Elisa Cohen | [email protected]
HIGHLANDS — Wally Ginn’s nodding smile or look of consternation at the long table where the North Side High School Alumni Scholarship Foundation (NSHSASF) does business was enough to confirm a good decision or for us to stop and seek solutions that made more sense to ensure qualified North High School students received the scholarships they needed. With Wally’s passing on August 21, 2016, a crater of grief slammed through my heart and, I am sure, the rest of the board.
“One hour,” Joe Derose, the NSHSASF president, promised me when I joined the board several years ago. I had no idea when I joined the board that I would love that monthly hour so much, in large part, because I was able to sit with Wally Ginn and hear his ideas about education and all things North Denver.
Wally was instrumental in the founding of this board. Two of the annual scholarships given in perpetuity to North High students honor the Ginn family. Remembering the past while encouraging youth with funds for school, scholarships come with a brief story about the person for whom the scholarship is named. Students learn about Wally’s mother, Emmie Lou Marchant Ginn when they apply for the scholarship in her name. It is “…Awarded to a student demonstrating high achievement in art. Emmie Lou Marchant Ginn was born in England, later immigrated to Canada and eventually moved to the United States with her family. During her adult life, Emmie Lou took an active interest in education and in art. She served as president of the Columbian and Skinner P.T.S.A. groups. During her several trips to Europe, Emmie Lou became a regular visitor to art galleries and museums in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Oslo. She embarked on her own art experiences at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School with instruction from the outstanding Colorado artist Walt Green, and art became a driving force in her life.”
His father is recognized with the Golda Meir/ Carl Ginn Scholarship “…Awarded to students who have worked through high school Golda Meir, a founder of the State of Israel who served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, and Carl Ginn, who served as an administrator in the Denver Public Schools for forty-two years, were classmates entering North in 1914. Both held jobs during their years at North and were not able to participate in activities after school hours. Consequently, this scholarship award recognizes the special efforts of those students who also combine a work experience with their academic education.”
The board meets in the Alumni Room at North High School, a living museum of artifacts of the people who have passed through the halls of North High. Much of this room’s existence is thanks to Wally’s stewardship of memorabilia and documents critical to the history of the school. There are trophies, pictures, letters from prominent students who have gone off to serve their country and reach greatness. File cabinets are filled with records of the generous donations made to ensure perpetual scholarships will be given out to students. As the board transitioned to emailed minutes and other digital records of doing business, someone would always make a paper copy for Wally to read at the meeting and then to file. One former principal once eyed the room as a possible study hall. As he described removing all of the memorabilia, I exploded a bit more forcefully than either the principal or I expected, but I believe my fury made him see the room as a critical space to forge links between the alumni and its current students.
Wally was a lifelong educator who shared his ideas and tips for reaching the hearts and minds of young people. He told me he had only one grade for written assignments, an A. But before the student would get the A, Wally would stamp on the paper Revise. He would do that again and again until the paper warranted the A. His method fits into the idea that everyone can learn if they take the time to work on it. Wally taught overseas in US military schools for “Army Brats.” He told of the benefit to parental engagement when teaching the children of Army personnel. Commanding officers could say “You will attend the PTA, and that is an order.” He recalled the lines to get into the after school events stretching far around the buildings. He also spoke of how students who misbehaved drastically would bring serious consequences to their parents who might be sent back to the US. He would shake his head and say he wouldn’t get into teaching now if he had to put up with the tasks teachers are required to do. He said that, but I always thought he would be a teacher again, even with the burdensome accountability ridiculousness because he was a teacher in his core.
While I knew Wally through our time together on the board and my visits to him at his place, I know that he had a regular coffee group that met at Common Grounds. Rumors have it that a portion of the gathering was spent circling typos and other mistakes in the Tribune. The thing I loved about Wally was that even if he found mistakes, he was always kind about it. We received an email from Phil Goodstein that the latest copy of the North Denver Tribune was in his room the day he passed away. As I write this I hope that if Wally can see the fuss we are all making out of love for him, he will take out his Revise stamp if he sees an error.
On Saturday, October 1 at 9:30 to 11:30 the North High Alumni Association will be holding a celebration of Wally Ginn’s life at North High School, 2960 North Speer Boulevard.
The North High Alumni Association has started a Wally Ginn Scholarship. Donations are appreciated. Please send to: Wally Ginn North High School Scholarship Fund, c/o North Alumni Association, North High School 2960 N. Speer Blvd. Denver, CO 80211. Make checks payable to: North Side High School Alumni Scholarship Foundation (NSHSASF) and “Wally Ginn” on the memo line. All gifts are tax-deductible.
Please email Joe DeRose with questions – [email protected]
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