The Rutherford High School Distinguished Graduate Award (Click here to download the form), was established in 1990 to recognize a graduate of the high school whose achievements reflect a standard of excellence in his or her chosen field. The achievements of each distinguished graduate will be recognized by Rutherford High School so that the person can be seen by students as a symbol of commitment and excellence to which they can aspire.
During the initial year of the award, nominations were sought from the high school faculty. In subsequent years, nominations were sought from other school and community groups. Requests were sent to all elementary schools in the town, to more than twenty-five community groups, and to local newspapers. Information about this award is also mentioned at school reunions. As a result, responses have come across the United States; the nominees span many career areas. A simple nomination form is used, which asks that the nominator supply as much background information on the candidate as possible.
The general criteria used in selecting the honoree include the following:
1. Honoree must have graduated from Rutherford High School at least ten years prior to nomination.
2. Honoree’s achievement must reflect significant accomplishment in his or her career. No restrictions are placed on types of careers.
3. Honoree’s outstanding contributions must have achieved national, state, or local recognition.
The selection committee includes the following people: high school principal (chair), research assistant, vice president of the student government, social studies supervisor, National Honor Society advisor. Committee chair receives and responds to nominations, asks for additional information when necessary, and distributes all materials to committee members before a meeting is scheduled to discuss the nominations. After discussion, committee members vote on the nominations to select the honoree.
A permanent recognition plaque in the high school contains the names, career fields, and graduation dates of all honorees. In addition, the honoree visits the high school to address a large group of students and to meet with smaller groups, if appropriate. A reception follows, at which the honoree is presented with a suitable memento of the occasion (a sandstone bulldog, the school mascot, with a brass nameplate around its neck). This visit by the inductee is an important part of the project, since students are able to hear directly from someone who shares part of their background and experience.