At the annual Westminster High School Community Awards Night on Tuesday, June 1, Phoebe Zaranski, Catherine Harris, Alexander Robinson and the late Bird Brown were named this year’s winners of the annual Mike Eaton Scholarship.
The Community Awards Night was held at the Westminster High School auditorium on Washington Road and graciously hosted by Westminster High School principal John Baugher and assistant principal Tom Clowes. Baugher’s extensive background as a former football, lacrosse, and tennis coach shined as he carefully coordinated a finely-tuned team effort to keep the evening running smoothly.
Later in the week, on Thursday, June 3, Westminster High School – “Carroll County Public Schools’ largest senior class gathered at the Carroll County Agricultural Center’s Shipley Arena for the class of 2021 graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon,” according to an article in the Carroll County Times by Times writer, Kristen Griffith.
My wife, Caroline Babylon, and I were at the awards ceremonies Tuesday evening to award the 2021 winners of the annual Eaton scholarship. Eaton was a dear friend of my wife’s family for many years, and one of my most memorable teachers – whose influence on my life and writing has extended to this day many decades after I had him for my English class in the 1970-1971 school year at Westminster High School. The scholarship is funded, in part, by the Babylon family in honor of Eaton’s extensive contributions to our community.
According to Babylon, “The Mike Eaton Scholarship was established to recognize inspirational teachers, like Mr. Eaton, in the lives of the current graduating class of Westminster High School.”
“Zaranski named Ms. Catherine Harris as her most influential teacher. Ms. Harris received an engraved school bell. Ms. Harris teaches textile and fashion design at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center. Ms. Zaranski said that through required research, daily business meetings, and presentations, the student, and the class bonded and acquired the needed confidence and skills, in both in-person and virtual classes…”
In her essay, Zaranski said “One of the most memorable moments was when Ms. Catherine Harris delivered sewing machines to students’ homes at the beginning of the pandemic. Ms. Harris then shared instructional videos for the machines and soon Phoebe and the class were making face masks for health care workers. Ms. Zaranski will be attending Stevenson University studying fashion design…
“The other winning student was Alexander Robinson,” according to Babylon, Robinson “named Robert “Bird” Brown as his most influential teacher. Mr. Brown taught “perhaps the most important lesson on how to make people feel special, feel connected to you, and how to make someone’s day.
“Every time I would see him in the hall he would start a conversation about me and my plans, what I was working on, or how I was doing. I felt tight with Bird, but this was his superpower, everyone felt this way with him, it’s why so many of his student love him … Bird Brown was a cornerstone at WHS, someone who could understand anyone”.
“Bird gave Alexander Robinson the understanding that business is what gives us freedom, freedom to be different, freedom to create a microcosm of the world we desire, freedom to better yourself and to help others. His sudden death in April 2021 left a hole in the WHS family.
“A member of Mr. Brown’s family accepted the engraved school bell,” according to Babylon. “Mr. Robinson will be attending Emory University studying business…”
Eaton was one of the many friendly and kind patriarchs in Carroll County for over a half-century. He passed away from cancer on April 24, 1995; however, he maintains to this day, a profound influence over who we are as a community. He was born in Centerville on the eastern shore of Maryland on June 22, 1908.
He came to Westminster in 1926 to attend Western Maryland College, where he graduated in 1930. It was in that year that he began his teaching career at Elmer A. Wolfe High School in Union Bridge.
After a year at Elmer Wolfe, he taught for three years at Charles Carroll High School in Silver Run, before coming to Westminster to teach at the original Westminster High School on Center Street.
He was there for only one year before the “new” Westminster High School opened on Longwell Avenue, where he taught for the entire life of the building as a high school, in Room 106.
He went on to teach English and drama in Carroll County Public Schools for 41 years before he retired in 1971; 36 of those years were at Westminster High School.
Local historian, writer, and former Carroll County commissioner Dean Minnich wrote at least two extensive columns on Eaton over the years. In his April 19, 1978, column, Minnich noted Eaton’s famous index cards. “They were ordinary file cards, but they had the student’s names on them. He’d shuffle through them, making notes, calling on people for answers to his questions. He didn’t look for raised hands…He’d shuffle, and call a name. There was no escape…,” Minnich reported.
Caroline and Evelyn Babylon, Kristen Griffith, and Dean Minnich contributed to this story. Many thanks for helping to keep the legacy of Eaton alive.
To make a contribution to the Eaton Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Carroll County, go to: http://tinyurl.com/Mike-Eaton-CFCC or call 410-876-5505.
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Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.