In 1968 Thomas Dempsey walked across the stage in Loyalsock Township High School's auditorium to receive his diploma. And 45 years later, Dempsey was back on that stage - this time to receive the 2nd annual Distinguished Alumni Award Thursday.
"Obviously, it's an honor. It's a little humbling and a little surreal all at once," Dempsey said on being back at his alma mater.
Dempsey, who graduated from Colgate University with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1972, currently holds the position of CEO of the Snack Food Association in Arlington, Va. He previously was president of Utz Quality Foods before retiring from that post in January.
Thomas Dempsey, Class of 1968 and winner of Loyalsock Township High School’s distinguished alumni award, talks about leadership as students listen.
But as basketball coach Ron Insinger, who introduced Dempsey during a presentation to high school students, noted despite all of his successes, many of his former classmates described him as "just an ordinary guy."
It is Dempsey's passion, leadership and work ethic that has allowed him to do such great things, Insinger said. The qualities Insinger used to describe Dempsey are those he tries to instill in his players, often telling them: "Give me five ordinary guys with extraordinary work ethic and I'll give you a championship."
And his leadership posts at Utz and the snack association aren't new as Dempsey was a leader since his days at Loyalsock Township High School.
"He started exhibiting leadership qualities from an early age," Insinger said.
Besides being the student council president, Dempsey left the high school with the distinction of being the school's first-ever basketball player to score 1,000 points.
Dempsey added that he wasn't an A student in high school, and even received an F on his first college paper. But he continued to work to where he is today.
"It wasn't like he was handed everything. He worked for everything he got," Insinger said. "That's where that work ethic and passion comes in."
Dempsey said he had an "amazing" experience in high school and even added that he has a yearly meeting with a few close friends from high school.
And although he enjoyed his time in high school, Dempsey told students to keep growing and never settle. He explained that he continued to progress, as he went to college, got married, had children and held a variety of positions.
"High school was good for me," he said. "But it was only a phase."
Robert Grantier, superintendent, said the award is important to show current students where they can go after high school.
"Each of our distinguished alums sat right where you sat," he told students.
Dempsey has been back at his alma mater in recent year, giving the commencement address in 2011 and awarding the Dempsey Family Scholarship to seniors since 2009. But he did note that it was a little "spooky" to be back on the stage where he received his diploma.
"I can't tell you how strange it is standing here addressing you," he told students.