Hall of Honor

2022 Hall of Honor Inductees

WINGS Hall of Honor
WINGS Hall of Honor Inductees
Pictured are 2022 WINGS Hall of Honor inductees. From left are Sharon Moses, sister of the late Larry Tobben, Educator Award, Dr. Erin Blankenship, Alumni Award, and Bridgette Kelch, Community Contributor Award.


2022 Hall of Honor Inductees

The School District of Washington’s WINGS Educational Foundation inducted its 13th class into the Hall of Honor on Saturday, September 24, at the Washington Elks.

The Hall of Honor was initiated in 2009 to recognize alumni, former educators, and community contributors who have shown exceptional personal, community or professional achievement.
The 2022 honorees were Dr. Erin Blankenship, Alumni Award, Bridgette Kelch, Community Contributor Award, and the late Larry Tobben, Educator Award.

Additionally, Beth Smith, third-grade teacher at Clearview Elementary, was recognized as the 2021 WINGS Teacher of the Year.

Smith has been a teacher for 29 years from first grade to fourth grade. She’s been with the School District of Washington for 27 years and has been teaching third grade at Clearview for 20 years.

WINGS recognizes a teacher of the year from the School District of Washington each year. The recipient receives a check for $1,000.

The recipient for the WINGS Alumni Award was Dr. Erin Blankenship.

Dr. Erin Blankenship was born at St. John’s Mercy in St. Louis to Cecil and Doris Blankenship. Growing up in Washington, she attended South Point and Fifth Street elementary schools, and graduated from Washington High School with honors in 1989.

Beyond her favorite family memories, one thing she loved about Washington was the public library. “The Washington Public Library is one of the first places I remember going as a young child, and I was a fixture there throughout my childhood,” she said. “During the summers, my mom used to take me twice a day. In the morning, I’d check out the maximum allowed number of books, and she’d bring me back in the afternoon to return those and check out a new stack.”

Erin graduated Summa Cum Laude from Truman State University in May 1994, with General Honors, and Mathematics & Computer Science Honors, earning a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Minors in Statistical Methods, English and Philosophy. In 1996, she earned a Master of Statistics from North Carolina State University. Erin worked in the Department of Statistics at North Carolina State University as a Graduate Assistant from August 1994 until her graduation in May of 1999, where she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Statistics.

Upon graduation in 1999, Dr. Blankenship joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a joint teaching and research appointment with the college, and during her tenure there, she has held numerous academic positions, developed and taught educational courses, participated in professional organizations and been the recipient of many distinguished awards. Currently, she is the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Statistics and Data Analytics at UNL, which will be launching this fall.

At UNL, Dr. Blankenship has held the positions of Associate Dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (July 2015 – 2022), Assistant Professor of Statistics (July 1999-June 2005), Associate Professor of Statistics (July 2005 – June 2012), and Professor of Statistics (July 2012 – current). She has developed and taught many undergraduate and graduate level courses during her tenure. In addition, her selected university and department service includes an extensive list with positions serving in multiple roles on various teams, committees and councils.

According to the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Tiffany Heng-Moss, “Dr. Blankenship has established herself as a senior faculty member whose advice and counsel on academic issues is sought by her colleagues. She has always been innovative. She was instrumental in infusing active learning and writing into the undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches to help her students develop and communicate their understanding of the material and applying the concepts in useful and meaningful ways, as opposed to merely memorizing formulas and equations. Impressed with her success, her colleagues are now incorporating active learning and writing into their mathematical statistics courses and benefitting from the evidence-based teaching strategies that Erin developed.”

In 2016, Dr. Blankenship was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Nebraska College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. She is a Fellow with the American Statistical Association (elected 2015), and has been the recipient of many distinguished honors and awards for her excellence in education.

“Dr. Blankenship has made significant contributions to undergraduate, graduate and extended education programming within the Department of Statistics,” Heng-Moss said. “Her research is innovative and the success in building interdisciplinary teams supported by substantial external funds is testimony to her productive faculty career. She has established an enviable record of accomplishments and impacts that can serve as models for all faculty.”

