Maryville Daily Times: Alexander honors Maryville Scholars, praises school, nation

Posted on April 26, 2017

Nearly a century ago, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s family placed a high value on a Maryville High School eduction, he told top scholars and their families Wednesday night.

About 90 years ago, his grandfather sold a farm in Loudon County and moved to Maryville so Alexander’s father could attend MHS, the Republican lawmaker explained during the 36th Maryville Scholars Banquet at the Airport Hilton.

His father became a principal and served on the Maryville Board of Education for 25 years, while his mother ran a kindergarten and nursery school in their home.

“I’m the only U.S. secretary of education who went to kindergarten for five years,” quipped Alexander, who also was twice governor of Tennessee and now chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Over the next 10 years, you’re likely to see major medical innovations,” he told attendees at the annual event, which honors MHS juniors and seniors who excel academically while taking advanced classes.

Citing nonaddictive painkillers, an artificial pancreas, early identification and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, Alexander said, “Where will most of these innovation come from? The United States of America.”

He went on to tout America as a great place to raise a family and start a business, and where you can have a political viewpoint very different than the person sitting beside you, yet after a presidential election the transition of power is peaceful.

“It’s a privilege to be able to attend Maryville High School,” he said, “And it’s a privilege to grow up in, and work in, this nation.”

The 45 Maryville Scholars are a reflection of a community that invests in education with its tax dollars and its time, the senator said.

Alexander Scholarships

Taylor Drake received this year’s $25,000 Lamar Alexander Scholarship, and Preston Robinette received the $15,000 scholarship. Three other finalists will receive $1,000 scholarships: Hannah Gorga, Emma Hendrix and Zachary Tate.

MHS faculty members vote on the scholarship recipients, based on not only the students’ academic achievement but also their involvement in service, leadership and extracurricular activities.

In an emotional thank you to everyone, Taylor singled out his twin sister, Madison, saying “She’s my rock and my best friend.”

An AP Scholar with Honor, Taylor has run cross country and track, in addition to acting, serving on the student council and more. With a friend he started “Hike Untied,” a hiking campaign that has raised awareness and more than $5,000 for local organizations working to fight human trafficking.

Preston, an AP Scholar with Distinction, has lettered in tennis and soccer. Her senior-year soccer achievements included being named Regional Player of the Year, All-State and an East/West All Star.

“She is a role model in everything she does,” said MHS guidance counselor Kim Porter in announcing the scholarship.

The Maryville City Schools Foundation manages the scholarship program, currently funded through an endowment made possible by a grant Alexander recommended through the Lockheed Martin Corp. Charitable Award Fund.

Preston also is the valedictorian of the Class of 2017, and Matthew Cone is the salutatorian.