Thank You, Mr. DeWitt

Thank You, Mr. DeWitt
Posted on 05/26/2017
Mr. DeWitt

It was an emotional morning at Fairview School as students, staff and special guests gathered to pay tribute to Principal Lucas DeWitt as he wraps up his career with Spencer Community Schools to become a professor at Buena Vista University.  Angela Murray welcomed everyone, and introduced two special men who have served as teachers, coaches and mentors to DeWitt throughout his life, Mike Schmillen and Andy McGaffin.

Schmillen took the floor first and quickly made the crowd laugh with stories from Mr. DeWitt’s track and football days.  Getting more serious, Schmillen shared how his father had attended a yearend football party and asked him to point out DeWitt.  Schmillen called DeWitt over and introduced him to his father, and they conversed briefly.  “Afterwards, my dad’s words were, ‘he’s not a very big guy.  He plays a lot bigger than he is’, and I would agree,” shared Schmillen.  “Lucas was talented, but he outworked everybody else, and you guys can learn from that.” Schmillen then went on to a track story, sharing that DeWitt ran two of the toughest races, the 800 and the 400 meter hurdles.  Both of the races were tough, but DeWitt would run hard and then gut it out at the end, which was a metaphor for how he lived his life.  Schmillen ended by saying that he would pick Lucas first to be on his team every time.  “I know that it’s all out at the beginning, and hang on to the end, and he doesn’t slow down with his convictions.  He always does it right, and if you do things the right way, you will always be a winner,” advised Schmillen.

Thanking Becky Conley for inviting him to speak, McGaffin shared that he has known Mr. DeWitt since he taught him as a kindergartener.  He actually taught Mr. DeWitt through sixth grade, and then he was blessed to coach him in football.  Highlighting other programs with which they shared time together, McGaffin said that Mr. DeWitt was always a leader.  “As I looked back to Mr. DeWitt in high school and the way he is today, one thing he always tried to do is be the best he could be at whatever he was doing,” said McGaffin.  He went on to give two examples to prove his point, and the second example brought a roar of laughter from the audience.  At a Huddle meeting, McGaffin explained that the students were challenged to a Chubby Bunny competition against the high school basketball coach.  With the coach able to shove 20 marshmallows into his mouth, while still being able to say “chubby bunny”, no one wanted to compete against him.  When nobody else volunteered, and after some encouragement by the other students at the meeting, Mr. DeWitt raised his hand.  He was determined to beat the coach and his newly set record.  To relive the experience, after explaining the game to the students, McGaffin handed Mr. DeWitt a bag of marshmallows and away he went, stuffing them in his mouth.  When Mr. DeWitt has reached max capacity, McGaffin finished the story by saying, “Mr. DeWitt kept putting marshmallows in his mouth, and I finally had to stop him because he was choking.  I was afraid that he would keep going until he passed out, because he does the best he can at everything he does, even chubby bunny.  It didn’t make any difference if Mr. DeWitt was taking a test to get into college, quarterbacking the football team, point guard on the basketball team, running hurdles in track, a student in the classroom, being a principal, a dad, a husband or a friend, he was always trying to be the best that he could be.” 

“You find out that you are made up of bits and pieces of all who have come into your life.  You are more because of it, and you would have been less had they not come into your life.  You know what? I am a better person because of Mr. DeWitt leaving a piece of himself inside me, and I would bet that all of us in this room can probably say the same thing that I am saying.  Mr. DeWitt probably touched each one of you in a special way and that is why it is so important that we do the right thing and tell him thank you,” added McGaffin, and the crowd clapped and cheered as they thanked Mr. DeWitt.

Angela Murray took the floor to once again thank Mr. DeWitt for his years of service, and she presented him with a canvas that was a visual reminder of how he has touched so many lives.  The painting was started by art teacher, Jennifer Brandt, and the Fairview staff and students each put their fingerprints on the heart, symbolizing how Mr. DeWitt has touched them. 

Filled with emotion, Mr. DeWitt shared a few thoughts.  “I don’t have the words.  I just want to say thank you so much to everybody, and I can’t tell you all how you have impacted me, and how you have touched my life.  It has been 17 years that I have been a teacher or principal here, and it was also 13 years that I was in Spencer Schools, so I’ve been in Spencer Schools 30 years. I think you are all lucky people to be part of such a great district and part of such a great community of people who care about you so much.”  Mr. DeWitt went on to offer advice to his eager audience of second and third graders, “There are two things you can control wherever you go, whatever you do, no matter the situation, you can always control your attitude toward what you want to accomplish, and the other thing you can control besides attitude is your effort.  You always can control how hard you work, and those are two things I hope you will take with you that you can control and will impact your life, your attitude and your effort.  I am so thankful.  Thank you, staff, for everything.” 

Though taking a new position, the DeWitt family will not be moving, and Mr. DeWitt promised to stay in touch and connected. On behalf of Spencer Community Schools, best of luck, Mr. DeWitt!  We know you will continue to touch and impact lives as you take this next step in your journey.