The ceremony, sponsored by the high school but the brainchild of retired Sprayberry teacher, alumna and Cobb County native Wanda Patterson, took place in the high school’s Ralph Quarles Auditorium. It included a special presentation and performances by two of the 12 inductees.
“I’ve been doing Golden Anniversaries for the sports programs for the last 14 years, but I’ve always wanted to do something for our arts and humanities programs,” said Patterson, who retired from teaching English and journalism at Sprayberry in 1999, and graduated from the school herself in 1964.
Patterson said the individuals selected for the first Wall of Fame class meet two qualifications. They all excelled in an area of humanities or arts and have received national or international recognition for their work.
“I hope that this program is going to inspire many more dreams,” Patterson said about inaugural class at the close of the hour-long program.
Sprayberry Principal John Kelly, who helped emcee a portion of the program with Patterson, said he was very proud to bring an honor like this to the school.
“It’s another way to tie Sprayberry’s old into the new,” he said. “This is just a small representation of all the awesome alumnae that we have out there.”
He said there are almost 50,000 people who have graduated from Sprayberry, dating back to 1952 when the school first opened its doors.
Humanities Wall of Fame honorees
The first-year inductees, whose pictures and accomplishments will be showcased in Sprayberry’s performing arts department, include:
• Chester Gibson: C/O 1959, former national “Speech Teacher of the Year” and “Debate Coach of the Year” at West Georgia State University,
• Robin Bolton: C/O 1962, “Who’s Who in American Art” who was recently commissioned to do a painting for the 25th anniversary of The Carter Center in Atlanta,
• Douglas Mabry: C/O 1967, historian who has preserved over 1,000 acres of land for parks, museums, landmarks and historic buildings,
• Jennifer Larmore: C/O 1976, Grammy Award-winning opera star and the most-recorded mezzosoprano of all time with more than 100 CDs,
• Roy Johansen: C/O 1981, best-selling novelist and award-winning screenwriter,
• Travis Tritt: C/O 1981, country music star who’s had five No. 1 singles and is a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
• Ty Pennington: C/O 1984, artist, designer and TV personality,
• Stephanie Michels: C/O 1985, Tony Award-winning Broadway/TV/film actor, winner of the Fred Astaire Award recipient and Miss Georgia in 1992,
• Marshall Ramsey: C/O 1986, syndicated political cartoonist whose cartoons appear in more than 400 newspapers and a two-time finalist for The Pulitzer Prize,
• Christopher Martin: C/O 1993, Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal trumpeter whose playing was featured on the soundtrack of the recent movie “Lincoln,”
• Michael Martin: C/O 2003, Boston Symphony and Boston Pops trumpeter and composer, and
• Adam Cannedy: C/O 2003, international opera and musical theater star who made his Lincoln Center debut in “Where the Wild Things Are.”
All except for Tritt, Pennington and Christopher and Michael Martin, who all had prior commitments, were in attendance at the ceremony.
Inductees humbled, honored
Each of the inductees in attendance took a few minutes after receiving their awards to thank the school, their families and the teachers they had while attending Sprayberry who molded them to become the people they are today.
Gibson was unable to speak due to his health but his wife, Faye Gibson, did make a few comments and read aloud something he prepared for the program.
“Someday another shy little kid from Sprayberry will be inspired by those 12 portraits and will grow up to be like those who are being honored (Sunday),” she read. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for including Chester on that wall.”
Another humbled recipient was Larmore, a 1976 graduate of Sprayberry who came the longest distance for the ceremony — from Paris, France.
“I am so honored and incredibly pleased to be included with all of these wonderful and talented and creative people,” she said. “I have had such great support in my life and I think it is precisely because of the support that I had starting here.”
She performed during the show, singing “Art is calling for me” by musician and composer Victor Herbert.
Another recipient who performed was Cannedy, who sang “C’est Moi” from the musical “Camelot.”
“The reason I do what I do and love what I do is because of the people in this room,” he said to the crowd of around 160 people. “My years at Sprayberry were years when I was challenged to make and meet my goals.”
Cannedy’s classmate and inductee, Michael Martin, was unable to attend but his mother Lynda Martin accepted the award on behalf of him and his older brother Christopher.
“There’s nothing quite like seeing your child doing what they love,” she said. “We could not be more proud of what they have accomplished and the men that they are.”