The origin story of a Mac superhero: Nancy Searle

In the first of a three-post series, we go back to the very beginning of the Blue Brigade legacy of one of Mac’s longest tenured and most revered teachers

1990 Knight
The original caption from the 1990 Knight yearbook, the year that Nancy Honeycutt Searle then Kudela (first from left on front row), became Blue Brigade director, reads: “It has been a “changing of the guard” for the drill team. About time a sponsor gets into the rhythm of the group, something happens and along comes a new sponsor. Within the last three years, the groups has had four sponsors with the last being Nancy Kudela. This group hopes this one takes so some continuity can begin to develop. The squad continues to struggle with only a few members.” How’s 30 years for continuity? After having three sponsors in three years, the Blue Brigade has had one in three decades.

The Blue Brigade spring show was supposed to go down this past weekend, and if it had, the Blue Brigade would have celebrated Nancy Honeycutt-Searle’s 30th anniversary in regal fashion befitting the occasion. We had pulled some archival images of Honeycutt-Searle and her Blue Brigade for that purpose, but now that the spring show has been canceled, we thought we would do our best to put these images toward the purpose for which we collected them. Here goes: Nancy Honeycutt-Searle tribute post No. 1: the 1990s. The curtain rises. … 

She works, gives and loves with her whole heart. She will give you anything she has if she thinks you need it, and she is always there when you need her.”

— Mary Noack on Blue Brigade director Nancy Honeycutt Searle

It was 1989, and Mac principal Penny Miller needed a drill dream director. Mac had gone through three of them in three years. The yearbook reported that because of the director turnover, the Blue Brigade was struggling to recruit and retain members. Principal Miller hoped that her new hire, Nancy Kudela, would bring some stability to the team.

“She was very eager to teach,” Miller remembered, but “the district changed graduation requirements and drill team credit became a fine arts credit, and Nancy was not certified, so she began the process of becoming certified.”

Miller’s new hire, it turned out, was one of the best hires Miller would make as Mac principal. She taught PE. She taught health.

“She never said ‘no’ to any request made to her. She also coached any sport I asked her to coach. So bottom line she was a team player. I knew I could count on her always.”

Kudela, who took the name Honeycutt when she wed Mac football coach Pat Honeycutt in 1996, worked closely with fellow spirit coach, cheer sponsor Mary Noack.

“There is nothing she can’t do,” Noack remembered. “The countless hours that Nancy gives to her teams is never ending. In the early years, that would include designing and sewing costumes to all hours of the nights, making cassette tapes for Spring Show and even lighting design.”

She was willing to do anything and everything that needed to be done, but there was more, Miller remembered.

She never said ‘no’ to any request made to her. She also coached any sport I asked her to coach. So bottom line she was a team player. I knew I could count on her always.”

— Former Mac principal Penny Miller, the person who hired Nancy Honeycutt Searle

She has a personality that makes connections with any department’s personnel,” Miller said. “That isn’t always true when you are a coach, but it’s true of Nancy. Kids love her and she balanced all jobs beautifully.”

 Noack agreed.

“She works, gives and loves with her whole heart. She will give you anything she has if she thinks you need it, and she is always there when you need her.”

Most of us don’t know Sunshine without Honey. Heck, she has had such a long tenure that when she started at Mac, Carol Nelson was just wrapping up her first decade at the helm of Mac Band.

To her longtime colleague and friend, Nelson offered this statement: “Thanks for sharing all 30 of your wonderful years with me here at MAC!”

All of us at MacJournalism would like to echo that sentiment but we aren’t going to reveal all our sources just yet. We have two more decades to cover after all.

Archival research by Ella Irwin. Copy photography by Jack Hester. Photo selection by Annabel Winter. Special thanks to Sarah Noack for helping us interview the two Mac legends quoted in this post. Photos from the Knight archives.