MORRIS – Five community members were inducted into the Morris Community High School Education Foundation’s Hall of Distinction at the school Saturday night, honoring those from Morris who have made significant contributions to the community.
Sue Morse, of the MCHS Class of 1955, was one of them. Morse said she was honored to accept the award. She had a bit of wisdom to share with today’s students.
“Never stop learning,” she said. “That’s what keeps you alive and growing.”
Even when you’re out of school and in the adult world, she said, strive to continue to learn about everything you can. Knowledge will always serve you well.
After high school, Morse graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in nursing and had a long career as a nurse and administrator. When she retired, she began devoting herself to volunteering and community service and continues to serve her church and We Care, among others. She is also on the Grundy County Corn Festival Board of Directors and is Director of Morris Mobile Meals.
Education Foundation President Scott Shannon said this is the third year for the Hall of Distinction, which honors the school’s most distinguished graduates, staff, faculty and friends. The foundation also raises money for school programs each year.
The other four 2019 inductees included two in absentia – Joe Schmitz and Tara Stiles – and two posthumously – Dick Steele and Dr. Hugo Avalos.
Avalos grew up in Mexico City, where he received his medical degree. He completed his residency in Chicago, became a citizen of the United States and served in the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. During his Morris practice, Avalos delivered more than 1,000 babies. He also served for years as an MCHS team physician. Morris Hospital has an endowed scholarship in his name that supports students in health-related fields.
Several members of the Avalos family were present Saturday to accept the induction in his name.
One of Avalos’ grandchildren, William Tullman of Miami, said his grandfather loved Morris and that he would have been proud to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“He would have thought it was just the most amazing honor,” said his daughter Karen Avalos, of Morris.
“He was a true gentleman and the best role model,” said his granddaughter, Stephanie Fine of Virginia. “He loved people. His spirit was unlike anyone you’d ever meet. He was a shining light of positivity and class and intelligence.”
Inductee Richard “Dick” Steele graduated from MCHS in 1953. He was a three-sport athlete in school. As an adult, he worked at the Morris radio station WCSJ, where his duties included broadcasting Redskin games. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame for News Media. Steele was also a member of the Grundy County Board and the Morris Township Board.
Honorary inductee Joe Schmitz graduated from Streator Township High School in 1960. He served in the U.S. Navy, then worked as a banker in the county, retiring as president and CEO of Exchange Bank. Schmitz and his wife were two of the founders of Operation St. Nick. His message to today’s students is, “Never aim low or think small, and never give up on yourself.”
Inductee Tara Stiles, of the Class of 1996, majored in dance at Barat Conservatory, and continues to dance and perform with various companies. Stiles founded Strala, which is a style of yoga known for attention to ease and self-care. She and her husband support the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She believes that anything is possible when you put your passion behind helping people.