Sandy Nininger—Key Club Member
When a Key Club was organized at Fort Lauderdale High School in January of 1936, Alexander R. “Sandy” Nininger became a charter member. He showed the same dedication to his work at that time as he would later show in battle. The school’s athletic program had deteriorated. Only 15 candidates, including skinny Sandy, went out for the football team. Home games seldom attracted more than a hundred spectators.
Sandy decided to change the situation. As chairman of his Key Club’s entertainment committee, he arranged a dinner at the school cafeteria to which the town’s businessmen were invited. The Key Clubbers asked for help to improve athletics in the community, and within a few weeks had the backing of the people of Fort Lauderdale. The city sold the school board a tract of land two blocks long and one block wide. An electric power company donated poles and electricians gave their services. The rest of the community loaned money for equipment and a grandstand. Finally, a special football game was played before 1500 spectators. Football receipts eventually paid for the field, the fence around it, another new grandstand and all the athletic expenses.
Former Key Club member Sandy Nininger died a hero’s death at the battle of Bataan, only one month after the United States entered World War II. His courageous actions during the first of fighting may have changed the entire course of the war in the Pacific.
Congress honored Sandy by posthumously awarding the First Congressional Medal of Honor of World War II “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Island, on January 12, 1942.” The Congressional citation tells how Nininger, “though assigned to another company not then engaged in combat, voluntarily attached himself to Company K…while the unit was being attacked by enemy forces superior in firepower.” Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped their counterattack to regain part of their position. In hand-to-hand fighting that followed, Lieutenant Nininger repeatedly forced his way into the hostile territory. Exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy snipers. Although wounded three times, he continued his attacks until he was killed after pushing alone far within the enemy camp. When his body was found after recapture of the position, one enemy officer and two enemy soldiers lay dead around him.
Sandy Nininger—The Award
In the spring of 1942, at a convention of Florida Key Clubs, Kiwanian, G. Harold Martin of Fort Lauderdale proposed the Sandy Nininger Medal as an award in his memory. As conceived by Martin, the medal was to be awarded to high school students who distinguished themselves by making the most of their opportunities-disregarding any school average or group standard. Thus, the award would recognize individuals in terms of their own abilities and weaknesses, opportunities and lack of opportunity.
In 1946, Key Club International formally named Lieutenant Alexander R. Nininger, Jr., as the ideal Key Club member. At the same time, the Sandy Nininger Medal was adopted. This gold medal, with Sandy’s likeness superimposed upon it, is now given to the high school graduate who most exemplifies the tradition begun by Sandy Nininger. Since 1946, several thousand Sandy Nininger Medals have been presented by Key Clubs and Key Club Districts to outstanding students who have given of themselves “above and beyond the call of duty.”
The Sandy Nininger Medal is to be given for special merit only to high school students. Each year, the District awards three Key Club members the Sandy Nininger Medal for outstanding self-discipline, teamwork, and dedication to the ideals of Key Club.
Key Clubbers who hold elected office in their Key Club (with the exception of class directors), on the District Board, or on the International Board are not eligible to receive the Sandy Nininger Award.
The nominating Key Club must write a summary explaining the reasons it has for choosing this person and the ways in which this Key Club member has given of themselves “above and beyond the call of duty” following in the model of Sandy Nininger. The essay must be typed (Times New Roman, size 12), double spaced, no more than two pages (8.5x11).
The decision of the judges is final and no changes, alterations, or regradings will take place after the results have been certified by the judges of this contest.
All entries must include a completed Entry Form and be submitted by mail or via the online submission form linked below by March 15, 2024.
Friday, March 15, 2024