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Hall of Excellence

Founded by former principal Doug Johnston, the Hall of Excellence is a way to celebrate the success of former students at RDHS. Each member is a leader in his or her field, whether it be medicine, politics, athletics, sports, etc. Every spring, one or more graduates from RDHS are chosen to be inducted. His or her biography is read at graduation and a picture and a plaque are raised in the hall outside of the office to commemorate the event. The current members are Margaret Johnston, Margaret Richmond, Jim Brown, Rob Watson, Craig Mitten and Brian Buschemeyer. 

​Former RDHS Students
Accomplishments​
P-Campbell.jpgSenator Peter Campbell, 1912-1916

Peter graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1923 and joined with Frank Arnoldi to create one of the largest firms in Canada. He later served as treasurer of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1943. His hometown links with Harry Bawden and Gordon Leitch put him into the business world and he would become director of such companies as Maple Leaf Mills, the CIBC and Canadair. A tremendous success story as an individual and as a member of this Ridgetown three-some. 
JHarry ONeill.JPGJ. Harry O'Neill,  1910-1914

After an outstanding academic athletic career at Ridgetown District High School, Harry attended University of Toronto.  After playing baseball in Windsor, Edmonton and the Canadian Army in World War II, he returned to Canada and was signed by Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics.  His pro-career lasted eight years both as a pitcher and coach before a career ending injury.  Harry was credited as the originator of the "Slider" pitch.  He returned to Ridgetown as the clerk of Howard Township for 35 years before passing away in 1969.
Gordon B Peters.JPGGordon B. Peters,   1963-1969

Gordon utilized a prolific Ridgetown High School athletic and academic performance to attend Ohio State University on a hockey scholarship and would earn a degree in Public Administration.  Returning to Ontario he held the position of President of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and then was elected as the Ontario Regional Vice Chief, Assembly of First Nation from 1985-1997.  He is currently the president and CEO of the Centre for Indigenous Sovereignty to assist First Nation peoples in rebuilding indigenous communities.  Mr. Peters is a member of the Delaware of the Thames.

Eberle-Goldhawk.pngEberle Goldhawk,  1944-1950

Eberle enjoyed a 35-year education career in Ridgetown and 25 of those years were as an administrator.  He was responsible for developing the countywide report card and the rotary system of teaching in the elementary school.  Mr. Goldhawk was president of the Ontario Principal's Association in 1970 and is an Honourary Life member of the Ontario Educator Association.  As a community supporter he was a founder of RMHA and in Kiwanis International was the Lt. Governor of District IV.  He received the "Mel Osborne" and "George Hixson" awards for community service from Kiwanis Canada.

Donald Craig.JPGDonald Craig,  1936-1940

Don graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Engineering Physics and joined the National Reactor Commission to work on ionization chambers.  After attaining his PhD in nuclear physics he worked at Atomic Energy of Canada as a nuclear physicist.  His many experiments in reactor physic calculations and reactor physic computer programs were instrumental in programs in Canada's first nuclear power station.  He was a record holding runner and skier as well as an avid church supporter.  Don passed away in 1998.

Robert Spence.JPGRobert (Bob) Spence,  1932-1937

Order of the Flying Boot  - Robert Spence was one of two men who made a twenty-eight day trek across the burning Egyptian Desert to rejoin their squadron after being shot down over Tobruk, Libya.  Forced to parachute from their twin engine Wellington, he walked 500 miles existing on water salvaged from abandoned trucks and carried in gas cans.  Avoiding enemy patrols and mine fields he arrived in Egypt with his shoes tied on with bits of string.  Robert was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal and his rank moved to Pilot Officer.  Following a ceremony at Buckingham Palace he returned to Ridgetown where he was heroically greeted on May 27, 1943.

