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A History of the Wendell Phillips Hall of Fame

By Mary E. Rush

The Wendell Phillips Hall of Fame was established in 1979 during the school’s Diamond Jubilee Anniversary (75th) celebration.  In December 1978 Mrs. Ernestine D. Curry, principal, and Mrs. Mary E. Rush, business teacher, collaborated to set up the overall objectives and activities for a year-long anniversary celebration.  Subsequently, a Diamond Jubilee Committee was formed from an enthusiastic group of Phillips teachers and staff, some of whom were Phillips alumni.  The Diamond Jubilee Committee wanted a celebration that included the following:  alumni guest speakers, student projects, open house, alumni hall of fame, and souvenir book.

                The Diamond Jubilee celebrations with numerous student-centered activities were brought to fruition, and one of the culminating events was the Wendell Phillips Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, October 21, 1979, at 3:00 p.m.  It was so successful that the Wendell Phillips Hall of Fame and Hall of Fame Committee became permanent entities at Wendell Philips High School.  Kudos to Mrs. Ernestine D. Curry, the Diamond Jubilee Committee, and the Hall of Fame sub-committee.              

                    Dear Class of 1980

You, the Class of 1980, are in many ways the most outstanding ever to have passed through the halls of Wendell Phillips….

                You have noticed, perhaps hundreds of times this past year, the names and faces that make up the Phillips Hall of Fame.  Their success is your heritage.  That they achieved excellence, many in times much less difficult, guarantees that you have an excellent chance of accomplishing whatever you desire and having your star rise to new and magnificent heights, shining perhaps even more brightly than theirs….

                With knowledge comes wisdom.  With freedom comes responsibility.  Don’t let us down.  You, the graduates of the eighties, are our tomorrow.


Much to the surprise and delight of the student body, the Hall of Fame inductees returned home to Wendell Phillips High School on Sunday, October 21, 1979, at 3:00 p.m.  Radio and television stations and newspapers had heralded their expected arrival, but some students remained skeptical but hopeful.  This skepticism was quickly put aside, however, as the successful alumni from coast to coast and around the world converged on Wendell Phillips High School to receive honors bestowed upon them and ignite the hopes of those who were following in their footsteps.  They beat a path back to their humble beginnings at 244 East Pershing Road in Chicago, Illinois.  Needless to say, they were enthusiastically and lovingly received by the students and Hall of Fame Committee whose morale had remained high since the idea of a Wendell Phillips Hall of Fame was first conceived.  The first person to arrive with her escort was Marla Gibbs, who portrayed Florence on “The Jeffersons”; she was very loving, kind, approachable and personable, embracing everyone she encountered.  Before leaving the Social Room for the saber salute and induction ceremony in the auditorium, the inductees robustly sang “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”



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