9 North Allegheny graduates to be honored for their accomplishments
In an ongoing effort to improve alumni relations and connect past graduates with current students at North Allegheny, the NA Foundation is sponsoring its first-ever Distinguished Alumni Awards Gala on Jan. 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars.
The award recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to society and achieved outstanding accomplishments in their profession. NA, which was established in 1948, has 34,942 graduates. This year, nine will be honored as distinguished alumni.
Larry Schweiger, a 1968 graduate, laughed when he got word that he would be one of the honorees.
“Back in 1968, I could have been voted the least likely to succeed by most of my teachers,” he said. “There were so many more worthy students.”
Schweiger, of McCandless, said he was a wallflower throughout his school years. He preferred spending his time in the woods and creeks of Western Pennsylvania, rather than in the classroom.
He credits his fourth-grade teacher — Ms. Vandervort from the district's former Espe Elementary School — for helping to shape his success.
“Out of her own generosity, she gave me a scholarship to attend a two-week camping experience at Camp Kon-O-Kwee. What a wonderful experience that was for someone who, at the time, had so little confidence in anything I did or said. Through this early camping experience, I developed a deeper interest in the environment,” he said.
Schweiger went on to serve the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the executive director of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee for the PA General Assembly, and was involved in the passage of 28 environmental laws over nearly a 10-year period. He worked alongside former Sen. John Heinz to craft a bill that resulted in an 86-percent reduction in sulfur oxide emissions and a 79-percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, at a price that was just 10 percent of the original projected costs.
He also partnered with former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore to launch The Climate Reality Project and move the climate change issue to the forefront.
Schweiger was among the 36 NA graduates who were nominated for a 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. Their names and resumes were submitted by district staff and faculty, alumni, and community leaders between June and October.
“One of the applications was 40 pages long,” said Abigayle Tobia, executive director of the NA Foundation.
A committee comprised of eight alumni evaluated the applications and made the final selections in November. They chose one honoree for each of nine categories, including business, arts, education, community service, government, law, science, and medicine.
Each honoree will receive a sculptured glass award.
As an extension of the celebration, students from North Allegheny Senior High School will have the opportunity to meet the honorees and partake in small-group discussions with them Jan. 26, which is an in-service day. The alumni will talk and field questions related to their experiences and professions.
Students can register for the small groups online.
“We'd like to see this event grow each year. We want to build a continuum to have alumni do great things in their community and then bring their wisdom back to share with students,” Tobia explained.
• IN THE ARTS: Wayne Brinda, Ed.D — Class of 1968
Co-founder/producing artistic director of Prime Stage Theatre in Pittsburgh
Brinda, of Cranberry Township, was assistant professor in the Duquesne University School of Education, as well as English and theater teacher at The Oakland School, Sewickley Academy Senior School, and was director of Playhouse Jr. In 1996, he launched Prime Stage Theatre as a way to focus on adolescent literacy, theater and Holocaust education. He strives to bring literature and educational programs to life on stage for audiences of all ages.
He said his most influential teachers at North Allegheny were Betty Sullivan, who taught English and directed the school plays, and Roland Dollhopf, who was his chorus teacher.
“Mrs. Sullivan believed in me, encouraged me to pursue theater and saw potential beyond the academics that others missed,” he said. “Mr. Dollhopf expected quality and excellence in everything we did and encouraged a group of us to form a Folk Choir. That showed me what can happen when you go ‘outside the box' by trusting your students and those you work with.”
• IN BUSINESS: Tom Bowman, CPA — Class of 1973
Owner/president, Bowman & Company CPA, PC
After gaining 10 years of tax, accounting and business experience, Bowman, who now resides in Columbia, Md., established his own firm that currently employs 10 full-time workers and has annual revenues close to $1.5 million. In a National Tax Practice Survey conducted by Thomson Reuters and published last year, Bowman's firm ranked in the top 7 percent nationally in terms of gross annual revenue. In the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, Bowman ranks in the top 6 percent in terms of revenue and the top 4 percent in terms of net profit.
“I was definitely not the scholarly type (in high school),” Bowman said. “I was a wanna-be jock. Growing up, I always wanted to be a great basketball player. However, my physical abilities only took me as far as third string on the ninth grade team! I was on the track team and was an average pole vaulter.”
• IN COMMUNITY SERVICE: Kimberly Boucek — Class of 1985
Retired Franklin Park police officer, founder of Boucek's Battalion
Boucek, of New Sewickley Township, was Franklin Park Borough's first female police officer. She served on the force for 20 years. She also served on numerous task forces, served as coordinator for the DARE Program and Crime Prevention Program, taught CPR/first aid, alcohol awareness programs for students, personal safety programs for women, and Internet/technology awareness programs for parents and teachers.
Prior to her retirement, she co-founded Boucek's Battalion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the men and women serving in the U.S. military overseas. The all-volunteer organization collects non-perishable foods, personal hygiene items, handmade cards, and more, which are packed and shipped to troops serving all over the world.
While in high school, Boucek was in the first group of girls to be admitted in an advanced gym class.
