Surprise guests included every PAA principal during Neel’s time at the school. Between performances from PAA’s musical ensembles, former principals Dick Molstead, Michael Conner and Gale Crosby plus current principal Dan Nicola shared stories and memories about Neel’s impact at PAA.
Neel’s many awards include the Adventist Education Zapara Award for Excellence in Teaching and Oregon Music Educators Association Certificate of Merit, as well as nine state band championships and numerous top-three choir placements at state choir competitions.
Neel has been a versatile asset to PAA. Besides heading the music department, she has taught classes like physical education, health, careers and culture. She went above and beyond her job description to coach varsity volleyball for 18 years and basketball for 10. She has organized and led many mission trips as well as a total of 31 memorable PAA music tours through British Columbia, California, Washington and Oregon.
PAA’s “Christ Centered, Character Driven” motto is demonstrated in Neel’s active lifestyle. She holds a first-place world championship for senior women’s racquetball, and she has kayaked with a pod of orca whales. She is a certified kayak guide and instructor, and she loves inspiring others to find peace and quiet on the water. Neel’s love for her family and her pets brings her joy.
“But beyond all of that,” Nicola said during Neel’s final Christmas concert, “Linda leaves behind a legacy of love and loyalty for PAA and the thousands of students she’s taught over the decades.”
Helping students know they are loved and cared for is important to Neel. “I admired Linda’s perspective about students and what she shared on committee meetings,” said Crosby, Oregon Conference education superintendent and former PAA principal. “She can see the world through the eyes of her students and would approach important decisions from the perspective of the question, ‘What is best for this student?’”
“It’s true: Linda knows Jesus,” added Crosby. “Her empathy and love for her students
[are] evident in how she treats them every day. I remember the many times she would talk with me about a certain student she was worried about and wanted to help. She always followed up with them and kept them in close contact.”
“She has touched thousands of hearts over her long career, showing us all what it means to be Christ-centered and character-driven,” concluded Nicola.
“Indeed, Linda is a legend,” said Crosby. “Because of her ministry, there will be young people that have chosen to spend eternity in a perfect place with a loving God.”
Neel’s retirement celebration will be held during PAA’s Alumni Sabbath on May 2. Her final spring concert will be May 28 at 7 p.m.
by Liesl Vistaunet