Berger and Whitsett address students at Friday’s graduation ceremony and emphasize the benefits of working hard

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County High School distinguished alumni selection committee members Chuck Holliday (far left) and Steve Lent (far right) pose for a photo outside the high school with 2012 distinguished alumni Curt Berger (second from left), and Doug Whitsett (second from right).

On Friday, the same day another class of Crook County High School students graduated, the school celebrated two of its notable graduates from years past.
   Class of 1980 graduate Curt Berger joined Doug Whitsett, who graduated with the class of 1961, as distinguished Crook County High School alumni.
   “They have to have distinguished themselves in some aspect of professional life,” said selection committee member Steve Lent.
   Whitsett and Berger were chosen among multiple submissions for the honor. Berger earned the distinction for his success as a high school wrestling and tennis coach. During his 21-year coaching career, he has led the Hermiston Bulldogs to seven district titles and six state championships. He was Intermountain Conference Coach of the Year six times and state coach of the year four times. He retired from coaching last year.
   The committee chose Whitsett because of his political career. He has served as an Oregon senator since 2004, and seeks re-election this November. He has enjoyed a long career as a veterinarian and CEO of an animal clinic and supply company as well.
   The two distinguished alumni visited their alma mater (now in a different building) where they toured the high school and spoke to the students, imparting their keys to success.
   Berger told the students that his accolades came courtesy of “good, old-fashioned, boring going to work.”
   “I just do the same old thing over, and over, and over again,” he said.
   He added that successful people and average people don’t differ all that much. They work hard, make sacrifices, and commit themselves — but successful people do it more.
   “They work hard a little bit more,” Berger told the students. “They do without, a little bit more. They are totally committed, a little bit more. They want to be somebody a little bit more.”
   He then launched into a nearly five-minute conclusion that repeated the same “do it” mantra over and over.
   “The district champs, the state champs, the national champs — they do it. What is it they do? They do whatever it takes to get the job done. They do it, and do it, and do it, and do it until the job gets done.”
   Whitsett told the students that his thoughts and concerns leaving high school likely mirrored theirs today.
   “I wanted to improve my life, but I did not know how to make that happen,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference, but I had no idea what that difference would entail.”
   He went on to offer his three keys to success. First was a lifelong commitment to education — even beyond college.
   “Earning a college diploma will not be enough to ensure economic success,” Whitsett said. “Education is a lifelong job. It requires continuous study and learning throughout our lives.”
   The second key was seizing opportunities.
   “Successful people develop the ability to evaluate those opportunities and make good decisions,” he said.
   Thirdly, he emphasized the need for a strong work ethic.
   “They (successful people) are determined to improve themselves and their surroundings. They aren’t afraid to fail — they persevere and they learn from their mistakes. They have the confidence to try again and do better next time.”
   After spending time at the high school, Whitsett and Berger were treated to a no-host lunch at Meadow Lakes Restaurant then spoke again to students during the Crook County High School graduation.
   “It was a fun day in Prineville — lots of good memories,” said Berger. The retired Hermiston coach has visited his former high school numerous times over the years as the opposing coach, so he enjoyed coming there on different terms.
   “That was a good experience to have a chance to talk with the kids and see the school,” he said. “It was a great day.”
   Whitsett enjoyed his time as a distinguished alumnus as well.
   “It was a nice honor, and I certainly enjoyed being at the podium and participating in the graduation,” he said.
   But for him, the best part was seeing the progress of the high school he once attended.
   “You look at the school — it’s about management,” Whitsett said. “The grounds are well taken care of, the place is clean, and the students are well-dressed and well-mannered. That was my takeaway from the whole thing. I was really proud to see how well that school is doing.”
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