In her free time, Dr. Blankenship enjoys reading and taking walks with her dog, Tulip. She resides in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The recipient for the WINGS Community Contributor Award was Bridgette Kelch.


Bridgette graduated from Washington High School in 1996. She attended East Central College, where she received an Associate’s Degree in History, and Southeast Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Historic Preservation with a double minor in History and Graphic Design. Bridgette also holds a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration from Lindenwood University and is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Charitable Financial Planning from Texas Tech University.

A public speaker and national award-winning downtown revitalization expert, Kelch has worked in downtown revitalization for over 20 years. She is the former Executive Director of Downtown Washington, Inc., and since 2019, is the Executive Director of the East Central College Foundation. She is a founding member of the Missouri Main Street Connection Inc., and currently serves as the treasurer.

During her time with Downtown Washington, Inc., she serviced a vital role in maintaining and growing the events that draw local residents as well as tourists to the downtown area. She was a key person in writing the Neighborhood Assistance grants that funded the revitalization of the second oldest building in Downtown and the Old Main Post Office. These projects have helped solidify established services in the Downtown district, including postal services and the farmer’s market. Her achievements are numerous and are a direct reflection of her commitment to the town she grew up in.

In 2012, Downtown Washington, Inc. was honored as a Great American Main Street, one of five in the nation. This achievement is the highest award that a Main Street community can receive. “This achievement would not have been possible without Bridgette’s hard work and her ability to create and lead a great team of staff and volunteers,” wrote the late Larry Tobben, a lifelong resident of Washington, educator, and a former member of the Washington Historical Society.

In 2006, Bridgette was awarded the Arthur Mattingly Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University.

“Bridgette is a shining example of success,” Tobben said. “Her drive and determination are thanks, in no small part, to the experiences and education that she received in the Washington School District. Bridgette is a role model, a leader, an inspiration, a champion of history, and a fine example of what the Washington School District can achieve.”

Bridgette is dedicated to community service, not only at work, but in her personal time as well. She is a member of many community organizations, including several board positions. Bridgette played a pivotal role in the Washington Jaycees All Abilities Park Project. She helped guide the Jaycees through the City approval process and was instrumental in getting the project funded. Even though her work demands the majority of her time, Bridgette carves out time to do everything she can to help promote and grow all of the organizations that she serves.

Bridgette resides in Washington with her husband, David, her three indoor fur-children, and an outdoor feral colony of over 20 cats. She is an avid traveler and has been to 200 of the 420-plus National Park sites.

The recipient for the WINGS Educator Award was the late Larry Tobben.


Larry was born on Nov. 14, 1948, and grew up in Washington. He attended St. Gertrude Grade School, Washington Middle School and graduated from Washington High School in 1967. After high school, Larry graduated from Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla, and earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. After graduation, Larry returned home and served the School District of Washington as an elementary art teacher for 33 years. During his tenure, Larry worked at Campbellton, Fifth Street, Labadie, Washington West and South Point elementary schools. Larry’s influence and talent reached each school in the district.

Larry’s kindness and selfless attitude set him apart from his peers. In fact, Larry was nominated for the WINGS Educator award by more than 20 of his colleagues.

The nomination comments included: “Ever generous with his talent, his time and sometimes his own resources were typical of Larry.” Humorous, patient, creative, energetic and non-judgmental are descriptors for Larry when he was engaged with children, colleagues and others. He stepped up to make every task his personal best. Larry was always willing to lend a hand and use his creative talents to help others. He was supportive of the Art Exhibit at the Washington Town and Country Fair. Larry encouraged every one of his students to participate in the art show. He made sure that all who entered, his student or not, earned a ribbon. At the Washington School District Art Fair, Larry had each student pick their personal best work to display. If you went to an elementary music program or play, the backdrops were more than likely Larry’s work. He took time and had the patience to help the elementary student council every year to create a Christmas mural for Downtown Washington Christmas mural contest. Halls, bulletin boards and classrooms all had received Larry’s touch.”

