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Academic wall of fame dedicated in Charleroi

FALLOWFIELD TOWNSHIP - A long-standing dream to recognize the academic success of Charleroi Area School District students has become reality.

That point was emphasized Saturday evening as the Charleroi Area School District Academic Wall of Fame was dedicated in ceremonies at the high school.

As inscribed on the center panel of the Wall of Fame displayed in the main foyer of the high school auditorium, the valedictorians and salutatorians listed on the plaques "represent the thousands of unsung heroes, CHS Alumni."

"Even as a small school district, constrained by limited funds, Charleroi High School has been able to prepare those students who had the ability, desire and motivation to succeed in some of the most prestigious colleges in our country," Eileen Protin, chairperson of the Academic Wall of Fame Committee, told the gathering of honorees, their families and guests.

"I have always believed that our students were given a strong foundation for success in the world."

Top students of graduating classes from 1977 through 2007 are recognized on the Wall of Fame plaques.

Attending the dedication ceremonies, which included dinner and a traditional ribbon cutting, were valedictorians Bernard Bandini, '79; Holly Iacovino Miller, '83; Jerry Zahand, '84; John J. LaCarte, '85; Lucas G. Paglia, '89, and Jill Oppenheim McGibbney, '93, and salutatorians James A. Protin, '84; Kellie Pireaux McKevitt, '87; Onilee Smith Gray, '04, and Karen Kormuth, '06.

Each of the attending alumni offered updates on their education, careers and lives. They also extended gratitude for the education they received at Charleroi Area and other experiences that prepared them for life.

Eileen Protin, a retired Charleroi Area mathematics teacher, recalled that efforts to erect an Academic Wall of Fame began in the 1980s.

She lauded Dr. Brad A. Ferko, superintendent of schools, for "really making this night a reality."

"He found the funding," Protin said of Ferko. "Without that, none of this could have happened. When Dr. Ferko came to our district, little did I know that one of his objectives was recognition of academic success. I was no longer on the staff but was fortunate enough to meet him as he revived the Charleroi Area Academic League."

Protin persisted in pursuing the Wall of Fame by presenting the school district with information she and others had researched and retained for some 20 years.

In August 2006, she said, Ferko informed her he had funding for the project and asked her to serve on the committee to move it forward.

"The rest is history and, one year later, the Charleroi Academic Wall of Fame is a reality," she said. "There is no way I can express my heartfelt thanks to and all of the people involved ... to proudly say we now have an Academic Wall of Fame to acknowledge the many Charleroi graduates that have achieved success in so many areas of life."

Protin also extended appreciation to:

- High school guidance counselor Gina Cotton and her secretary, Janet Kossol, for compiling names of and information about top students from the past several years.

- Jerry Zahand Sr., a member of the AWOF Committee, and his son, Jerry Zahand Jr., of Highway Appliance and Television in Dunlevy. "Their support of academic recognition in our district has always been outstanding," Protin said. "They not only willingly give of their time and talent but also in monetary support. They have been giving television sets to winning schools in the Academic League for years. In addition, they also contribute scholarship dollars to top members of the academic teams."

- Susan Hernishin and her husband, Jay, of SJH Design, a graphic design company in Bethel Park. "Susie worked countless hours in the design of the wall and prepared print size replicas for the committee to approve and a larger replica for the (school) board to see and approve. All of this was done on a volunteer basis."

- Owner David Zahand and production manager Gary Riley of DS Services in Charleroi for construction and installation of the wall. "(Dave's) expertise resulted in a wall that will still be standing long after the youngest person here is gone," Protin said. "His abilities have left nothing to chance ... he has done a superb job pf providing a place where (the) names will be permanently displayed and all of our successful graduates will have the recognition they deserve."• The Charleroi Area School Board, "particularly Valerie Porter, who served as a member of the committee," for its strong leadership for the school district and the Wall of Fame project. Protin pointed out that Hernishin and David Zahand are members of "that large group of successful CHS Alumni." Ferko also spoke at the post-dinner program which preceded the formal dedication ceremonies. He introduced the honorees in attendance and extended congratulations to them and gratitude to the Wall of Fame Committee.The initial group of honorees, with valedictorians listed first and salutatorians next, recognized on the Wall of Fame are:

1977 - Barbara Braunegg, John Woodward

1978 - David P. Clement, Timothy Shepelak.

1979 - Bernard Bandini, Alicia Pavlekovsky.

1980 - Mary Rosick, Lynne Procasky.

1981 - Jaye Weight, Deborah Combs.

1982 - Jennifer A. Veres, Kathy L. Zippay.

1983 - Holly A. Iacovino, James N. Bierbower and John M. Suhan.

1984 - Jerry L. Zahand, James A. Protin.

1985 - John J. LaCarte, Kimberly A. Stech.

1986 - Leah J. Boni, Rochelle Tatrai.

1987 - Jason C. DeSantis, Kellie A. Pireaux.

1988 - Aaron J. DeLuca, Peter Kalamaras.

1989 - Lucas G. Paglia, Andrew D. Weiland.

1990 - Renee K. Rodgers, Kimberly D. Pepper.

1991 - Jason M. MacDonald, Jay L. Oppenheim.

1992 - Kristin L. Pivovarnik, Kraig R. Pepper.

1993 - Jill R. Oppenheim, Katherine M. DeiCas

1994 - Jennifer L. Anders, Jennifer K. McKnight.

1995 - Victoria Dzurinko, Jennifer Currie.

1996 - Christina L. Scagline, Lori A. Suppa.

1997 - Tiffany Leyda, Thomas Yantek.

1998 - Heather Cook, Steven Gray.

1999 - Kate A. Poknis, Jonathan A. Hartzler.

2000 - Hillary M. Cook, Bryan M. Trilli.

2001 - Henry Burke, Timothy O'Dowd.

2002 - Lindsey Cook, Charles Chacko.

2003 - Heather Speece, Lacy Wilson.

2004 - Emily Bassett, Onilee Smith.

2005 - Caitlin Speece, Dominic Scorza and Stephen Dobosh.

2006 - Stefan Sabo, Karen Kormuth.

2007 - Gordon H. Watkins III, Kelley A. Jones.

The centerpiece panel on the Wall reads as follows: "Since the late 19th century, Charleroi High School has educated tens of thousands of students from the Charleroi Area whose skills and contributions help shape our world. Our alumni started here to live the dream in medicine, marketing, business, banking, government, economics, sports and countless professional careers. Our graduates learned here how to be good citizens and contribute to society as parents, homemakers, educators, artisans, technicians and workers in every field."Honorees taking part in the Wall of Fame ceremonies at Charleroi Area High School were (left to right) Lucas G. Paglia, Bernard Bandini, Karen Kormuth, Onilee Smith Gray, Jill Oppenheim McGibbney, Kellie Pireaux McKevin, Holly Iacovino Miller, Jerry Zahand, John J. LaCarte and James A. Protin. The Academic Wall of Fame is displayed at the entrance to the CAHS auditorium.

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