GIRARD — Strong character was a trait Dr. Robert V. Haderlein hoped to instill in every student, and the elementary students who attend class in a building adorned by his name showed their character by raising money for a memorial tree.

Haderlein died last September, and students at R.V. Haderlein Elementary wanted to do something to honor his memory. The students decided to host a quarter drive and raised $221 in quarters to purchase the memorial tree, which was dedicated Wednesday.

Students led the dedication ceremony, along with Haderlein Principal Mark LaTurner, and invited Dr. Haderlein’s adult children as guests. The tree chosen is a flaming maple, which LaTurner said can grow as high as 40 feet — and spread that distance.

“This tree will shade 40 years of new kindergarten students walking through our front door,” LaTurner said. “And it will remind us of our growth.”

Haderlein served on the USD 248 Board of Education for 42 years, as well as serving as president of the Kansas Board of Education and National School Boards Association. During his tenure as president of NSBA, he was appointed to the National Commission on Excellence in Education by President Ronald Reagan.

Haderlein was a champion for education in Girard, Southeast Kansas and the nation. One of his passions was fostering a strong sense of character in students, and thanks to a donation from his family, Haderlein Elementary was able to create a character education program.

LaTurner also presented Haderlein’s daughters with a group photo of every student in the school, and officially dedicated the newly constructed parts of Haderlein Elementary to its namesake.

A portrait of Dr. Haderlein and information about his legacy are on the wall just inside the entryway to the school.

“We placed this nice portrait and write up in the entryway,” LaTurner said. “So when guests walk in, they’ll know who the building is named after and what he stood for.”

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.