- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HOWE, Ind. (AP) - Drumsticks - the ice-cream treats - were plentiful at Howe Military Academy campus Monday morning, served in honor of the man who man who made the school’s Class of 2015 possible.

The board of trustees of the 135-year-old school had considered closing it last spring until a Class of 1939 graduate, Thomas Parker, stepped forward with a $2 million donation. Parker’s family made its fortune inventing and selling ice-cream novelties, including the Drumstick, which eventually was sold to Nestle.

Parker died this summer at the age of 94, just a month after making his donation to the private military school that offers classes in grades 7 through 12. To honor his contribution, every cadet who arrives on campus this week will be offered a Drumstick.

For members of the Class of 2015 who came back to campus Monday, last spring’s drama was not forgotten.

“I feel really relieved and glad that I’m going to get the chance to graduate from here,” Jared Slabaugh, a fourth-year student and Howe senior from Syracuse, told The News Sun (http://bit.ly/1pXU9bg ).

Slabaugh was dismayed at the prospect of having to attend a different school for his senior year, said his mother, Jeanetta Slabaugh.

“We feel very, very fortunate and very happy to have him here,” she said. “Howe’s been a very good influence in his life.”

Howe parents spent the summer helping to spruce up the school and lent a hand to its marketing efforts. Howe’s admission’s building now sports a fresh coat of paint and a redecorated lobby.

The school’s buses also have been freshly painted thanks to the family of another Howe student. And one parent even paid for a Howe Military Academy marketing campaign in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, area this summer.

Howe’s financial troubles were not a surprise and took years to develop. Nearly a decade of decreasing student enrollments, coupled with dwindling endowments and escalating costs of operation, almost forced the school to close. The academy’s superintendent, Col. George Douglass, announced it would close if it couldn’t find a major new source of funding.

In addition to Parker’s gift, other Howe friends and alumni stepped forward to donate money to the school, placing it on better financial footing.

This year’s Class of 2015 is small - only 17 students total. But overall, Howe’s numbers are up, with more than 80 students committed to school this year.

Howe cadet Nathan Sutherland of Chicago was almost unable to find the words to describe his joy at returning to the academy for his senior year.

“I don’t know what to say,” Sutherland said. “I’m excited because I really didn’t want to go any other school. I love this school. It has a homey environment. The people here are like your brothers.”

Sutherland’s father, Art, said he and his son visited other schools when they first heard the news Howe might not reopen, but could not find one they thought was on par with Howe.

“This place gives you individual attention,” Art Sutherland said of Howe.

Howe Military Academy’s final numbers won’t be known for a couple of months. Howe will keep its enrollment window open through October, and school officials said it’s possible another 10 or more students could enroll after the start of classes next week.


Information from: The News-Sun, http://www.kpcnews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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