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FSK gym named for longtime administrator Louis V. Beard

Darnella Cornick, Stephen Wantz, and John Seaman speak during the dedication ceremony Feb. 9 during half-time of a girls basketball game in which Beard’s granddaughter played.

With three generations of his family in attendance, the gymnasium at Francis Scott Key High School was dedicated in honor of longtime administrator Louis V. Beard during halftime at a home girls basketball game Friday evening.

“As you enter this gym and see his name displayed, perhaps we can all remember to follow the morals my father stood for: to be respectful to people, to be kind to people and to help people,” said Darnella Cornick, Beard’s daughter, before the dedication.

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The bleachers were packed with former students and colleagues, showing the community support that came behind the dedication to a principal who stayed with the school for more than 20 years.

County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, a former student of Beard’s, read a proclamation from the Board of County Commissioners, and John Seaman, a teacher and coach under Beard and eventually an FSK principal himself, spoke before unveiling the plaque that will now be installed in the gymnasium.

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“The students knew that they were cared for by the person in charge,” Seaman said of Beard’s leadership.

“It’s just very emotional, but in a good way, realizing what an impact he had with so many people for so many years,” Cornick said while speaking to the Times prior to the ceremony.

The gymnasium was built during Beard’s tenure at the school. He loved sports himself and saw his family become involved in the FSK athletics program. Cornick played basketball and volleyball during her time as a student.

In Friday evening’s game, Beard’s granddaughter, Kennedy Cornick, joined her team facing off against Winters Mill.

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“Every day I enter the gym, I can feel his presence,” Darnella Cornick said. “It’s very special.”

According to many who remember him, Beard’s preferred spot to watch games was standing against the wall of the gymnasium where he could watch over the students in the stands as well as the competition. He would often attend home games even when he was not on administrative duty, Cornick said.

“He wasn’t one of those yelling, screaming-type fans … but he had a nice smile on his face when things went right,” said Bill McKenna, who worked as athletic director at FSK during 15 of the years Beard served as principal.

“I think it’s appropriate to have Lou Beard have his name attached to the gymnasium, as long as he spent in it,” he added. “This is a man who loved the school he was at.”

Some of his favorite memories of Beard, he said, were sitting in his office talking about things that didn’t have to do at all with athletics.

“He was a fun man to be around — very learned.”

G. Hibberd, a current instructional assistant at the school, said, “I think its an absolutely wonderful gesture to a man who has meant the world to this community.”

Hibberd said Beard brought a calming presence in times of conflict and, “without being invasive or obtrusive, he had a real understanding of what was happening in his school.”

Francis Scott Key High School is seeking feedback on a request from the community to name its gymnasium after longtime administrator Louis V. Beard, who was also the first African-American principal in Carroll County.

With teachers, Seaman said Beard would handle conflicts so the participants usually ended up talking among themselves and directing their own solution.

“There’s a skill to doing that, and he did it well,” he said.

Seaman said he will most remember Beard for “his genuine warmth — and warmth for everybody that walked in the door — whether it was an incoming ninth-grader who was going to struggle academically or a highly qualified teacher coming into the school for the first time.”

When Beard became the principal of FSK in 1965, he became the first African-American to serve as principal in an integrated Carroll County school.

Only a few years earlier, the 1959 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education led to the integration of schools. Formerly, FSK had been a white-only school.

Brian Hollingsworth attended the high school during Beard’s time as principal, and a few years later Beard hired him for his first job coaching at the school. It was a letter Hollingsworth wrote that first suggested the dedication of the gymnasium in Beard’s honor.

Hollingsworth said his older siblings were some of the first African-American students to attend FSK after it was integrated.

“My parents received death threats because they enrolled their children at Key. This was tough for them because in other areas of the country, people were actually following through with the threats,” he wrote to the Times. The family faced opposition from the community up to the superintendent, he said.

Six years later, Beard was the principal at the school.

“He received numerous death threats, which only motivated to work even harder for making Key a great place to work at or attend,” Hollingsworth wrote.

From his experience as a teacher, Seaman said, “I can tell you when I arrived in 1970, the fact that there was not a disrupting turmoil was marveled at. That was not happening everywhere that schools were being integrated.”

Hollingsworth said, “During Mr. Beard's packed funeral, one of his adversaries spoke that his opinion of [Beard] changed once he realized that Mr. Beard wanted the same things for own child that this man wanted for his children: quality instruction, quality people and a safe environment.”

Cornick said that by the time her father retired, “He was just well respected. People treated him as the administrator and didn’t see color.”

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