By Rosemary K. Otzman
Four, newly chosen Distinguished Graduates of Belleville High School were honored in ceremonies April 10, along with 71 new inductees into the National Honor Society.
Distinguished Graduates for 2014 are: Dr. Leilah Blakeney Lyons, Class of 1994; Jean Morris, Class of 1948; Pamela O’Neill, Class of 1982; and a posthumous award to Catherine Krebs, Class of 1917.
Dr. Leilah Blakeney Lyons, ‘94
Dr. Lyons was not present for the ceremony, but she was represented on the auditorium stage by her mother, Martha Toth, vice president of the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education.
Dr. Lyons was awarded the Distinguished Graduate honor for her achievement in computer science, learning science, and museum sciences.
In 1994, Leilah Toth was the BHS Valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. She attended the University of Michigan and earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as a certificate in Museum Studies. She took a joint appointment as assistant professor of both Computer Science and the Learning Sciences at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
She has also served as the Director of Digital Learning at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, NY. Her scientific research has been repeatedly funded by the National Science Foundation. She is a noted lecturer and researcher.
Jean Morris, ‘48
Jean Morris was honored as Distinguished Graduate for her achievement in artistic endeavors and community service.
As a high school student, Jean Baum was involved in the junior and senior class plays, basketball, and the marching band as a tenor saxophone player. She went on to attend Michigan State University and graduated with a bachelor of science in Horticultural Sciences.
She married Homer Morris and they had two children, Kerry and Kim. She worked in a family-owned business and Coy Kendall greenhouses. She currently does office work at Bethany Daycare. She is a member of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts and on the art show committee.
Morris started a second career in 1998, taking photos of flowers and also oil painting on canvas. When her first painting sold in 2005 at Trinity Episcopal Church, it was a major breakthrough for her. She maintains art booths at the Strawberry Festival, Art Affair on Main, Garden Market Place, and the art show at St. Anthony’s.
Pamela O’Neill, ‘82
Pamela O’Neill was awarded the honor of Distinguished Graduate for her work in the community and education.
After graduating from BHS, Pamela Zoller earned five degrees: a bachelor of arts in Business Administration and a master’s in Labor and Industrial Relations from Michigan State University, a bachelor of arts in teaching and a master’s degree in School Administration from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s in Curriculum Mathematics from Walden University.
She currently is a teacher at McBride Middle School.
She started her career as a Human Resource professional and transferred to the teaching profession. She is a member of the Van Buren Education Foundation and helps to raise funds to provide grants for teachers.
She has been awarded the Van Buren Exemplary Employee Award for her outstanding work as a math teacher. In the community, O’Neill is a past president of the Belleville Business and Professional Women’s Club and is the current finance chairwoman of the newly renamed Belleville Area Women’s Club.
She is married to Todd O’Neill and they have four children: Harry, Ryan, Austin, and Stephanie.
Catherine Krebs, ‘17
Catherine Krebs was awarded the posthumous honor of Distinguished Graduate for her achievement in the field of education.
She was a born educator. Her teaching career began in Belleville in a one-room schoolhouse located in Sumpter and ended at Rawsonville Elementary in 1978. Her family lines trace back to the first family of settlers in Van Buren Township.
Krebs graduated from BHS in 1917. She was editor in chief of the very first BHS Yearbook. She was the first of four generations to graduate from BHS.
She attended Michigan Normal College, where she earned her teaching degree. In 1920 she married her high school sweetheart James Clark Campbell and moved to Battle Creek.
Early in their marriage, her husband became ill, which forced them to return to Belleville for the support system of their families. Her husband passed away two years after the birth of their daughter Janet. To make ends meet, she took a teaching job in Dearborn and worked other jobs on the weekends. In 1959, she returned to Belleville after retiring from the Dearborn Schools and began teaching third grade at Edgemont Elementary. Even after she retired from Van Buren Public Schools, she continued as a substitute teacher in the district.
At the age of 74 Campbell taught remedial reading at Sumpter School as part of a Title One program. Then she worked at Rawsonville Elementary as a paraprofessional until she turned 80.
BHS Honor Society inductees
After honoring the Distinguished Graduates, the following 71 inductees into the National Honor Society were introduced by present NHS members:
Aurea Bearfield, Bianca Bellinger, Jared Bellingham, Abbey Bentley, Brandon Bond, Jay’len Boone, Karrie Brashear, Timo Budiono, Shannon Burton, Brendan Carr, Domique Charles, Evan Charles, Bianca Crowder, Aryanna Daniels, Damon Denson, Jordan Edwards, Carlynn Gasser, Alexis Hamel, Leah Hardy, Alec Harris, Denzel Harris, Taylor Harrison, Mya Harshaw, Zachary Hermosillo-DeBoer, Marissa Higgins, Bailey Hunt, Emi Iwao, Jayla Jackson, Brian James, Monyca Johnson, Britteny Jones, Shelby Kelemen, Ethan Klobucar, Wesley LaPrairie, Mary Leake, Erion Lee, Jair Leggett, Matthew Ley, Verniece Lowe, Alex Maes, Morgan Marshall, Olivia McRitchie, Marissa Moore, Carly Mutschler, Douglas Nance, Sherri Neal, Jada Nelson, Joshua Nichols, Brittany Nofz, Kameron Owen, Joshua Patton, Nicole Pearce, Victoria Pestano, Brittany Powe, Demi Przystup, Bri’onna Reese, Stephen Rimando, Andrea Rodriguez, Zjahkeria Russell, Ariana Salisbury, Danielle Saval, Courtney Schweers, Jonathan Spraggins, Josh Sterly, Hannah Terrell, Tanishia Townsend, Kyle Walker, Xavier Walker, Devoren Wesley, Ryan Youmans, and Kendyl Zantop.
By Rosemary K. Otzman