‘Grit and excellence:' ACS celebrates 12 new Hall of Fame inductees

As he prepared to unveil the updated “Wall of Fame” outside the Anderson High School auditorium Saturday afternoon, Roger Shoot had a simple message for the crowd gathered to see the plaques bearing the names of 12 new inductees to the ACS Hall of Fame.

“There are no takers on this wall,” he said. “There are only givers.”

Shoot, a volunteer with the Anderson Education Foundation, said the plaques, each illuminated with a distinctive blue accent light, represent a collection of stories of well-lived lives that make ACS alumni a diverse group of difference makers.

“What I hope it means for them is that they know that their communities remember them and celebrate them,” said Aimee West, executive director of the Anderson Education Foundation.

“It’s important that people here see what they can be also.”

Members of the ACS Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 have made impacts in several fields, including medicine, politics, law, entrepreneurship and the arts. That diversity, West said, can shed new light on Anderson’s collective identity.

“One of the things I talk about when I talk about Anderson is that it’s a post-industrial city. It has a lot of grit, but it also has a lot of excellence,” she said. “The selection committee was really deliberate about choosing people who represent that.”

For several of this year’s inductees, the ceremony served as a homecoming of sorts. Cynthia Sharp, an attorney and business coach who graduated from Anderson High School in 1972 and lives in Philadelphia, returns to the area four times a year. Hometown connections remain vital to her.

“Any of the successes that I’ve had in the past 50 years are due to the strong foundation that was laid here,” Sharp said. “I come back here and I feel beloved. I keep making new friends here, so that’s why I keep coming back – to honor my roots and to remind myself of who I am.”

Others who have remained in the area since graduating said their Hall of Fame recognition reminds them that important work is also being done in the community where they grew up.

“Living here and working here, during your day’s work you don’t really think (about) maybe the impact or the recognition of what you do in the community and how others may view that,” said Angela Warner Sims, who graduated from Madison Heights High School in 1992 and in 2012 became Madison County’s first female Circuit Court judge.

“This is just an opportunity to sit back a little bit and reflect on the work that not only I do, but a lot of these other honorees here today have also done.”

Since its inception in 2010, the ACS Hall of Fame has welcomed 65 alumni whose accomplishments have “demonstrated excellence in their lives, in Anderson Community Schools, in their communities and beyond,” according to a release from the Anderson Education Foundation.

This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin.