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Falcon Foundation to honor Hall of Fame inductees

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Gerald Browell
Colleen Connors Marshall
Dr. Donald H. Gillott
James 'Cut' Cunningham
Harold ‘Hal’ Weightman
Mike Tomaro
Terry ‘Tuffy’ Shallenberger

The Connellsville Area School District Hall of Fame is sponsored by the CASD Falcon Foundation.

This year 53 nominations were received for the Hall of Fame. Seven were chosen for the Class of 2013.

The inductees will be honored at a dinner Friday at Connellsville Area Career and Technical School prior to being driven in a procession of classic convertibles to Falcon Stadium to be introduced at the football game against Seneca Valley.

The seven are Gerald Browell, James “Cut” Cunningham, Dr. Donald H. Gillott, Colleen Connors Marshall, Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger, Mike Tomaro and Harold “Hal” Weightman.

• Gerald Browell is a Connellsville High School 1963 graduate and was nominated by Vickie McWilliams.

He is a former teacher, coach, building principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. He graduated from Penn State in 1967. He served in the United States Army and is also a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. He did his graduate work and received his education administration certifications from Duquesne University. Browell was named “Outstanding Young Educator” by the Jaycees in 1979. He served as the Connellsville Area School District superintendent from 1990 until 2005.

“What an honor. I'm very pleased and thankful to be nominated and selected for inclusion in the Falcon Foundation Hall of Fame, and I'm humbled to be in the company of such accomplished individuals. Many people have helped me throughout my life, and a part of all of those individuals will be going with me into the Hall of Fame,” said Browell.

“I have admired Mr. Browell for his honesty, work ethic and dedication. In his 15-plus years as superintendent, he prepared for more than 265 school board meetings and was unable to attend only two times. He was a great example for everyone in the CASD,” said McWilliams.

Since his retirement, Browell has continued to serve the Connellsville area through his work with his church and with the many civic organizations to which he belongs. He serves on the Highlands Hospital board of directors and has been the longtime master of ceremonies for various Connellsville Veterans Commission Programs. Browell lives in Connellsville with his wife Judy.

• James “Cut” Cunningham graduated from Connellsville High School in 1957 and was nominated by Ken Jaynes. He was president of both the National Honor Society and student council his senior year. As a four-sport athlete (football, basketball, swimming and track), he won a total of 10 varsity letters. He was a three-year starter in both football and basketball and was the co-captain in both sports his senior year. He was the leading rusher and scorer in football, once scoring 37 points in a basketball game, and he threw the shot put 54' 7,” which was a school record for many years. In his senior year at CHS, he was chosen Fayette County's Athlete of the Year and played and starred in the prestigious “West Penn All Star Game” at Forbes Field. After graduating from high school, Cunningham decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship, choosing Pitt over other schools like Penn State, WVU and Notre Dame. He had an outstanding career at Pitt starting at fullback his junior and senior years. He was selected to both the All East and All American Teams his senior year. After Pitt, he was drafted into the NFL by the Washington Redskins and he played three years for them.

He was drafted in the old AFL by the New York Titans (second round) and was offered a baseball contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, opportunities he could not pursue.

“Jim was in school when I was and I knew what kind of athlete he was because I was on teams with him,” Jaynes said. “He worked very hard to be a top athlete. In high school he played football, basketball. He was on the track team and one year he was also on the swim team. That year he would leave basketball practice when it was his turn to compete at a swim meet. He was dedicated to his teammates and he had good grades, a top student. He went on to work very hard at Pitt and then in the NFL for the Washington Redskins. I was impressed with his work habits, his athleticism and his determination to be the best that he could be.”

After his three years in the NFL, Cunningham began his teaching career which included years with the Connellsville School District, the Uniontown School District, and the Laurel Highlands School District. He taught, coached, and served as a guidance counselor. He also became a respected football official.

In the first five years of his teaching career, he continued to play football for the Wheeling Ironmen semipro team.

“In 1997-98, I was nominated for the WPIAL Hall of Fame and I thought that would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, then I got in to the Fayette County Hall of Fame and again, that's what I thought, but this, it takes the cake as far as I'm concerned. This Falcon Foundation Hall of Fame induction is from my home, everything started in Connellsville, it's where I grew up and I am elated. I am thrilled and would have liked all of my family to be here but they are spread out in the south, in Minnesota and all over. I'm looking forward to the induction ceremony. There are so many people that I haven't seen in years,” said Cunningham.

He retired from the Laurel Highlands School District in 1997. He has been a Sunday school teacher for many years, including a Sunday broadcast lesson on WMBS every week. He was previously chosen for the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Western Chapter in 1998 and the Fayette County Hall of Fame in 2011. Cunningham lives in Uniontown.

• Dr. Donald H. Gillott is a 1949 graduate of Connellsville High School. He was nominated by Marianne Gillott Pouliot and Justin Gillott. He attended St. Vincent College before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh where he earned BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering. After graduating, he served as an associate professor at Pitt for five years. He then accepted a position as the chairperson of the electrical and electronic engineering department at the University of Sacramento State in California. He later was named the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Sacramento State, a position he held until his retirement in 1993.