John Button.JPGJohn R. Button MD,  1965-1970

After graduating from UWO and U of T, John returned to Ridgetown to practice family medicine in 1978.  He is a former Chief of Family Practice of St. Joseph's Hospital, past Chair of District I of the Ontario Medical Association, and Past President of numerous medical associations.  John was twice Distinguished President of the Kiwanis Club and Lt. Governor of District 4.  He was co-chair of the local Kiwanis IDD  Committee raising over $184,000 to help rid the world's children of Iodine Deficiency Disease.  John has been awarded the Mel Osborne Fellowship, George Hixson Fellowship, and Tablet of Honour by Kiwanis.

john mcdiarmid.jpgJohn A. McDiarmid,  1975-1980

John has used his many gifts to overcome many obstacles.  He contracted polio from the vaccine as an infant.  John's artistic talent developed in elementary school.  In high school, he was drawing editorial cartoons for the local paper, and winning prizes.  His determination to overcome his physical disability inspired both students and staff.  He studied animation at Sheridan College, and Advertising Art at Fanshawe, receiving a President's Prize for contribution to school life and scholastic achievement.  A freelance animator and cartoonist, John is also an accomplished musician and composer.  Despite a recent brain tumor, John's positive attitude continues.

John Thompson.JPGJohn W. Thompson,  1942-1946

Upon RDHS graduation, John attended UWO business school, and returned to the family business, W.G. Thompson & Sons Limited in Blenheim.  Here he pursued a lifelong career in world grain trade and agri-business management along with his family.  Over the years, Thompsons developed export and domestic food grade markets for Ontario agriculture, provided agri-services and crop protectants to Ontario producers and founded Hyland Seeds, now the largest private multi-crop breeding program in Canada.  Throughout his career, John served on numerous Boards and Councils including the Canadian Seed Trade, SeCan, PUC, and was Mayor of Blenheim in 1961-62. 

Margaret McLaren.JPGMargaret E. McLaren,  1902-1904

Early in her nursing career, Highgate native Margaret McLaren became superintendent of the Women's hospital in Flint, Michigan.  Through her tireless efforts over the next 27 years, a Flint Newspaper said "The over crowded institution won the respect of every doctor and the devotion of every mother in the city."  When a larger hospital replaced "the over crowded institution" in 1951, the board unanimously decided to name the new facility McLaren General in honour of Margaret and the "McLaren spirit."  Only one other general hospital in the world is named for a nurse -- England's Florence Nightingale Hospital. 

Alfred Stone.JPGAlfred Stone,  1915-1918

Some are noteworthy for what they gain, others for what they give.  In 1926 missionary Alfred Stone went to Japan where his education in political economics greatly improved the financial stability of many rural Japanese.  Home during the war, Stone returned to Japan in 1946.  In 1954 the ship on which he was a passenger sank.  Stone was among 1,155 lost.  The Japanese press said Stone gave his own lifejacket to a university student who had none.  Japan posthumously granted this Highgate native the Order of the Rising Sun for his outstanding contributions to relations with Japan. 

Gordon Leitch.JPGGordon Leitch,  1913-1916

Mr. Leitch's name is associated with companies such as the Bank of Montreal, Maple Leaf Mills, Massey Ferguson, Mutual Life Assurance Company and others.  His name is also associated with wisdom, concern and generosity as was evident by a generous donation to the Ridgetown arena fund on his behalf.  The Canadian consul-general in New York paid tribute to Mr. Leitch as "one of Canada's most outstanding men."  He was liberal to charities, hospitals and educational institutions.  Along with Harry Bawden and Peter Campbell they would become giants in the business world.  Their success is testimony to the bonds of friendship that developed during high school and what these bonds can achieve. 

Omar Watson.JPG​Omar (O.K.) Watson,  1884-1888

OK received his early education in Ridgetown attending a series of new schools as better education came to the growing town.  He attended Osgoode Hall for training as a lawyer, then the University of Toronto graduating in both Law and Arts in 1894.  He set up a law office that year, and practiced law for the next 58 years, becoming a King's Council in 1935.  He served as Board secretary for 30 years.  OK's keen interest in local history, both of European settlers and Native nations, and his collection of artifacts and documents led to his completing and publishing the original book of Memories of Ridgetown. 

