Meat Loaf among TJ Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

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No matter what was on the lunch menu, seniors at Thomas Jefferson High School had a once-in-a-lifetime serving of Meat Loaf on Friday, March 6. The famous actor and musician returned to his alma mater, along with three fellow TJ grads, to receive Distinguished Alumni Awards from the school’s alumni association.

Meat Loaf, known in school as Michael Aday, got his start in acting on the very stage he was standing on Friday. The Class of 1965 graduate shared a few things about how he found his path while at school.

“My career started at this school, but it started in a very interesting way,” Aday told students.

He said his mom told him it was a good thing he didn’t want to be a musician, because he couldn’t sing. That apparently changed when he was hit in the head with a shot-put ball behind the school. “After that, I could sing,” he said. “True story.”

As a sophomore, he continually received detentions in study hall because of his constant talking. After meeting with a counselor to explore other options for the time period, he switched to an acting class – where he’d be allowed to talk. He played minor roles in school productions, but didn’t audition for a lead role until a friend dared him to try out for a large part in an upcoming musical. He landed the role.

“I got my start here, but I didn’t know it was happening,” Aday said. “I think it changed my life, but I still didn’t know it was happening.”

He told students that finding a career that lets them do what they love will make it not seem like work. “Whatever it is, every day of your life, you give everything you’ve got,” he said. “Never give up. Never quit.”

Meat Loaf’s 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell, is ranked as one of the best-selling music albums of all time. He won a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for his song, “I’d Do Anything for Love.” He has appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows, notably The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Mayor Mike Rawlings also presented a special recognition to Aday.

The Thomas Jefferson Alumni Association also honored three other TJ grads as Distinguished Alumni:

• Frederick Volcansek, Sr., Class of 1963, served as a Marines lieutenant in the Vietnam War and received the Bronze Star for Valor. He worked for three U.S. presidents – Ford, Reagan and George H.W. Bush – and was most recently the mayor of Clifton, Texas. Volcansek said he was a lousy student in school, but it was his response to his academic struggles that made the difference: he doubled his efforts. He said believing in yourself is a major key to success.

• Larry Dale, Class of 1971, is the president of Dale Operating Company and Dale Resources, LLC., has active roles in more than 30 other companies. He serves on the regional advisory board of Teach for American and is on the board of the Baylor Foundation. He funded TJ’s Chinese Summer Exploration Program and has also donated funds to Cary Middle School’s Leadership Cadet Corps. Dale said he considers three major components to success: persistent and tenacious hard work, maintaining a good reputation through honesty and integrity and core values that point to a person’s purpose in life.

• Ken Barth, Class of 1972, has more than 20 years of management leadership in the technology industry, including as founder, CEO and president of TEK Tools. He is currently president and CEO of Symphonic Source, Inc. He is active with Leadership DISD, Dallas Kids First, Commit and Stand for Children, Dallas Social Venture Partners, Texans for Education Reforms and Urban Acres. Barth struggled in college and had multiple jobs until he changed his attitude. His three keys to success include learning from mistakes, viewing himself as a role model and leader and also committing not to quit.

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