Six distinguished alumni of North Platte High were honored on August 27 at the Prairie Arts Center during the “Education after Hours” meeting.
The six alums have made spectacular contributions to the world in places as far apart as Ethiopia and New York State, and in places as close as North Platte itself.
Each year, distinguished high school alumni are honored, but last year the honors were postponed due to COVID-19. Therefore, the two years of distinguished alumni were honored at this year’s gathering.
Here are the six winners – the first three listed are for 2020 and the second three, for 2021:
Captain Ronnie Baker (retired), class of 1961
Recognized for military honors and service to youth.
Ronnie Baker attended Osgood and McKinley West Schools elementary school. He graduated from North Platte High School in 1961 and was its valedictorian. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and subsequently took flight training. He began his service as an officer and pilot on the island of Coronado. He holds an MA from George Washington University.
During his career in the Navy, he served several deployments on aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam conflict, as well as in the Mediterranean, near Iceland and Sicily; to name a few. He served assignments at the Pentagon and was the head of the Naval Air Facility at Andrews Air Force Base.
His awards include two Legion of Merit awards, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Air Medals and two Navy Commendation Medals.
After 30 years as an Aviator and Commander of the Navy, Ronnie retired from active service in the Navy in 1995. He continued his dedication to his country by serving with the Young Marines organization and holding positions of leadership for the Sea Cadet Program to promote interest and skills. in seamanship and aviation.
As a result of his tireless and exemplary service, Ronnie has received the Sea Cadet Corps Hall of Fame Award, the NSCC President’s Medal, and the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award.
He also enjoys hunting and spending time outdoors. Ronnie believes America’s future depends on his youth and is always proud to say that he is originally from Nebraska.
Cheryl “Cheri” Edis Erickson, Class of 1962
Recognized for service to the community of North Platte
Cheryl Edis Erickson was born and raised in North Platte. After graduating from North Platte High School, she attended Kearney State College. She graduated with a degree in elementary education and returned to North Platte as a teacher. She then opened The Decorator in Westfield Shopping Center and ran it for 23 years. During this time, she volunteered for her sons’ school events and gave private lessons.
As a retired educator and business owner, Cheri brings her unique skills to many volunteer positions. The Town Hall Lecture Series has been one of her board positions and she is a founding board member of the North Platte Community Playhouse Guild. Cheri helped raise funds and volunteered her time to renovate the performance hall. She is the past president of the North Platte Arts Study League and a founding member of the Creativity Unlimited Arts Council.
Cheri is a member of the board of directors and past president of the Prairie Arts Center and has been integral in the creation of the art center and the safeguarding of this historic building. She led others to raise funds and make their dreams come true in the restored 1913 Federal Building.
When the 100 Women Who Care group was founded, Cheri became one of its members. She and her husband are also members of the Legacy Circle of Giving for Great Plains Health Care Foundation.
Cheri and her husband, Alan, travel the world a lot, and she enjoys talking to others about her hometown of North Platte.
Deborah Murphy, Class of 1968
Recognized for his achievements in the arts
Deborah was born and raised in North Platte. After graduating from North Platte High in 1968, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Kearney State College. She has worked as a professional artist since the early 1970s and has exhibited her work widely in the Midwest. Deb has a studio in Omaha and is an adjunct at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.
Deb’s work has been shown throughout Nebraska as well as in New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, California, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Oklahoma. His work has been published in magazines, calendars, universities, and is in private collections at various locations in Omaha, Lincoln, and Kansas City.
Best known for her landscapes of eastern Nebraska, particularly the valleys of the Missouri and Platte rivers, Deborah also painted a series of large porch paintings. She was the recipient of an Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council. His work is visible on his site:.
In her community, Deb has been a mentor for the TeamMates program for 20 years and regularly gives blood for the Red Cross. She generously donates the proceeds from the sale of her work for the benefit of various causes.
Deborah is a mentor to art students at Omaha Metro who have taken her beginner / elementary level drawing course for the past 17 years.
Deb is listed in Who’s Who in American Art.
