By Steve Robinson | October 9, 2017 - 3:16 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

FootballNormal Community West High School added two more distinguished honorees to its Wall Of Fame Sunday evening at a gala held at Lakeside Country Club. Kim Behrends Kauufman and Jared O’Brien are the 13th and 14th persons to be added to a select group of Normal West graduates whose career paths have contributed to their communities.

The Wall Of Fame, located just outside the entrance to the school library, was the brainchild of West Social Studies Teacher John Bierbaum, who approached Normal West Principal David Johnson with the idea five years ago.

In the event’s first couple of years, 2013 and 2014, the event was held at the school. In 2015, the school held a 20th anniversary celebration at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott, and named honorees to the Wall Of Fame at that time. But since last year, the event has been held at Lakeside Country Club in Bloomington.

“Every year, we have between 20-25 people nominated for this,” Bierbaum explained. “So it’s a two-round process to get it down to two people to be honored.” He added the first round of discussion among the 20 Normal West staff members on the selection committee is required to end in a consensus of who becomes a final nominee. Once that number is determined, those persons considered for the award must receive an approval vote from 75 percent of committee members.

Bierbaum said the process is modeled on how final selections for baseball’s Hall Of Fame are decided. This year, he said, the committee received a total of 26 nominations. The two graduates named to join 12 others on the Wall Of Fame are Kim Behrends Kaufman and Jared O’Brien.

Kim Behrends Kaufman: Kaufman, Class of 2004, has spent the majority of her life using communication skills to help the world around her. As a member of the speech team at West, Kim was a two-time State qualifier and served as a leader and peer coach for the team. She was also an active participant in the music and theatre programs, where she was a member of the state qualifying cast of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” In addition, she also played tennis and sang in the choir. She went on to study communications at Illinois State University where she graduated summa cum laude and was a Robert G. Bone Scholar. Since that time, her communications skills have been put to good use impacting others from working at Walt Disney World to her time at WMBD-TV, as well as Children’s Hospital of Illinois, and State Farm. As an active participant in Toastmasters, Kim reached a new pinnacle in 2016 when she competed in the Toastmasters International World Championship of public speaking and was named among the top ten speakers in the world. She has even done some reporting and column-writing for us here at The Normalite.

Steve RobinsonKaufman, who was known as Kim Behrends when she attended West, said the school afforded students a wealth of activities to join and be active in. Kaufman was active in drama, explaining to the 200 people who attended the ceremony she recalled being part of the school’s production of “Joan Of Arc.” She said she “found a home in arts and speech and choir.” She said the skills she picked up at West have helped her in “a world that’s so digital now.”

Jared O’Brien: Jared O’Brien, Class of 2006, approached Normal West Varsity Baseball coach Chris Hawkins in 2001 having been the Varsity Basketball manager, and asked Hawkins where he could get a Wildcat baseball cap. Hawkins told him if he would be his manager in the spring, he would give him one. As a result of that inquiry, O’Brien became the baseball team manager in the spring of 2002 and he’s never left. Today he does not miss a game. He’s is a fixture on the sidelines with jobs varying from running the scoreboard, travelling with the medical kit and being the top backer of West baseball at all home and road games. In addition, he became a team manager on the Varsity Football team during his sophomore year and has fulfilled that position ever since.

O’Brien showed off an unusual skill when he addressed the gathering, demonstrating his knowledge of nicknames of NCAA Division I sports teams. When he isn’t working at Evergreen Village Retirement Home, O’Brien volunteers by scoring games for the Wildcats’ baseball team, and maintaining a close association, too, with the Wildcats’ football team.

“This is a great honor and I’m really humbled by it,” O’Brien said.

Twelve Prior Honorees: There have been 12 people named to the Wall Of Fame in the previous four years Normal West has started recognized faculty, staff, and students from its past. Kaufman and O’Brien are 13th and 14th to be added. They join previous honorees from 2013 Dr. Jerry Crabtree, West’s first principal from 1995-2003: Tom Eder, who followed Crabtree as principal from 2003-2012; Taylor Kirby, a 2011 West graduate who starred in Track, becoming both a two-time Intercity Pole Vault champion; and U. S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a 1996 West graduate; 2014 honorees former Houston Texans offensive guard Cody White, a 2007 grad; Linda Bawulski, who served in the post of administrative assistant to the school principal from 1995 to 2010; and Gary Woods served as the school’s first Athletic Director from 1995- 2001; 2015 honorees Tyler Ross, Class of 2013, currently the school’s most decorated speech team member; Steve Mintus, Normal West faculty member from 1995-2005; Berny Chiaro, Teacher & FMP Coordinator; Nathan Stark, Class of 2008, currently an actor; and 2016 honoree Kathy Smalley, who served as a student counselor from when the school opened in 1995 through 2006.

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