HANCOCK COUNTY — A large crowd of family and friends gathered Sunday afternoon at the Thrive Center in Greenfield to honor the second class of the Eastern Hancock Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame.

The four people inducted were Phil Morris, Charlottesville Class of 1963; Dr. Susan Thurston Kern, Charlottesville Class of 1964; Roy Wilson, Eastern Hancock Class of 1969 and Mary Gibble, Eastern Hancock Class of 1980.

The ceremony each spring recognizes outstanding graduates who’ve made numerous contributions to society as well as had many accomplishments.

“Today is a huge celebration of success,” Eastern Hancock Superintendent Dr. George Philhower said. “We are so thankful that we have so many alumni at Eastern Hancock who our kids can look at as examples.”

Principal Adam Barton was the master of ceremonies and noted that while all four inductees received a plaque during the ceremony, four other plaques were made to place on the Wall of Fame.

“I love the idea that from here on out our little kids, our junior high and elementary kids will walk down the hallway and they will see examples on the wall of ‘Hey, that’s what I can be when I grow up. I have options,’” Barton said.

Morris, who has been a Hancock County farmer for 35 years, is a former Charlottesville High School Athlete. He was All-Conference in four sports, baseball, basketball, cross country and track. Morris graduated from Indiana State University in 1973 where he earned a Bachelors of Science Degree in Industrial Arts and Physical Education. He then graduated from Ball State University in 1975 with a Masters Degree in Education before becoming and Industrial Arts Teacher at Morristown High School 1973-1994. Morris coached basketball, baseball and wrestling and is the owner and operator of Morris Inc. and Team Image.

“I think this is a very nice honor,” Morris said. “One of the questions a student had asked me was about who was my mentor. Well, my mentor was my track coach who convinced me to go to college, and I told him ‘I wanted to stay home and farm, and he said ‘No, you’re too good with kids’ and I’m glad I listened to him.”

Kern is a 1974 Purdue University graduate where she earned a Ph.D. She’s also a Purdue Alumni Distinguished Service Award winner and went on to be an Illinois State University Vice President and faculty member for 31 years. She raised $97,000,000 in a first-ever campaign for ISU. She’s also a U.S Patent holder for Bi-Radiant Oven and is a Bloomington-Normal, Illinois Community Cancer Center Founding Chairperson, a Chamber of Commerce and Mennonite College of Nursing Board of Trustees. Kern has also been a YMCA Women of Distinction Award winner among her many accomplishments.

“I was surprised I was selected,” Kern said. “I really didn’t know Eastern Hancock did anything like this.”

Kern noted she’s come a long way from her goal right out of high school where as a teenage girl her idea of success was to go to work for the electric company and hopefully make about $10,000 a year.

“Well, lots of other opportunities came my way,” Kern said with a laugh. “I ended up being an administrator 25 years ago and it changed my life.”

Wilson is also a Purdue University graduate and was the Student Body President from 1971-73, making him the only two-term student body president in Purdue History. He was voted outstanding senior by the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation was the Student Speaker at the Purdue Commencement Exercises. From 1973 until present time, Wilson has been real estate broker, owner and agent. He was a Hancock Regional Hospital Trustee from 1984 to 2024, a former chair of Hancock County Red Cross, a former chair of Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors Strategic Planning Commission and a 2006 Distinguished Hoosier Award winner announced by Governor Mitch Daniels, among his many accomplishments.

“Honestly, being selected is a surprise — a real surprise,” Wilson said. “I can think of a lot of other people who are more deserving than me so I’m pretty humbled.”

Wilson said he never imagined as a young teenager in high school he would go on and accomplish all he was able to do as an adult.

“My dream was to farm because my dad farmed and I wanted to do what my dad did,” Wilson said. “In high school, I wanted to do something in public service and I didn’t have a clue what that was but I guess in my own little way I have done some of that.”

Gibble, who is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Hancock County since 2006, has helped charitable assets there to grow from $11 million to $60 million. In addition they’ve granted over $21 million to charitable causes, inspired the Thrive Center and move to new headquarters in 2023. She also has been a champion of education and youth, launched and endowed Imagination Library of Hancock County, been a steward of over $500,000 scholarship awards annually; catalyzed creation of Education Foundations; Established Y.G.I.V.E. Youth Board; author of Talent Pathway and the author of Celebrate Hancock County Program among many other accomplishments.

“I am very honored and pleased because there are so many people in this room who should be called to the stage and to be nominated means a tremendous amount to me,” Gibble said.

She noted having the success she has in life is due to having very special people in her life who have supported her every step of the way.

“There were people who supported me, guided me and loved me,” Gibble said. “I would not be here today without those people and become all I could be without the community that I love.”

Her goal after graduation from high school was to make sure she didn’t waste any opportunity presented.

“I wanted to make a difference,” Gibble said.

Those in charge of the ceremony said Gibble and the other inductees have done just that, which is why they are now on the Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame.

In addition to recognizing the four new members this year officials added a student and staff recognition to the ceremony. High School students and staff members nominated seniors who exemplify Character, Competitive Greatness and Leadership that Serves.

Each selected student then recognized a staff member who has made a difference in each of their lives. The student and staff members recognized included, (student and staff) Rose Rosales and Rob Stonerock; Luke Morris and Tracy Jadernak-Elsbury; Brandon Metz and Jim Hage; Griffin Lawrence and Lauri Johnson; Emma Dagley and Carrie Womack; Samantha Bolding and Terry Stephens; Sky Currence and Jenn Lightcap along with Brooklyn Willis and Derek Cullison.