Bill Laughlin, Pride of Paoli’s band director, received one of the “highest tributes given out by the State of Indiana to its citizens,” the Distinguished Hoosier Award. This award is given to Hoosiers who have brought honor and respect to Indiana through their singularity and achievements. State Representatives may nominate people from their districts who they feel have met these standards. A selection committee approves the choices, and the Governor will sign the proclamation. This is a way of honoring people who have contributed greatly to our state.
Laughlin received this award February 9 during the Paoli high school boys basketball game against Orleans.
Luke Aylsworth, band director of Springs Valley, was the genesis of this project.
Laughlin had no idea what was in store for him that night. His band was playing their music and getting ready for the Star Spangled Banner when Jerry Stroud began reading the proclamation. Laughlin still had no idea until Stroud mentioned his name.
“What a fantastic surprise! Several people already knew about it, including a few band boosters, as they arranged to get Mrs. Laughlin to the game so that she could see the presentation. That was a terrific surprise as well! Gayle had not been to a ball game in 6 or 7 years,” said Laughlin.
Laughlin felt humbled and honored to receive the Distinguished Hoosier Award.
“Humbled in that I simply try to be the best music teacher possible on a daily basis, which can be difficult on some days, and do my thing. Honored in that so many people think highly of me to recommend that kind of recognition. Recognition from our peers is the best thing, as it comes from those who know us best and see our work often,” said Laughlin.
Laughlin was very touched by the fact the Band Boosters assisted in making sure his wife was present and kept it a great secret.
“Mrs. Laughlin and I were the band directors here for 20 years until she retired. Band is something that we joined up in the junior high years and are still involved in today,” said Laughlin.
While Aylsworth helped with setting all of this up, band parents and students had their fair share of plotting and scheming as well.
“Mr. Laughlin has had a huge impact on so many kids in our area, not just Paoli band kids, Orleans and Springs Valley band kids as well. Either through private lessons or words of encouragement, he has helped many. He has guided many student teachers into the early days of their profession and offered assistance to many young directors around the state. He realizes we are here to make the world around us better, and he strives to do that daily. There is no question, for anyone who really knows him, he has made life better for many of the people he has come in contact with. The life lessons you learn under Bill’s guidance last a lifetime,” said band parent Jamey Sullivan.
Laughlin is humble about receiving the award.
“I would like everyone to know that I never think of myself as anyone special. There are other band directors out there who have greater musical skills, greater marching skills, greater organizational skills, and greater motivation skills. What I do have is a great love of teaching, a great love of music, and a deep sense of gratitude that God has allowed me to do both for a career! It’s not about me, but about the opportunities I have to succeed. I succeed by making others better,” said Laughlin.
Story by Gracie Walls