During Homecoming 2019, Centre College recognized four graduates for their accomplishments and contributions by naming them Distinguished Alumni during its annual recognition ceremony. The weekend also saw the induction of four alumni into Centre’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
James C. Claypool ’60
As a football player at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, James C. Claypool ’60 received a recruiting call from Northwestern, but remarkably for Centre, providence intervened and a sponsor by the name of Robert S. Tate interceded. Tate, a Distinguished Alumnus in 1962, was a Centre graduate from the class of 1913 and saw no reason why the College shouldn’t benefit from Claypoo’ls talent. During that auspicious visit, Claypool held the shoe of Bo McMillan and simply fell in love with Centre.
Claypool embraced the College wholeheartedly, playing football, singing in the coed choir, running a laundry business with Raymond “Fleet” Webb (’60) and joining Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Most importantly, it was at Centre that Claypool met his wife, Sharon Hayes, Class of 1963.
Claypool graduated from Centre with a B.A. in history. At Commencement, he received the Ormond Beatty Alumni Prize for graduating with the second highest academic average in the men’s division. Then Claypool set a course for what became decades of involvement in academic life and education in Kentucky. The highlight of Claypool’s career in higher education was serving as the first employee of Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in February of 1970 after Northern Kentucky State College, a two-year institution, received legislative support and funding to become the first four-year college in the greater Cincinnati metropolitan region.
Armed with a doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky and a half year of teaching experience at Murray State, Claypool was hired as Dean of Admissions and Students at the start of a remarkable period of growth for NKU. He outcompeted Kentucky’s regional institutions for students, so that by the start of the second semester, more than 3,000 students were enrolled. Significantly, Claypool also started NKU’s athletics program for men and women, and at his insistence Northern was the first school in the Commonwealth, and one of the first three schools nationally, to ensure an equal number of scholarships for male and female athletes. He also proudly chose NKU’s colors to mirror Centre’s—gold and white.
Frank H. Edelen ’66
As a result of Centre’s Early Decision Plan, Frank H. Edelen, Jr. ’66 knew as a junior at Springfield High in Washington County that he would attend Centre. President Tom Spragens gave his high school commencement speech and a few months later, Edelen was shaking President Spragens’ hand when he arrived at Centre in the fall of 1962.
While at Centre, Edelen was selected by Dean Max Cavnes to serve as an academic dorm counselor in Wiseman Hall. He also worked as a student library assistant and a faculty research assistant to David Hughes. He joined Phi Kappa Tau, was a member of the Inter-fraternity Judiciary, Omicron Delta Kappa and sang in the Centre Chapel choir. Edelen recalls his time at the College as the most important four years of his life.
Edelen graduated cum laude with a B.A. in government and minors in English and history. After receiving offers from the University of Virginia Law School and Washington University Law School, Edelen chose a three-year National Defense Education Act Fellowship from the University of Kentucky. His goal was to work toward a Ph.D. in political science. After his first year on the fellowship, Edelen received a Rotary International Foundation Fellowship to study political economics at the Victoria University of Manchester in England. Upon his return to Kentucky, Edelen earned a M.A. in political science. Before he could complete the Ph.D., he met Cheryl Ann Crawford from Henderson, Kentucky. Thus, it was 50 years ago that Cheryl became part of the Centre family.
In 1987, Edelen was invited to serve as the first director of the Kentucky Municipal Law Center located at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law. While there, he expanded the services of the Center and published the quarterly Kentucky Municipal Law News. Edelen also resumed teaching courses at NKU in undergraduate, graduate and law school for the next 20 years. Edelen has also been a devoted community member, serving as a city councilman and member of the zoning adjustments board in Lakeside Park, Kentucky.
John W. Robey ’05
Distinguished Young Alumnus
Major John Warren Robey ’05, is a United States Army Special Forces officer who began his military career in the infantry, completed Ranger School and deployed to Afghanistan twice with the 82nd Airborne Division. He became a Green Beret in 2012 and was later assigned to command a 12-man Alpha Team as part of 3rd Special Forces Group, returning to Afghanistan, this time to work with Afghan commandos.
Robey has operated all over Afghanistan, from the Korengal Valley in the north to Musa Qala in Helmand Province in the south. His military travels also include the tribal regions of Pakistan, as well as Poland and Germany. Since he was commissioned in 2006, Robey has spent nearly three years deployed to Central Asia.
In 2017, Robey received a M.S. degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and was invited by the Special Operations Research Association to present his work at their annual symposium. Following graduation, he embedded with the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, pioneering a project that leveraged Commerce’s unique authorities to prevent advanced conventional technology from entering unstable states, such as Libya.
During his four years at Centre, Robey majored in English and was a member of Beta Theta Pi, Phi Alpha Theta and Pi Alpha Sigma. He met his wife, Nicole, an ’06 alumna, at the College, and together they have two daughters.
Clarence R. Wyatt ’78
An exceptionally able and hard-working person, Clarence R. Wyatt ’78 decided early in life to take charge of writing his life’s story, rather than allow the circumstances of his birth to dictate it. Hailing from humble beginnings in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Wyatt was a first-generation high school student who worked at a local grocery store to help make ends meet for his family. Even though he was promoted to the store’s night manager by his junior year, he did not let his job interfere with his insatiable desire to read, learn and excel in his studies. His commitment to excellence led to his being named a National Merit Scholar. After receiving a full scholarship, he enrolled at Centre in the fall of 1974.
A double major in history and English, Wyatt wrote for “The Cento,” served as editor of “Vantage Point,” worked in the library, was vice president of Phi Alpha Theta and served as the student assistant to his mentor, Dr. Charles Lee.
After a semester away following graduation, Wyatt returned home to Centre to work in the Development Office, where he worked as a researcher on the College’s first capital campaign—his first of five. His return sparked a 36-year career at his alma mater during which he served with distinction as both an administrator and a member of Centre’s faculty. Early in his career, he found time to complete both his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Kentucky, and his dissertation was published as the critically acclaimed book “Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War.” Wyatt remains the authority on the role of the press during the Vietnam War.
Because of his excellence as a teacher and scholar, Wyatt was named the Claude D. Pottinger Distinguished Professor of History. Moreover, in 2004, he received the Kirk Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he was twice awarded—in 2003 and 2006—the C. Eric Mount Award for extraordinary contributions to student growth outside the classroom. Wyatt was also the first recipient of the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.
Wearing his administrative hat, Wyatt served as a special assistant to four presidents, creating the College’s current strategic planning process, and co-chairing two vice presidential debates with Richard Trollinger. In 2001, after more than a decade of working for the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program, Wyatt took over the reins from Dr. Milton Reigelman as campus director—a post he held for twelve summers, helping to bring hundreds of future Centre students to campus over the years. Wyatt served in an exhaustive number of roles for the College before accepting a presidential appointment at Monmouth College in 2014.
by Centre College News
October 22, 2019
Header photo: John W. Robey ’05, Frank H. Edelen ’66, James C. Claypool ’60 and Clarence R. Wyatt ’78 receive Distinguished Alumni awards during Homecoming 2019.