Mathis Natvik.JPGMathis Natvik,  1987-1991

While studying Applied Ecology at the University of Guelph, Mathis worked summers at Rondeau Provincial Park.  Upon graduation, he worked with MNR's Natural Heritage Education.  He then began a native plant nursery to supply flora from seeds collected in the wild.  Mathis spearheaded the Clear Creek Forest Campaign, raising $2.5 million to purchase 800 acres, which are now a Provincial Nature Reserve.  Clear Creek preserves the oldest Carolinian Forest in Ontario, and is a living museum.  A nature enthusiast, advocate, and protector from childhood, Mathis believes if one follows a true passion, success will be achieved. 

John Lee.JPGJohn B. Lee,   1965-1970

Internationally acclaimed author John B. Lee, BA, A Ed, MA from UWO, has garnered many prestigious writing awards.  His poetry has appeared frequently in international publications.  He has edited major anthologies and published numerous books.  His work has been broadcast widely on radio and TV.  John has taught creative writing to all ages, and performed his poetry and songs throughout North America.  An Honourary life member of the Ontario Poetry Society, John has also served as Ontario Representative for the League of Canadian Poets, and as guest lecturer and visiting poet at various universities.

John Gillanders.JPGJohn G. Gillanders,  1909- 1914

Following Cleeves School and RCI, John graduated from the University of Toronto in 1915 as a teacher.  He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, and flew in Europe with 18 Squadron.  Soon a Captain, then Flight Commander, John earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and made "ACE" with 5 victories.  Later, John studied law at Osgoode Hall, practicing in Aurora and London, and was named King's Council in 1934.  He served on the board of UWO.  In 1938 John was appointed to the bench of the Appelate Division of the Ontario Supreme Court, serving until his death in 1946. 

Robert Bandeen.JPGRobert A. Bandeen,   1944-1948

After being Valedictorian of RDHS in 1948, Robert went on to become a distinguished Canadian and business icon.  From 1974 -82 he was President and CEO of Canadian National Railways.  He later became Chairman and President of Crown Life Insurance Company, President of Crownx Inc., and Chairman, President, and CEO of Cluny Corporation.  In addition to academic achievements, PhD, LLDs, and CDI, his honours include Officer of the Order of Canada and Knight of the Order of St. John.  Robert is also active with educational, cultural, sporting and business directorships and advisory boards. 

Harry Bawden.JPGHarry Bawden,  1913-1916

After growing up in Ridgetown Harry joined the Royal Canadian Army in 1916.  In his service to his country, he saw combat in two battles that were particularly important to Canadian history, Paschendale and Vimy Ridge.  After the First World War and a law career he served on the powerful War Finance Committee from 1941 to 1945.  His association with fellow Hall of Excellence members Peter Campbell and Gordon Leitch led to phenomenal business accomplishments with Maple Leaf Mills and Upper Lakes Shipping.  He eventually was elected president of Dominion Securities. 

Dale Goldhawk.JPGDale Goldhawk,  1957-1963

Journalist Dale Goldhawk, Canada's only national television ombudsman, would be best characterized as a modern day crusader.  On behalf of the average citizen he uses his influence to cut through corporate red tape, often exposing shady dealings or bureaucratic bungling.  With an extensive media background as a writer, broadcaster and host in Canadian newspapers, radio and television Goldhawk is prominently recognized for his regular feature for CTV National News, "Goldhawk Fights Back."  "Goldhawk is well suited to his role as the public court of last resort.  And he has the track record to prove it"..... TV Guide.

Henry Jensen.JPGHenry Jensen,  1947 - 1952

Joining the RCMP in 1952, Henry was posted to Western Canada to handle community policing.  By 1960, his ability in criminal investigation, particularly white collar crime, required advanced-training in economics through university courses in B.C. Alberta and Ontario.  This led to becoming Director of Economic Crime, then Commanding Officer for B.C.  In 1981, Henry became RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Ottawa HQ, and security liaisons with the UN, G7, and Interpol.  Henry retired from the RCMP in 1989, continuing to work as a consultant, then Senior Vice-President of Deloitte and Touché.

