- Cullman, Alabama

April 5, 2014

City Schools Foundation recognizes alumni, teachers

By James Haynes
The Cullman Times

— Cullman High alumnus Larry Taunton has traveled the world. An author, writer and public speaker, he has participated in debates from Oxford, England, to Melbourne, Australia. Yet, as he received one of the Distinguished Alumni Awards from the Cullman City Schools Foundation, he said, “It is a real honor for me to come back to my hometown.”

Taunton said he had come a long way since his days at Cullman High. Rather than taking advanced classes there, Taunton said he was a “frequent visitor to the office, where Mr. Clark made a career from disciplining me.”

“I recall my teacher, Mr. Williamson, writing on a paper that I turned in, and I remember it word for word: ‘You have an excellent mind. Unfortunately, your mother should hit you in the head with a wet mop every morning, to get you to use it,” Taunton said.

Taunton said Mr. Williamson and the teachers at Cullman High truly motivated him and were some of the best influences who propelled him to do what he does today.

Now, Larry Taunton is the Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, a non-profit group dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith. Since attending Cullman High, Taunton’s work has been featured in the Atlantic magazine, CNN, Fox News and the Christian Post. He has also participated in debates with speakers such as Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer and Christopher Hitchens.

“I’m not very sentimental, and yet I found myself thinking back on a lot of things that I hadn’t thought about in a long time,” Taunton said after the program. “So many good memories, and, on top of that, what an honor it is to be recognized by those same people. That’s a rare honor and privilege.”

Taunton was one among the seven honorees in the Distinguished Alumni award category recognized by the Foundation.

The Cullman City Schools Foundation holds the annual luncheon to help raise money to be used for grants to purchase equipment, supplies and technology for teachers.

The other six Distinguished Alumni honorees were 1964 graduate and retired Army Col. Eric E. Thomas; 1968 graduate Dr. Mitzi Danker Groom; 1968 graduate Michael Waters; 1982 graduate Dr. Jeanne Reeves; and 1996 graduate Jamie Luker Troutman.

The Foundation also presented awards to the distinguished service honoree, promising alumnus and teachers of the year.

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Billy Coleman received the Distinguished Service award, which was presented by last year’s honoree, Suzanne Harbin.

Coleman was recognized for his work to bridge Cullman City and County school systems towards a common goal.

“It’s a vision that goes beyond division of two school systems ... both our school systems, and all the educators, work together to build and provide this nation with leaders that we so desperately need.” Coleman said.

Cullman graduate of 2002 Robbie Laney was honored as the Promising Alumnus of 2014. Austin Monk, last year’s recipient, presented the glass award.

The Foundation also presented awards to Cullman City teachers of the year. “The results that we get are because of the dedicated teachers,” City Schools Superintendent Dr. Doreen Griffith said.

Teachers of the year for 2014 were Jennifer Calahan, Cullman High; Renata Puckett, Cullman Middle; Branch Whitlock, East Elementary; Joseph McPhillips, West Elementary; and Anita Moore, Cullman Primary.