Meet the Class of 2011
Bob Beaird, Raytown High School, Class of 1964
Robert Beaird spent his entire pubic school education in the Raytown School District, graduating from Raytown High in 1964. He served in the United States Army, in the Republic of South Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star for Service, from 1968 to 1970. He graduated from University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law in 1973.
Bob spent a 25 -year career as a highly successful criminal defense lawyer. He was named as one of the best lawyers in The Best Lawyers in America for the fi rst eight years of the publication’s existence. In 1978 he was elected to the Jackson County Legislature where he served with distinction until 1989. He was named Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County, Missouri in 1999 and a year later was re-elected to the same position by the Jackson County voters. As Prosecuting Attorney for four years in Jackson County, Bob was recognized by the Court Appointed Special Advocate Agency for his advocacy on behalf of children and by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for efforts on behalf of minorities.
He served four years on the COMBAT Anti- Drug Task Force and spoke to thousands of students and parents at D.A.R.E graduation ceremonies throughout Jackson County. He attended scores of community and neighborhood meetings, talking to citizens about the work of law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. He was always an excellent ambassador for Raytown Schools. In 2002 Bob became the Jackson County Associate Circuit Judge. He retired from the bench in April 2010. In Bob’s career as an attorney, he tried over 100 jury trials, an extraordinary number for current times. As a judge, he presided over hundreds of additional trials.
In his role as a citizen and parent, Bob spent many years coaching YMCA and AAU basketball for youth throughout his community. Bob and wife Sharon, also a 1964 RHS graduate, are actively involved in their community.They have two children, Brian and Sheri, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons, Hank and Gus.
Charlotte Belger, Raytown High School, Class of 1955
Charlotte Rhoads Belger graduated from Raytown High in 1955. During high school Charlotte honed the skills that would serve her as an adult by holding leadership roles in numerous extracurricular activities. During her adult years, Mrs. Belger has been active in a number of civic organizations. She was an officer in the Plaza Christian Women’s Club, the Sketchbox Committee for the benefit of the Kansas City Art Institute, the Research Hospital Service Auxiliary, and the Community Mental Health Organization. She was actively involved in the John and Edna Belger Family Foundation which collects and shows art at the Belger Arts Center in downtown Kansas City.
This past decade, Charlotte’s name has been synonymous with the Raytown Historical Society and Museum and the tours taken by various groups, including school childrean and class reunions. The Belger family became life members of the Society in 2001, and soon Charlotte became an advocate for “everything Raytown.” She is presently Director of Archives, after having served from 2004-2005 as First Vice President, and 2006-2009 as President. During her term as president the society showed a dramatic increase in membership and volunteer hours. The 60 year-old building in which the society is housed was in desperate need of repair. The community came quickly forward with needed funds, and the building was not only saved but won the fi rst Image Maker Award from the Raytown Chamber of Commerce.
Charlotte was awarded the “Raytown Outstanding Woman Leader” from the Raytown Women of Today in 2009. Many volunteers and Charlotte’s husband, John have always supported the Society. In 2007, when the Jackson County Historical Society presented their “Advocates of Local History Award” to them as a couple, it was a proud day. Charlotte and John have two children and four grandchildren, all of whom are Raytown School District graduates.
Molly Shirk Jessup-Austin, Raytown High School, Class of 1961
After graduating from Raytown High in 1961, Molly Shirk Jessup Austin attended the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), graduating in 1966 with a Bachelors of Arts in music and later a Masters Degree in vocal performance. A lifelong musician, Molly was the resident music director and teacher of Applied Voice inMusic Theater program at the UMKC Conservatory where she was also an Adjunct Professor of Graduate Theater, teaching voice and music theater to students working toward their Music Fine Arts degrees. Molly’s earliest professional teaching experience was as a vocal music teacher at Pittman Junior High. She followed in the footsteps of her mother Marybelle Shirk, who was the legendary first district director of elementary music in Raytown.
Upon leaving public education, she served as musical director for every professional theater in the Kansas City area beginning at the Waldo Astoria and Tiffany’s Attic, and moving on to Starlight, The Coterie, and The Kansas City Repertory Theater, where she served 23 seasons with A Christmas Carol. Additionally, Molly served at The Unicorn, The American Heartland Theatre, and Quality Hill Playhouse.
Nationally she conducted productions at Northshore Music Theater, Pittsburg Civic Light Opera, Casa Mananna, St. Louis Municipal Opera and the Kennedy Center. She also toured with the National Tour of Les Miserables. Molly’s final credit was as music director of the current Winesburg, Ohio, at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. She is still recognized as the leading music director in the Kansas City theater community. Her career included working on new musicals with major local shows and teaching voice students. Many who had the good fortune to work with and study under her are performing on the Broadway stage, in regional theaters and in film. Molly’s spirit and intelligence, and great heart, made her a wonderful mentor to amateurs and professionals alike.
Her son, Bruce lives in Seattle, Washington and daughter Jill Webster lives in Overland Park, Kansas.
Janet Smith Lowe, Raytown South High School Class of 1970
Janet Smith Lowe attended elementary through high school in the Raytown School District graduating from Raytown South in 1970. Growing up in Raytown Janet never envisioned living a life that would take her worldwide. For 21 years Janet traveled extensively with her Air Force husband, where they served as United States diplomats in three overseas embassies.
While in Manila, Republic of the Philippines and Honduras, Mrs. Lowe coordinated and oversaw the Humanitarian Medical visits of Operation Smile, an international organization performing surgical repair of cleft lip and cleft palates. In Honduras she supported and helped remodel a local orphanage. During her time in Panama, she continued her role with orphans and helped couples desiring to enlarge their families through the complicated procedures of adoption.
