Council considers honorary street name for Keegan Bannon
CHAMPAIGN — Four years later, Central High School tennis Coach Scott Davis still keeps Keegan Bannon's phone number in his contacts. Just to remember.
Every year, he chooses a player on his team for the Keegan Bannon Award, given to the student who exemplifies Keegan's talent, tenacity and sportsmanship. So he was happy to hear that a Champaign street near the courts where his players practice could soon carry Keegan Bannon's name.
"It would be a great honor for him, a great kid," Davis said Monday. "It'd be nice for our kids to see it up there."
The Champaign City Council tonight will consider naming a stretch of Plymouth Drive in Champaign as "Honorary Keegan Bannon Way," to remember the Central senior who died suddenly in 2010.
The street runs next to the tennis courts at Morrissey Park, where Keegan regularly played tennis growing up, according to his father, Peter Bannon, who applied for the designation. The park is close to the Bannons' home, and Peter and his son Leo still practice there, as does Central's tennis team.
Almost every street around Central has been named, so Plymouth seemed the most logical choice, he said.
He submitted the application several months ago and didn't expect city action this quickly. If it's approved, he's hoping to host an unveiling ceremony when the sign goes up.
"I'm honored that it's even being considered," he said Monday.
In the application, Peter Bannon noted that his son was born and raised in Champaign and his family has been part of the community for more than 50 years.
At his memorial service, "many people of all races and colors spoke about Keegan and the example he left," Peter Bannon wrote. "Keegan didn't see people as being from one race or culture. He left an example that all people are valuable.
"For an entire generation of children, Keegan's name will carry significance. He lived his life to the fullest and is still an example to so many people."
When he died, Central teachers described Keegan as a student they might run across once in a lifetime. He was at the top of his class academically, played first chair alto saxophone in the school's top band, qualified for the state tennis tournament, served as a mentor to other schools, and was just an all-around nice guy.
Whenever Davis hands out the Keegan Bannon award, he talks about the impact the former Maroon had on him and his teammates, and "just what he meant to us."
"Here's a kid who was just so well-rounded," Davis said. "So many coaches talked about his sportsmanship, just the way he carried himself on the court and off the court. Everybody liked him."
Peter Bannon said the Keegan Bannon Memorial Scholarship Fund now totals more than $100,000. It funds an annual award for a college-bound senior who has excelled both academically and taken part in extracurricular activities such as student government, sports, music or drama.
"Long after we're gone, kids will be receiving scholarships in his name," he said.
At tonight's meeting, the Champaign City Council will conduct its first two honorary street application reviews of 2014. Did you know:
— The city's estimated cost for an honorary street designation is $1,000 per block. That covers a sign at each end, plus six commemorative signs.
— The last person honored: the Rev. Arthur Burks, for whom a part of Columbia Avenue was named on Sept. 17, 2013. He became No. 40.
— Such designations are now limited to four per year and are good for 10 years.