On February 2, 2017, the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame grew by two, with the addition of the late SSgt. Daniel N. Fannin (Class of 2001) and Nadine Griffith, a former teacher at Rowan County Senior High School. Friends and family members of the new Hall of Fame members were on hand to witness the induction ceremony that took place in the gymnasium between the boys’ Junior Varsity and Varsity basketball games.
Family members and friends of the Hall of Fame award recipients gathered at a reception in the Viking Café held earlier in the evening where they were welcomed by the high school administration, including RCSHS Assistant Principal Brandy Carver, who has been overseeing this year’s Hall of Fame induction. Banners had been made to honor each Hall of Fame inductee. Plaques honoring the newest members of the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame will hang in the hallway near the gymnasium, joining the plaques honoring the other Hall of Fame members – Jeanette Banks, the late Jeanne Cornett, the late Warren Cooper, the late Zane Collins, Virginia Landreth-Etherton, Claudia Hicks, the late SOC Collin Thomas, and Kelly Wells.
When the folk singer and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan was quoted as saying, “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom,” he could have very well been talking about Daniel N. Fannin, a member of the RCSHS Class of 2001 and a true American hero.
Daniel Fannin loved to read, hike, fish, camp, and study Scripture. As a student, he was always an avid reader and he could often be found with a “for pleasure” book hidden behind one of his textbooks. One of his high school teachers remarked that she couldn’t come up with a reason to ask him to stop because he wasn’t bothering his fellow students and, besides, he always did well in her class.
In August 2001, shortly after his high school graduation, Daniel entered the United States Air Force. It wasn’t long before he made the decision to make the Air Force his career. In the words of his mother, Sharri Jones, “He strived for the kind of work that gave him the satisfaction of being able to help others, the ability to make a difference.”
Daniel served as an E-3 air surveillance technician as well as an MC-12 sensor operator. While in Afghanistan, Sergeant Fannin was assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a member of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Air Base. He was qualified as an instructor Air Surveillance Technician and was an experienced instructor in the E-3. Prior to his final operations assignment, Sergeant Fannin served with distinction in the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base. He completed three deployed tours as an E-3 AWACS Air Surveillance Technician and MC-12 Sensor Operator. He was well known and respected throughout the 552nd Operations Support Squadron.
In addition to his work in the Air Force, Daniel Fannin always made time to mentor Church youth and his fellow airmen. Some have said that Daniel was a quiet man who said very little, but when he did speak, what he said mattered – and everyone listened. Throughout his deployments, it was his faith that strengthened him.
On April 27, 2013, SSgt. Daniel N. Fannin and three fellow airmen, died in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft in Afghanistan. Fannin earned the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf Cluster and the Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster. In his memory, Tinker Air Force Base renamed its Operations Group Auditorium “Fannin Hall.” An AWACS E-3 replica was dedicated in his honor in Del City, Oklahoma.
To be considered a member of the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame, the candidate must exemplify the qualities of irreproachable character and outstanding citizenship. The life, service, honor and sacrifice of SSgt. Daniel N. Fannin truly qualify him as a member of the RCSHS Alumni Hall of Fame.
The noted author Jesse Stuart once wrote, “I am firm in my belief that a teacher lives on and on through his students. Good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal.” Even Jesse Stuart knew the impact that a teacher can have on a student. One such teacher, Nadine Griffith, impacted the life of not just one student, but many students’ lives throughout her tenure with Rowan County Schools from 1973 to 1996.
A favorite with students from her first day in the math classroom, students would request Nadine Griffith’s classes every year. The reason for this was two-fold. She was an outstanding math teacher; but, due to the relationships she built with her students, they knew that they meant so much more to her than just a body in class.
She took on the task of beginning the first alternative school in the Rowan County School District. She had a special rapport with these students, many of whom were troubled and burdened with serious problems. While her demeanor was quiet, her administrative style was extremely effective.
Nadine Griffith was so much more than just a teacher or an administrator. She would spend time tutoring students on her own after school and on weekends for hours. There were few discipline issues because of the relationships she built with her students. To this day, students return to visit with her.
After listening to concerns from students, including Jennifer Blair Anderson (now a member of the Board of Education,) Nadine Griffith began the very first Project Prom in 1987, organizing many community organizations and businesses to help sponsor the safe after-Prom alternative, an event that will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Even after retirement, Nadine was easily drawn back into a life of service with Rowan County Schools. She worked closely with teachers and administrators at Rowan County Senior High Schools as well as those at Bluegrass Discovery Academy.
When asked if he could describe Nadine Griffith in just word or one phrase, Superintendent Marvin Moore quickly answered, “Professional. Nadine Griffith is a professional in whatever she does.”
The late journalist Bob Talbert once wrote, “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” Nadine Griffith’s life of service has always been teaching her students what counts in life.
At the Hall of Fame reception that was held just prior to the induction ceremony, Sharri Jones told people about her son, saying, “If Daniel were here, he would be saying, ‘Others deserve this award more than me; I was just doing my job.’ Daniel and his fellow airmen took an oath to serve their country regardless of their political beliefs. I frequently told Daniel that he was my hero. He died serving his country, serving others, and serving God.”
Superintendent Marvin Moore spoke on behalf of Nadine Griffith, whom he had earlier nicknamed “Nathan.” Seeing her exceptional abilities as a math teacher at Rowan County High School, Moore, who was the high school principal at the time, respected Griffith’s abilities and her rapport with the students. When he was given the opportunity to select an assistant principal, he knew exactly who to tap.
“Nathan is quiet but she’s effective,” said Moore. “She’s always been committed to the students, whether it was starting this district’s first alternative high school or listening to the students’ desire to have a safe place to celebrate after the Prom, which was the beginning of Project Prom. With everything that she’s done for this district, this (the Hall of Fame) is a fitting honor for ‘Nathan’.”
“This is such an honor,” said Nadine Griffith, “and I am even more pleased to come into the Hall of Fame with Daniel Fannin. Not knowing him was my loss.”
She then added, “I reluctantly left the classroom to become the assistant principal, but taking that job helped me grow as a person and helped to build my confidence. I spent a lot of years as an educator, but I can honestly say that education was and is my passion.”