From NBC's Lauren Stephenson
Besides adding author to his list of achievements, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will soon be able to add another title: Hall of Honor inductee and Alumni Achievement award recipient at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL.
The award has caused controversy. Some alumni, current students, and faculty have voiced their disappointment with the high school's decision to honor Rumsfeld. “He is a liar and war monger,” wrote one woman on the “New Trier Alumni Against Rumsfeld’s ‘Achievement Award’” Facebook page. However, the school cites Rumsfeld’s 50 years of public service and his philanthropic contributions through the Rumsfeld Foundation.
But maybe the bigger controversy? Local newspapers have focused on what some consider a snub to Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff and current Chicago mayoral candidate who happens to be another famous alum of New Trier. “New Trier hall of fame: Rumsfeld in, Rahm Out,” wrote the Chicago Sun-Times. The Huffington Post's Chicago page put it more bluntly: “Rahm Emanuel Loses New Trier Popularity Contest: Left Out of School’s Hall of Fame.”
According to Nicole Dizon, New Trier's communications director, a committee consisting of alumni, administrators, faculty, and a student conducted the “very thoughtful” selection process that included nearly 90 nominees. She added, “People are trying to make it seem like a competition, one person against another. This was more of an individual process. There were many notable alumni who were not nominated.”
When asked if Emanuel was nominated, Dizon said the list of nominees is not available since “nominations are active for five years.” This means if Emanuel was nominated, he would automatically be considered for the award for the next four years.
As it turns out, Rumsfeld will be unable to attend the first-ever New Trier Hall of Honor induction and the Educational Foundation's Alumni Achievement award dinner on March 22, since he will be on his book tour. However, Dizon says he expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the award and spoke highly of his time as a student.
“We are hopeful he will be able to come to the school and speak to students," Dizon said. "He has indicated interest.”
Note: Stephenson is a graduate of New Trier High School.