Monday, May 19, 2003
By Robin R. Plasterer
The Post and Mail, Columbia City
The memory of one of Whitko's long-time educators lived on Friday when the middle school named its long and winding road "Mark Skiles Run".
Skiles, former school counselor, principal, cross country and track coach and school board member, was memorialized in a ceremony featuring many of his colleagues, family and friends.
In recognition of his service to the school and community, as well as his love for running the unnamed driveway from state Route 5 to the middle school will hereafter be known as Mark Skiles Run.
"Mark loved to run. He began running as a child, when he'd run home from school for lunch and run back to school again, as fast as he could, because he didn't want to miss any recess. He ran cross country for Grace College and became a coach there after graduating. It was during that time that Skiles was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," said Lisa Skiles Lukens, his widow.
"He was very proud of Whitko Middle School. He loved the challenge of building it and seeing that it ran the way it was supposed to," said Lukens.
She challenged the students and staff to continue to work and learn and help each other and to run with perseverance the race marked out for each of them.
"By naming the drive of WMS 'Mark Skiles Run' you are assuring that a man of the highest character, a man with a passion to help kids and adults and a man who was an excellent educational leader be forever recognized," Allan Frank said.
Frank and Skiles fought for a combined middle school in a location more centralized more than a dozen years ago.
"Because of them, 10-1/2 years ago, two teaching staffs and two student bodies (Pierceton South Whitley junior highs) became one right in the middle of a school year," said Tony Phillips, teacher.
Skiles died in November of 1999.
"It saddens me that Mr. Skiles is no longer working in this building, but I do feel his presence. Today isn't meant to be a sad day, but one where we recognize the impact he had on the Whitko community and those he left behind," said Phillips.
"Since the road to WMS's existence started with Mark Skiles, it only seems appropriate that the winding path leading to the building carry his name," said Phillips.
When the Skiles family, including Stacy and Scott Skiles as well as Lisa Skiles Lukens, unveiled the street sign the students and staff stood and cheered.
Other family members present included his sisters and their husbands, Pastor Marion and Mary Noll and Alice and Tim Hoover and his mother, Margaret Skiles.
"I appreciate this so much. They have had so much positive to say about him," said Margaret.
His sister Mary Noll is also an educator.
"I can respect Mark for all that he has accomplished in education. Today
is special and it shows what an impact education can be when it is at its
best," said Noll.
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