Editor's note: This is a continuation of the Sept. 26 article, which highlighted all of the winners of the Bremen Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner. Jennings' entry was cut due to space.
"In the words of all dairy farmers after the spring thaw, put on your waders, it's about to get deep."
Don Harrison said he was honored to be presenting Bremen High School Principal Bruce Jennings with a lifetime achievement award during the Sept. 19 Bremen Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet.
"His contributions to the Bremen community are many and this award is well-deserved," Harrison said. "When Bruce asked if I would be willing to provide this introduction for him, provide highlights of his achievements, and recognizing — in his words — that I had taught him the art of B.S., I was pleased to accept this challenge."
Harrison said he spent much time reflecting on Jennings' past and upbringing, as well as their time spent together as teachers, administrators and friends.
"It was amazing to me, the similarities that occurred between us that brought us to this point in time," he said.
He said that Jennings was born into a strong family of a "mom, dad and brothers who had a direct and positive influence on the person he has become." He worked on a dairy farm growing up.
And although Jennings is six years his junior, Harrison said the two "seem to have traveled along parallel planes of experience that eventually brought us together in Bremen."
He detailed that both had strong family support growing up, with grandparents who were teachers. In school, both played trombone, sang in choir and were involved in athletics.
Jennings was part of the Argos state championship for soccer, and benefited from the small-school atmosphere, which allowed him to experience all facets of school life.
He was also a part of National Honor Society, Argos FFA and Future Teachers of America.
"It was easy to see that Bruce was dedicated to his Argos community and school," Harrison said. "I remember he was so dedicated that while all of his senior classmates were out partying on the day before graduation, Bruce remained behind to single-handedly set up all the chairs for graduation and that ceremony the next day."
However, Harrison intended that last sentiment to be misleading at a glance. Jennings explained that he was in that position as a disciplinary action.
He shared the story of the final day of school, when all the students were supposed to have brought a squirt gun, but he forgot his. Excusing himself to the restroom, he filled a janitor's bucket with water. The bucket was eventually used to drench the first person he came to — who just so happened to be his choir teacher, who was wearing a white dress.
"My mother tried to bail me out, but I got in a little trouble, ... that was my punishment, and I lost my National Honor Society robe, and that hurt a little bit," he shared.
Harrison shared his own and Jennings' journeys that led them to Bremen.
Jennings attended the University of Indianapolis, before beginning his teaching career at Knox High School in 1978. In that same year, Bremen High School lost a long-time beloved science teacher. Then-principal Culver found Jennings and recruited him to teach science and coach track and basketball for BHS.
"In the fall of 1979, Bruce and I ended up in the same school, in the same hall," Harrison said. "We taught together for six years and watched a sequence of superintendents and principals and assistant principals come through the building."
During the 1984-85 school year, the assistant principal position opened up, and Harrison and Jennings applied.
"To make a long story short, the principal resigned that same night, and Dr. Stinson ... put both of us into the administration practically on the same night," Harrison said.
They spent the summer together at Ball State doing administrative coursework.
"And for the next 22 years, Bremen High School had the benefit of having two colleagues and partners leading the school," he said. "Each of us kind of balanced out the strengths and weaknesses of the other. On the night I was hired, Dr. Stinson whispered to me that the boat I was now in was headed in the right direction."
Harrison detailed some of service and awards Jennings has received over the years:
Bremen Kiwanis Club member and officer for 33 years
Charter member and vice president of the Bremen Dollars for Scholars organization since 1988
Riley Hospital for Children Kids Caring and Sharing state committee member
President and member of the Marshall County Community Foundation from 1999 to 2008
BHS Key Club Sponsor
Treasurer of the Northern Indiana Big Brother/Big Sister organization
Indiana Association of School Principals District 2 assistant principal and District 2 Principal of the year in 2012 and 2017
State principal of the year in 2018, representing all principals of Indiana in the national Congress in Washington, D.C.
Ernestine M. Raclin Community Leadership Award recipient for First Source Bank
Distinguished president award and Hixson fellow award from Kiwanis International
Marshall County Leader of the Year in 2013.
Jennings took the time to thank Harrison for his presentation, and for years of working side-by-side.
"I loved working with Don for 22 years, that's probably a state record for principal and assistant principal to be in it that long," he said. "I would like to congratulate the winners tonight."
"I tell the students, 'Surround yourselves with good people and things will turn out great," he said. "I love my school family, ... I truly love my job. It's very humbling to be here tonight."