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Craig principal gets unexpected recognition at annual ceremony

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 15, 2010
— For once, Mike Kuehne was not in control.

The principal of Craig High School had been in control all afternoon Friday as he presided over the annual induction ceremony for the Craig Honor Wall.


He was in control as he introduced the band.


He was in charge as students read the honorees’ inspirational biographies.


He was in charge as the honorees gave their speeches.


The honorees—Craig and Janesville high school graduates—were, as always, great success stories:


- Jack and Joe Pregont of international manufacturer Prent Corp. Jack, the elder, told of being dyslexic but still going on to found a profitable company.


- The late Ken Hendricks, who, his daughter Kara Stecker said, found it hard as a child to overcome the disrespect he felt for being the son of a roofing contractor. Hendricks went on to become one of the richest men in America, sharing his wealth and knowledge with Rock County.


- Lori Schneider, the woman who climbed Mount Everest after discovering she had multiple sclerosis.


Schneider had finished her acceptance speech, and Kuehne stepped up to the lectern on the Craig auditorium stage, when assistant principal Monte Phillips ran up the steps.


“Dr. Kuehne, I know you like to be in charge of things, but at this time, you’ve lost control,” Phillips said.


Kuehne would be the final honoree, Phillips said.


The audience, including Craig’s seniors and juniors, rose and applauded for the kid who graduated from Craig in 1971 and who will retire as its principal in 2010.


Kuehne appeared to be genuinely surprised. He found himself losing control. He choked up. Eyes moistened.


Assistant Principal Alison Spiegel, who will take over at Craig after Kuehne retires this summer, gave Kuehne’s biography.


“Perhaps his most significant contribution is the number of people who have chosen education as their career due to the kindness, caring and commitment shown by Dr. Kuehne throughout his career,” Spiegel said


Kuehne had recovered by this time and eloquently and humbly told a bit about himself.


He had been a troubled youth at Craig, with no direction in life, he said. He joined the Navy, where he was assigned to helping sailors get honorable discharges when their families were in crisis. That’s where he learned how rewarding it could be to help people, Kuehne said.


Kuehne summoned a quote he heard at his high school graduation. The quote was from Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”


“Life isn’t much more simple than that,” Kuehne said. “We don’t all have to go out and be great scientists and discover cures for cancer. But maybe we can help our neighbor. Maybe we can help somebody who’s struggling, somebody who’s down and out: ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’”


Grads did great things


These are the biographies of the other honorees added to the Craig High School Honor Wall on Friday. Most of the information is taken from research by the Craig newspaper class.


Ken Hendricks


Janesville High School Class of 1960—The founder and CEO of ABC Supply used his vast resources to enrich the lives of his employees, the residents of Rock County and people throughout the United States.


“Determined to never forget the working man, Kenneth A. Hendricks spent his lifetime building a successful corporation and investing in people and the surrounding community,” the students wrote.


He worked as a utility repair truck driver right out of high school and later began a career roofing houses. By age 30, he had 500 roofers working for him.


Hendricks founded ABC Supply in 1982. The company was the first national distribution chain of roofing and siding materials. His company now employs more than 5,000 people in 350 locations.


Hendricks was active in many efforts to better his community, including the United Way, Beloit 2000 and Forward Janesville. He played a lead role in finding uses and renovating local buildings. ABC Supply sponsored the Southern Wisconsin AirFest and the Beloit Film Festival.


Among his many accolades, Hendricks was awarded an honorary doctorate from Beloit College and was honored posthumously with the Forward Janesville’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was named Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006.


Jack Pregont


and Joe Pregont


Janesville High School Class of 1949 and Craig Class of 1977—Jack, one of Janesville’s most successful entrepreneurs, founded Janesville’s Prent Corp. in 1967. His son, Joe, built on his father’s foundation, bringing the company worldwide success. Today, Prent is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of custom plastic, rigid thermoform packaging for the medical, electronics and consumer industries.


Prent employs 1,400 workers around the globe, including 500 in Janesville.


Joe took over Prent in 1985 when Jack retired. In 1989, Jack was named Thermoformer of the Year and in 2007 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society of Plastic Engineers. Joe was named Thermoformer of the Year in 2001.


Prent is a leader in keeping excess plastic out of landfills, ensuring that 99.99 percent of all plastic that leaves its facilities is either manufactured goods or recycled material. Employees have been encouraged to reduce waste through recycling-education programs started in 1989.


Prent’s local charitable efforts include full-tuition college scholarships to Craig and Parker students and the Monterey Stadium and high school weight room projects.


Lori Schneider


Craig Class of 1974—Schneider graduated from Craig with honors and went on to get a teaching degree. In 1999, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was 43.


She was told she would soon need a wheelchair to get around, but she set out to fulfill her dreams of traveling and climbing mountains.


Ten years later, Schneider had become the first person with MS to conquer the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks on each continent.


She started that journey when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her father in 1993. Her final peak was Mount Everest in 2009.


Schneider is passionate about educating and getting out the word about MS. Her zeal shines in the inspirational presentations she gives about the world around MS.


“Schneider says that after climbing Mount Everest, her fears of failure and living life with MS vanished. While atop Mount Everest, Schneider looked inward and realized she was no longer scared of her future but instead was ready to embrace it,” the students wrote.


Schneider is quoted as saying, “Overcoming that fear was the most challenging mountain of all.”



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