Among his many career achievements was his work on the California MESA Program (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) which gained national acclaim. He worked to increase the number of minority students and women entering the science and engineering fields. The California legislature has recognized Gillott for his work and Sacramento State awards the annual Betty and Donald Gillott Scholarship in appreciation for Gillott's MESA efforts. In 1987, he was invited by the U.S. State Department to travel to China to advise select universities on teaching methods used by engineering colleges in the United States.

After his retirement from Sacramento State, Gillott became the president of the Christian Brothers School in Sacramento, a position he held for three years. Gillott served on a special “Blue Ribbon Committee” selected by the mayor of Sacramento to oversee the Sacramento Science Center. He assisted with the development of special translational motor used to deliver air to patients, a project requested by hospital personnel at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento.

“I nominated my Uncle Don because he was the first in my family to go to college,” Marianne Gillott Pouliot said. “He led the way by going first to St. Vincent then to Pitt and attaining his Ph.D. My dad, Howard followed him and became an electrical engineer also. We all go to college now. It was my grandparents' dream that their boys go to college and they did. Uncle Don thinks of himself as an educator and I am a physics teacher at Connellsville Area High School. My brother Justin is a music teacher at Yough. We are teachers today because of him. He set the path for all of us. He was the first one. When he travels in from California this week to be inducted into the Falcon Foundation Hall of Fame, he is coming to speak to my classes to tell them how important education is and how someone from a one-room school house in Bullskin can get an education, take it, and run with it, anywhere in the world. I can't wait for my students to hear his story.”

Pouliot's grandparents, Herman and Elizabeth Gillott, were working class folks whose immigrant parents came to the United States from Italy.

“The Falcon Foundation Hall of Fame Award for my uncle is an honor for our whole family,” Pouliot added.

“I was so very honored to be nominated by my younger brother's family for this Hall of Fame award. Although I moved to Sacramento in 1968, my family and I have remained close to our Pennsylvania relatives and I follow the success of my brother's family, especially Justin and Marianne. They submitted my name for this honor and their thoughtfulness is truly appreciated,” said Gillott, who is a member of numerous technical and professional organizations and has received countless awards for his career work. Gillott and wife of 56 years, Betty, live in Cameron Park, California.

• Colleen Connors Marshall is a 1974 graduate of CAHS and was nominated by Lewis Falton. Colleen attended Point Park University after graduating from CAHS. She studied journalism, went into television broadcasting and has become a news anchor in Columbus, Ohio for NBC Channel 4, a position she has held for more than 20 years.

She has been the recipient of numerous broadcasting awards including two regional Emmy awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts. In 1999, she received the Stonewall Media Award and two awards from the Associated Press for Best Newscast and Best Spot News Coverage. She has also been honored by the Ohio Society for Professional Journalists for “Best Coverage of Minority Issues.”

In addition to her full-time career in journalism, she graduated in 2004 from the Capital University Law School and currently serves as an associate with the Porter Wright Law Firm. She represents clients in a variety of legal areas with a primary focus on legal matters that accompany the use of social media.

“I am honored and humbled to be included in the 2013 induction class. Family, education and career successes are built on a strong foundation and I was fortunate to get that in Dunbar and at Connellsville High School,” said Marshall.

In addition to her two careers, Marshall devotes her free time to a variety of charitable and civic causes such as Easter Seals, “Just Say No,” D.A.R.E., Alzheimer's Memory Walk, Columbus AIDS Task Force, Make a Wish Foundation, YMCA Capital Campaign and the United Way.

Marshall was selected to be the commencement speaker at her alma mater, Point Park University in 2001, and was presented with an honorary doctorate.

She was nominated for the Hall of Fame by a 1974 classmate, Lewis Falton. “I nominated Colleen based on her achievements, she proved that when you have a dream you should go for it,” he said. Marshall and her husband Gary live in Hilliard, Ohio.

• Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger is a 1985 graduate of CAHS and was nominated by Art McGann.

Shallenberger is a local businessman. He is the president of the Shallenberger Construction Corp. and a wide variety of affiliate companies.

The model train station constructed this year in downtown Connellsville and the youth soccer complex recently dedicated in Bullskin Township are two projects he has undertaken. Recently, Shallenberger purchased the Aaron's building in downtown Connellsville from the city and plans to rehabilitate it.

He is involved in many business ventures and employs more than 200 people.

Soccer is a special interest in Shallenberger's life and this year he has become the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL and the Highmark Stadium, the home of the Riverhounds.

“I've known the Shallenberger family for many years. I know that Tuffy has always been a true hard worker. In the last 10 years he has done a lot of things for our area and I thought he deserved to be recognized and honored, his projects are benefiting our community,” said McGann.

• Mike Tomaro is a 1976 CAHS graduate and was nominated by Kenneth Jaynes. He has been the director of jazz studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh since 1997. He is a saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, arranger and educator who earned his B.S. degree from Duquesne and his M.A. degree from George Mason University.

Prior to his appointment at Duquesne, he lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 17 years and served as a member of the Army Band, “Pershing's Own.”

