FRANKLIN – Mike Keith remembers John Maher as a kind, caring and passionate teacher and coach from his middle school days in Franklin. The award-winning radio Voice of the Tennessee Titans said those traits have more than amplified over the past four decades as Maher has become the top home builder in Spring Hill for more than 25 years with roughly one in every six families in Spring Hill living in a John Maher Builders home or community.
“He’s had massive success in life and still carries that caring and genuine hope to help others that was there back then,” said Keith, the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s John Maher Builders Scholar-Athlete banquet in partnership with the Williamson Herald. “That really resonates with me in such a deep way and as I read these young people’s stories and see what they are doing, it just falls in line with all that and makes me really proud of where I come from.”
The 15th annual banquet, which was virtual last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, was held at the Franklin Enrichment Center on the same grounds where Keith attended school at the old Battle Ground Academy campus. The veteran broadcaster still helps out locally and at BGA and has become a fixture at the annual banquet celebration.
“This group is special,” Keith said of the 18 scholar-athletes recognized this 2020-21 school year. “The winners of the John Maher Builders awards have always gone on to do special things and this is such a stepping stone for success. But I think this particular group is extra special.
“To accomplish what they have accomplished in such a challenging time might make them the most significant John Maher Builders class we have ever had.”
The nine young women and nine young men celebrated Tuesday included all-state, all-region and all-district honorees. There were softball and basketball players, volleyball standouts, soccer stars, football studs and even several state champions, but all shared the same passion and dedication in the classroom and community as they do in athletics. Those kinds of qualities make it easy to celebrate them, according to the Mahers.
“The talent on and off the field and strength of character exhibited in these young people each year is a cause for celebration,” Margie Maher said. “It’s our honor to be involved.”
Page High School senior Josey Polk was one of four $2,000 scholarship winners from John Maher Builders. The softball standout is headed to James Madison University to continue her playing career and has already passed a certified nursing technician program. She boasts a 4.22 GPA and is an All-District 11-AAA player who led the league in stolen bases.
“This whole experience has been amazing,” she said. “I could relate to everyone at the banquet and just feel so lucky.
“There are so many people in the world that don’t care like the way the (Mahers) do. They are so selfless and personable. I just want to thank them for everything they do.”
Brentwood High’s John Windley, Centennial High’s Abby Orr and Nolensville High’s Grant Reeder also received $2,000 checks Tuesday as part of a blind drawing.
Williamson Herald publisher Derby Jones said the partnership with John Maher Builders is an inspiring one because it allows him to meet and celebrate student-athletes like Polk, Windley, Orr and Reeder.
“Each year at our banquet, I am reminded just how special this partnership is and reminded what a great county we live in,” he said.
In addition to Keith, Williamson County Schools athletic director Darrin Joines also spoke at the event, thanking the kids for their hard work, the coaches for their guidance and the parents for their unwavering support. He also spoke about the tough year, especially early in the school year where the new COVID-19 protocols and quarantines hit the hardest.
“We always say as coaches that sports will teach you about life and this year produced probably the biggest challenge I can think of,” said Joines, who added that the “scholar” part of each student Tuesday will stretch so far in life. “This was a challenge where every athlete had to learn that perseverance piece of going through hard times and how you deal with that adversity. We all had to do that. I commend everybody in the district.”
Keith’s speech mirrored the admiration for the students in attendance.
“It’s just a flat out terrific job by them,” he said. “It would have been so easy to fall off in the classroom or on the field or court or wherever they play, but they didn’t and somehow they powered through it all and succeeded.
“This is one special group and I mean that sincerely. What they have been able to do in these tough circumstances is spectacular.”
The John Maher Builders Scholar-Athlete has recognized more than 200 scholar-athletes and awarded thousands of dollars. These exceptional student athletes were chosen based on several criteria including GPA, leadership qualities, community service and athletic competition.
In 2014, the Mahers doubled their scholarships by offering an additional two $2,000 awards to two females and two males. The previous years included scholarships of rone male and one female. The next year, the Mahers gave out four scholarships once again, this time in honor of John Maher's late father, Alfred.
“He taught me how to be someone that would give back,” John said. The family has continued to award $8,000 in scholarships ever since.
Fifteenth anniversary plaques were also awarded Tuesday to Williamson Herald staff Joe Williams, Carole Robinson and Charles Pulliam for their ongoing support as well as to the Maher family.
2020-21 Monthly John Maher Builders Scholar-Athlete Winners
October – Emmy D’Aprile, Brentwood, and Connor Beavon of Franklin; November – Anna Major, Ravenwood, and Grant Reeder of Nolensville; December – Shaye Eggleston of Brentwood, and Hank White of Page; January – Brenna Swiger of Franklin, and Iman Lohrasbi of BGA; February – Christine Jewell of BGA, and John Windley of Brentwood; March – Casey Gooden of Ravenwood, and Alex Ables of Centennial; April – Abby Orr of Centennial, and Nolan Colladay of Page; May – Lexi Erickson and Dominic Miller of Ravenwood; June – Josey Polk of Page, and Jack Baughman of Independence.