A former Ozarks teacher has left behind $1 million of his life savings for future educators. The scholarships through the fund will be awarded to students who are pursuing a degree in education.
James Doyle, or J.D., Riddle graduated from Cassville High School in 1942. He immediately went to Springfield's Teachers College to pursue a career in education. While getting his degree, he began teaching in a one-room, rural school in Barry County. However, it wasn't long before he was drafted into the U.S. Military. He served in World War II and earned a Bronze Star.
"I didn't know whether he made it back from the Army or not. I had no connection with him until that connection some 50 years later," Former Student Don Beeson said.
Beeson was one of Riddle's first students in the one-room schoolhouse of Forrest Grove. Years later, they met again at a reunion. There, Beeson learned Riddle had come home to fulfill his dream of being an educator at several area districts.
"Not surprised at all. As a seventh grader, I was a pretty good judge of people and he was just, there was something extra special about him," Beeson said.
That's why Beeson also wasn't surprised when he learned that Mr. Riddle had left the school with an unexpected gift following his passing last September.
"Mr. Riddle's gift is $1 million," Cassville Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Asbill said.
Dr. Asbill says the scholarship fund will help people pursuing a career in education.
Taylor McDonald, a junior at Cassville High, plans to apply for the scholarship as she seeks a degree in elementary education.
"For somebody to care so much about teaching and actually provide a scholarship that's just for people like me and everybody else that's wanting to be a teacher, that's amazing," McDonald said.
"Wow. That's someone who really cares about the education of teachers," Collin Pearman, who also aspires to be a teacher, said. "That means a lot. It really shows what kind of a man he was."
Dr. Asbill says Mr. Riddle's legacy will live on in Cassville, helping to train teachers who care about kids as much as he did.
"It's not surprising when you are able to go back through and look the people that either had him as a teacher or knew him as a friend. This is symbolic of his life. He was just a giving person, a kind person who wanted to be the best person he could be everyday. It's very symbolic of what we believe teachers are trying to do everyday," Dr. Asbill said.
Dr. Asbill says the scholarship fund will take a while to get legally established. They’re working with Mr. Riddle's attorney to ensure its set up just as he wished.