Chris Jennings/Herald Marie Ridinger, daughter of the late Vernon Beckham

accepts an award from Roger Shires recognizing Beckham as a distinguished alumni

of Denison High School

During a brief lull in Denison’s homecoming festivities Thursday evening, after the parade but before the community pep rally, the Denison High School Alumni Association hosted a celebration of a more formal sort. Hundreds of Denison residents came to the high school cafeteria to recognize some of the school’s storied graduates.

“It helps us honor the history of the community” said Roger Shires, president of the Alumni Association. “There are people who have done extraordinary things. … This is a little town, a little school, but look what some of us have accomplished.”

The Alumni Association honored former State Rep. Vernon Beckham – class of 1931 – with the Distinguished Alumni Award. Mr. Beckham, who died in 1998, was a longtime Denison resident and insurance man. He served in the Texas House of Representatives for five consecutive terms, from 1963 to 1972. During his decade in the Legislature, Mr. Beckham was a strong ally for Grayson County Junior College (now Grayson College) and a key figure in establishing the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Park in Denison. He was also an active member of the community, serving as a board member for the Denison Hospital Authority.

Marie Beckham Ridinger, who accepted the award on her father’s behalf, said she wished her father were around to receive this honor. “He would have been elated,” she said. “He loved anything to do with education, and to see how far the Denison School District has moved up in terms of accreditation.”

Ridinger said Mr. Beckham always had a great love for the people of his native Texoma. “His main interest was this county, and all the bills he authored himself were respecting this county,” she said. “His main interest was his people.”

Although Mr. Beckham will be remembered for many successful projects across the county, Ridinger said her father was most proud of his work with Grayson College to provide affordable higher education to the people of Texoma. “That junior college meant an awful lot to him,” she said.

The other star of the evening was former DHS football coach Marty Criswell. He and the members and coaches of his state championship 1984 football team were inducted into the DHS Sports Hall of Fame.

“What a great thrill and an honor,” Criswell said as he accepted the award on behalf of the team. “I’m just thrilled to be here with my boys. All my 48-year-old boys,” he added with a laugh.

Criswell said when he came to Denison as a young coach, the team had no tradition of winning and no reason to expect a perfect season. But due to the hard work of the student athletes and the support of the Denison community, the team started a tradition of victory in football.

“These guys changed my life and they changed the life of this community,” Criswell said. “I can look around and see what we have now, and it is just amazing. The seeds of that was a group of guys who changed the attitude of this community.”

Criswell concluded his remark with his trademark phrase, which has since become deeply associated with Denison High School: “It’s great to be a Yellow Jacket.”

The evening concluded with a community pep rally to prepare for Friday night’s homecoming ball game against Wylie.