Ida Goodreau.JPG​Ida Goodreau,  1965 - 1970 

Ida enrolled in university, but left to work, taking courses at Westervelt Business School.  While an Executive Secretary at Union Gas, she earned a B.A. in 1980 at UWO, B. Comm. then MBA at U. of Windsor, 1986.  She then became a V-P at Union Gas.  Ida became Senior V-P, Fletcher Challenge in Vancouver, 1992, Managing Director, Tasman Pulp and Paper, Auckland, New Zealand, 1994, President, Pulp Operations, Fletcher Challenge, Vancouver 1997, and Senior V-P  Norske Skog Industrier Oalo, Norway 2000.  In 2002, Ida became President and CEO Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and Board Member of BC Gas and Shell Canada.

Frederick Hamil.JPGFrederick Coyne Hamil,  1915 - 1920 

Following RCI graduation, Fred worked in industry and business before choosing academic pursuits.  By 1930, Fred had earned a Bachelors and Masters in Economics from Queen's University, a B.S. in Library Science at Columbia, and then a Masters at University of Michigan.  He later received a PHD in Medieval History at U. of M. Working at Wayne University, Dr. Fred taught history and wrote "The Valley Of The Lower Thames", and "Lake Erie Baron, the story of Colonel Thomas Talbot".  While writing his third book about political reform in Upper Canada, Fred succumbed to Leukemia in 1968.

campbell.jpg​Albert M. Campbell

Albert attended RDHS, then OAC, and U of T, and taught school for 15 years, briefly in Ridgetown, then East York.  He was elected to the Scarborough Board of Education, then elected Councillor, Deputy Reeve, Reeve, then first Mayor of the Borough of Scarborough.  In 1969, Albert was elected Chair of Metro Council, then re-elected Chair until Retirement in 1973.  Albert served as President of the Canadian Federation of Mayors and Municipalities, The Ontario Municipal Association, and Association of Mayors and Reeves, and numerous Scarborough charities.  Scarborough's Civic Square and Collegiate Institute were named in his memory.

Keith McKerracher.jpg​Keith B. McKerracher

Born in Saskatchewan, Keith attended RDHS, and Western's Business School.  He worked in market research, then joined Canadian Breweries marketing Black Label beer internationally.  Moving to the USA, Keith marketed Carling beer, then as Midwest US President, Canada Dry.  Keith formed a consulting company, invented ParticipACTION for the Federal Gov't. and developed the marketing plan for the 1976 Olympics.  In 1978, he became President and CEO of the Institute of Canadian Advertising.  Keith then overhauled the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency.  He volunteers with the Canadian Executive Service Organization working on projects worldwide.

rose marie mills.jpgRose Marie Mills, B.Sc.N., 1952 - 1957

A native of Muirkirk, Ontario, Rose Marie graduated in nursing from Victoria Hospital, London and in 1962 received a B.Sc.N. from UWO. She worked for the Canadian Red Cross in several northern Ontario communities, and also at PGH Chatham.  Later, commissioned by the United Church of Canada and supported by her home church in Highgate, she became a medical missionary in India.  Returning to Canada, she took the Nurse Practitioner course and practiced in remote areas of the Northwest Territories and Northern Saskatchewan.  Her life of devoted medical care and compassionate understanding ended prematurely in 1980 at the age of 40.

ajsales.jpgArthur John Sales

Born in 1912, Art attended Ridgetown Public School and RDHS, then studied Business at Walsh College in Detroit.  He joined the P.E. Bates Company, becoming General Manager.  He began A.J. Sales Stampings in 1948 and expanded the company to Ridgetown's largest employer.  Art chaired both the arena board until 1978, served as President of the Chamber of Commerce, School Board trustee, and President of the local Canadian Bible Society.  He was a Mason, Rotarian, and SAE member.  Honoured by the town in 1967, Art was awarded the "Ridgetown Achievement of Arms" in 1976.

