Center Distinguished Alumni Award
The Center Education Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes graduates whose deeds and character exemplify outstanding achievement in their life's work and/or service to their communities. The honorees' spirit and leadership are worthy of recognition and have inspired praise and gratitude among their peers.
Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award must be graduates of Center High School and must have graduated at least 25 years prior to their induction.
The award was started in 2012 and recipients are recognized annually at the Foundation Gala. The Foundation is proud announce the 2017 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award; John Cassidy of the class of 1951 and Bob Beltz of the class of 1968.
John Cassidy (Class of 1951) - John is the founder of the Winter Sports Program for Special Olympics of Kansas. As President of the Kansas City Ski Club, John got involved with the fledging Winter Sports Program in 1984. It became his passion. Working with volunteers and staff from the Ski Club and Special Olympics Kansas, John created the program that has been named in his honor, the John L Cassidy Heartland Winter Games. The competition includes over 350 athletes each year competing in Alpine and Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoe Racing, Speed & Figure Skating and Floor Hockey at venues including Snow Creek in Weston, MO.
In addition, John has served as a national coach and special advisor for the Special Olympics US program, attending various international competitions and training programs. John served on the Special Olympics Kansas Board of Directors for 18 years, 2 of those as Board Chair. He also served as a member of the Special Olympics International US Leadership Council from 2003-2008, including time as Chairman from 2005-2007.
Bob Beltz (Class of 1968) Bob Beltz is a minister, teacher, author and film producer. After graduation from Center High School in 1968, Bob went to UMKC where he earned a bachelor's in economics. He then moved to Denver where he earned his Master of Arts and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Denver Seminary. Bob was founder and then Teaching Pastor of Cherry Hills Community Church in Denver, and Senior Pastor of High Street Community Church in Santa Cruz, California.
Bob joined the Anschutz Corporation of Denver, Colorado as a special advisor to Philip Anschutz, Chairman of the Board. In this role Bob helped develop, produce, and market films for the Anschutz Film Group, parent company of Walden Media (Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, Around the World in 80 Days, I Am David, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Bristol Bay Productions (Ray, Sahara). Bob was the co-producer of Crusader Entertainment's film Joshua, based on Joseph Girzone's best-selling novel, and helped develop and produce Amazing Grace: the William Wilberforce Story.
Bob is the author of eleven books including the best-selling Daily Disciplines of the Christian Man, his latest novel, Somewhere Fast, a story about God, Harley-Davidsons, Route 66, and the spiritual journey, and Real Christianity, an update of William Wilberforce's book from 1797, done in conjunction with the film, Amazing Grace. As the President of The Telos Project ministry, Bob continues to write, teach, and speak both nationally and internationally for both Christian and secular groups. He has been a featured speaker at the International Convention of the YMCA, the Council on National Policy, and the CEO Forum at the Aspen Institute. Bob is currently the Senior Pastor at Highline Community Church in Denver.
If you would like to nominate a recipient for the Distinguished Alumni Award, click here to download the nomination form.
- Gary Neal Johnson (1968) - Gary is a long time presence on the theatrical stages of Kansas City as well as other cities. Perhaps his best known role is Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Kansas City Repertory production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
- Jon Cook (1989) - As the CEO of Kansas City based advertising agency VML, Jon has led the company to significant international growth. During Jon's tenure at VML, the company has grown from 30 employees in Kansas City to over 1,900 spread over six continents
- Steven Koltai (1972) - As a social entrepreneur, Steven has done pioneering work in using entrepreneurial practices to help low income communities in the US and abroad to dramatically improve their circumstances.
- Ben Schafer (1989) - Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a leading international researcher on the use of thin walled structures for more cost effective buildings.
- Jerome Pearson (1956) - Space scientist and aerospace engineer, inventor of many technologies used in space exploration
- Judge Lisa Hardwick (1978) - Attorney, legislator and judge. First African American woman to serve on Missouri Court of Appeals
- Julie Mattson (1966) - School Board members, volunteer and community leader. Advocate for kids for many years
While the Center School District does not sponsor class reunions, we are happy to help publicize reunions that are organized by class members. We can also help to schedule tours of the school and the Center District Museum for groups of alumni as part of the reunion celebration. For more information on how we can help you with your reunion plans, please contact Rick Chambers of the Center Education Foundation at (816) 863-2254 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center Education Foundation also publishes a free, periodic newsletter with reunion, alumni and District news. Click here if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter.
Class of 1968 will have their 50 year reunion next fall during the weekend of September 28, 2018. Preliminary plans call for dinner and football as part of the Center High School Homecoming weekend on Friday night, with other activities to be announced soon for the rest of the weekend. For more information, click here for the class Facebook page.
The current Center School District #58 was created in December 1956 by annexation of the Boone District #56 and Dallas District #76 to the original Center District #58. The merger was consummated after an extensive study of school problems in the area by nationally recognized educators. Supplemental patterns for the proper organization and operation of the district were provided by state, county and local school authorities.
Center was originally a one-room common school district to the south of Kansas City, Missouri, in Jackson County. Before the turn of the century, before school district consolidation, south Kansas City neighborhoods such as Dodson, Marlborough, and Waldo were unincorporated and supported various schools.
Soon after 1914, a three-room building was erected at 8434 Paseo. This structure remained until 1925 when it was replaced with a larger building and a high school was established. This building accommodated all of the students in grades first through twelfth and was where the first graduating class of Center commenced in 1928.
