This year’s National Honor Society induction ceremony at Libby High School was filled with hope, humor and humility, with the two brothers named to the school’s Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame also given the honor of addressing the 10 students chosen this year to enter the society.
Terry Fennessey and Tim Fennessey, from the classes of 1973 and 1975, respectively, and themselves National Honor Society members, were inducted into the Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame April 23 at the Libby Memorial Events Center.
Their induction, and their inspirational speeches that followed, were preceded by the induction of juniors Hannah Cannon, Timothy Goodman, Aleiyah Johnson and Olivia Kapan, and seniors Sheyla Gallagher, Keith Johnson, Ciera Lucas, Kylee Quinn, Alexandria Snyder and Trey Thompson, into the National Honor Society.
National Honor Society members Landy Schikora and Shannon Reny introduced Terry Fennessey and Tim Fennessey, respectively.
In interviews with The Western News, both brothers responded with humility to the honor bestowed upon them.
Tim Fennessey said he “was very humbled, because there are a lot of people from Libby that have done a lot of great things, and many in my own age group,” while Terry Fennessey said it “was a great honor” and “pretty much a surprise” to be inducted alongside his brother and in the footsteps of their father, who was inducted to the Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame in 2001.
“To follow my dad into the Hall of Fame was really an exciting triumph for me,” Terry Fennessey said.
Terry Fennessy, who resides near Helena with his wife Tiina, was a letterman in tennis and skiing and a student council member while in high school. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1977 from the United States Air Force Academy and followed 15 years as an Air Force pilot with a 17-year career as a pilot for Federal Express Corporation. He retired in 2017.
“(As) I tried to convey in my speech (to the students), I certainly have a lot of gratitude to the teachers that got me through high school in such a manner that I was able to go to the Air Force Academy,” Terry Fennessey said. “You don’t ever do things like that by yourself.”
He also spoke to the students about the values of scholarship, leadership and “followership” — what he called a precursor to leadership.
“The United States Marine Corps has put a lot of emphasis on this category,” he said in his speech. “They realize that all good leaders start as followers,” whose traits include enthusiasm, ambition and self-reliance.
“Above all, study the leaders that you work with,” he said. “Be prepared, so when you get a chance to lead you will be successful.”
Timothy Fennessy, who resides in Spokane, Washington, with his wife, Nelou, participated in cross country, basketball and tennis in high school and was class president of his sophomore and junior classes. He attended Gonzaga University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1979 and Juris Doctorate degree in 1983 — the latter effort supported by a full scholarship. He was a litigation lawyer for more than 30 years before being elected to the Spokane County Superior Court in November of 2016.
In his interview with The Western News, he spoke of the emotions surrounding the dual-induction ceremony.
“I remember quite well being 16, 17, 18 in Libby, and thinking, just kind of wondering, what it would be like out in the world, and wanting to try, (and) wondering whether I could,” he said.
To the students, he spoke about two tenets of the National Honor Society — service and character — that he told The Western News are both “a natural outgrowth of growing up in libby.”
Character results from the persistence of “being you always, all the time” while “under so many individual peoples’ scrutiny,” he said, while service evolves from the need to pull together as a community at times when “someone just has to step up and do it, and if you can you do.”
Like his brother, Timothy Fennessy praised the teachers who helped prepare him for the life he’s lead.
According to Jeff Gruber, a social studies teacher, the Fennessey brothers were selected by consensus of a seven-member committee typically faced with 25 to 30 nominations.
“Anyone can contact our committee to nominate an LHS graduate,” he said by email.
It isn’t rare that siblings are chosen for induction, Gruber said, but it hasn’t happened often.
“In 2013, we chose siblings Robert E. Nolop and Celia Ann Brink,” he said. “Both were honored posthumously. We do have a number of married couples, such as 2016 when Sandi and Craig Solem were inducted.”
Terry Fennessy said he was able to speak with a number of students at the ceremony.
“It was great to see them,” he said. “They all looked great and bright eyed. I think they were paying attention, and that made me feel good, too.”
Wrapping up his speech, he was quick to add “one last piece of advice” to the students.
“Don’t beat up too much on your younger sibling,” he said. “He may turn out bigger than you, or a judge, or both.”