John M. Claerhout               Inducted 1991 - Class of 1947

"There's no business like show business. There's no business I know.” At a young age, these words pulsed through John Claerhout's veins. John had the privilege of founding the WHS Extravaganza. Of course, he was helped by teacher, Lois Jacobs. Another staff member, Mildred Ludlum served as co-producer with John.

He even helped Lois write the Extravaganza. The three evening performances were broken into four acts. John and Lois actually starred in Act One entitled, "The Drugstore Romance."

The April 12, 1946, "Tattler" described the plot that illustrated that even the writers were not above a little ribbing. "Lois (under heavy makeup) will be a homely girl in search of a MAN. That's where John comes in. She can't find a man, so she settles for John. Lois wants John to take her to a new nite club, but he refuses until she gets some new clothes. This takes them to a style show."

Act Two took place at "Dairy Nite Club" that included Harriet King’s portrayal of Kate Smith. The "School Days" section of the Extravaganza featured Lois singing "Waltaz Aria" from "Romeo and Juliet."

The entire cast participated in the finale. John kept Act Four a surprise until opening night. It happens to be one of his favorite memories from WHS. Charles LaRue, the principal, and other male faculty members provided a minstrel show that really brought the house down.

While attending WHS, John was elected student council president after Andrew Fenady graduated in January, leaving the position open. John enjoyed chumming with Andrew Sares, Norman Wolfe, Mitch Sahadi, Phillip Baker Hall, Bridget Carr, Gale Trondle, Richard Buehler, Gerald McComb and Florine Fasnacht.

The teachers who inspired John were Homer Hanham, Dorothea Bishop and Dorothy Matheney. Of his mentors, John said, "Beyond educational purposes of a high school, these teachers helped support myself esteem and self confidence and gave me the motivation for higher education and 'making something of myself."

After graduating from WHS in 1947, John entered the University of Toledo and graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree in 1953.While at the university, John was very active in extracurricular activities. During his senior year, he was tapped for membership in Arx (Blue Key), Men's Honor Fraternity.

Following graduation, John joined the staff of the Boys Scouts of America in Toledo. He rose through the ranks of BSA to become national vice president. His last assignment with the association was as president of American Humanics. This organization, along with partner colleges and universities and its not-for-profit youth agencies, provides educational opportunities for students who wish to pursue a career in human service and youth agency administration.

In 1987, John retired from BSA. Currently, he serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Hugh O'Brian Foundation (HOBY). HOBY brings a select group of high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership qualities together with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, government and the professions, and lets them interact.

In fact, one of this year's Hall of Fame Scholarship finalists, Sarah Pakulski attended HOBY. Sarah participated in the program in 1989.

HOBY's philosophy is to "Motivate Tomorrow's Leaders Today." John's involvement in this organization is not an accident. His WHS experience motivated John's leadership qualities.

Even though John lives in California, he did not forget his association with WHS. He attends an annual WHS Alumni Meeting in California at the home of Andrew Fenady, film and television producer. These meetings include a night of reminiscing with Don Higley, Bridget Carr, Norman Wolfe, Phillip Baker Hall, Mitch Sahadi, Richard Joseph, Cliford Davis, Jamie Farr, George Fenady, Phillip Monsaur, Peter Zelles and Adeeb Saab.

In his spare time, John enjoys a yearly vacation to Hawaii as well as orchid gardening. He is married to Carolyn and has two children Helen Victoria and Kevin

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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