For The Tribune
Dr. Donal Neal said he was surprised when he received a call that he would be inducted in the Brownstown Central High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I was very appreciative and, quite frankly, shocked,” he said from his home in Brownstown. Neal was inducted during the Braves’ Oct. 16 home game. “I was humbled by it.”
Neal’s career with Brownstown Central began as a teacher from 1966-72. He moved into the administration as Brownstown Central Middle School principal from 1972-78, then began as the corporation’s assistant superintendent from 1978-91.
Neal served as superintendent from 1991-2002 before retiring from the corporation. However, many in the community are also thankful for Neal’s service to the school corporation and the community’s athletics programs.
Neal was instrumental in helping with property expansions and building renovations to make the school corporation’s athletics facilities what they are today.
Some of the projects Neal helped shepherd to completion include the renovation of the auxiliary gymnasium at the high school, acquisition of the practice football field, renovations of the baseball field and expanding the tennis courts.
Of all the athletics projects he helped with, Neal said he is most proud of the auxiliary gymnasium.
“Because it was needed and something relatively new to us,” he said, but added that all of them gave more value to the school. “I think they were all needed and are valuable to the school.”
During his 36-year career, Neal also had a hand in coaching some junior high teams.
He was a coach from 1966-72 for the junior high football, basketball and track teams.
Neal said he enjoyed coaching even though he had to give it up when he became a principal.
He said his favorite part of coaching wasn’t the competition or strategy but helping kids develop, succeed and grow.
“I enjoyed working with kids and seeing them develop,” Neal said. “Many kids learn a lot about life through sports. We didn’t always win, and we didn’t always lose, but I think kids really build a sense of character from participating.”
Neal is still involved with athletics in Brownstown.
He attends many games the school participates in and ones his grandchildren play in.
“We have three grandsons, and the oldest one is involved in football, basketball and golf,” he said. “The 14-year-old is involved in baseball, football and basketball, and the fifth-grader, who is in football, baseball and basketball, so I get the opportunity to still go to a lot of the games.”
Neal said he is fortunate because his son Jeff and daughter-in-law Shannon live nearby, and he and his wife Virginia can go to all their games whether they are home or away.
“Virginia and I tag along and go to a lot of the away games too,” he said. Their daughter, Janet, is also a teacher at Brownstown Central Middle School, so he said that gives him more opportunities to go support the Braves.
Since Neal has attended many games in various sports during the years, he has been able to see the school corporation build strong athletics programs in a variety of sports, he said.
Most of that comes through the school’s commitment to consistency.
“If you look at the longevity, you know that coach (Reed) May has been here for over 20 years; coach (Dave) Benter has been here quite awhile; coach (Jennifer) Shade, she grew up here, she played here, came back and is coaching here; and same with Karla Reickers,” he said. “I think as you look at those programs you see consistency.”
Neal has also been able to bring a sense of pride to the community in his personal life.
He was honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award — the highest civilian honor in Indiana — by then-Gov. Joe Kernan.
He was honored with the award for his years of service to education.