During the late 1920s, there developed a need for an elementary school at 7938 Chestnut, and the Woods Elementary School was constructed. The name was later changed to Center Annex Elementary School, and the building was eventually replaced with a new structure in 1946.
A new junior/senior high school building was opened in 1948 at 8401 Euclid. After the secondary students moved into their new building, the Paseo structure was named Center Elementary School and housed grades kindergarten through sixth. In 1954, a two-story, four-classroom addition was completed at the south end of Center Elementary School; two classrooms and a cafeteria were added at Center Annex; and an east wing addition that included a gym, locker facilities, cafeteria, kitchen, music room, and six classrooms was added to the high school building. The district administrative offices were also housed in the Euclid building at this time.
After annexation in 1956, the Boone School became Boone Elementary School, housing grades kindergarten through sixth. The present site for Boone was purchased in 1897 from Daniel and Susie M. Boone, with additional land being purchased in 1906 from Clifton B. LaForce. The original one-room building burned in the early 1900s and again in 1927. In 1929, the school moved into the original four rooms of the present structure with a four-room addition being built in 1944 and a larger addition of classrooms and an auditorium-gymnasium being completed in 1947. Two more classrooms were added on the north side of the gymnasium in 1948. The first-floor east addition of 10 classrooms was completed in 1954 and was followed by 10 more classrooms on the second floor in 1956.
A one-room school was built from donations in the Dallas School District and was named the Gault School. The school was moved several blocks west in 1905, where it remained for 21 years and was renamed the Dallas School. In 1926, the school was returned to 10450 Holmes and a one-room basement was added. A board was named to govern the school, which had its name changed to South City View Elementary School. In 1929, two rooms were built above the basement level. Three additional classrooms and a cafeteria were added in 1951, and six more classrooms were added in 1955.
After annexation, the district experienced a building and additions boom until the early 1970s to accommodate the growing enrollment, which peaked at 6,000 from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. The graduating class of 1976 numbered 400.
In 1958, Center South Junior High School opened at 326 East 103rd and Center Annex received a six-classroom, multipurpose room and clinic building addition across the street from the building constructed in 1946. Red Bridge Elementary School opened at 10781 Oak in 1959. Four classrooms and a multipurpose room were added to South City View in 1961.
The new Center Senior High School opened at 8715 Holmes in 1963. That same year the Euclid building became Center North Junior High School. The high school opened Garrison Auditorium in 1964 and the music and drafting rooms in 1965. The district also completed the stadium in 1965 and moved the district administrative offices to a former residence situated next to the senior high school.
Three elementary schools experienced growth in 1965. The Paseo building was totally renovated and received two additional classrooms, a north stair tower, and a cafeteria and kitchen addition. The east addition of Boone was renovated, and Red Bridge received six more classrooms. In 1966, South City View received six more classrooms, a cafeteria, a clinic and a library.
In 1968, three more structures experienced improvements. Center North added four classrooms and a library. Center High School added 15 classrooms to the academic wing and an industrial arts complex just beyond the music rooms. The district stadium added restrooms, concessions, and storage areas. The first project of the 1970s was the addition of a cafeteria, library and offices at Boone in 1972.
In 1972, Indian Creek Elementary School opened at 9801 Grand. This modern structure included 18 classrooms in a pod shape and featured climate control and carpeting. Media centers were the focus in 1974, when the district added them at Red Bridge, Center South, and Center High School. This district also built the maintenance warehouse at 8700 Troost. A major change in the Center Annex neighborhood came about with the closure of Chestnut Street. This allowed the district to construct an addition to connect the three buildings.
At the conclusion of the 1970s, the district, faced with declining enrollment, decided to consolidate its facilities and resources. In 1980, Center Annex, South City View, and Center North were closed. Center Annex was first leased then sold to the Sherwood Center for $50,000 in 1986. South City View was leased and became Lutheran High School. The high school remained in the building until 1985, when the Executive Hills group bought it and demolished it. An office building now occupies the land. Center North remained closed until 1981, when the Bendix Corporation began leasing it as a training facility. After Bendix vacated in 1986, the building underwent a complete renovation and reopened as Center Elementary School in 1988.
More renovations and additions were made throughout the 1980s. The district added a warehouse bus barn at 8700 Troost. The main building of the high school received a renovation between 1984 and 1985. Boone completed the second renovation of the east wing and Center Middle School (formerly Center South) received an east wing renovation in 1985. The high school added a greenhouse in 1986. In 1988, the elementary students at the Paseo building moved to the Euclid building, which became Center Elementary School and allowed for the Paseo building to become home to the alternative high school program.
The district administrative offices were renovated in 1988. And in 1989, a renovation of the lobby and gymnasium at Boone was completed, a large group instructional area was built at Center Middle School, and another gymnasium was finished at the high school. In 1990, the Head Start and Parents as Teachers program moved into the Paseo building, which had become the Center Alternative School.
Boone Elementary was recognized as a Gold Star School of Excellence in 1995. Center High School achieved A+ designation in the fall of 1996. The A+ designation gives ALL Center students an opportunity to be enrolled in the college reimbursement program. Students who graduate and complete the program requirements receive a two-year scholarship valued at $5,000.
In the summer of 2000, patrons passed a bond with an accompanying levy increase to launch improvements at all Center campuses. Center High School now has a commemorative walkway leading to the new south entrance and commons area. A state-of-the-art media technology and television studio replaces the original main entrance on the west. Other features include: air-conditioning, a new track, stadium improvements, remodeled auditorium, classroom refurbishing and an administration remodel.