2003 Central High School Hall of Fame Inductee
Our participation in OmahaGives! was one of the most successful events of the year, resulting in nearly $174,000 raised for our Eagles. is success wouldn’t have been possible without a generous matching donation of $100,000 by Laurance, CHS 1954, and Grace Hoagland, in memory of Laurie’s brother, Peter Hoagland, CHS 1959.
Laurie shared that Central was an important part of their family, and the success of the school has always been a point of interest. “When I was a student there, they kept saying that Central was one of the 10 best high schools in the country,” he said. He knows that’s true, and he knows his brother would agree as well. The quality of the education he and Peter received at Central was apparent when they attended higher education. “My high school education exceeded that from all over the country, even the famous prep schools.”
In a spirit of honoring that exceptional education and the memory of Peter, who passed away in October 2007, Laurie and his wife were happy to be able to support the Central High School Foundation through their matching gift.
“Peter and I had a normal sibling rivalry when we were kids,” said Laurie. “But as soon as I went to college, we became great buddies for the remainder of our lives. It seemed to me like the obvious thing to do to honor him this way. He certainly developed his leadership while he was at Central. Central provided the foundation for him to continue on to Stanford, Yale, and beyond.”
During his years at Central, Peter was involved with the tennis team and the ROTC rifle team. Laurie said he remembered that his brother had a good experience in high school, and cared very much for his alma mater. After graduating from Central in 1959, he headed to work on his undergraduate degree at the same school where his big brother was – Stanford University. After graduating from Stanford in 1963, he worked as a first lieutenant in intelligence for the United States Army from 1963 to 1965 during the Vietnam War. Aferward he went on to Yale Law School. He graduated from Yale and was admitted to the bar in 1968.
As a young man, he set up practice in Washington, D.C. as a clerk to Judge Oliver Gasch of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia from 1969 to 1970. He was a staff attorney in the District of Columbia public defender service from 1970 to 1973. It was here that he met his wife Barbara.
While he was working as a young lawyer in Omaha in 1978, he ran for the State Legislature. Amongst his competition in the primary was Jim Crounse (CHS 1971), a law student at Creighton University. As they were canvasing the same neighborhood, knocking on the same doors, they stopped to wish each other good luck. That prompted an hour-long conversation that was the establishment of their life-long friendship. Peter won the primary election, and Jim helped him run his general election, which he also won.
“Peter was like an older brother and mentor for me,” said Jim. Throughout the years he would work for Peter, including helping him get elected to the 101st Congress in 1988, where he worked as his Chief of Staff for two years.
“He was concerned that his campaigns were open, fair, and honest,” said Jim. Campaign finance was a top issue for Peter, according to Jim, as well as environmental issues. “The environment was very important to him. He worked to clean up water in Nebraska, and managed to designate the Niobrara River as National Wild and Scenic, so certain portions of the river are protected from overdevelopment.”
In fact, in 1990, The League of Conservation Voters released a National Environmental Scorecard ranking members of Congress on their environmental voting records. Peter scored a perfect 100%. In addition to the environment, Peter worked closely with labor unions and advocated for the right of the worker, and he was a big believer in quality public education. He advocated for teachers and held educational issues as a top priority.
“The morning after every election he would go to Central and speak to the students,” recalled Jim, who appreciated being back in his alma mater as well. “He had a great optimism for the role of public service and what people could do with that public service for the community. He was very passionate about that.”
Jim, who also feels a commitment to public service, attributes that to Central. “Social and political activism was important to the Central experience when we both went to school there, as I’m sure it was for Laurie’s class as well. I think people from Central have been very inclined to go into public service to help their communities and to help society. Central was interested and encouraged students to be aware. It wasn’t your typical high school for either of us.”
In Peter’s last few years in Congress he was a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the most significant committee in the House of Representatives, which was a testament to his reputation in Congress.
“He was very well respected and known as a workhorse,” said Jim. “He was a real student of issues and believed that working with both Republicans and Democrats was the only way to get things done. He had many Republican friends that he would work with; he was the physical embodiment of what you would want in a Congressman.”
Jim said that another key element of Peter’s Central experience that played a de ning factor in his life was his understanding of diversity.
“Going to a high school like that, with that diversity gives you a tremendous outlook on life,” said Jim. “It teaches you about respect and helps you understand community. We both felt like Central gave us tremendous advantages as we went off to college and started our careers.”
Peter struggled with Parkinson’s disease for the last ve years of his life. He passed away in Washington, D.C. on October 30, 2007, at age 65. However, the impact he made on his community continues, including his love for Central High School. “Peter was able to succeed because of the skills he learned at Central,” said Laurie. “He understood how Central set the standard for his future and it’s our hope that we can help Central continue to do that for other students.”