Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

January 10, 2014

Inductees credit family, community, school and faith

By Rob Cox Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part article regarding the recent induction ceremony of Greensburg High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

GREENSBURG — They are three distinct personalities; each has achieved great success after modest beginnings right here in Decatur County – two in the wider world and one here at home.

One graduated Greensburg Community High School in 1937, another in 1960 and one in 1976. They are the living members of Greensburg Community High School’s inaugural, five-member Hall of Fame class. On Friday night, all three were celebrated at the formal Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in the GCHS gym between basketball games.

Both John Stewart (class of 1937) and Fred Craig (1960) appeared in person Friday night, while Nanci Hellmich (1976) planned to attend, but was unable to because of the weather. The Daily News was fortunate enough to speak to all three this week.

John Arthur Stewart

At 93, John Arthur Stewart is the oldest of the three inductees. When he started GCHS in 1933, he wanted to become a doctor. “That was back during the Great Depression, though,” he recalled. “There just wasn’t enough money for me to go to medical school.”

Instead, Stewart found himself nudged towards agriculture. He credited GCHS vocational agriculture teacher A.W. McCracken for turning him in that direction.

“Mr. McCracken told me that if I worked really hard, I could get a scholarship to Purdue,” Stewart said.

Stewart heeded his teacher’s advice and went on to graduate from Purdue with an Agriculture Degree.

While McCracken might have been one of Stewart’s biggest influences in choosing agriculture as a career, Stewart stressed that no single person can be credited for helping guide and shape his success.

“I give credit to my parents and siblings, too,” he said. “My entire family played a role in helping me succeed. Greensburg High School itself was a huge part of who I became, as was my community and my faith.”

This US Coast Guard veteran has lived all his 93 years in Decatur County save for four he spent as a student at Purdue and an additional three-and-a-half he spent serving in World War Two.

Stewart spent his career in agriculture, working for Stewart Seeds, a family-farm business founded by his father. After his father died, Stewart took over as president, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1985.

Fred Craig

Craig spent a large part of his career with Bluth Animation as a production manager, an executive production manager, a vice president and as a producer. He’s had a role in some of the most famous animated Hollywood productions in the last 20 years, including, “An American Tale,” “The Land Before Time,” “The Secret of NIMH,” “All Dogs Go to Heaven” and others.

He cited, “the nurturing from my teachers in both high school and junior high school,” as having inspired him to “actually pursue my passion.”

He went on to name four teachers – Geneva Risk, George Granholt, Ralph McCullough and Martha Frost – from GCHS - as having had the greatest influence.

Granholt, Craig noted, is still alive and actually sat on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee that chose the inaugural inductees.

Craig further noted that he also “worked a lot with (local resident and GDN columnist) Pat Smith. She was one the youth advisors at the Presbyterian Church and has written many articles about me since I left.”

Craig collaborated with Smith on what he described as a “30-minute cultural film” entitled “Empty Shoes.” “Empty Shoes,” he said, was an important piece of filmmaking in his progression and maturation into a career filmmaker.

He also spent three years in high school working as a projectionist and a concessioner for local movie theatres, the KP Theatre and the Tree Theatre.

He, too, said that growing up in Greensburg and coming from a small community in general helped him remain grounded, which proved extremely helpful as he navigated Hollywood.

“It served me well,” he said, “to be considered an authentic human being from the mid-west (in Hollywood), as opposed to some jerk from Any City, USA.”

Craig considers himself semi-retired and has returned to live in Greensburg, leaving behind the bright lights of Hollywood.

Nanci Hellmich

Hellmich is the only one of the three living inductees who doesn’t reside in the Tree City. She still regularly visits, however, since much of her family still lives here, including her father, Bill.

Like Stewart and Craig, she too credited living in a strong, grounded community like Greensburg as having contributed to her success. She also attributed much of her success to a “wonderful, close knit, hardworking family with great values.”

She cited her teachers at GCHS as playing a primary role in shaping her career path.

“One of my high school guidance counselors – Mrs. Hemsley – suggested a career in journalism for me,” she explained. “And that’s really where I got started. Several of my English teachers noticed my love of writing and encouraged it.”

Hellmich emphasized that no single teacher or subject can be credited with her success. “I really had an excellent, well-rounded high school education,” she said. “I do a lot of writing on science and read a lot of scientific journals; I use a lot of what I learned in high school in my job.”

She also credited her success to her Christian faith, a sentiment echoes by Stewart.

Hellmich was hired by national newspaper USA Today in 1983, three years after graduating Indiana University with a double major in journalism and English, and has worked there ever since.

In an interesting twist, Hellmich attended IU and earned her degree through the Oscar Ewing Scholarship. Ewing, deceased since 1980, is a 1906 GCHS graduate and was also among the inaugural GCHS Hall of Fame inductee class.

Stewart, Craig and Hellmich alike expressed gratitude and humility at being named to the GCHS Hall of Fame.

“I never imagined something like this would ever happen to me,” Stewart said.

“I’m totally honored,” Craig said. “I want to thank everybody on the school board and the selection committee; I’m very indebted to those people for the honor.”

“I have to give the credit (for this award) back to this community, to my family and to GCHS,” Hellmich said. “It’s an honor that should be shared with all the people who got me to where I am now – class, family, community, teachers, God and guidance counselor.”

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com