Almost everyone can reminisce back to the days of their youth and recall the influence of a favorite childhood teacher. For me, I loved school and I had a number of favorite teachers. However, the first among many equals may very well be my 12th-grade English teacher, William Granville “Mike” Eaton. I was fortunate to have him as my English teacher in 1970-1971. It was the beginning of a 25-year friendship that had a profound influence on my life.
There were 46 awards, scholarships, and presentations conferred at the June 5 farewell assembly for the 119th graduating class of Westminster High School. My wife, Caroline Babylon, and I were there to award the 2019 winner of the annual Mike Eaton scholarship. Eaton was a dear friend of my wife’s family for many years.
Westminster High School has a storied and celebrated history in Carroll County and Eaton plays an out-sized role in that history. I have written about Eaton since 1971 and a portion of this tribute to Eaton have been published before in numerous publications.
Much of the story of Eaton is best told in a recent press release by Babylon, who explained, “The William Granville “Mike” Eaton scholarship has been awarded since 2011. The purpose of this scholarship is to honor the memory of William Granville “Mike” Eaton, an English teacher at Westminster High School from 1935 to 1971 …
“Mr. Eaton brought panache to his classroom with his deck of index cards from which he pulled the targets of his well-placed questions. The cards brought their share of insecurity to the ill prepared, but Westminster High School seniors began to discover something, Shakespeare wasn't so bad after all. Mr. Eaton commanded the classroom …” according to Babylon.
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.
In the early 1930s, he concurrently earned his master’s degree, in 1935, from Columbia University in New York. 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.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
“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. And there was no sense ducking. He’d shuffle, and call a name. There was no escape … There was a quiz every month on Reader’s Digest vocabulary words. And compositions each week …,” Minnich wrote.
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. The winning student wrote an essay about her most inspirational teacher.
This year’s “winning student was Emily Bartlett who received a $500.00 scholarship. She named Ms. Meghan Cahill as her most influential teacher. Ms. Cahill received an engraved school bell…
“Ms. Cahill teaches Physical Rehabilitation at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center. Ms. Bartlett said her teacher is perseverant, respectful, cooperative, caring, and hard-working.
“The Community Foundation of Carroll County is pleased to have this scholarship fund in memory of Mike Eaton who was an influential and memorable teacher at Westminster High School for over 35 years…”
Meanwhile, I still study the Reader’s Digest vocabulary words to this day. Caroline and Evelyn Babylon, 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.