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Mill Creek football field named after beloved principal

Mill Creek principal Dr. James Markham is presented with a token for his retirement by football players prior to the Mill Creek and Dacula football game in Hoschton on Friday. Dr. Markham who has been the principal at Mill Creek for the past nine years plans to retire on Dec. 1, 2012 to battle his multiple myloma cancer. The football field will be named Markham Field in his honor.

Mill Creek principal Dr. James Markham is presented with a token for his retirement by football players prior to the Mill Creek and Dacula football game in Hoschton on Friday. Dr. Markham who has been the principal at Mill Creek for the past nine years plans to retire on Dec. 1, 2012 to battle his multiple myloma cancer. The football field will be named Markham Field in his honor.

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Mill Creek principal Dr. James Markham is presented with a token for his retirement by senior class representative Lauri Springer, right, prior to the Mill Creek and Dacula football game in Hoschton on Friday. Dr. Markham who has been the principal at Mill Creek for the past nine years plans to retire on Dec. 1, 2012 to battle his multiple myloma cancer. The football field will be named Markham Field in his honor.

HOSCHTON -- Even Mrs. Markham didn't know -- she would have most likely ruined the surprise, her husband admitted Friday, if only for etiquette's sake.

"She would have probably told me to wear a suit or something," Jim Markham said with a laugh.

High school football began in earnest across Gwinnett on Friday, with some 17 games taking place for teams from throughout the county. The night's action, though, was undoubtedly the most special in Hoschton, where the home of the Mill Creek Hawks got a brand new name.

The turf inside Mill Creek Community Stadium is now officially dubbed Markham Field, a nod to the aforementioned Jim Markham. The Vietnam veteran and longtime Gwinnett County administrator has been principal at the high school since its opening in 2004.

Aside from the school board, which had to approve the move, only about seven people knew what the surprise ceremony prior to Mill Creek's home opener would hold.

Neither Jim Markham -- nor his wife -- were among them.

"I really don't have a good response right now," Markham said Friday, on the sidelines now bearing his name. "I was totally shocked. I had no idea. It's the kindest thing anyone's ever done for me."

Markham has been an educator for 45 years and with Gwinnett since 1991, serving as principal at Parkview (1991-93), Berkmar (1994-2004) and Mill Creek. He announced earlier this month that he will be retiring Dec. 1 to battle the cancer that's developed from his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

During the brief ceremony prior to Mill Creek's solid thumping of rival Dacula, Markham was presented with a hat, a trophy, a banner signed by every senior and, most unique of all, his very own letterman's jacket.

It all had to be a surprise, Athletic Director Gary Long said.

"We were afraid if he caught wind of it he would nix it from the get-go," Long said.

Long said Markham has meant "everything" to Mill Creek.

"Dr. Markham's goal from Day 1 was to create the best high school in America," Long said. "He's an incredible leader ... I'm sure there are other people out there that could have done a great job, but I'm just not sure they would have gotten us to where we are as fast as we're there."

"He's been inspirational to all of us."

Soon, the strip across the bottom of the stadium's scoreboard will no longer welcome fans to "The Home of the Hawks," but to Markham Field.

Eventually, a granite monument with Markham's likeness will be constructed in a grassy area between the stadium and the football team's fieldhouse.

Markham, ever humble, said he never would have suspected such an honor because "I don't think like that."

"I will be forever in their debt," he said.

Comments

keith1721 2 years, 3 months ago

This is incredibly moving. There is nobody more deserving of this than Mr. Markham. He was my principal at Berkmar and made such a difference and impact on the lives of students there. I love seeing him being honored in such a deserving way. I look forward to visiting the field and seeing the statue one day.

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JimmyOrr 2 years, 3 months ago

Although the Mill Creek football Hawks executed a flawless game plan to perfection, once the game got underway, the game in itself in my opinion paled in comparison to the brief pre-game ceremonies to honor a great man, educator, and leader by officially naming the Mill Creek football field "Markham Field" as an everlasting tribute to Dr. Jim Markham.

As I watched the game between Mill Creek and Dacula, I could not help but observe all of the students who were present in the stadium Friday evening thinking that no matter what their level of participation was on this Friday evening, August 31, 2012, that perhaps one evening in the future many of these students, now grown, will sit in this same stadium, observe the sign beneath the scoreboard which reads: "Welcome to Markham Field," and remember the indelible impact that Dr. Markham made in their lives.

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Meeksters 2 years, 3 months ago

When I read this story I could not help but feel a sense of pride and sadness. This was the right thing to do and no one deserves it more than Mr. Markham! I wish I could have been there to see the love from the students and faculty as this was presented to him.

As a parent of a former (started when school opened) and current student at MCHS, I have seen the impact that Mr. Markham has made in so many students lives, my children included. I spent a lot of time at MCHS for the first 4 years it was open, helping with the band. Mr. Markham was always so nice and caring no matter the situation. I am sure when the students take the field for football, band, track or whatever the event is, they will look back to that night and remember the pride, joy and tears that were shed.

Mr. Markham is a great leader and person. I know that he will be missed when he retires.

Mr. Markham, my prayer and hope for you is to enjoy your reitrement to the fullest and continue to make an impact on everyone who crosses your path. May you find peace and comfort in battling your cancer. I cannot wait to read your book when published!

GO HAWKS!

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Susan 2 years, 3 months ago

How wonderful that Mill Creek is honoring Jim Markham in this way.

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destin 2 years, 3 months ago

I taught at Parkview High school when Jim Markham was an Ast.Principal. I've retired now with 30 years of teaching + coaching experience in N.J., OK, GA. but feel totally confident in saying he was the very best principal I ever worked for and with. I can still see him sitting in the bleachers cheering on our girls softball games. He wasn't just there as an administrator that "had to be", he was part of the enthusiastic fan base! I say to the Mill Creek community you have done a truly remarkable honor to a very honorable human being.

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