Connellsville Hall of Fame inductees lauded
Colleen Connors Marshall, one of seven inductees into the Connellsville Area School District Hall of Fame, fought back tears on Friday night as she talked about how Alzheimer's disease affected her mother, who inspired her to follow her dream of becoming a journalist.
“My mother is fighting this disease, and our family is struggling to deal with it,” said Marshall, who has taken an active role in the Alzheimer's Association in Columbus, Ohio, where she is a wife and mother of two children.
The other six inductees include:
• Gerald Browell, superintendent of the Connellsville Area School District from 1990 to 2005 and a 1963 Connellsville graduate.
• James “Cut” Cunningham, a former Washington Redskins football player who worked as an educator in Fayette County for 35 years and a 1957 Connellsville graduate.
• Dr. Donald H. Gillott, who received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, served 17 years as the dean of engineering and computer science at Sacramento State University and a 1949 Connellsville graduate.
• Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger, president of Shallenberger Construction Inc., working primarily in the oil and natural gas industry, and a 1985 Connellsville graduate.
• Mike Tomaro, member of the prestigious “Pershing's Own” U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C. from 1980-1997 and a 1976 Connellsville graduate.
• Hal Weightman, who graduated from Slippery Rock University in 1961 and led the Falcon basketball, golf and swimming teams to more than 400 victories and multiple section championships in each sport.
The inductees were honored at a Hall of Fame Social at the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center, where dinner was served by the school's students. Following the event sponsored by the Falcon Foundation, they were recognized at the football game.
Marshall, a 1974 graduate of Connellsville Area High School and a 1978 graduate of Point Park University with a bachelor's degree in journalism, said she became interested in writing when she was a middle-school student and her mother served as the publicity chairman of community organizations.
“My mother always wanted to get her picture into the newspaper, so she would volunteer as the publicity chairman for community organizations,” Marshall said. “My mother would write stories to run with the photos in the Daily Courier. She would ask me to edit the stories for her.”
After editing her mother's stories for a while, Marshall said she asked her mother if she could start writing the stories.
“I remember how excited I would get when I would see my stories published in the Daily Courier,” she said. “The Daily Courier doesn't even realize that they gave me my start. That's when my interest in journalism began. I was also very interested in Watergate. I remember my mother writing an excuse for me because I had been absent from school because I had to watch Watergate on television.”
Marshall is an award-winning television news anchor with multiple Emmy and Associated Press awards for anchoring, political reporting, investigative and feature reporting.
In 2004, Marshall changed careers when she graduated with distinction from Capital University Law School with a Juris Doctorate. In law school, she was a member of the National Moot Court Team and Law Review.
A corporate litigation attorney, Marshall concentrates her practice in complex contract disputes, crisis management and antitrust.
Browell, a superintendent in the Connellsville Area School District for 15 years, was the Anchor Hocking scholarship recipient in 1963 to Penn State University, where he graduated in 1967 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He received his master of education degree from Duquesne University in 1972. He served in the Army in the Central Highlands of Vietnam (Pleiku Ben Het) in 1969-70 as a field artillery specialist.
Before he was named superintendent, Browell served as an elementary and junior high school teacher, elementary school principal (South Side and Zachariah Connell) and as assistant superintendent.
Browell credits his wife, Judy, with his success and thanked Vicki McWilliams, who served as his secretary when he worked as superintendent, for nominating him for the honor.
“It really says a lot that Vicki nominated me because we worked very closely together for many years,” he said. “My wife is the only person who knows me better than Vicki.”
Cunningham, who worked as an educator in Fayette County for 35 years, was named the Fayette County Athlete of the year in 1957. He received honorable mention “All American” fullback at the University of Pittsburgh and lettered in football, basketball and track.
He played professional football with the Washington Redskins and a professional football team in Wheeling, W.Va., and has taught Bible studies on WMBS radio for more than 45 years.
Gillott was elected to a special Board of Directors of the National Academy of Engineering. He developed and patented a unique translational motor for respirators to precisely deliver air to patients with cardiovascular problems.
In addition, Gillott was recognized by the State of California Legislature for programs developed to increase enrollment of women and ethnic minorities in engineering and computer science. He was awarded the Centennial Metal for Extraordinary Achievement by the International Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
Gillott was selected by the State Department to travel to China to advise Chinese universities on procedures to transform academic programs from Russian methodology to those adopted by American universities.
After becoming president of Shallenberger Construction Inc. in 1991, Shallenberger expanded the company, working primarily in the oil and natural gas industry. He created several affiliate companies dealing with water treatment, trucking and industrial rentals.
Other business interests include the Pittsburgh Riverhounds professional soccer team and Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, both of which Shallenberger is majority owner.
Committed to his hometown of Connellsville, Shallenberger recently built and donated a youth soccer sports complex in Bullskin Township for the area youth. He donated a large model train display and built a building to house the display to increase tourism in Connellsville. In addition, he is working to restore the city's signature Aaron's Building.
Tomaro has served as director of jazz studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh from 1997 to the present. He has written more than 200 published compositions and arrangements for jazz ensemble.
A member of the prestigious “Pershing's Own” U.S. Army Band in Washington D.C. from 1980-97, Tomaro performed for presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton as well as heads of state from around the world.
He performed, composed and/or arranged for countless internationally released recordings, including two Grammy Award winners and one Grammy nominee. Tomaro co-authored “Instrumental Jazz Arranging: A Comprehensive and Practice Guide,” a textbook used in universities worldwide.
Weightman coached the 1986 Pennsylvania All-Star Basketball Team against the United States All-Star Team in the Dapper Dan Round Ball Classes. His 1980 basketball team and 1991 golf team were WPIAL runners-up. He was named the WPIAL Section 2 Basketball Coach of the Year in 1992.
Weightman always taught his players: “When things are going well, they are never as good as they seem. Likewise when things are going badly, they are never as bad as they seem.”
Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.