During the nearly 27 years that Delmar Mahan served on the Whitley County Board of Education, his primary focus was always on the students.
“He always believed that the kids of Whitley County, the students and the community should have the very best,” Whitley County Superintendent John Siler noted during a special-called board meeting Saturday morning at Oak Grove Elementary School.
Mahan passed away on July 5, and during Saturday’s special meeting, the board of education unanimously voted to rename the early childhood learning center at Oak Grove as The Delmar D. Mahan Early Childhood Center.
“He was very much an advocate for public schools and early childhood education. He saw the importance of that. Naming this building after Delmar is such an honor and so fitting for Delmar,” Siler said.
Board members, administrators, friends and family members were all in attendance for the tribute.
In addition to the name on the outside of the building, a plaque was also unveiled in Mahan’s honor, which has a picture of him and an inscription dedicating the center in Mahan’s honor for his service to the students of Whitley County during the 27 years he served as a Whitley County Board Member and for his passionate advocacy of early childhood education.
“I think he had a purpose, a belief, that not only did the students of Whitley County deserve to have the best, but that they could be the best, and he would tell you that,” Siler noted.
Siler, who used to play basketball with Mahan’s son, Joshua Mahan, remembered meeting Delmar for the first time.
Delmar was one of the people, who hung around after the games to encourage players afterwards no matter whether they had won or lost.
Siler remembers Mahan coming up to him after a particularly tough loss and putting his arm around him.
“He took that opportunity, like so many leaders do, to encourage me. Throughout my career and as a student at Whitley County, Delmar Mahan not only for me, but for many of the students, teachers, principals, other board members, superintendents, was a person of encouragement and lifted us up,” Siler noted.
When he was principal, Siler noted that Mahan often asked the same questions, which were how the students were doing and whether the staff, teachers or students needed anything.
“He was genuine when he asked you that. If you shared with Delmar a concern or a need, it didn’t end when the conversation was over. He was looking into it. He was following up on it. If somewhere there needed to be a change, he was very much that person advocating for that change,” Siler added.
“If you look back at his 27 years of service, and the improvements and the facilities and different things that this district experienced, he had a huge hand in that.”
Mahan served 12 years on the Kentucky School Board Association’s (KSBA) Board of Directors, including a stint as president.
“Delmar was passionate in his belief that public education had the power to change people’s lives. When he took the reins as KSBA President in 2009 that was the focus of his inaugural address,” added KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling.
Oak Grove Elementary School Principal Tonya Faulkner, who is also Mahan’s niece, noted during Saturday’s meeting that if she had to choose one person that helped her make her decision to become an educator, it was Delmar Mahan.
“His love for Whitley County, for public education, for early childhood education inspired me to become a teacher,” Faulkner noted.
Mahan’s daughter, Joanna Mahan-Middleton, said that Oak Grove held many great memories for her and her brother.
“Now it is going to hold something much more significant. Dad would be so proud of that,” she noted.
“I grew up watching him work to improve all of the schools … He wanted the students of Whitley County to have the best education, facilities and opportunities possible. He kept working to provide that during his time on the board. His passion and dedication to making a difference was a big part in what inspired me to become an educator. We are so thankful that his memory will live on through Oak Grove, and we hope that it serves as a reminder to everyone to stand up for what they believe in, and to always put students first.”