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Pitt set to honor another Mon Valley native

| Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

For the second straight season, a Monongahela Valley native will be honored by the University of Pittsburgh.

Charleroi's Dr. John Verkleeren is one of six recipients of the Pitt Varsity Letter Club's "Awardees of Distinction." The 51st annual banquet will take place on Friday on the campus.

In 2010, Dennis Stitch, a native of Lock View, Fallowfield Township, was one of the six recipients. The civic-minded Stitch was a four-year starter and three-time Academic All-American nominee at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. A highly successful regional field trainer, Stitch played professional baseball in the Seattle Mariners organization.

The Pitt Varsity Letter Club's awards honor varsity letter winners who have distinguished themselves in their professions and communities and who, by their accomplishments, have enhanced the value of Pitt's intercollegiate athletic programs. To be eligible, a nominee must have earned a varsity letter in intercollegiate athletics at the University of Pittsburgh 25 or more years ago.

The awardees are selected by a committee formed of prominent members of the Pittsburgh community not affiliated with the university.

A 1962 graduate of Charleroi High School, Verkleeren entered the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship.

Playing scholastic football and basketball for R. James "Rab" Currie and Henry Pennline, respectively, Verkleeren earned numerous post-season honors in football and basketball, including All-State in both sports. A multi-year team captain in both sports, he was president of his class three successive years. Verkleeren was a baseball standout and at the conclusion of his senior year received the Leslie Morgan Award as the school's outstanding scholar-athlete.

He was a two-year starting two-way end and co-captain of the 1961 football team, which went 8-2 with• losses to Uniontown (13-12) and eventual WPIAL champion Monessen (19-0). Verkleeren was a three-year basketball starter and served as one of Pennline's co-captains his last two seasons.

At Pitt, Verkleeren played football and basketball. As a tight end he helped the 1963 Panthers' football team go 9-1 and earn a national ranking of third. He became the Panthers' starting defensive end his junior year before suffering a knee injury. He played basketball for the Panthers during his freshman season.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1966 with a Bachelor's degree in chemistry. Verkleeren remained in Oakland to study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and received his medical degree in 1971. He then completed his internship at Mercy Hospital the following year before moving to the state of California.

Professionally Dr. Verkleeren's medical career lasted more than 40 years with more than 20 years with the Navy. He was chief of cardiology for Kaiser Permanente, an HMO that cares for more than 500,000 patients in San Diego County, and he practiced at Zion Hospital in San Diego and Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.

Verkleeren was inducted in the Mid-Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. Coincidentally, Stitch is the Chairman of the MMVASHOF Board of Directors.

"Just as Dennis Stitch, Dr. Verkleeren epitomizes what this award is all about," said Sam Clancy, Varsity Letter Club coordinator and athletics gifts officer. "He has been loyal and active with his alma mater over the years. More importantly, John has excelled professionally while positively impacting his communities and so many people in them. He is a model representative for the University of Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley."

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