Kissed off

Fifty-one years ago, an East Cleveland high school girl was denied membership in the National Honor Society because she’d been reprimanded for giving her boyfriend a quick kiss in the stairwell. Catherine Peters Wagner of the Shaw High School class of 1953, will be inducted Friday.

Wagner, who now lives in Reynoldsburg near Columbus, went to Ohio State University on a music scholarship and played the cello with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for 29 years.

Last year she toured Shaw during a 50-year reunion and Gerald Dougherty, vice president of the honor society in 1953, heard her story and asked the school to get involved. Principal Clarence Bozeman arranged the induction.

As for Robert Wagner, the long-ago boyfriend she kissed in the stairwell: she married him and they will celebrate their 48th anniversary this year.

As one of the readers of Number 2 Pencil points out, the issues now are whether teen-age mothers are eligible for National Honor Society.

About Joanne


  1. Mad Scientist says:

    After 51 years????

    If this dumbass is still stewing over a slight from her high school days, she surely needs some help.

    Get over it already!

  2. Michael says:

    Mad Scientist, by calling her a dumbass, you just demonstrated that you’re an ass, without qualification.

  3. I wouldn’t call her any names, but I *was* wondering what kind of person would find this kind of thing important after so many years. It all seems so silly to bring it up now.

  4. Mike Daley says:

    Truly a tempest in the proverbial teapot.
    For Pete’s sake, she only “suspects” that’s the reason. From the linked story:
    “She suspects that is why her name was left off a list of new honor society members posted a short time later.”

  5. Mad Scientist says:

    Michael, what would you call someone who was unable put behind her missing out of a high school honor over 50 years ago? Sounds too much like Al Bundy (and the infamous “4 touchdowns in one high school football game”).

    If she needs to relive her “glory” days that badly, then it truly has been a wasted life.

    The singularly stupidest interview for a professional position I had was when I was about to finish my PhD and the interviewer asked me about my most important achievenment in High School. I laughed at him.

    PS: How many of the adult readers (over 30) here put a line on their CV that reads “Member of National Honor Society”?

  6. I agree with Michael. It’s kind of stupid to call a complete stranger ugly names because you assume she did something you wouldn’t do.

    “Wagner, who now lives in Reynoldsburg near Columbus, went to Ohio State University on a music scholarship and played the cello with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for 29 years.”

    Doesn’t sound like she’s a loser who can’t let go of her high school days.

    “Gerald Dougherty, vice president of the honor society in 1953, heard her story and asked the school to get involved.”

    Doesn’t look like she even asked for it.

  7. Oh sure, let those quick kissers in, and the next thing you know it will be the teen-age mothers…

    This is where the slippery slope has taken us! Down with quick kissers!

  8. I am in favor of quick kisses in the stairwell.

  9. PJ/Maryland says:

    There’s no mention of whether the boyfriend and now husband, Robert Wagner, was an Honor Society member. If not, was he penalized for kissing in the stairwell, too? If he was a member, is this gender discrimination?

    And if he wasn’t honor society material, it’s no wonder Catherine Wagner got into trouble for kissing him! What would you call this terrible evil (not miscegenation, which has to involve race or genus)? Miscegradation, referring to grades?

  10. If you read the related teen mom story, you’ll learn that one of the mommie/scholars is named Chasity.

    I think I should get to be homecoming queen, even though I graduated in 1971.

  11. Michael says:

    Mad Scientist, if that was what the story said, I still wouldn’t call her names. However, that was not what the story said. See Laura’s post if you still don’t understand. BTW, did it ever occur to you that that question on the job interview you had was designed to see how people reacted to it, rather than to find out anything about your high school experience?

  12. Folks,

    This is a “cute” story with a “happy” ending….

  13. Mad Scientist says:

    The point is that someone decided to make a big deal out of something that is decidedly NOT a big deal.

    Has anyone considered how the VP of the honor society in ’53 got this info? Someone thought it was important to make a big deal out of. My question is: WHO?

    There are injustices and then there are true injustices. This does not rise to the level. Perhaps I should not have called her a “dumbass”; that should have been reserved for the dumbass VP who made such a mountain out of a anthill.

    As for the question in an interview, I despise people who ask questions precisely to get reactions; it shows a certain lack of knowing what is important. That question was particularly inappropriate in light that I would have thought that what I had accomplished in the intervening 10 years would be of more interest.

    Sorry to say, but stupid questions demand stupid answers.

  14. The point is that someone decided to make a big deal out of something that is decidedly NOT a big deal.

    A certain amount of irony in this…

  15. “Sorry to say, but stupid questions demand stupid answers.”

    And it appears you are very willing and able to supply the stupid answers.

  16. Mad Scientist says:

    Why don’t we all just sit around the campfire and sing “Kumbayah”?

    Bart, I am not looking for national attention by responding to this.

    Yes Ross, I am very willing and able to supply stupid answers. On Saturday, when loading groceries into the back of the SUV, my wife asked “What is that cooler doing here?” Seems last week I used it to go to one of those warehouse stores to carry perishables.

    My answer: “Damn! That guy is really going to be pissed when he realizes why he didn’t get his new heart!”

  17. I am also in favor of not so quick kisses in the stairwell.

  18. Steve LaBonne says:

    This story is very ironic in light of the epidemic levels of teen pregnancy in the hellhole-slum East Cleveland of today. That unfortunate city was a very, very different place in Catherine Wagner’s time…

  19. I asked myself what high school accomplishment I was most proud of.

    When I was a senior, I won the John Phillips Sousa Band Award.

