Jeff Keller cites growing support to honor Andrew at Southridge High School

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeff Keller stands at a memorial for his eldest son, Army Pfc. Andrew Keller, in August. The community is rallying to rename the Southridge High School athletic stadium the Andrew Keller Memorial Field in honor of the 2008 graduate.As community passion rises for renaming the Southridge High School stadium in honor of the late U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Keller, the Beaverton School Board remains all business.

A handful of community members, including the fallen soldier’s father, Jeff Keller, spoke at the board’s Oct. 29 business meeting to express the significance he and others feel about renaming the stadium to honor Andrew’s service. The growing push to memorialize the 2008 Southridge graduate and football standout — who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 15 — includes a petition with nearly 1,600 signatures, including all five Beaverton City Council members.

Citing the Tigard High School stadium named for Robert A. Gray, a former Tigard-Tualatin School District member and ongoing school supporter, Jeff Keller urged the board to follow the lead of the school and community members.

“There’s a lot of precedent out there that this has taken place,” Keller said. “If the concern is if you do it for one, you have to do it for everybody else shouldn’t be your responsibility. I’m confused what the concern is.”

Since the 22-year-old was killed in action during an enemy attack, hundreds from the Southridge and Beaverton communities have rallied to express their grief and show support for the Tigard family. A funeral procession made its way through the city earlier this fall, and the young man’s No. 13 football jersey from his days as a Southridge Skyhawk football player was retired in a ceremony at a home game against Lake Oswego.

“I feel more strongly about this today than a month ago,” Keller said last week. “The support from the area and around the country is amazing.”

Addressing the strong public sentiment, board member Mary VanderWeele said a committee is collecting information from other districts in the state and elsewhere that allow naming facilities as a memorial to a former student, employee or community member.

“As we reevaluate the policy, if we decide to create something new, we want to make sure it’s for the long term,” she said. “We are benchmarking, and collecting information board members have asked us to collect,” such as frequency of changes and how renaming decisions are made.

“We are in the preliminary stages,” VanderWeele added. “I hope you trust we’re giving this issue our full consideration and our respect. And we ask that you allow us to give this the time” it deserves.

At its Sept. 24 meeting, board members noted that current district policy includes 14 ways to memorialize a student, teacher or staff member, including a memorial page in the school yearbook, planting a tree, a plaque on athletic bleachers and a living memorial scholarship.

Alan Lohner, a friend of the Keller family, spoke at last week’s meeting of the need for a more pragmatic approach.

“The question becomes, ‘What kind of memorial befits the memory of a hero?’ The answer is to do what is appropriate for each hero,” he said. “No policy is sacred.”

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