A Presidential Celebration

WASHINGTON, Pa. (Feb. 18, 2014)—Leave it to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) to celebrate President’s Day in style.

President Abraham Lincoln impersonator Gary Ford, a 1981 W&J graduate and teacher at nearby Mt. Lebanon High School, and the Presidents’ mascots, Presidents Washington and Jefferson, helped the College commemorate Presidents Day Monday evening at a celebration recognizing the talents of students throughout Washington County.

The W&J Education Department sponsored a series of activities for elementary and secondary students—an art contest open to elementary students, an oratory competition for middle school students reciting the Gettysburg Address, and an essay challenge designed to encourage high school students to write about the “first lady that in his or her opinion represents all that is best about the United States of America,” said James Longo, Ed.D., professor of education and chair of the Education Department.

“I love W&J so much I came twice,” Ford said. “I graduated in the class of 1981 and then returned and received my education certification in 2001.” 

Today, Ford teaches civics, political science and AP Government.

“I started impersonating President Lincoln when I was doing my student teaching at Waynesburg High School when I was working towards my certification from W&J. Since then, I have done it at grade schools in Waynesburg, Washington and Mt. Lebanon, at churches and senior citizens centers in Waynesburg.  I have also worked with Civil War reenactment groups when they needed President Lincoln as part of their activities,” Ford added.

Longo said, “President’s Day is a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to our forefathers, our country’s leaders, including those the College is named after, while at the same time recognize the many talents of the students in this area.”

Lincoln was the featured speaker at the program. He spoke to the crowd of more than 70 people, made up of many students, teachers and parents, talking much about the value of education to him, which he said was contrary to what his father believed.

“Most people think that presidents have had a great deal of schooling. I was not as  fortunate as some. I had less than one year of formal schooling. My father did not think education was very important. But I had a love of learning and I wanted to learn as much as I could,” Lincoln said.

Students honored at the event were Presidential Couple Portraits: First Place: Grace Skerbetz, Grade 3, Bentworth Elementary School, “President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush”; Second Place: Angela Batson, Grade 4, Washington Park School,
“President John Tyler and Julia Gardiner Tyler”; Third Place: Brinton Jones, Grade 4, Wylandville Elementary School, “President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln”; Gettysburg Address Oration: Winner: Delaney Bird, John F. Kennedy Catholic School; Essay Contest: Winner: Alana Luppino, Grade 10, Washington High School.

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First Place: President's Day Art Contest