john lee stonefish.jpgJohn Lee Stonefish

A Delaware raised in Moraviantown, John showed outstanding athletic ability at a very young age in team sports such as hockey, baseball and soccer.  However, it was track and    field in which he excelled, receiving the prestigious Tom Longboat Award at age fifteen as the WOSSA Junior Champion.  After graduation,  John studied Business Administration at WOIT.  Eventually he became involved in First Nation affairs in Moraviantown and was elected Delaware Chief in 2005.  In addition to a very demanding  work schedule, John continues to foster his love for sports as player and coach.

mel Jensen.jpgMel  Jenson,  1945-1949

Mel became a CGA in 1966 from the University of British Columbia.  With further   accounting and economic training at La Salle University, Mel joined Dow Chemical in Sarnia. Proceeding through various managerial capacities in Dow locations across Canada he became Controller and Assistant Treasurer in 1970.  By 1976 he was controller and Director of Latin American distribution from Dow's Coral Gables Florida office.  In 1980, Mel was Corporate Controller in Michigan headquarters, and in 1982 took over European headquarters in Zurich.  From 1988 to 1993, Mel returned to Midland as President and CEO of numerous Dow subsidiaries.

Betty Bandeen.jpg​Betty Bandeen,  1933- 1944

Betty was born in Alborough Township in 1929, sister of Bob, John and Catherine Bandeen, all of whom obtained doctorates.  Betty attended school in Duart, Rodney and Ridgetown where she excelled academically.  She attended Western on full scholarship, winning two gold medals pursuing an Honours BA.  She then attended Radcliffe, now part of Harvard,  for her M.A. and PhD, also on scholarships.  While at Harvard, Betty taught at Smith College, and enjoyed Harvard's Widmar Library .  Betty returned to Western as Professor of Old English where she taught until her retirement in 1992.

Duncan McKinlay.jpgDr. Duncan McKinlay, 1987-1992

Duncan was born with Tourette Syndrome.  His early life was one of uncontrollable movements and utterances.  Struggling to understand and be understood, he often thought life not worth living.  Armed with a proper diagnosis at 19, he has made the study of Tourette his life's work.  He became a registered Psychologist with a PhD from the University of Waterloo in neurodevelopmental disorders.  Dr. McKinlay has since conducted presentations locally and internationally, authored numerous works, and been featured by media for his "Life's Twitch" and "The Brake Shop" clinic so no child should suffer because of the disorder.

JOHN BANDEEN.jpgJohn Bandeen,  1948 - 1952

John Bandeen was the youngest of a remarkable family who farmed near Duart.  All four siblings became doctors.  Born in 1933, he graduated RDHS in 1952.  Although he loved farming, his interest in field crops saw him attend the University of Guelph to study Agronomy.    Graduating with a BSc. in 1957, and a Masters in 1960, John attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison for a PhD.  Returning to University of Guelph to teach, his research on sugar beets revealed their ability to develop resistance to herbicides.  This led to genetic modifications of sugar beets and corn which increased crop yields.

bob ingram.JPGBob Ingram,  1970-1975

In elementary and high school Bob excelled in sports, preferring track and field.  The son of avid curlers, Bob spent much time at curling rinks, and was curling by the age of 12.  With track and field success at both SWOSSA and OFSSA levels, curling became the major winter challenge.  In college and beyond, Bob's teams began winning local, zone and regional curling events in men's and mixed competitions.  In 1996, Bob's rink won the Ontario Championship, beating 2 multi time champs to represent Ontario at the Brier, that year held in Kamloops, B.C.  He still looks to repeat that level of success.

