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Fund Number: 056
Provides professional enhancement travel grants to actively teaching certified educators at Corydon Junior High School and Lanesville Community Schools.
Over the last third of a century, retiring Corydon teachers Juan and Rudee Rodriguez have become synonymous in the South Harrison Community School Corp. with the phrase "cultural enrichment."
Acting on a tip by furniture salesman Sam Lander of Corydon, Juan and Rudee came here from Louisville in 1971, he to teach Spanish at Corydon Central High School, she to teach art at Corydon Junior High, even though she was also licensed to teach music. Since they were hired by Principal Earl Saulman and Supt. Ed Schneider, they have been a dynamic, creative and influential force in education here. They have enriched the cultural and intellectual lives of thousands of students because they have an international outlook, a broad world view that embraces diversity and sees many fascinating and admirable things in other cultures. Through the years, they have enthusiastically shared their experiences, their travels, their considerable artistic abilities and hobbies, and their formal education with young people. They started the foreign student exchange program here.
Rudee was named the Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Council of Southern Indiana.
During Juan's last year, 21 Spanish IV students gave him a special goodbye. Twice a year, his senior students plan and carry out a fiesta, cooking all the food. Last week, the 10:15 a.m. class hosted Juan's last fiesta. The seniors prepared chicken and vegetarian burritos, tacos, salads and desserts, including two chocolate goodbye cakes.
Juan had prepared an inspirational goodbye message, which he had rolled up with a ribbon and presented to each student, with both hands, a Japanese custom that implies respect.
His students gave him a picture of their class and a stunning dark red vase made by Zimmerman Art Glass, filled with roses, which, as a gardener and orchid grower, Juan appreciates. Not usually at a loss for words or opinions, Juan, 61, said, "This is not the time for speeches," but he couldn't have given a speech anyway because he was choked up. He said he would have preferred to give each one of them a hug instead.
"What a wonderful way to finish my teaching career," he said, as Rudee stood by. "Thank you all very much, and I love you all," he said.
Wayne Apple, Juan's principal for several years at CCHS, said Juan represented diversity "just by walking in the room." Juan's a native of Guatemala, where his family has vast land holdings in coffee, cattle and trees. His late mother was the daughter of the Swiss ambassador to Guatemala.
"He tried very hard to give kids a little taste of what lies beyond the city limits," said Apple, now principal at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School. Juan and Rudee have traveled throughout the world, visiting Europe, China, Japan, South and Central America, and northern Africa. They shared the fruits of their travels with their students. Their classrooms became stimulating museums, libraries and cultural centers.
Rudee's principal, Dr. Mark Eastridge, said Rudee was the "consummate professional," a meticulous organizer and classroom manager with very high standards for herself and her students. Eastridge said she was deeply involved with planning "thematic units" the faculty prepares for the students. He cited the recent extensive thematic unit on China for the seventh grade. Rudee lined up visits to the East Asian Studies Center and the Crane House in Louisville.
"Behind the scenes," Eastridge said, Rudee always worked well with other teachers, parents and the community. And she never said no to any challenge in 13 years.
Eastridge recalled the time that he, Rudee and teacher Jeff Hauswald took 12 students to Indianapolis in December 2000 to showcase an interdisciplinary project on snowflakes. It was a clever combination of art, science and math that the local students presented to hundreds of students from throughout Indiana in the Statehouse Rotunda. All the students had been invited to Indianapolis by First Lady Judy O'Bannon, wife of then-Gov. Frank O'Bannon of Corydon.
However, there was a big snowstorm that day and the field trip turned into "Rudee and Jeff's Excellent Adventure," Eastridge said. Judy O'Bannon was not going to let students from Corydon be stranded in the state capital, so she helped them find rooms at a downtown hotel. They ate at a Chinese restaurant downtown and visited the NCAA Hall of Champions and the IMAX Theatre.
Eastridge said Rudee bought "some really ugly blue toboggans" for everyone to wear (the easier to keep track of the students). Since Indianapolis was almost a ghost town that night, Hauswald wheedled free tickets from the Indiana Pacers' office, so the youngsters got to attend an NBA game while they were stuck in Indy.
However, early the next morning, one of the students became ill. A phone call was made to the parents, and Eastridge and Rudee got permission to take the student to Riley Children's Hospital in the wee hours. The student was treated and released and back in bed by 4:30 a.m.
The next morning, as the troops made their way along a snowy downtown street, a taxi came out of nowhere and oblitered Rudee with slush. A fine how-do-you-do. But even without sleep, Rudee saw the humor in that ridiculous situation, too. "Rudee does what needs to be done to make it happen," Eastridge said. "That's what I appreciate about her. That's special.
"She never said no in 13 years."
The Rodriguezes will be remembered for years because they have had an impact on thousands of students over several generations. But their contributions will outlast them because of a unique project called the Capitalizing Designs quilt project and an endowment fund they started.
In 1987, Rudee, Betty Magner and others decided to auction some quilts that had been made with student designs to start a permanent endowment fund for the junior high art department. More than 200 volunteers from three states worked on the project that started with a $5,000 state grant and eventually had a value exceeding $50,000, Rudee said. The well-publicized formal auction raised $20,000, but at that time it couldn't be matched. State Rep. Paul Robertson, a history teacher at CCHS, introduced legislation in the Indiana General Assembly so that school funds could be matched with community foundation funds. Now, the fund's valued at $50,580. Interest will be used to provide speakers, activities and materials for the Corydon Central Junior High arts department.
The Rodriguezes have also set up another endowment fund with the foundation that will kick in later and enable junior high teachers to travel throughout Asia, and Central and South America for professional enrichment. "We hope they will have a wonderful experience at our expense," Rudee said.
Retirement will probably not mean a slow-down in any way for the Rodriguezes. Rudee, 59, wants to practice the kinds of art she has taught for years, especially crafts and textile design, and continue her work on the Harrison County Community Foundation Board of Directors.
Juan will continue with his many interests, which includes commercial photography, translating for Hispanics in the local courts, bringing public library groups together, legal defense work for the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Lifelong Learning Board of Directors, and the Indiana Adult Literacy Coalition, to which he was appointed by the late Gov. O'Bannon.
HCCF uses unrestricted funds to meet various community needs. From grants to nonprofits for basic human services to large-scale programs such as preschool - these are made possible by using unrestricted funds. HCCF is participating in the Lilly Endowment Inc. GIFT VII Challenge in order to bring more unrestricted dollars into our community.
The Harrison County Community Foundation is a public foundation supported by donations from individuals and businesses. Its mission is to inspire and assist everyone to experience philanthropy, producing positive and sustainable growth in Harrison County.
1523 Foundation Way NE
Corydon, IN 47112-2272
Monday - Friday: 8:00am - 5:00pm