Wow, what an incredible evening I had this past Saturday night. I was so overwhelmed and blown away at how my alma mater Kennedy Catholic High School treated my family and me this past Saturday at the Presidents awards dinner as they inducted me into their Hall of fame for my contributions to the school over the past number of years.
The event was really surreal. To have over 18 of my close family and friends attend the event to support me and also to have well wishes sent to me by many others from all walks of my life were such a blessing. The evening started with awards being given to amazing seniors as they move on to college as well as honoring the tremendous work of the faculty and parents to have contributed to the school over the past year.
When we walked into the main dining area, I could make out my old #56 under a cloth behind the podium. It was surreal. I assumed that I would get a nice plaque or a nice frame or something, but until the evening was over, it was a constant stream of compliments and really appreciated words about my contributions to the school that really made me feel like a member of the Kennedy family. Just when I was shocked at something truly thoughtful they had done for me, they would produce another and another. I was given a framed jersey with my high school jersey on it, a bunch of outstanding gifts with my logo on it, a helmet with my logo on it and my number, an overwhelming amount of well wishes and accolades about not only the work I did for them, but history of my career over the years in general and if that wasn’t more than enough I got maybe one of the greatest and most considerate gifts I have ever received.
The School had made a scholarship in my sister Chrissy’s name (Chrissy had past a year ago and graduated from Kennedy in 1987) that would be given to a student of need to help them succeed. At that point I had a hard time keeping it together. What a thoughtful and outstanding gesture on their part.
I can’t thank the school or the organizers enough for the night. For as long as I live I will never forget the feelings I had last night. It was so thoughtful, kind and appreciative. So many times in life we try to help people around us only to feel like people might not appreciate our efforts. Kennedy had not only made me realize how much my work has meant to them, it made me realize how blessed a life I have had.
Thank you again to the school and to my friends and family for taking an evening out to make me feel great. I will never forget. I attached my speech below in case anyone wanted to read it.
My Hall of Fame Speech
I would just like to say “Thank You”.
This is truly overwhelming. Never in a million years did I think I would receive an honor like this. I am truly humbled and overwhelmed. Some of my logos or designs have won awards in my career, but I have never been personally honored like this, so for that I offer a truly heart felt “Thank You” for this incredible moment.
I would also like to say thank you to Father Vaillancourt, Jacob Bergmeier, Alex Malecki and all of the Faculty and staff at Kennedy High School that I have worked with over the years directly and indirectly for selecting me for this amazing honor. It is with a great sense of pride that I look around and see the photos of the students wearing things I designed or walking around campus and seeing my work displayed. I consider it one my greatest achievements to be able to contribute my work like this. When I was a child looking up to my brother Rob and his Kennedy Gaels football uniform, all I ever wanted to do was be able to wear that red and white Viking based logo, I never could have fathomed one day other little kids would be thinking that way about the logo I made.
I would also like to say a HUGE thank you to all of my friends and family who attended this event to support me. Some of them have traveled a good distance to be here or have over come physical challenges to be here for me today and it means the world to me. Particularly, I would like to thank my Parents Bob and Christine Walker. It has been a tough past few years in our family, and hopefully nights like tonight can help us to see that the best is yet to come. I know there were times when I attended Kennedy that you were worried I might not have had the drive or ambition to make nights like this possible, but I want you to know that through all of the challenges we have faced, you did a great job. You raised me right. You taught me lessons that I pass down to my children everyday. Hard work, perseverance, always finishing what you start… that was the foundation that schools like St. John’s and Kennedy were able to build on. This award is as much a testament to your hard work as it is to mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I would also like to thank my Mother in law Yolanda. I have learned a lot from you the past 11 years as well. I saw a much different approach to handling life’s challenges and it taught me to sometimes just go with my gut and do what I feel is right. I think that has given me more patience and understanding to how other people solve problems. That has made me a better Father and a better designer. Thank you.
And last but certainly by no means least; I would like to thank my amazing wife Erica. She has been such an outstanding wife and best friend these past 8 years; I don’t know where I would be without her. Not many people have the strength and character to let me volunteer my time like this while she picks up the slack with our 4 beautiful children at home. But she knows this is important to me, so she helps out any way she can. We have had a lot of challenges like many young families do and I don’t think I would have made it with out her. Our children are smart, polite, and respectful of others and they share a strong bond with each other that is due to her tireless hard work and dedication to our family. You are an inspiration and the reason I stay up late working because I owe you everything. The greatest gift God gave me was you and I love you with all of my heart.
What Kennedy Has Meant to Me
When I went to school here way back in the early 90’s, I wasn’t what you would caller a stellar academic student. I struggled. I just wasn’t very interested to be honest. I would gaze out the window at the nice horses at the old horse farm across the street and just draw pictures of Don Mattingly, Dennis Byrd, Al Toon and my fellow football teammates with the latest facemask or coolest new sports equipment I could think of. I would draw the Kennedy Gael logo over and over again all the while wondering what I was going to be when I got older. However, in all fairness, you could now say that I was actually doing very intense user based market research, which I subconsciously knew I could charge a lot of money for when I got older J.
But seriously, my poor parents were always so worried (rightfully so) that I didn’t really have a good future ahead of me, and I couldn’t blame them. I never really took to school until Sr. Janet’s Art Classes really started to get challenging and for the first time, I really wanted to not only do well at something, I wanted to be the best at it. Those art classes back then were not easy. Sr. Janet, who I am sure, is much softer now J, really pushed us back then to give our best effort. For a high school art program, it was pretty intense and it really sparked my competitive fire. We didn’t have the technology available back then, so art wasn’t really as common a career path as it is now. My parents were really concerned that art wasn’t going to provide me a stable future, but for some reason I just felt like I was on to something. I didn’t know why, but I just think that having succeeded at art here at Kennedy gave me the confidence that I could get into a good school and go from there. When my father and I went to my first Portfolio Day down at Pratt, I think we were both shocked at how well things went. Not only was my work well received, but also I was a lot more prepared than a lot of the students there. Kennedy had gotten me ready for college as they always promised they would, and I had actually received an early acceptance to FIT based on my very first portfolio day.
For that, and for many other reasons, I just want to say thank you. Thank you Kennedy and thank you Sr. Janet for lighting a fire in me that still has not gone out.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for this school, I truly believe that. When I got to college, I had a big advantage over the other students from an art perspective. Sr. Janet’s class had taught me the core principles of how to think and see as an artist before I got there, while most others were still getting their feet wet. The motto of courage and compassion still lives with me to this day as well as the much too underrated values of personal responsibility and respect for others. When I struggled in college or I had a horrible day at work starting out, I would always rely on the instincts of hard work and self-reliance that we were core principles at this school and in the end, everything would always work out for the best.
Albert Einstein once said:
“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”
I believe that it’s important to try and make sure others receive the blessings that you were fortunate to receive. We can all use a break in life, and if the things I can offer to this school allow them to reach others the way it reached me, it’s the least I can do. I would like to one last time give a very heart felt “thank you” for this precious honor. You have made me overwhelmingly happy and I look forward to working with you more in the future.
Good night and God Bless.
One reply on “A Night I will Never Forget”
CONGRATULATIONS !!! What a wonderful way to say thank you for all that you do.Well done.
Jim And Pat Rathschmidt