    That still brings a smile to my face.

    OK, I’m living in the past.

  20. *ahem* that would be John Philip Sousa.

    I don’t carry my trophy around.

  21. Gerald Dougherty says:

    I initiated this correction to an injustice that was notable for its now-untimely response, and ridiculously outdated impact. The award was deserved, and although those of you who never valued the National Honor Society award, because you had NO CHANCE of ever attaining it, there is high value to it among those who have worked hard in school, and performed beyond the menial median in order to make a valuable resource of their education. We found that studying and performing on a higher level was rewarded by higher accomplishments throughout our lives and have contributed (from my now 50 year experience of those in our NHS class) to the relative ease you others now enjoy. Even the use of your computers to learn REAL information, and of those in schools helping you do so, was developed by one of our classmates, along with two nuclear physicists who are Directors of the Nuclear Physics Departments at the Universities by whom they are employed. Polypropylene plastics patents and design of your gasolines are also products of OUR CLASS, as well as many other devices invented and designed by my classmates.

    Yes, we value the NHS award, as we do our Baush & Lomb awards, our phd’s and our individual contributions to the world and society around us. These are the things that make your life easier, and do not excuse your belittling statements about them, and your general scepticism about accomplishments. The comments I see are excusable only because they demonstrate your own immaturity and lack of motvation! I also know this does not apply to all of you, but it’s easy to figure out which are relevant. Thanks for your thinking on this.

    PS> The world is ready for kind and generous acts such as this, and it has been a blast!

    Gerald Dougherty, NHS 1953, Chem Engr, Inventor

    PS to Laura. You are right. She DID NOT ASK FOR IT. And her 15 minutes of glory from this event has, so far, been 7 days! Try that sometime!

  22. Mad Scientist says:


    I am saddened that we share a common bond: that of profession.

    What makes you think that some of us “had NO CHANCE of ever attaining it”? I was a member of NHS in both junior high and high school 27 years ago. That and $4.00 might get you coffee at Starbucks. Big deal.

    My life was not enriched by the experience. It was just another unimportant event in a world where unimportant events seem to take center stage.

    Mad Scientist (NHS 1977), PhD, Chem Eng and Inventor. {If you want my name, e-mail me}

    It is a good thing you did not have the opportunity to come rushing to my “defense”. I would have told you “Thanks, but no thanks; go do something important”. And, if you persisted, you would not have appreciated my “acceptance” speech.

  23. Mark Odell says:

    Mad Scientist wrote: If this dumbass is still stewing over a slight from her high school days, she surely needs some help.

    A point of honor is not affected by time; but I can readily understand how you might be unfamiliar with this concept.

    (BTW in case you hadn’t noticed, name-calling loses you the argument by forfeit.)

    boo wrote: I wouldn’t call her any names, but I *was* wondering what kind of person would find this kind of thing important after so many years.

    Perhaps she’s the kind of person who has integrity?

  24. Mad Scientist says:

    Mark, learn to fight the important battles. First, you have to identify them. This is a skill you seem to be lacking.

  25. Mad scientist, here is a skill you seem to be lacking:

    Live and let live.

    Everybody is not you. Everybody is not like you. Everybody doesn’t see things the way you do. And that doesn’t make them wrong. I figured that out a very long time ago. It’s a beautiful thing.

  26. Gerald Dougherty says:

    Mad Scientist; It would be a great idea for you to decide what it is that you are so “mad” about, because your attitude does not justify the satisfaction that a person with your alleged qualifications would suggest. I further find a flaw in your statement that you were a NHS awardee in Jr. High school. It is only offered to the 11th and 12th graders in High school, and in college. It decreases your entire credibility for all your statements, and leads us thinking people to wonder what kind of non-sense we have witnessed! I hope when you grow up you learn that there are some things that transcend opinions, whether yours or others, and are done just because they are “right” and “just”. (Remember, also, that some people never mature, and others never grow up, and that applies all the way through their lives!!) Hope you have a good day, or a “mad” one, whichever you prefer!

    I know you are a unique person, because of all the hundreds of Chemical Engineers I know well, I have never met one that is as closed as you appear to be, nor as “mad”.

    G. Dougherty

  27. Mad Scientist says:


    Thinking people can grasp the concept that there are two meanings of the word “mad”. For example, Frankenstein could be described as a “mad scientist”, although I doubt he was angry. Similarly, the Mad Hatter seemed to be a fairly congenial fellow. A little off his nut, but congenial.

    When I was in Jr. High, there was such a thing as the National Junior Honor Society. Sorry if my carelessness on the “little brother” society has caused you heartburn. But then again, there you go focusing on what is not important.

    Now let’s discuss “right” and “just”. Was the action of the NHS back in 1951 “right”? Probably for the mores back then, yes. Was it “just”? Probably no.

    So correct the injustice; I have absolutely no problem with that. Since it was a private slight, it should have been corrected privately (and announced to the people it directly affected, such as the graduating class). What I have a problem with is how this got to be picked up by the national press. I’d bet that somebody tipped them off. What I want to know is: “Why?” In the long run (i.e., a month from now), it is an empty gesture.

    As for nonsense, I believe that is what this whole episode is. Nonsense that the award was denied. Nonsense that the person benefiting did not ask for it. Nonsense that it was done anyway. Nonsense that it was broadcast by the national press. Nonsense that we are debating the non-existant merits of it.

    I am disapointed, but not surprised, that you seem to have forgotten on how to focus on the things that truly matter.

    PS: I guess you have not yet met my twin: Evil Genius. He is a lot like me, only more so.