Archibald Campbell.jpgArchibald Alan Campbell, 1932 - 1937

A consummate chemist, Alan graduated form the University of Guelph and was recruited into the war effort at Shawinigan Falls developing and testing explosives, gun powders and C-4 plastic explosive all under the cloak of Allied secrecy.  Then working in Toronto at Victory Mills, he longed to return home and work the family farm.  His farming efforts saw him experimenting with drainage tiling, and even mixing his own fertilizers.  Soon he was recruited to teach at RCAT, and became fully involved in small town life.  His organizational skills as Rotary President built the new youth center.

Jessie Bandeen.jpgJessie Catherine Bandeen, 1939 - 1945

Another member of the remarkable family from Duart, Catherine was the only one of four doctors to choose medicine.  After attending the two room elementary school in Duart, and Rodney Continuation School, she graduated from RDHS in 1945.   Catherine earned a B.A.  from Western and entered their school of medicine.  Graduating in 1951 as a Doctor of Medicine, Catherine was one of 9 women in a class of 60, and chose to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  She had residencies in Toledo and Detroit, set up practice in St. Thomas in 1956, and finished her career in Guelph.

Robert E McKinlay.jpgRobert E. McKinlay, 1957-1962

Service to community could be considered the motto of Rob's life.  Beginning business in Ridgetown, Rob expanded to all of Kent County adding funeral homes in Chatham and Blenheim.  Rarely taking vacations or even time away as his professional services might suddenly be needed, he insisted on the personal touch for all his clients.  He came to devote his many organizational talents and philanthropic efforts to volunteering and professional organizations like Rotary, Kent County school board, St. Joseph hospital board, and the Ontario Funeral Service Association.  Rob found time for a hobby of restoring and drying vintage cars.

Carl Watson.jpgCarl R. Watson, 1926- 1931

Carl, son of OK Watson, suffered polio at age 2 and spent years in hospitals and therapy to be able to walk.  Following RDHS, he attended McMaster, and Osgood, and returned to Ridgetown to practice law with his dad.  Remembering his time of illness, Carl supported Easter Seals Society through 62 years with Ridgetown Rotary, and 35 years with Public General Hospital board in Chatham.  He was a financial whiz, and could find ways to finance peoples' homes, work vehicles, restore parts of downtown, build East Kent's arena, and create The Grove as a green space for the town.

Silas Ward.jpg​Silas Andrew Blake Ward, 1936-1941 

Service to King, Country, and home community was Blake Ward's career and passion.  Attending Western University during WW2 found him eager to join the military.  Following the war, he attended law school, worked private practice, and accepted work as Assistant Crown Attorney.  Appointed Crown Attorney in 1956, Blake held that position for 31 years.  He served as President of the Kent County Law Association, Coordinated Ontario Crown Attorneys' summer schools, and was named Queen's Council in 1966.  Blake served First Presbyterian Church as Trustee, Board of Managers, and choir member, and is a member of the Chatham Rotary since 195

Anne and Jim Sifton.pngAnne and Jim Sifton (1965-1970) - (1962-1967)

Newly minted Civil Engineer Jim reacquainted with schoolmate Anne Dickson, and X-ray technologist.  Marrying in 1973, they volunteered for Canadian University Services Overseas, CUSO.  Botswana in Southern Africa became home for two years where their training and life skills proved invaluable.  Jim oversaw building schools, houses and health posts, with Anne the first X-ray tech at the hospital near Kalahari villages.  Living rugged they were able to travel to other African countries, and even managed to save for their return to Canada.  After their humanitarian work, they raised a family in Burlington, then Dartmouth before retiring to Niagara-on-the-Lake.​
keith mclean.jpgKeith McLean, 1936-1941


Keith farmed where he was born over a very long career.  He found that allowing wet areas of his farm just above Rondeau Bay remain rather than fight for the last acre of crop provided benefits to his farming.  He let the wildlife that was losing habitat roam freely.  He re-created ponds and planted native species to cover, eventually buying more local land and continuing his conservation plan.  He found and collected Native artifacts from the area, some dating back thousands of years.  On his death he gifted the farm and collection to St. Clair Conservation Authority for its continuance.

Link to K. McLean's Biography