On an afternoon Woodland School inducted two alumni into its Hall of Fame, the master of ceremonies told students at the assembly Friday they could be next.
The Woodland Education Foundation honored Linda (Christopher) Tarrson and Jeffrey Walter.
“Be mindful the three of us were where you are today at one time,” said Greg Tullis, hall of famer and master of ceremonies. “Never in our wildest imaginations did we ever think we’d be honored with such a distinction from our own school and get to speak to the student body.”
Walter seconded Tullis, joking he had no idea such a distinction was in the cards.
“When I was told I was nominated to be a hall of fame inductee, I thought, they have a hall of fame for high school football players,” he said to laughter.
Walter, who has two daughters — Kassidy, who graduated from Woodland in 2017, and Kaitlyn, who is a sophomore at Woodland — works as general manager, and now regional sales manager, with Jack Doheny Companies in Joliet.
He told students he knew he wasn’t bound for college, but still had a plan.
“I was the hands-on type,” he said. “I liked working with motors.”
Walter said he attended a tech school in Phoenix.
“We packed up the pickup truck and headed West,” he said.
He touted his experience in Woodland sports as giving him the discipline needed to succeed in his career. Although his varsity football team went winless, he said he was proud they made it through a season with 14 players, considering each team needs to have at least 11 players every play.
“We weren’t going to forfeit, we weren’t going to let it happen,” he said.
Similar to Walter, Tarrson went to work shortly after high school.
She went to work for the John O. Butler Company, working her way up to become the assistant to the CEO.
She remembered her first day, however, was a scary one.
“When I went to see the HR department, they forgot they hired me,” Tarrson said. “I said they were obligated to keep their promise. They did, and it was a wonderful job.”
She said the position allowed her to see roughly 60 countries, harking back to what she told Woodland teachers she wanted to do when she graduated — travel.
Upon retirement, Tarrson married “Bud,” the owner of the company. As head of the philanthropist trust, along with her husband, she funded Tarrson Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tarrson spoke most passionately about co-founding “Creati-Vets,” a nonprofit that helps combat veterans learn how to use music, art and creative writing to address emotional and physical needs that arise from service-related trauma.
“We’ve helped more than 100 veterans heal,” she said.
“ ... We’ve worked with famous musicians in Nashville, who help veterans with songwriting.”
Her message to students was “hold onto your dream. Find a dream. Believe in yourself.”
Walter told students: “Be yourself. Don’t forget where you come from, the community you’re a part of. Rely on God.”
Tullis concluded the ceremony by reminding students to make a plan, and “be passionate about it.”
“I hope I’m around long enough to be master of ceremonies and introduce one or more of you for the hall of fame.”