BOTKINS — He was a teacher, a coach, bus driver, athletic director and superintendent. For more than 30 years, Jim Degen played a role in the lives of the students who attended Botkins Local Schools.
His commitment to the school district was honored Monday night when Degen became the first recipient of the Wall of Honor for the Botkins Education Foundation during a banquet at the Palazzo.
“”There is no one who is more deserving of this honor that Jim Degen,” said Connie Schneider, who is a former Botkins superintendent and member of the Botkins Education Foundation. “Mr. Degen dedicated much of his life to the Botkins Local School District and to education!! He was an employee of the Botkins Board of Education for 34 years and then worked for the Ohio Department of education as the Area 2 coordinator with a specialty in finance until 2016. If my math is correct that will be more than a half century of helping our students, our school and our community.
“In fact many of the people who are here tonight attended school at Botkins when Mr. Degen was there. He did it all at Botkins. He was a teacher, a coach, a bus driver, athletic director, principal and superintendent,” said Schneider.
Degen graduated from Ohio Northern University. He began teaching in Botkins in 1962 and he taught physical education, biology and driver’s ed. He was a guidance counselor and then became principal.
“Mr. Degen was both my teacher and principal,” said Schneider. “He later hired me and became my colleague, my mentor, my supervisor, and my friend! I had the best mentor ever in Jim Degen. He taught me much about how to do my job always keeping one thing in mind doing what was best for the students and pay attention to the facilities and the money. He led by example and was always there to help and support in any way that he could. He was responsible for passing three building levies and making our facilities and school the best it could be.”
Guest speaker for the evening was Steve VanHorn, a Botkins graduate and retired U.S. Navy SEAL.
After spending two years as an enlisted man, VanHorn applied for , entered and completed the BUD/S training program in Coronado, California, and became a U.S. Navy SEAL. He initially served in SEAL Team Two, he was eventually promoted SEAL Team Six. He served his country for 30 years and was one of the key leaders in SEAL Team Six.
VanHorn became, by far, the most decorated veteran in the history of Shelby County. He received more than 65 combat awards. These include the Legion of Merit Awards, the Silver Star and five Bronze Stars with Valor and one Bronze Star with Valor and Extraordinary Heroism.
VanHorn told the scholarship recipients about his life experiences in high school until he entered the U.S. Navy. He said two words summed up his experiences: Lucky and grateful.
He said he was lucky to grow up in the community of Botkins with so many wonderful people. He was lucky to have entered the Navy and have things in his life fall into place. He is also grateful for the opportunities that he has had; he is grateful to have lived and grown up in this community; he is grateful to have the support of his family and friends.
Eighteen students received 47 local scholarships for a total of more than $31,000. This is 38 percent of the graduating class.
Scholarship recipients included:
Crystal Altstaetter: Plennie Snyder Memorial Scholarship, $2,000; Rachel Doseck Memorial Music Award, $250; Community Fund Scholarship, $1,000; First National Bank of Botkins, $500; Dorothy Greve Memorial Scholarship, $500; and FCCLA Culinary Scholarship, $450
Payton Amstutz: Don and Helen Ambos Memorial Scholarship, $1,000; ABC scholarship, $500.
Alex Bergman: Jeff Roberts Memorial Scholarship, $500.
Lucas Bergman: Louise Sheets Memorial Scholarship, $500.
Konnor Burmeister: Carol Becker Memorial, $250; and Botkins Athletic Boosters Scholarship, $250.
Rachel Creps: Student Memorial Scholarship, $500; and Louise Sheets Memorial, $500.
Logan Fisher: Creative Arts Scholarship, $500.
Kayla Kohler: Lacal Equipment Scholarship, $500; Louise Sheets Memorial, $500; Student Memorial Scholarship, $500; and Carolina Meyer Scholarship, $500.
Damien Metz: Ed Counts Memorial Scholarship, $1,000.
Josh Miller: Carolina Meyer Memorial Scholarship, $500; Jeff Roberts Memorial Scholarship, $500; Botkins Athletic Boosters, $250; Botkins Education Foundation Scholarship, $1,000; Dave Mielke Scholarship, $1,000; Carl and Phyllis Serr Family Scholarship, $500; and Jacob Freisthler Memorial Scholarship, $270.
Madeline Okuley: Botkins Community Club Scholarship, $1,000; Carol Hemmert Kohnen Leadership Award, $2,500; and ABC Scholarship, $1,000.
Xavier Pax: Carl and Phyllis Serr Family Scholarship, $500; Botkins Community Club Scholarship, $1,000; and Chase Fultz Memorial Scholarship, $250.
Joe Shuga: Roggenkamp Family Scholarship, $300; Gary Schneider Memorial Schoalrship, $300; and Mandy Burden Shoup Memorial Music Award, $250.
Micah Smock: Julius Greve Memorial Scholarship, $500; Audrey Pitts Memorial Scholarship, $500; Lahrmer Family Scholarship, $1,000; and First National Bank of Botkins, $500.
Madison Steinke: Team Becky Memorial Scholarship, $500.
Bryce Swank: Johnny Oellerman Memorial Scholarship, $250; and Randy Greve Memorial Award, $1,000.
Jonathan Yenser: Walter F. Snyder Memorial Scholarship, $2,000; Nick Welker Honorary Award, $500; and Heiland Post of the American Legion, $500
Casey Woodall: Carol Hemmert Kohnen Determination Award, $1,000.