In 2004 Janet and her husband returned to Raytown and found there was a need in the community for basic services for both families and individuals. What the Lowes saw in their own community gave rise to a vision of providing services for the needy. Utilizing her energy and ability to organize, Janet established Hope Network. Janet Lowe currently serves as the Executive Director for Hope Network, a community assistance organization for people residing in the Raytown School District. The organization provides a variety of essential services, including a food and clothing pantry, a monthly mass food distribution in conjunction with Harvester’s International, a weekly feeding program providing hot meals for those in need, a vehicle distribution program for qualified applicants, and a health and dental clinic.
Janet also spends time telling children stories of the challenges encountered while living in foreign countries. Mrs. Lowe and her husband, Tony, also a 1970 Raytown South High graduate, have been married 40 years. They have a daughter, Amy, and two granddaughters, Alexis and Andrea.
Derek McCracken, Raytown High School, Class of 1986
Derek McCracken graduated from Raytown High in 1986. He received his Bachelors and Masters Degree at University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) in creative and professional writing. At UMKC he received the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and the award for Outstanding Service from the English department, and also received the Curator’s and Chancellor’s scholarships. In 1991 Derek worked as a communication editor at H&R Block, Kansas City. While there he wrote and edited articles for internal and external publications, and he created training videos and marketing projects. He also taught seminars on writing and client services.
From 1993-1995 he was copy editor of UMKC’s University News. He edited the weekly campus newspaper and wrote articles for various sections. His publications include Blockletters Magazine, Emerging Science and Technology, and American Theater. Since 1996 Derek has worked for Hallmark Cards as Creative Director, Greetings Commercialization where he oversees the creative strategy and development of greeting cards for multiple brands and channels. He collaborates with teams of writers, editors, artists, and photographers to research trends in the market place to fulfill Hallmark’s mission: To help create an emotionally connected world everyday.
From 1997 to present, Derek has been active in the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault as men’s group facilitator and was also a Speakers Bureau advocate. He was Volunteer of the Year in 1999 and again in 2010. He was president of SAVE, Inc., Kansas City’s nonprofit agency providing AIDS housing from 2000 to 2006. He participated in Team-in-Training Triathlon supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He has also been a volunteer, team captain, and family partner for Habitat for Humanity. He is a freelance writer in magazine journalism, theater commentary, and nonprofit blog posts.
Derek currently resides in Leawood, Kansas with his adopted daughter, Elizabeth. His hobbies include swimming, reading historical nonfi ction, writing poetry, and planning class reunions.
Dr. Barbara Smith Thompson, Raytown High School, Class of 1961
Following graduation from Raytown High in 1961, Dr. Barbara C. Thompson received a Bachelors of Science in Education from University of Central Missouri in 1964 and a Masters of Science in Guidance and Counseling in 1967. From the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) she received an Educational Specialist in education in 1976 and a Ph.D. in Counseling and Guidance in 1979.
Barbara taught elementary school and served as a counselor in the Raytown School District in her early career. From 1976 to 1982 she was a lecturer and practicum supervisor at UMKC. Additionally,she served as a staff development consultant for the Jackson County Correctional Center. Dr. Thompson is the founding partner of Professional Counseling Associates, Independence, Missouri, which provided individual, marital, family and group psychological evaluations. From 1987 to 2000, she was the owner and managing partner of Professional Psychological Institute, in Kansas City, Missouri, a successful counseling agency with as many as seven partners, while continuing to personally provide individual, marital, family and group, and psychological services. For the next three years she was Psychological Consultant to the South Plaza Counseling Associates.
Thompson served on the planning committee that began the Southeast Jackson County Mental Health Center and on the Jackson County Child Advocacy Board that helped pass the first state child abuse and neglect laws. She is a member of the Child Abuse Prevention Association that aided in getting the first child abuse hotline in Missouri. Barbara is a Truman Heartland Community Foundation Raytown Advisory Board member, where she maintains the Thompson Family Charitable fund.
She is proud of her teaching, supervising and counseling, and founding and managing a thriving psychological practice for nearly forty years. She cherishes her 36-year marriage to her late husband, John, and her two beautiful daughters, Jonna Brandel and Jennifer Good.
Dr. William Worley, Raytown High School, Class of 1960
Dr. William H. Worley graduated from Raytown High in 1960. Dr. Worley is an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word. His successful business endeavors include a group of 13 veterinary clinics, America’s largest chain of one-hour photo stores, real estate development and a chain of public storage facilities. This string of successes in diverse industries all occurred before Dr. Worley turned 40 years old.
In 1982 he founded the Kansas City Business Journal, the fi rst in a group of 36 weekly business newspapers in cities from Buffalo to Honolulu, under the flag of “American City Business Journals.” Through his leadership, the company went public and was recognized by Forbes and Business Week as one of America’s top 50 growth companies. After the sale of these publications, which remain as the country’s largest chain of business newspapers, Dr. Worley turned his attention to a business utilizing his scientific education by founding the Kingston Environmental Services. He has since sold the company to an Alaskan native company, but remains as a senior consultant.
Combining his business with a passion for the environment, he has led the company to milestones in the environmental services arena. In 1992, he organized a group of over 30 environmental companies to advance the science of Bioremediation, creating Alpha Environmental Bio Systems, Inc., and in the process applied proprietary technology to clean up over 250 contaminated sites in every region in the United States. Dr. Worley is a recognized authority in the fi eld of environmental science.
In 1995, he received the Presidential appointment to represent the state of Missouri at the White House Conference on Small Business. In 2003, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Henry W. Block School of Business and Public Administration recognized him as Regional Entrepreneur of the year. During his career, corporate and community organizations have relied on Dr. Worley’s guidance. Dr. Worley lives in Kansas City with his wife, Elizabeth. They have four adult children: Susan, Sara, Ward, and Alexis.