The Shawnee Educational Foundation banquet, held Thursday night, was an emotional one full of tears and laughter as Mary Kay Parrish accepted the Max Brattin Education Award on behalf of Max Brattin and Justice Douglas Combs was inducted into the SEF’s Hall of Fame.

The Shawnee Educational Foundation banquet, held Thursday night, was an emotional one full of tears and laughter as Mary Kay Parrish accepted the Max Brattin Education Award on behalf of Max Brattin and Justice Douglas Combs was inducted into the SEF’s Hall of Fame.

The SEF began a new tradition by honoring an individual in the community who has made a significant contribution in education, named the Max Brattin Education Award.

The award was presented at the banquet posthumously in honor of Max Brattin, who was an Oklahoma Baptist University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

“It is fitting we honor him posthumously for his commitment to public education and this foundation by announcing this year the first Max Brattin Education Award,” said SEF Board President Marilyn Bradford.

Mary Kay Parrish, long-time friend and coworker of Brattin, accepted the award on behalf of Brattin, who passed away in 2013.

“One of the things about Max was he was really creative,” Parrish said. “I thought to myself if he was doing this acceptance speech it would be really entertaining and creative.”

Parrish said she was pleased to accept the award on his behalf and spoke highly of not only his accomplishments but also shared personal stories of Brattin and their friendship.

“We are grateful that the Shawnee Educational Foundation has chosen to recognize Max’s service and generosity in this way,” she said.

Combs was named the 2014 SEF’s Hall of Fame recipient. Combs is a 1969 graduate of Shawnee High School, a 1973 graduate of the University of Oklahoma and a 1976 graduate of the Oklahoma City University School of Law. After working as an Assistant Attorney General in Oklahoma, he returned to Shawnee in the private practice of law.

In addition to practicing law for 18 years, Combs has also served in a judicial capacity from 1995 to 2010, including serving as the District Judge of the Twenty-Third Judicial District for Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties. Beginning January 1, 2010 to present, he has served as one of nine Justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Karen Henson, SEF board member, introduced Combs.

Henson spoke of Combs and his accomplishments not only professionally but also personally.

“All of these components of his personality are laced with firmness, they’re laced with fairness and they’re laced with compassion,” she said.

Henson explained how instrumental Combs has been in the creation and implementation of the Drug Court system.

“This is a man that, at his core, genuinely cares about helping other people who genuinely want to be helped and are willing to try to help themselves,” she said. “We have far, far more successes in our Drug Court in this county than failures. It’s been a tremendous program.”

Henson said the Drug Court system should matter to people because it keeps families together, helps give parents a fresh start and in turn helps children in school.

“It directly affects the fabric of our community, in the City of Shawnee and in Pottawatomie County,” she said.

Henson said Combs would personally get involved in the Drug Court ceremonies, both to new members and graduates. She said he would tell them the court system was going to give them some rope and he would say, ‘you can either use that rope to save yourself or you can use it to hang yourself.’

“That meant so much to one candidate who successfully completed this program that at the time of the graduation he gave Justice Combs a plaque…a very simple plaque…two things are on it; it says ‘Thanks for the rope’ and then there’s a piece of rope,” she said. “And to this day that plaque hangs in the office of Justice Combs at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He cares about people… genuinely cares about them.”

Combs tearfully thanked Henson for the kind introduction as well as thanking his family and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma Tom Colbert for attending.

Combs spent time thanking the Shawnee school system for things he learned in school and the dedication of the teachers. He also emphasized the importance of teaching in Oklahoma.

Combs spoke about his ninth grade teacher Mrs. Brown and how she taught Oklahoma History.

“For the first time she taught us and exposed me to the great state of Oklahoma,” he said.

Combs said today there is a lack of civics in the classroom.

“We have entire generations who don’t understand or have not been taught civics,” he said.

He added that’s a concept that needs to be addressed because learning how the government works is important. He spoke to teachers attending the banquet and suggested ICivics, a free program that provides students with civic curriculum grouped into topical units that align to state and Common Core standards.

“If we don’t teach our young people the three branches of government, we are doing a significant injustice to those young people in how they live their lives and raise their children,” he said. “In order to be an involved citizen, you have to understand the process and the role of the people in the system and the role of all three branches of government.”

Combs said one thing standardize testing does not measure is desire.

“It irritates the living daylights out of me that when you take an ACT or an SAT or a law school admission test or an MCAT…all those things that they measure but they don’t measure desire,” he said. “They don’t measure how much you want that product, that end result, and it bothers me.”

Combs said work ethic attributes are initially formed in elementary and secondary education by teachers and administrators.

“You teachers need to understand the respect your students have for you,” he said.

Combs said programs like the SEF, which honor the creativity of teachers, are examples of how community can support educators in ways that government and school administrators can’t.

“I am very appreciative for this honor,” he said.

More than $19,000 in teacher’s grants were awarded at the banquet along with four $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors.