless on the streets of Chicago after serving as a Marine in World War II.

“Mr. B,” who was a teacher and administrator in Michigan and Georgia for 37 years, was named Teacher of the Year at Gainesville High School in 1979.

“He was one of two white teachers in an all-black high school,” Dyer said. “He was a breakthrough person who helped to pave the way for integration in our schools. He’s always been a great part of the community.”

Figueras, who taught French at Gainesville High School for 30 years, was elected to the Gainesville City Council in 1996 and served as mayor in 2001-2002 and 2008-2009.

“Myrtle has always been involved in education and continues to be an advocate on behalf of the schools,” Dyer said.

Groover grew up in Gainesville but never received a diploma before he joined the military.

Many community members remember his contribution to Gainesville High School sports, and he still often serves as game coordinator.

“He’s been a part of every sport for 40 years, and I know he was at every game when I was there and played basketball,” Dyer said.

The three were honored at a reception before graduation in the high school’s gym.

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