By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Ellington Elementary School paid tribute Thursday to one of the school's most ardent supporters -- Terry Myers, president of ADM Alliance Nutrition.
Myers is retiring Friday after 43 years in agriculture-related businesses, including 17 years with ADM.
Since arriving in Quincy 12 years ago and taking over the Alliance Nutrition leadership reins in January 2005, Myers has developed a warm and generous relationship with Ellington -- a K-3 school immediately south of ADM's offices in the former Moorman Manufacturing facility at 30th and Chestnut.
Ellington officials say they will never forget all the things Myers and ADM have done for the school.
"He's been like our guardian angel," said Anne Cashman, Ellington's principal, who spearheaded Thursday's 15-minute celebration honoring Myers.
"I would call Terry a true servant leader," Cashman said. "He has a heart for people, and his leadership is all about his vision to be a support in the community. In particular, his way of helping in the community turned into support for our school."
Cashman said the close relationship between Myers and Ellington started in 2005 while she was working on a fund-raising campaign to buy an electronic speed-readout sign to be placed along 30th Street to let motorists see how fast they were traveling in the school's speed zone. Cashman said she sent one of the appeal letters to ADM.
"That's when I first met Terry," she said.
Myers and ADM stepped forward to help sponsor the project out of concern for the safety of children who cross streets in that neighborhood. Myers then asked Cashman what else he and his company could do for the school.
Cashman said the subsequent generosity shown by Myers, ADM and the company's employees has been overwhelming.
"We would not have some of the technology in our school today had it not been for the generous donations of ADM," she said.
Cashman said Myers, ADM workers and the company's charitable arm, ADM Cares, have contributed "countless hours and dollars" to support Ellington and other public schools in Quincy.
One of ADM's most significant donations under Myers' watch was an $80,000 contribution last year from ADM Cares to help support the Quincy School District's Reading Recovery program for first-graders.
Some other efforts included:
º Supporting the United Way initiative to bring the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to all schools in Adams County.
º Organizing a yearly fundraiser to "Trick or Treat for United Way" that mirrored the costume parades held at Moormans years ago.
º Hosting a yearly Christmas dinner for Ellington staff and students.
º Donating to the Ellington Circle of Investment campaign.
º Donating money for school supplies, coats and other personal student needs.
º Supporting disadvantaged Ellington students and families at Christmas.
º Donating money to start Ellington's "Blessings in a Backpack" program.
º Donating funds to buy an Elmo classroom projection device.
Cashman said Myers has been especially supportive of the Seven Habits curriculum. As part of Thursday's thank-you celebration, Ellington children sang several songs related to the Seven Habits. They also unveiled a newly received banner recognizing Ellington as a "Leader in Me" school for its use of the leadership curriculum.
Myers applauded Ellington students and staff for earning the recognition.
"Very, very, very few schools ever have this type of recognition," he told students as they gathered on a driveway between Ellington and ADM's offices. Nearby, students and teachers had inserted dozens of paper cups into the openings on a cyclone fence to spell out the words: "GOOD LUCK MR. MYERS."
"You should be proud of yourselves -- and extremely proud of your teachers and Mrs. Cashman -- because we at ADM are extremely proud of you," Myers told the students.
"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. We should be so proud of what you've accomplished as individuals and, really, as a group," he added. "What you have to remember is that alone you can only do just so much. But when you work together as a team in a group, look at what you can accomplish."
In an interview, Myers said he was delighted to develop such a close relationship with Ellington during his years in Quincy. He said Thursday's celebration was as much "a thank-you from me to them, too."
One of ADM's fundamental beliefs is "to make sure that you're strong in your community," Myers said. "To me, what makes a community strong to start with is the youth."
He said reaching out to help the community's youth has been a good thing for ADM employees as well.
"Working with them has increased our teamwork and cooperation internally here," he said. "If they're involved in the community, they're happier at work and away from work. And, quite frankly, it just gets to be a better team."
In April, Myers was named the 2012 winner of the Joe Bonansinga Community Service Award for his efforts to promote quality of life in Quincy. Myers' support for local schools was cited during that award presentation.