In the early 1990s when I headed up Corporate Communications and Advertising for Atlanta-based National Data Corporation (NDC: NYSE) the company “adopted” Kittredge Magnet School for high achievers, grades 4-6.
Georgia’s DeKalb County School System sponsored the “adoption” program, to introduce its students to area firms so they could learn about the businesses and the variety of skills required to work for them.
Employees in NDC’s Human Resources, Accounting, Communications, Sales, Engineering, among others frequently visited the school explaining their jobs, the company’s mission, products, and services to students. The firm also donated money and equipment to the school. Many employees became tutors and students and teachers were frequent lunch time visitors to the firm’s headquarters facility just a few blocks from campus.
The students, NDC employees, and school staff enthusiastically participated. I have no idea if the program is still active, but it was a resounding success.
While interviewing a candidate as my administrative assistant, I asked why she applied at NDC and she responded that her son, who was a 6th grade Kittredge student, suggested it. She was hired, took advantage of the company’s tuition refund program, and eventually became marketing director of a major Atlanta firm.
Near the beginning of each school year I would give a talk to the student body to describe NDC and explain our partnership with the school.
During my annual presentation I encouraged the students, whose ages ranged from 9-11, to ask their classmates what they wanted to be when they grew up and then request their autographs. I told them they were sitting next to future astronauts, military heroes, movie and TV actors, politicians, singers, song writers, authors, scientists, athletes, inventors, business executives, etc.
I told them when I attended school at their age a number of my classmates went on to become highly successful, many becoming well known.
The memory of this experience in Atlanta some 30 year ago was rekindled as I read of my childhood friend and former classmate Sam Durrance’s death this month.
My Tampa Plant High School class was chock-a-block full of folks who achieved remarkable successes in their lives, many on national and international scales from science to the arts.
Sam was one of them. His feats soared above most, literally. He was an astronomer who flew on two NASA space shuttle missions as a payload specialist, and who was a principal research scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University from 1980 to 1997. He died on May 5 at 79.
During one of our high school reunions several years ago Sam, a lineman on the 1960 high school championship football team, told us about his experiences in space working with the Hubble telescope. He even showed us “home movies” he took while aboard the shuttle.
After leaving JHU in 1997, Sam was a professor of physics and space sciences at Florida Institute of Technology and, starting in 2001, served as the executive director of the Florida Space Research Institute, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. His obituary is at https://hub.jhu.edu/2023/05/10/samuel-durrance-obituary/?fbclid=IwAR3AXXX7dpwaYa4nPEmfsfTrylZ1WeZZekAie9JVu6Sb4CYf8FkiXrs2HhU
I’m sure I’m missing many, but listed below in no particular order, are other Plant classmates and friends of mine who achieved remarkable success in their fields.
Jack Staples had the idea for a sit-down blood pressure chair, and with classmate Mike Ramsey’s help in the arm cuff technology, saved numerous lives.
Mike Ramsey invented many other medical devices for medical procedures while Jack also developed the ankle GPS monitors, that many felons wear when ordered by courts.
Dr. Guy Buell became a well-respected urologist.
Jim Ferman grew his father’s Tampa Chevrolet dealership into one of Florida’s most successful with 17 dealerships, including Ford, Nissan, Mazda, & BMW.
Dr. Fred Raffa is a highly respected economics advisor and expert witness in court cases who has testified nationwide in more than 1,250 trials in 25 states as well as the U. S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Sandy Freedman became the first female mayor of Tampa. As City Council Chairwoman she took over the mayor’s job in 1986 when Bob Martínez resigned to make his successful run for governor. She was then elected to two terms serving from 1987 to 1995. She is a former city, state, and Florida Intercollegiate tennis champion, and was once ranked fifth in the nation as a junior amateur.
Dr. Jeanie Benedict Raffa Fred’s wife and classmate was a television producer and college professor, who changed directions in midlife to write about her passions. Jean’s books and teachings guide others to growth and self-empowerment. She is the author of the recent Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twin’s: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes, published by Schiffer Books in 2020.
Jim Marsicano, who died a few years ago, was my best friend and my daughter’s godfather. Jimmy and fellow classmate, John Annis, pioneered the idea of an online travel bureau that eventually became Travelocity and was copied by many others.
Coleman Gravlee became a Top Gun pilot.
Bobby Hicks a West Point graduate, retired from the U.S. Army as a brigadier general.
Philip Pettus passed away a few years ago and was an accomplished journalist.
Walker Lundy became a well-known journalist and editor of several major U.S. daily newspapers. He’s a member of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications Hall of Fame, and continues to write opinion pieces and served on the Pulitzer Prize jury. I followed Walker as sports editor of our high school newspaper.
Larry Thornberry a nationally respected journalist and humorist still pens frequent columns for American Spectator.
Stephen Stills, a singer, song writer and musician, is ranked number 28 in Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Linda and I were invited to join Steve and Judy Collins on his bus and backstage during a concert at Jacksonville’s Florida Theater in late 2018.
Rance Winkler, an inventor, has patented a number of medical devices in the radiation field that are used on human tissue.
Jimmy Butler, Captain USMC, was a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam who flew almost 1,000 rescue missions and saved countless lives was awarded 56 medals including the Silver Star. On one mission his helicopter was shot up so badly it never flew again. Following his service he earned a law degree and became a successful trial lawyer. He died in 2018.
