By Mary Hartman
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry Brooks Adams, historian and philosopher and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1919, had that to say about educators, and although Adams lived at a time when educating was largely the business of men, his words could apply to no one more faithfully than to Alyce Sheetz Long, who died in Eugene on July 19, 1989 at the age of 72.
Alyce Sheetz, as she was known to hundreds of South Eugene High School students, as well as to teachers and students from throughout oregon, spent much of her life pursuing and achieving excellence in high school journalism. After a year of teaching journalism at Jefferson High School in Portland, she joined the South Eugene High School staff in the mid-1950’s, where she brought prominence to both the Axe, student newspaper, and the Eugenean yearbook.
Alyce joined and subscribed to the tenets of the National and Columbia Scholastic Press Associations. Nine times her students won Al-American and Medalist ratings for the Axe, and ultimately they claimed the 1969 Pacemaker Award, the highest award given to student newspapers in the United States.
Likewise, the Eugenean yearbook received a string of national awards.
As executive director for Oregon Scholastic Press from 1969 to 1975, Alyce continued her winning ways by receiving the National Scholastic Press Pioneer Award, a Journalism Education Association Medal of merit, and, in 1973, the Carl Towley Award for outstanding achievement in scholastic journalism. She was one of only three in the nation to be a Towley award winner.
While the awards gave Alyce the public recognition she earned, her real joy lay in her students, many of whom can point to Alyce’s guidance and inspiration as the turning point in their lives. In the summer of 1988, a reunion at South Eugene High School prompted a number of former students to contact Alyce, among them an editor with the Wichita Eagle Beacon and a bureau reporter for the Wall Street Journal in London. “Would Alyce and her husband-to-be, Douglas Long, join them for dinner at the reunion?” Doug, whom Alyce married on September 8, 1988, recalls thinking, “This must be some special lady. I don’t remember asking any of my high school teachers to join me at my reunion.”
At that reunion, Doug learned more about the very special qualities of Alyce Sheetz. Students came to her telling her that she had changed their lives. Alyce, in letters to friends afterwards, did not mention the accolades. She simply wrote that she had seen so many students and had had “such a marvelous time.”
Alyce’s untimely passing in the summer of 1989 is difficult for her many friends and former students to accept. But, if there is to be consolation, it is that she had a marvelous time in life. She lived every minute fully. One of her husband’s favorite stories has Alyce rising morning after grey morning in Eugene to part the curtains, look out on the landscape and say, “Look at this — another wonderful day God has given us.”
All of us who knew Alyce, whether as students, teachers, family or friends, can say, “Look what God gave us.” We were blessed by her prescence, her teaching and her zest and love for life. We cherish our memories of Alyce and know that another like her may not pass through our lives again.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Mary Hartman who succeeded Alyce as executive secretary of Oregon Scholastic Press. Mary now lives in Colorado.
ImPRESSions, Fall 1989, Northwest Scholastic Press