The Van ISD Education Foundation posthumously honored three alumni and former employees for their contributions to the district.
The foundation recognized Mike Hill, Danny Howell and Jerry Percifield as its distinguished alumni for 2013.
Annually, the foundation presents its Distinguished Alumni Award to at least one deserving Van High School graduate.
However, this year, the committee chose to honor the families of three men who died before this award was created. These men’s achievements, character and citizenship continue to serve as models for current students, according to a foundation news release.
Born in 1941 in Van Zandt County, Hill attended first through 12th grades at Van ISD. He graduated from the high school in 1960 and earned a bachelor’s degree from what was then East Texas State University in Commerce and a master’s degree from what was then Texas Eastern University in Tyler.
Hill began teaching in 1965 and also worked as a high school athletic coach. Throughout his 32-year career in Van ISD he worked as a junior high science teacher, the high school assistant principal, the junior high principal and the high school principal. He was the Van ISD assistant superintendent when he died in December 1997.
Hill married his wife, Judy, in 1962, and they had two sons, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild at the time of his death. Hill loved Van schools and working with students and “always wanted, and did, what was best” for the district’s students, according to the news release.
A 1955 Van High School graduate, Howell entered what was then North Texas State College in Denton as an art and design major.
After college, he worked for several years as an interior designer in the Dallas area before entering the teaching profession in the late 1960s.
In 1975, he and his wife, Joan, moved to Van where he became the high school art teacher. He “was always willing to help other departments such as music, drama and journalism with set and poster designs, program covers or any other art projects that were needed,” according to the news release.
His most well-known piece was the “Vandal Head” logo he created, which appears on stadium gates, Vandal T-shirts and throughout the district. Howell’s students succeeded in many TJC and East Texas State Fair competitions.
Howell retired in 2001 after 40 years of teaching art. He will be remembered for his love of students and quick sense of humor, according to the news release.
Born in Van in 1940, Percifield attended the town’s schools for all 12 years and graduated as valedictorian of his 1958 class, according to the news release.
He spent the early part of his teaching and coaching career in Cleburn and Joshua schools, but in 1967, he came to Van Junior High, where he stayed for the rest of his career. There, he taught math and coached football, basketball and track, according to the news release.
He earned a master’s degree in education from what is now UT Tyler in 1978, and that same year, he and his wife began helping out with Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Van High School. Percifield believed his calling was to teach the basics to junior high students. Therefore, when given the opportunity to move up to high school at one point, he declined, according to the news release.
He and his wife had two children and eight grandchildren. In 31 years of coaching, Percifield’s teams had only one losing season, according to the news release.
“However, his legacy is not in how many wins he had over the years, but in how he made a difference in the lives of his own children, and the students and athletes that he taught,” according to the news release.