“That boosted my confidence, reinforced my tendency to be out of the ordinary, and I discovered strengths of which I was not previously aware. I learned tenacity. This was huge in my career choice as a police officer,” she said.
• IN EDUCATION: Mark Nordenberg, JD — CLASS OF 1966
Chancellor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh
Earlier in his career, Nordenberg served as dean of the School of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1996, he was named Chancellor of the university. During his tenure, he led Pitt through one of the most impressive periods of progress in its 226-year history as it achieved new levels of quality and impact, including its steady advance as a world-class research university.
Nordenberg moved from Minnesota to NA in the summer before his senior year.
“It was a life-changing year for me,” he said, citing his combined English and humanities class as something that helped shape him.
“It was taught by Mrs. Smith. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and in addition to providing a rigorous classroom experience, she gave me my first exposure to Pittsburgh's cultural treasures. Our class heard the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the old Syria Mosque; we saw a production of ‘Death of a Salesman' in the old Pittsburgh Playhouse; and we attended a debate between philosophers about the ‘death of God' at Chatham College. Those events also gave me my first exposure to Oakland, Pittsburgh's ‘university neighborhood' and my professional home for the past 40 years,” he said.
• IN GOVERNMENT: Larry Schweiger — Class of 1968
President Emeritus and Past CEO of PennFuture
Schweiger served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the executive director of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He drafted the Wild Resources Conservation Act to protect Pennsylvania's threatened plants and the provisions of the Game Law to create a bear license that successfully funded black bear recovery. He was formerly the president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation where he served as president for 10 years and an additional 14 years as the federation's senior vice president of conservation programs and in other federation capacities, including publisher for National Wildlife and Ranger Rick. He was also first vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and president and chief executive officer of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for more than eight years.
• IN LAW: Laura Ditka, JD — Class of 1981
Chief Deputy Attorney General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Ditka, of Pine Township, is the chief of the criminal division in the Western half of the state of Pennsylvania for the PA Office of Attorney General. In that position she supervises a group of prosecutors and staff and aids in the direction of investigations. She also maintains a full trial calendar and has prosecuted a wide array of cases, including homicides, sexual assaults, and most notably, the Penn State administrators in 2017. Prior to starting in 2013 at the Office of Attorney General, she worked for almost 25 years in the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office where she founded and supervised the first Child Abuse Unit. She wrote the first countywide protocol for the investigation of child abuse cases and sat as a member of the first multidisciplinary team for child abuse. She has tried more than 160 cases to a jury. She is a current member of the board of directors of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.
She credits her American Government class at North Allegheny with helping to shape her success.
“We talked and argued about current events in class. This was a class where we participated, and it sparked my love of current events. It got me involved in stating a position and supporting it with an argument, which I now do every day,” she said.
• IN MEDICINE: Robert Hillman, Ph.D. — Class of 1970
Dr. Hillman, who resides in Weston, Mass., is widely recognized as one of the foremost clinical voice scientists in the world. He is currently co-director and research director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH Voice Center), professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and director of research programs at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. He is this first person in his field to be promoted to full professor at HMS.
He has led interdisciplinary research teams in the development of new technologies, including a portable (wearable) monitoring and biofeedback system for diagnosing and treating common voice disorders, the first voice neural prosthesis for restoring communication to patients who have had the larynx removed to treat advanced cancer, bio-implants to restore voice and speech to patients whose vocal cords are damaged by trauma or disease, and new medical devices for returning function to paralyzed vocal cords.
• IN SCIENCE: Warren “Woody” Hoburg, Ph.D. — Class of 2004
Johnson Space Center: NASA astronaut corps, NASA astronaut candidate
Hoburg is one of 12 astronaut candidates chosen for NASA's newest astronaut class, which consists of seven men and five women. He was selected from 18,300 applicants, the largest pool of applicants in NASA's history. At the time of his selection in June 2017, he was an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, where he taught undergraduate courses on dynamics and flight Vehicle engineering. For the next two years, he will be training for space flight at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. From 2010-13, he was a seasonal member of Yosemite Search and Rescue and an operations leader for the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit.
• 40 AND UNDER: Jessica Jackley — Class of 1996
Co-founder of Kiva, entrepreneur, investor and speaker
In 2005, Jackley co-founded Kiva Microfunds, a nonprofit organization that allows people to lend money via the internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in more than 80 countries. Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. It has crowd-funded more than a million loans totaling over $1 billion, with a repayment rate between 98 and 99 percent. As of November 2013, Kiva was raising about $1 million every three days.
Jackley, who resides in Los Angeles, Calif., teaches social entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC. She also recently served as Walt Disney Imagineering's first Entrepreneur in Residence, focusing on projects related to corporate citizenship, the sharing economy, and happiness.
She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 World Economic Forum's Young Global Leader, and serves as an active board member or advisor for several nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity.
She holds a MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Bucknell University, and honorary PhDs from Centenary College and Quinnipiac University.
Her advice for today's high school students is simple. “NA is full of incredible, intelligent, talented people — and you are one of them! Get inspiration from others, now and in the future, but don't compare yourself to them, and don't make choices based on what they're doing. Make your own path,” she said.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.