Briarwood Academy dedicated its middle and high school to John and Gayle Hammond on July 15. The schools will now be known as the John and Gayle Hammond Middle and High School. John Hammond acted as the school’s headmaster for 19 years and served in education for 54 years. Gayle Hammond, his wife, has worked at Briarwood as its piano teacher and still teaches there today. This was the first naming ceremony for the school.
Clayton Parrish, the school’s current headmaster, spoke about how John Hammond mentored. Parrish wears a bridge pin on his jacket and sportcoat to school. Parrish said that John Hammond told him to wear it so that Parrish would remember the role of educators in bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood.
“I have no doubt, that man changed my life,” Parrish said. “I couldn’t imagine my life without him.” He added that John Hammond impacted others as well, in ways that could not be fully comprehended.
And with Gayle Hammond, Parrish noted her positive and supportive personality. He said that she’s usually one of the first people that comes to the school. And, he said the way she interacts with others imparts good feelings and empowers one to continue in the day.
“She’s got a heart of gold,” Parrish said. “If there’s anyone more genuine than Ms. Gayle, I couldn’t imagine who that is.”
Together, former Briarwood Academy Board Member Joe Wills said that the couple brought three things to the school. He said they brought stronger Christian moral character, discipline, and school pride. Wills spoke about how John Hammond would guide students but allow them room to act their age. He spoke about how the couple would cheer on students and bleed red and black for the school. He said the result of their work created well-adjusted kids.
“Mr. Hammond and Ms. Gayle made [Briarwood] a wonderful place,” he said.
To encourage the continuance of the legacy left by the Hammonds, Wills gave attending teachers of the event a challenge. He told them to look at the sign and remind themselves that they too can make a positive impact on the school and students.
“I want you to look [at this plaque] everyday to build up these children in spirit, body, and mind,” he said.
In May of 2014, John Hammond passed away. Had he seen the dedication, he would have been 80. To remember him, the attendees of the event gathered in a prayer circle, something Wills said John Hammond often did with others. Afterwards, Gayle Hammond spoke to the crowd using a letter detailing both her and John Hammond’s feelings on Briarwood Academy. Gayle Hammond said she spoke because she knew he would have.
“There have been so many great memories, and we are forever thankful,” she said. “In all the yesterdays, we have loved you. Today, we love you. And in every tomorrow, we will love you.”
After the words from Gayle Hammond, attendees of the event gathered together to see the unveiling of the plaque showing the school’s new name and the portrait of the John and Gayle Hammond. Gayle Hammond teared up as she looked on at the sign.
“I’m so thankful for the time we spent at Briarwood and the love that we learned to share with so many people,” she said. “I’m forever thankful for the opportunity to teach, for the opportunity we have to be a part of the lives of many friends.”