Boyd Wynne, who passed away just a couple of months ago, received the Silver Flying Cross among other medals for his helicopter flying abilities in Vietnam and saved many soldiers under fire.
Tink McNutt, paid with his life going back for his third tour of Vietnam.
Dan Walker, retired FBI agent who now resides in Jacksonville.
I’m sure I’ve missed many, but the ones listed above are the folks I’m aware of personally, most of whom I consider friends. I’m proud to be associated with such an illustrious group of people. I’m saddened by my friend Sam’s passing but grateful that he reminded me of so many people I’ve been fortunate to know over the years.
America’s Deadliest Highway runs smack dab through Amelia Island, from one end to the other. According to a study by an organization called FindByPlate.com speed and ocean bridges make U.S. Highway 1 in Florida the deadliest road in the U.S. The highway runs 545 miles along the state’s east coast from Key West to its crossing of the St. Marys River into Georgia north of Boulogne in Nassau County and south of Folkston. The next most dangerous road says the study is U.S. Route 550 in Colorado with Florida’s Interstate 4 coming in third.
Florida Boasts America’s Most Business-Friendly Cities: According to an analysis from WalletHub, Florida boasts four of the top five greener pastures for folks abandoning Democrat-controlled and crime-ridden cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. for more conservative havens.
The report came after looking at 100 large U.S. cities and comparing their business environment, access to resources, and business costs broken down into 19 key metrics.
Earning the highest total score was Orlando. It was followed by Jacksonville at number 2, Tampa, number 3, and Miami in fourth place.
Rounding out the top ten were Durham, North Carolina; Boise, Idaho; Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Fort Worth, Texas; and Austin, Texas.
The honor of worst on the list of 100 cities went to Washington, D.C. followed by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; New York, New York; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Fremont, California all joining the nation’s capital at the bottom.
With the criminal enterprise running Fernandina Beach’s extortionist impact fee scheme the only reason our town didn’t make the list of “worst” is because it didn’t qualify as a large city. Otherwise it would have been right up there with those progressive “rape the local businesses hellholes.”
Wait! What? The Fernandina Beach City Commission voted to oust heavy-handed spend thrift City Manager Dale Martin, and then named a committee to aid them in finding his replacement.
So what did Committee Chairman, Tim Poynter, do? He suggested reappointing Martin, the guy the Commission just fired.
Poynter, a former Commissioner, who helped hire the terminated Martin in the first place, is a good businessman and a nice guy. But he’s a tone-deaf public official. His response when he disagrees with you on anything is to scream at you.
Would he rehire a restaurant manager he just fired to run one of his other joints? This oblivious committee should be disbanded.
We seem to be doing OK without a pricey city manager so far, so why do we need another one? And if we do let’s ask a group that doesn’t drink heavily to help.
But Wait! There’s More! A refrain you probably won’t hear in many local households tonight is: “Hey, honey round up the kids and let’s head over to The Fernandina Beach Golf Club for Drag Queen Bingo featuring the Queen of Witches.”
A May 15 press release from the Nassau County branch of County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF) announced that it sent a letter to the Fernandina Beach City Commission and staff alerting them to many city ordinances that are potentially violated by the city’s proposed Drag Queen Bingo event which is scheduled for this evening at the City Golf Club – a recreation property of the City of Fernandina Beach.
In the press release CCDF’s Nassau County Executive Director, Jack Knocke, said he sent a letter to the Mayor and City Commissioners saying:
“Several Fernandina Beach residents have brought to my attention the fact that our City Golf Club is planning to host a drag queen bingo on the 19th of this month. They were alarmed, upset, and extremely concerned that this was on city property in a recreational facility. A review of the Ordinances, it appears that it is not legal to hold drag queen bingo at the City Golf Club.
“As you know adult entertainment is a highly regulated enterprise in any community. So is gaming like bingo. It appears from the city ordinances that this activity proposed for May 19th may be in violation of the city ordinances and cannot go forward without violating the law.”
Knocke cited a number of city ordinances he says the city is violating by sanctioning the event and asked the city to cancel it. At this time I have no confirmation if it is still scheduled or has been called off. However, I’ve received emails saying it has been cancelled. I’ve been told that by allowing it to proceed the city is at risk of losing its liquor license if the show is exposed to minors.
Knocke also provided a letter for Fernandina residents to send to the city expressing their disapproval of such activities on city property saying: “If you want to share your opinion with the city leadership about gaming, Drag, and witchcraft on our public recreational property, please click the link below. You can send your own letter to city leadership sharing your opinion by clicking here. “
Housekeeping Item: Most readers commenting on this site are content with expressing their opinion and moving on. In most cases, whether they agree with what they’ve read, or disagree, they are literate and polite. However, some insist on repeated comments, attacking others, and otherwise making a nuisance of themselves. In many cases it appears that as the day progresses these perpetual whiners aren’t propelled so much by what they’ve read but by the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed. Of the 60 comments posted here last week nine were by someone who identifies as “Chris” apparently embarrassed to post his/her full name. I’ve asked that readers limit their comments to two and a maximum of three so they can respond to those who may disagree with them. That should be sufficient. The email used by Chris has been blocked until he/she abides by the rule.