As many times as we have spoken personally and professionally over the years, there is something I have never said to you: You are, without question, one of the finest men I have ever met.
As many times as I have told others how much I admire and respect you, I have been incredibly remiss in not telling you that directly. For that, I apologize because you deserve to hear it. You deserve to know the impact you have on not just your students, but also on others in the community.
My children have been under your care since 2006. Most of our contact during those first two years was media related, but that changed in October of 2008. Though I already had an entirely favorable opinion of you, your actions after Alex's accident forever sealed your place in my heart and mind.
I assume you had a chance to read the letter I sent to Superintendent Wilbanks about you in 2009. I meant every word. As I wrote at the time:
Despite the enormous day-to-day responsibilities associated with leading the largest high school in the state, Mr. Markham has taken the time to make sure Alex has been helped in every way possible.
To be very honest, Jim Markham is such a modest man that we will probably never know the full extent of his efforts on Alex’s behalf. I do know though that he personally made sure that Alex’s return to school went smoothly and that Alex’s needs continue to be met each day at Mill Creek.
Shortly after Alex was released from the hospital, he returned to school part time. The first day Alex was scheduled to return, there was some confusion about what time Alex would arrive. Concerned that we would not be able to get through the bus traffic to reach the handicap accessible spots in front of the school, Mr. Markham instructed the staff members on traffic duty that morning to be on the lookout for our vehicle so they could direct us to a safe unloading spot. Mr. Markham called our home that morning to verify our transportation plans and make sure that Alex’s arrival went smoothly. With the arrival of over 4,000 students to deal with, Jim Markham took the time to make sure that our son got to school without any difficulties.
Once Alex returned to school full time, Mr. Markham continued to make sure everything went smoothly. According to Alex, Mr. Markham has stopped and talked with him several times to ask how he was doing. It is difficult to adequately describe what a big impression that has made on Alex. In a school the size of Mill Creek, you would not expect the principal to give that kind of individual attention. Alex clearly enjoys knowing that his principal cares about his well-being.
Mr. Markham was also kind enough to send Alex a handwritten note congratulating him on his performance during his first home track meet as a wheelchair athlete. If you could have seen Alex’s facial expression as he read that note, you would know how genuinely happy it made him to read Mr. Markham’s message.
Thanks to your efforts and those of the coaches, teachers and staff of Mill Creek, Alex enjoyed academic and athletic success during his time at MCHS. At the 2010 honors night, he was recognized for some of those achievements. The award that meant the most though was the one none of us knew was coming. To this day, I regret not getting Coach Long's speech on video. It was a beautiful tribute to you. To be selected as the first recipient of the Jim Markham courage award was such a tremendous honor for Alex and one that means a great deal to him. And now, as you once again bravely face what lies ahead, the words on that statuette will take on even greater meaning: “The Jim Markham Courage Award given in recognition of your fortitude, determination and ability to confront the uncertain.”
I am sure Alex will find inspiration in that award for the rest of his life. For me, seeing you hand him that award was more momentous than seeing you hand him his high school diploma -- and that was a big deal considering we almost lost him his junior year.
It never occurred to me that you would not be the principal who hands Lisa her diploma when she graduates in 2014. In my mind, you and Mill Creek are inseparable. I know there are several people at the school right now who would do a wonderful job as principal, but they will have some very big shoes to fill when you retire.
Thank you for everything you have done for me, my family and the Mill Creek community. I wish you peace and healing and, most of all, I hope you take comfort in knowing how much you are loved and respected. God bless you and keep you.
Editor's note: Dr. Markham has announced plans to retire Dec. 1, 2012.