Durham-to-Durham connection crosses ‘the pond’


The seed was planted in 2003 when Phil Hodgson and several other educators from Durham County, England, traveled to Kansas to view the public schools in Newton.

After the visit, Hogsdon and George Leary, principal at Newton’s Chisholm Middle School, started talking about having educators from Newton visit schools in Durham, England.

The idea became reality in spring 2006 when 11 teachers from Newton traveled across “the pond” to see how United Kingdom schools differed from theirs.

Among the group of teachers was Marion resident Gary Ewert, who wanted to take along a gift for their host. Being a Kansas History teacher, Ewert decided to bring something relating to local history. He drove to Durham and took some pictures of the town and the Santa Fe Trail kiosk.

Kent and Ginger Becker, Durham, gave him a copy of the town’s centennial book to include in the album.

Ewert said Hodgson was delighted to see the album and book to see if the two sister cities share more than a name. The Durham in England is home to about 90,000 people while the one in Marion County claims 119.

Last week, Hodgson and his family came to the United States ahead of bringing another delegation of educators from Durham County, England, to Newton.

Before arriving, he e-mailed and asked if it would be possible to meet the Beckers and present a gift to the mayor of Durham.

Working with the Beckers, Ewert made it happen. The Beckers not only arranged a meeting with Mayor Glennon Crowther, but was also able to arrange with longtime resident Jim Donahue for the guests to see a replica of a Conestoga wagon.

As it turned out, Kansas weather made seeing the wagon outside impossible, but they were able to see the wagon and several other items of transportation in Donahue’s collection: a surrey, a sleigh and a Model A Ford.

The UK guests had many photo opportunities to help commemorate their trip.

While in Durham, Hodgson and his family—wife Amanda and children Stanley and Francis—presented to Mayor Crowther a lithograph of the Durham Ox that was to breed the herd of cattle from which Durham (Kan.) received its name.

Archival officials in Durham (UK) researched the information and helped prepare the matted lithograph for presentation here in the States.

After the presentation, the Beckers took the guests to the Santa Fe Trail kiosk west of Durham, and then to their home for dinner.

Amanda Hodgson said that being able to visit the United States and see America in this way was great.

“Many travelers from the UK go to Disney World or some such tourist place, but they are really missing America,” she said. “To see Kansas and eat in an American home and visit with Americans is really an experience.”

The Hodgsons were joined Oct. 19 by five other educators from Durham County and were in Newton schools until this past Friday.

Hodgson would like for the educator exchange to continue. He said it is a great way for professional educators to dialogue and see what is taking place and share experiences both in and out of the classroom.


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