Margaret Ryan Anderton is a community leader.
As the executive director of the downtown Schenectady social services agency Bethesda House, she's spoken in front of political bodies and at conferences. She's a decision-maker, helping to guide Schenectady's indigent, and she's been bestowed with several prestigious community awards.
But when she learned she would be honored with a commemorative plaque on the Schalmont High School Alumni Wall of Distinction, Anderton was a little nervous about returning to accept an award in the lobby of her former school in front of family, friends and even a former teacher.
I've met Hillary Clinton and I've spoken with congressmen, but being here is a little bit scary, said Anderton.
On, Thursday, May 29, public policy advocate Thomas Eichler, class of 1962 and psychologist Valerie Gaus, Ph.D., class of 1982 joined Anderton, class of 1978, as the second round of inductees into what is essentially Schalmont's hall of fame.
Awardees were recognized for their superior service to their school, community and county. Plaques detailing their accomplishments now hang in the high school lobby joining last year's five inaugural award winners.
"It's a profound feeling," said Anderton. "In high school you don't really know your life's trajectory. The whole thing makes me reflective of the help I got as a student from my teachers."
Eichler, a former regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who lives with his family in Delaware, shared Anderton's astonishment in receiving the honor.
"My record (at Schalmont) was entirely undistinguished," said Eichler. "I never made the high honor roll, and I was never the president of anything."
But that didn't mean Eichler wasn't inspired by what he learned in school. He recalled reading the books of Harvard historian Arthur Schlessinger Jr. and seeing John F. Kennedy speak on the campaign trail in Schenectady. Both, he said, led him toward a career in advocacy for social justice.