Lawrence math teacher named to Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame

One of Lawrence’s best known and most respected teachers has been named to the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame.

“He’s a legend,” said Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman, referring to Ray Wilbur.

Wilbur’s induction was announced Monday during a morning assembly at Bishop Seabury Academy.

Wilbur, 72, taught mathematics at Lawrence High School for 30 years, retiring in 1995. He’s taught daily math classes each semester at Bishop Seabury for the past nine years.

“He’s been a tremendous asset to our school,” said Chris Carter, head of school at Bishop Seabury.

During the assembly, which included two standing ovations, Wilbur fended off his admirers’ accolades.

He thanked his students “who asked all those questions I couldn’t answer and made me go back to the textbook to figure out what the heck was going on.”

He thanked three “special people” from LHS – math teachers Dennis Rorabaugh, Tom Waller and Dick Swindler.

“We taught 28 years together. We all retired the same year,” Wilbur said. “I learned so much from those three guys.”

He thanked his former principals at LHS, Bill Medley and Max Rife.

He thanked his wife, Marian, who taught English at West Junior High School for 28 years.

“She’s been the greatest influence on my life,” Wilbur said as he gave her a hug and a kiss. The Wilburs have been married 46 years.

A graduate of Kansas Wesleyan University, Wilbur taught a year in Goodland and four years in Moundridge before being awarded a National Science Foundation grant that led to a master’s degree at Bowling Green State University. He later earned a doctorate in mathematics at Kansas University.

After a year in Lincoln, Neb., Wilbur accepted a teaching position at LHS in 1964.

LHS seniors voted Wilbur “Teacher of the Year” in 1976, 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1995. He was named Lawrence school district’s outstanding secondary teacher in 1973.

Rorabaugh, Waller and several of Wilbur’s former colleagues attended the Monday assembly and had the following things to say about him:

¢ “He’s the best teacher I’ve ever known,” Rorabaugh said.

¢ “Ray Wilbur is one of those guys who doesn’t have an enemy in the world,” Waller said. “The whole time I was at Lawrence High School – 28 years – I never heard a student refer to him in anything but positive terms. It was always ‘Mr. Wilbur.’ He never picked up a nickname, which is really saying something.”

¢ “I had the good fortune of teaching the classroom next to Mr. Wilbur for nine years,” said Sam Rabiola, president of the Lawrence Education Assn. “He was a tremendous influence on me – all I know about teaching, I learned from Ray Wilbur.”

Rabiola, an English teacher at Free State High School, was the district’s secondary Teacher of the Year in 2005.

¢ “Ray Wilbur motivated me to be an educator. He made school fun and not all drudgery,” said Armin Landis, middle school principal at Perry-Lecompton.

Landis was a student of Wilbur’s in 1964. Forty-two years later, Landis’ son, Aaron, was taught by Wilbur at Bishop Seabury. The Landises wrote one of the five letters used in nominating Wilbur to the hall of fame.

Wilbur hasn’t lost his touch with students.

“He’s totally down to earth,” said Keegan Alford, a senior at Bishop Seabury. “He’s somebody you can talk to – in and outside of class. You know he cares.”

Wilbur is one of six teachers being inducted into the hall of fame this year. The group will be the subject of a two-hour ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. June 3 in the Little Theatre at Dodge City Community College.


Past Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame inductees from Lawrence:

¢ Mary Alice Gordon, 1994

¢ Virginia “Ginger” Hamm, 1998

¢ Dorothy McGregor, 1989

2006 statewide inductees:

¢ Valarie “Susie” Tims, Pittsburg

¢ Glenda S. Watkins, Paola

¢ Dianna Sue Hart, Bogue

¢ Mary Anne Trickle, Salina

¢ Ray Wilbur, Lawrence

¢ Paul E. Nelson, Kiowa (posthumous)