Distinguished Alumni Class of 2007
Pictured from left are members of the Oxford Area Hgh School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2007: James M. Herr, Gene Rahll; David Eldreth, Frank Gillingham, representing his father Thomas Gillingham, and Dr. Faye Robinson Doyle. Inductees were presented with handmade wooden bowls created by former teacher Scott Gold.
Thomas Gillingham, Class of 1930
The students in Thomas Gillingham’s graduating class of 1930 experienced World War I as young children, and their teenage years were shaped by events of the 1920s. The newsmakers of those days were Al Capone and Charles Lindbergh. Herbert Hoover was in the White House, and Babe Ruth was baseball’s greatest slugger. And in the fall of their senior year the New York Stock Exchange crashed, setting off the downward spiral that led to the Great Depression.
Because he had studied diligently in high school and had set his sights high, Tom Gillingham was able to continue his education at Harvard University, where he majored in geology and graduated with honors. He then went cross-country for graduate study at the University of Arizona, earning a master's degree and learning about mining in the deserts and mountains of the Southwest. Watching his academic and professional accomplishments, people in his community were not surprised that Oxford’s first Eagle Scout was doing so well in the world.
Like millions of other men of his generation, Dr. Gillingham served in World War II. Becoming a lieutenant in the Navy, he was a communications officer with the Seventh Fleet as it advanced across the coast of New Guinea, through the Philippines, and into the East Indies in 1945. Following the war’s end he was able to resume his advanced studies at the University of Minnesota, where he received a Ph.D. in mining engineering.
Continuing his path around America, Dr. Gillingham next took a job at the Bunker Hill Mine in Milo Gulch near Kellogg, a town in northern Idaho in the famous Coeur d’Alene mining district. In the 1950s, Dr. Gillingham returned to the East where he became chief of the physical exploration branch of the Atomic Energy Commission. He later worked as an executive with Kennecott Mining in Mountain Lakes, N.J., and as mining consultant for W.R. Grace, Standard Oil and other major companies.
After returning to Oxford, Dr. Gillingham was actively involved in service to the community. He was a tireless supporter of the Public Library, and he worked with the Chester County Parks and Recreation Board to develop Nottingham Park.
Dr. Gillingham was best known in the community for his 29-year tenure on the Oxford school board. As a board member Dr. Gillingham kept a close eye on the district’s finances, and he also was vocal in his support of the academic program.
Thomas Gillingham passed away in April 2004. —John Bradley
Faye Robinson Doyle, Class of 1946
In many American communities, few individuals are respected as much and given as much responsibility as the family doctor. We expect our doctors to heal and comfort us when we’re sick, we trust their knowledge and sound judgment, and we appreciate their advice and wise counsel. The minister, the lawyer and the teacher also have places of respect in a community, but the doctor stands above all the others who provide service to their neighbors.
Growing up in Oxford in the 1930s and 40s, Faye Doyle surely admired the important roles that her father, Dr. Fount Robinson, played in the town. Following his example, she enrolled in Temple University Medical School at a time when few women became doctors. Not only did she learn her profession at Temple, but Faye also met another medical student there, Dr. Russell Doyle, who would become her husband and colleague.
Together, “Dr. Faye” and “Dr. Russell” returned to Oxford where they took over Dr. Robinson’s practice, providing medical care to generations of area citizens. They also raised a dynamic family of four children here, all Oxford Area High School graduates who have gone on to successful careers and numerous accomplishments.
After she retired from the practice of medicine Dr. Doyle turned her energies to the study and preservation of Oxford’s fascinating history. She was a founder and the first president of the Oxford Area Historical Association. In this volunteer job she devoted hours every week to planning historical programs.
Dr. Doyle also played a key role in the work which led to the designation of the downtown core of Oxford as a Registered National Historic District. And if you see a group of walkers, led by a guide, exploring Oxford’s Victorian-era homes and storefronts, you can be sure that Dr. Doyle had something to do with planning that tour. — John Bradley
Gene Rahll, Class of 1946
Gene Rahll has been involved with machines throughout his life. This connection began in Gene’s childhood on a dairy farm in Oxford and followed him to careers as a car dealer and as a developer of agricultural machinery for the company now known as Ford New Holland.