Reverend Dr Richard Hansen, Class of 1970
Recognized for its educational and humanitarian activities
Richard Paul Hansen was born in North Platte and attended Cody Elementary School. In his final year, he worked after school and on Saturdays in a shoe store in the city center. After graduating from North Platte High, he attended Iowa State University and, after holding youth leadership positions, began his studies for ordination in the Presbyterian Church.
He obtained his Masters of Divinity from Oxford, UK in 1979 and his Masters of Divinity from Princeton, NJ in 1980.
In 1996, he received his doctorate in ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Rich has pastored in several Presbyterian churches across the United States, including the First Presbyterian Church in Visalia, California, for 22 years. This church developed and grew in many ways under his leadership. He is described as a gifted preacher.
Rich and his wife, Marilyn, left the United States in 2010 to become professors of systems theology, university deans and faculty council chairs of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. New projects and programs were established during the four years they were in this missionary mission. During their stay, they enjoyed the African landscape and wildlife.
Upon their return to the United States in 2014, Rich served as an interim pastor in several locations and wrote a book Paradox Lost: Rediscovering the Mystery of God.
He also wrote chapters in Bible study books, articles in religious journals, and published some of his sermons.
Rich retired in 2018 and is currently a leadership coach and consultant with The Outreach Foundation to support missions in Africa. His life has been an inspiration to many.
He and Marilyn have three children and two grandchildren.
Marvin webb, Class of 1965
Recognized for outstanding achievement in business and community service.
Marvin graduated from North Platte High in 1965, then graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture in Architecture in 1971 and began his career in Omaha. In 1992, he and his wife, Jeanne, opened their own practice in a home office on Grand Island – Webb and Company Architects, Inc.
Marv’s passion is to preserve historic buildings. Its designs bring modern styles while retaining the historic character of the building. His office is now in a traditional display case, with today’s technology hidden behind vintage furniture. He has helped restore many buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in accordance with federal guidelines. The services of his company include design, planning, preliminary cost analysis, space planning for tenants, historic renovation, documentation of construction contracts, project management and ADA consulting, for public and private projects.
During his career he has been involved with civic and community organizations including youth sports, church, regional planning commission, Habitat for Humanity, Nebraska State Fair, Boy Scouts , the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Code Advisory Board and the Stuhr Museum.
He is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, holding leadership positions in the Nebraska Chapter, including as President. Several of his projects involve the Community Redevelopment Authority.
In 2002, his company received the Small Business of the Year award from the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.
Marvin and Jeanne have three grown children and several grandchildren.
Gilbert “Gil” Wilkinson, Class of 1960
Recognized for his exceptional achievements in business, community service and youth.
Gil graduated from the NPHS in 1960 and attended the Parks School of Business in Denver. He married his high school girlfriend, Lynn Cohagen, and they were married 51 years before his untimely death in 2011. Not only did Gil and Lynn graduate from North Platte High, but also their three sons and several grandchildren. .
Gil has been a strong role model and mentor to his grandchildren.
In 1963, Gil opened an Army Surplus store. He spent a few years in the 1960s in a new real estate business with Murray Schad. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Gil’s Century 21 franchise was Nebraska’s largest residential real estate company outside of Omaha and Lincoln.
Gil has been a business owner and real estate developer in North Platte for six decades. He has held dozens of leadership positions in the community including the Chamber of Commerce, Ambassadors, Jaycees, Boy Scouts, NPHS Booster Club and Youth Sports Coach.
He was honored to be a life member of the Nebraska Jaycees in 1976 for his outstanding service to the organization, and he is a life member of the Jefferson School Parent Teacher Association for his contribution to the school and its students. . He had a passion for the outdoors and scouting and was a family man and scout leader of Troop 291 when his sons were in the scouts. Twenty-four young men from his troop were awarded Eagle Scout badges, including his three sons. In 1979, Gil received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed on a volunteer adult Boy Scout.
Many boys from the “old quarter” still consider Gil a second father. Gil has been described as a developer of people as well as community development in North Platte.
(This report was first published in the Bulletins print edition of August 25, 2021.)
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