While a member of this prestigious group, he served as its enlisted musical director and performed for presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton as well as for heads of state from around the world. He composed and arranged much of the Army Band's repertoire and was featured as a soloist. Tomaro has had four nationally released recordings under his own name: “Dancing Eyes,” “Home Again,” “Forgotten Dreams,” and “Nightowl Suite.” He has performed with artists and groups including Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Debby Boone, the Dizzy Gillespie Band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, and the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra. He has co-authored the textbook “Instrumental Jazz Arranging.” He has also had published many periodical reviews and feature articles and has written numerous songs.

He was inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame in 2005.

On many occasions, Tomaro has returned to Connellsville to share his musical talents and to work with music students in the Connellsville Area schools.

“Mike grew up with my children on the South Side and I've kept close tabs on him. What he has achieved in music is very outstanding and when he performed in Connellsville at the Mozart Club Thanksgiving Hymn Festival he was very impressive. He has worked hard to be the best. He is at the top of his field as an educator, as a leader in the music department at Duquense University and as an accomplished musician,” said Jaynes.

Since his wife's death in 2010 from pancreatic cancer, Tomaro has dedicated much time to organizing, arranging and performing yearly concerts designed to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

• Harold “Hal” Weightman was nominated by Bob McLuckey and Vaughn McDiffett. Weightman was a teacher and coach in the Connellsville Area School District from 1966 until 2000. He is a graduate of Clairton High School where he played football, basketball and baseball. He worked in the steel mills for two years after high school to earn money to go to college. He attended Slippery Rock College, where he was a four-year starter in basketball. After college, he had teaching and coaching stints at both Butler High School and Clairton High School where he built a reputation as an outstanding young basketball coach. In 1966, when Connellsville High School and Dunbar Township High School merged together into the new Connellsville Area School District, Weightman was hired to coach basketball and teach biology. During his career at CAHS, Weightman coached three different sports; basketball, swimming and golf, and he led CAHS to multiple section championships in each sport. His teams won more than 400 total contests during his coaching career including 264 basketball games.

His 1980 basketball team was the WPIAL runner up and he had two other teams make it to the WPIAL semi finals. In golf, he coached players who qualified for the state championship tournament 10 straight years and his 1991 team was the WPIAL runner-up. In 1986, he coached the Pennsylvania All-Star Team against the U.S. All Stars in the Dapper Dan Round Ball Classic in Pittsburgh.

Throughout his career, he received numerous awards including several “Coach of the Year” honors and a Pennsylvania House of Representatives citation.

Weightman worked as hard at his classroom teaching as he did with the sports he coached. He served as the head of the high school's health and physical education department from 1994 to 2000.

“I had the unique opportunity to play basketball for Hal while in high school when he was first hired as the CAHS basketball coach. I later served as his assistant coach for 10 years in the 1980s. And finally, I served as his supervisor when I was the principal at CAHS and he was still teaching. In all three situations, I had the utmost respect for him. He is an extremely dedicated person and the ultimate professional. He certainly taught me a lot. He was first and foremost a great teacher and that was the key to his success in coaching as well. One thing for sure, whether you were a student in his classroom or an athlete for him, you got Hal's best effort. The man took great pride in always doing his best,” said McLuckey.

“Hal has been a fixture in Connellsville since the jointure is 1966 when he was hired as the head basketball coach. He has always been a class individual. I judged him first as a teacher before I judged him as a coach. He always wore a white shirt, dress slacks, a tie and a sport coat, and he was a physical education teacher!. He arrived at the high school like that everyday and then immediately needed to change into his gym clothes. If he had a health class to teach he changed into those dress clothes then back into the gym clothes for another phys ed class. Prior to leaving school at the end of the day he would change again, back into his dress clothes.

“Hal has always been a caring person, willing to give guidance to young people and to mentor them. I was very much impressed with that. I coached basketball with him for a few years, his demeanor with the handling of students, fans and officials was always fair and even keeled. As the swim coach his teams won several section titles in those few years. He was dedicated in whatever he did. He taught his teams that practice was important and he gave 100 percent in everything he did. I believe that Hal's integrity, honesty and character are things we should all aspire to have. He conveyed those values to his students, who always need role models. He bent over backwards to get kids into college. Hal and I have been good friends, we've always been on the same page as far as our philosophy of education and teaching. I admire him for his dedication to teaching and coaching and I think his students have too,” said McDiffett.

“I was just a symbol of the great kids I had the privilege to coach. They were the ones who did all the hard work and had the commitment and dedication that brought about so many successes and victories for us over the years. I had some outstanding students and student athletes who were really great to work with, the years went by so quickly. Forty years as an educator went by so fast — 34 were at Connellsville,” Weightman said.

The Falcon Foundation Hall Of Fame is in its permanent and prominent location near the auditorium of the recently remodeled high school.

The CASD Falcon Foundation established the Connellsville Area School District Hall of Fame in 2010 to recognize outstanding individuals who have been affiliated with the district.

The recognition may result from achievement in many areas.

Nancy Henry is a contributing writer.

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