Garden City High School continued a 34-year tradition on Friday night by inducting two new members into the school’s Hall of Fame.
More than 60 people attended a dinner and ceremony at GCHS to recognize Melinda A. McNaught Hitz of Garden City (class of 1975) and Alan P. Stoecklein of Hutchinson (class of 1973) as the Hall's newest members.
“It means the world to me,” said Hitz, this year's in-town inductee. “My family all grew up in Garden City, and we even came back to Garden City after graduating from college and settled our families here. Garden City is our home.”
Stoecklein, this year's out-of-town inductee, said it means a lot to be nominated by a peer.
“This is a real honor, especially after retirement,” he said. “It validates your work. It’s hard to put into words.”
Stoecklein was nominated by Josh Biera, who worked with him on the Kansas Highway Patrol. Hitz was nominated by Janet Reed, a fellow classmate.
Biera introduced Stoecklein to the crowd.
“You’ve really got to talk to this guy,” Biera said. “He’s always great for a good cop story.”
Stoecklein earned a certified public manager certificate at the University of Kansas and received Kansas police officer certification from the Kansas Law Enforcement Center. He has had a long career in law enforcement in Garden City, Ulysses and for the Kansas Highway Patrol.
While working for the KHP, Stoecklein served as a trooper, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, acting colonel and was selected to act as interim superintendent for three months during a transition of governors. In February 2011, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel as assistant superintendent for the 800-member agency, a position he held until his retirement in 2014.
Reed introduced Hitz to the audience. She explained how Hitz was a “great athlete” and participated in track, tennis, basketball and summer softball.
“Thanks for being part of the class of '75 and now for being a part of the Hall of Fame,” Reed said to Hitz.
In high school, in addition to playing sports, Hitz was the pep club president. Her first job was at a fabric store, where she made $1.45 an hour. She attended Garden City Community College and later graduated from Fort Hays State University with a degree in business and an emphasis in accounting. She is a certified public accountant and works as the director of finance for the City of Garden City, where she has received national awards for her work. She is involved in several state and local organizations, including the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Garden City Community College Endowment Association, the St. Catherine Hospital board of directors and the USD 457 School Foundation.
After the introduction and speech from the inductees, each inductee was presented with a plaque. Their portraits, which will be displayed with the 64 other inductees in the high school commons, were also unveiled.
According to Roy Cessna, USD 457 public information coordinator and part of the Hall of Fame Committee, said the idea for the Hall of Fame began in 1984, with the first inductees in 1985. He said the program is intended to encourage current GCHS graduates to achieve their full potential.
“It’s somethings special for our school,” he said. “That’s what the whole program is about. That they’ve been a success graduating from Garden City High School, and that those graduating now can be a success.”
Paul Seitz, 62, traveled from Broken Arrow, Okla., to celebrate Stoecklein's honor. Seitz said he went to elementary school, middle school, high school and community college with Stoecklein. They also worked together at the Garden City and Ulysses police departments.
“I’ve known him all my life,” Seitz said. “It proves to me that hard work, persistence and dedication is worthwhile, and it’s important to honor people for that.”