Entering the business world for himself, it was natural for Mr. Rahll to open an equipment rental store in Maryland, where homeowners could find an array of power tools so useful for those weekend projects. The machinery connection followed Mr. Rahll to Amarillo, Texas, where after his move there in the 1980s he once again entered the equipment rental business.
In 1989 Mr. Rahll was elected mayor of Dalhart, a suburb of Amarillo with about 7,000 residents, and it did not take long for him to notice that the organizations that were the pieces of the machinery of government were not operating in synch. With his strong belief in the philosophy that “You don’t get anything done by yourself,” Mr. Rahll soon got leaders of the city, the county, the police, hospitals, schools, and other groups talking and working together. Before long Dalhart had an improved downtown shopping area, renovated parks and recreational areas, an enhanced airport, and a scholarship fund for local students.
Mr. Rahll left the mayor’s office after 16 years to great praise. The Panhandle Regional Planning Commission gave him its Regional Service Award as he stepped down in 2005, citing his energy, foresight and skill at bringing people together to work for the common good. —John Bradley
David Eldreth, Class of 1963
A few miles west of Oxford, just across the rushing Octorara Creek, a small workshop and store sit on a gentle hillside among Amish farms in southern Lancaster County. It’s an unassuming place, but it attracts art lovers and collectors from all over the country who have come to see the latest creations of Oxford Area High School graduate David Eldreth.
Mr. Eldreth has taken the traditional craft of pottery as practiced by the Pennsylvania Germans of centuries ago and brought it back to life. His products are both practical enough for everyday use and so beautiful that we can use them to decorate our homes.
After graduating in 1963, Mr. Eldreth went to art school in Baltimore and spent several years as an art teacher in Maryland. After taking a job at Kennett High School he found that he needed to take a few more art courses to get a Pennsylvania teaching certificate. It was a pottery class at West Chester State College that fired Mr. Eldreth’s imagination, leading him to a new hobby that turned into a part-time job and before long became a full-scale business.
Because potter’s equipment was expensive on a young teacher’s salary, Mr. Eldreth was forced to be creative: he made his first potter’s wheel from an old Maytag washing machine, and he borrowed a kiln from a friend. But this innovative artist was also fascinated by traditional craft methods, such as the production of salt-glazed stoneware, which used techniques largely abandoned by the 20th century.
Through trial and error, consultations with engineers, and studying the chemistry of clays and glazes, Mr. Eldreth mastered the processes he had been seeking, and Eldreth Pottery had begun.
At first a small business with four employees, the company has grown over the years to include 45 talented craftspeople. To the original line of gray and blue crocks, plates, and figurines, Mr. Eldreth has added pieces of Pennsylvania redware which are available in a wide range of colors and decorating styles. A high point of his career was his being asked to create a holiday ornament for the White House Christmas tree. — John Bradley
James M. Herr, Class of 1969
Just as Detroit is synonymous with the auto industry and Hollywood is known as the capital of movie-making, our community is recognized as a center of the snack food industry. Herr Foods, of Nottingham, is chiefly responsible for our connection with this business, and James Herr, of the Class of 1969, has played a major role in the company’s growth to prominence over the past decades.
In his career Mr. Herr has advanced steadily through numerous positions and responsibilities at the company, rising to the post of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. In this role he oversees more than 1,000 employees who produce and distribute 340 quality products throughout the eastern United States. Mr. Herr guides the company’s adherence to sound business principles while encouraging innovation in product development, packaging and distribution.
Under Mr. Herr’s leadership, the company has been keenly aware of its responsibilities to the environment and has been a pioneer in saving energy, reducing waste and recycling. Their plastic packaging takes up little space in landfills and is a superior fuel in waste-to-steam facilities. And we’ve all seen those contented cows munching on potato peelings at the Herr Angus Farm along Route 272.
Mr. Herr has been active in business affairs as Board Chairman of the Snack Food Association, and he is also a dedicated supporter of local and regional charities. The Lighthouse Youth Center in Oxford, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Junior Achievement, the Salvation Army and the YMCA have all benefited from Herr Foods gifts. The entire community has enjoyed the Herr Company’s lighted Christmas displays, its rallies for antique car enthusiasts, and its support of 4th of July festivities
Mr. Herr is a devoted supporter of the Oxford schools and a constant advocate for opportunities for our students. We also appreciate his company’s willingness to provide employment to our students and graduates. —John Bradley