For over a dozen years, Larry and his twin brother, Gary, created and decorated the Washington Middle School’s gym and cafeteria for the Washington Athletic Dinner Auction. Larry could work magic with paper.

In remembering Larry’s bravery and consideration for his colleagues, one writes “the day before Thanksgiving, Larry took the wheel of a Mercury Cougar. He drove his fellow teachers through a blinding winter storm, through the winding hills of Augusta and across Augusta Bottom Road and on to Washington. Besides driving through the horrific weather, he had to endure the screams from his fellow teachers as he maneuvered the roads. He was successful.” It was not uncommon during snowy weather for Larry to gather car keys of his colleagues, to brush off the snow and start their cars so they would be ready to head home. Larry’s humor, compassion and willingness to go beyond what was required made him “our knight in shining armor.”

After his retirement from the District, Larry and his twin brother Gary opened Urban Accents Home Décor and Boutique in Washington. “That store was the love of Larry’s life,” his sister Joyce remembers, “the only reason it closed was due to health reasons.” After his brother Gary passed away, Larry adopted his brother’s dog Tucker, and the two were inseparable.

Larry was active in the community and a member of many clubs and organizations. In addition to being a member of the Elks, and the Knights of Columbus, he was an active member of the Washington Historical Society’s Education Committee. Even in retirement, each May during fourth grade history days, Larry would dress as a World War II soldier to educate the students about Washington’s participation in the war. In the summer, at the Kohlmueller Farm, Larry would demonstrate to the YMCA camp attendees how bricks were made from clay and straw. In the fall, at the Odd Fellows Cemetery, Larry would portray Emil Hendrix (a.k.a. the Frog Man) for fifth and sixth graders.

Larry was a member of St. Gertrude’s Church where he enjoyed planning trips for the YOTS (Young Old Times Society) Club. Trips to musicals and plays were just a few examples of what Larry planned. His belief was that you are never too old to enjoy the fine arts and a little bit of culture. He also loved to use his creative talents and volunteer with the church’s flowers, holiday decorating and landscaping.

For many years, Larry was an active director for WINGS, serving on various committees and continuing to support the District. “Larry loved WINGS mission of supporting teachers! He was generous of his time, talents and gifts. A true ambassador for the WINGS Educational Foundation.” said Susan Harms, Executive Secretary for WINGS. He truly loved the School District of Washington. His sister Joyce remembers, “He was a Blue Jay through and through.”

Larry passed away on October 29, 2021. He will always be remembered for his kindness, compassion and service to those around him, and the School District and community of Washington.


Contact
WINGS Educational Foundation
PO Box 203
Washington, MO 63090
Phone: (636) 231-2000
501(c)3 Corporation

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Hall of Honor

Nomination Form



Community Leader Award

2022
Bridgette Kelch

2020-2021
Bob Zick

2019

Rich Deppe


2018
Herb Homeyer


2017
Andrea Rau

2016
James Jackson

2015
Rick Rehmeier

2014

Diane Brunworth

2013
Bill & Judy Verdine

2012

Ron Cowan

2011

Jack and Jo Ann Hagedorn

2010
Frank and Ruth Wood

2009

Ben Geisert


Educator Award

2022
Larry Tobben

2020-2021
Mark Wessels

2019

John Carter

2018

Doris Obermark Jones


2017
Carolyn Shotwell

2016
Jim Gephardt

2015
Jean Van Der Kamp

2014

Karen Dawson

2013
Nelson Hall

2012
Gene Hunt

2011

Jim Scanlan

2010
Jackie Krafft

2009

Dr. Donald Northington


Alumni Award

2022
Dr. Erin Blankenship

2020-2021
Frank Saucier

2019

Phyllis Edler

2018

Tim Wood
James Perdew


2017
Rocky Sickmann

2016
Steven Minning

2015
Dr. Kenneth Niemeyer

2014
Lloyd Pfautsch

2013
Clifford Aitch

2012

David W. Terre

2011
Lester Stumpe

2010
Rev. Dr. Harold Wilke

2009

Lorene Ramsey