Five alumni of Morristown-Hamblen High School West were immortalized by their alma mater on Thursday.
With students, administrators and family members in attendance, the group was inducted into the 2019 class of the school’s Hall of Fame at the school’s auditorium.
Sponsored by the Trojan Army, a nonprofit organization made up of alumni and administrators, the inductees were recognized for their excellence in sports, media, education and military service, and they shared their life stories to the upperclassmen in attendance.
“This is amazing to be honored with these four people, as well as those who have already been inducted,” said inductee William “Chris” Osborne, a 1990 graduate of West High.
“It’s an honor to be here with the other members. Thirty years have passed by quickly, and I had a lot of fun walking the halls of this high school when I was here,” said Rod Walker, a 1989 graduate who is Morristown West’s all-time leader in home runs, as well as the all-time leader in home runs at East Tennessee State University.
Dr. Brenda Dean was honored for her 45 years of service with Hamblen County Schools, including her time as a biology and chemistry teacher at Morristown West as well as writing over $22 million in grants as the assistant director of schools for curriculum and instruction. She encouraged the junior and senior students to follow their dreams, no matter how many obstacles lie in their way.
“It’s certainly one of the greatest honors I’ve received. I wish great things to (the students),” Dean said. “Whether you are Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, fighting for women’s rights or a firefighter rushing into a burning building, whatever you do, always have courage.
Maj. David Lucas Helton earned 16 varsity letters in track and cross country as a student at Morristown West. After graduating in 1990, he enlisted in the Air Force, serving as a weapons specialist and space crew commander. He also added the Air Force’s three core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all an airman does can be applied to every part of civilian life.
Helton retired in July after 27 years of active service, and said it was an honor to be inducted at the school he said he was born to attend.
“This award means more to me because I always wanted to be a Trojan,” he said. “When I was six months old, my parents took me to a football game at West, and one of the coaches gave me a helmet.”
After leaving West High, Osborne graduated from Tennessee State University before becoming the first African-American on-air personality at radio station WCRK on the way to a two-decade media career with the American Red Cross and National Public Radio.
Osborne had his left leg amputated above the knee following a motorcycle accident in 2004. Six years later, he joined the National Amputee Golf Association, where he has been named to three international match-play teams – and currently has an undefeated record. Osborne was later named to the NAGA board of directors, the first African-American to be named to the committee.
“This place where we stand today is where I started my journey,” said Osborne, who currently serves as the public relations manager for the Jefferson County Department of Health. “When I lost my leg in an accident in 2004, I had no idea what I was going to do next, so I used the training I got right here at West, and that’s how I got into golf.”
Capt. Steve Allen Seal was a member of the first class to complete all four years at the high school, graduating in 1972. Seal was later recruited by Steve Belichick, father of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, to attend a prep school in Pennsylvania to help realize his dream of attending the U.S. Naval Academy.
After graduation from the Naval Academy, Seal later served as a naval aviator, a flight instructor, a congressional liaison officer and deputy director of admissions at the Naval Academy before retiring in 2000. He later became a pilot for Delta Airlines before entering his current vocation as a teacher and coach at a private school near Atlanta.
“I don’t know if I deserve to be here with the other four people. It’s humbling to be here with them,” Seal said.
Seal shared his story of hard work to the upperclassmen, saying all of them can realize their dreams if they were willing to fight for them.
“If one person takes anything from this, I encourage you to count your blessings. I wasn’t like any of you guys who made straight ‘A’s,’ or got a scholarship to play athletics in college,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t know any better for thinking I could get into the Naval Academy. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have made it there.”
Walker was selected as a tight end on the West High Greatest Football Team of All-Time but switched to baseball full-time in college. After a year at Cleveland State Community College, he transferred to ETSU, where he was a two-time All-Southern Conference honoree.
Walker is the all-time leader in home runs and RBIs at ETSU with 40 and 127, respectively, while playing just three years at the school. He told the students to enjoy their time at West High before graduating and moving on.
“Respect and cherish your friends, because you can’t make new old friends,” said Walker, who owns RFR Promotions, a company specializing in working with schools, athletic teams and other organizations in capital and fundraising initiatives. “In the real world, there are no do-overs, no extra credit, no mulligans and no exceptions on deadlines.”