The high school will induct 24 people into its initial class of renowned alumni. Writer Garrison Keillor and Rep. Michele Bachmann won't be there.
Anoka High School will induct its first Hall of Fame class this week, a group that includes a former Miss America, six Olympians, and "the greatest high-school athlete in Minnesota history." But missing from the list of strong women and good-looking men are the school's two most famous alums: Garrison Keillor and Michele Bachmann.
Keillor was selected but declined the honor, explaining to the Star Tribune, "I'm just a writer. I'm not a Hall of Fame-type guy."
"But where's Michele?" he asked.
Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., who wants to be nominated for president, wasn't nominated for her high school Hall of Fame. The apparent oversight has since been greeted with great consternation and embarrassment by the committee that organized the induction ceremony that will be held Thursday.
"I would guess that a lot of people thought she was automatic and someone else nominated her. Nobody did," committee member Mike Clark said of Bachmann, a former cheerleader and 1974 graduate.
Forty-five nominations were submitted at the high school or on the school's Internet site over a six-week period, but Bachmann's name was not among them, Clark said. The committee ruled that only alumni who were nominated were eligible for this year's induction.
"It dawned on me three or four weeks ago: Where is Michele Bachmann on this list?" Hall of Fame inductee Gretchen Carlson said Friday from her home in Connecticut.
Carlson, the 1989 Miss America who now co-anchors TV's "Fox and Friends," is more than an impartial observer. Not only has she interviewed Bachmann numerous times, but Carlson said that Bachmann was her baby sitter for an entire summer:
"My favorite baby sitter."
"I feel completely disheartened that she's not part of this," Carlson said. "In the committee's defense, in growing up in a small town, I know this happens. It was a grass-roots effort, from the heart. This is just so unfortunate."
Bachmann congratulated the Hall of Fame class, saying through her press secretary, Becky Rogness, that "their achievements are a great compliment to the high school and the community." Bachmann said nothing about her omission.
Respecting Keillor's wishes
Besides Carlson, a class valedictorian, the 24 inductees include soccer goalie and two-time Olympic gold medalist Briana Scurry; former New England Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker Steve Nelson; and Billy Bye, who captained an undefeated Anoka High football team, starred on a district champion basketball team and, in one day, won the district golf championship in the morning, played for the state championship baseball team in the afternoon and qualified for the state regional in five track events that evening.
"Billy Bye is the greatest high school athlete in Minnesota history," proclaimed Bud Grant, who was a teammate at the University of Minnesota, where Bye also starred.
But the most asked-about nominee is 1960 graduate Keillor, Clark said.
"We would love to have Garrison Keillor on the list," said John Baufield, Anoka activities director. "But we have to respect his wishes."
Keillor is a best-selling author, syndicated columnist and, as host and creator of National Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion," someone who can appreciate all the above-average children who grow up to be hall-of-fame candidates. But when it comes to this particular hall of fame, Keillor is not happy to be here.
"I thought it was a nice idea for people who were important in high school," Keillor said. "But I wasn't anything in high school. I was a quiet, mediocre student with no plans."
He said he did attend a radio hall of fame function in Chicago once.
"It made me queasy," he said. "I sat next to Paul Harvey. It was interesting. But the event left me with a bad feeling."
Keillor said he was also approached about a Minnesota broadcasting Hall of Fame. He declined.
"Use my name, if you want to," he said. "If they could put my name on a plaque and leave it at that ...."
Keillor lives in St. Paul but says he rarely visits his hometown. He laments the elimination of the "old fire barn on Main Street" and "the old courthouse with the high steeple in the middle of a park."
"It's sad that a town gutted itself," he said. "I find it painful to go up that way."
Yet he speaks with reverence about inductee Stan Nelson, a legendary Anoka High football, basketball and baseball coach who was Keillor's gym teacher.
"He was in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and won a medal for bravery," Keillor said. "That's a man worth honoring."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419