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Laurel Highlands lauds alumni's achievements

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The inductees of the second-annual Laurel Highlands Life Achievement Hall of Fame were honored on Saturday during the awards program. They are (from left) Gary DiNunno, accepting for his father, the late Joseph DiNunno; Dr. Mark Esper; Douglas Matthews; Dr. George Garrow; and Dr. David Sheba. 

The inductees of the second-annual Laurel Highlands Life Achievement Hall of Fame were honored on Saturday during the awards program. They are (from left) Gary DiNunno, accepting for his father, the late Joseph DiNunno; Dr. Mark Esper; Douglas Matthews; Dr. George Garrow; and Dr. David Sheba. 08/31/13

When Dr. George Garrow's oldest sister, Patricia, was diagnosed with cancer, he vowed at that moment to make things better for cancer patients.

His career path led Garrow, a 1977 Laurel Highlands High School graduate, and four other alumni to be inducted into the Laurel Highlands Life Achievement Hall of Fame on Aug. 31 at the Uniontown Holiday Inn.

The other four are the late Joseph J. DiNunno, a 1938 South Union High School graduate; Dr. Mark Esper, a 1982 LH graduate; Douglas Matthews, a 1987 graduate; and Dr. David Sheba, a 1990 LH graduate.

Garrow said he remembers his first oncology patient, Joe, while he was serving as assistant professor of medicine in oncology at Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester, N.Y.

“I spent as much time with Joe and his family the day that he died,” Garrow said. “I remember sitting in a room as a tear rolled down my cheek. One of my supervising doctors asked me why I was crying. I told him that Joe died. The doctor told me ‘You must be tough. We don't do that here. If you do it again, you will be asked to leave the program.' ”

Garrow, who calls himself a very compassionate person, said he decided at that moment he would not settle for doing things the way they were always done. And he has used that philosophy during his career.

“I will never forget my sister, Patty, and Joe and hundreds of other patients I treated over the years,” Garrow said.

After graduating from Laurel Highlands in 1977, Garrow attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with honors with a bachelor of applied science degree in 1981. He received his medical degree from Pennsylvania State University's Hershey Medical School in 1985 and was honored by his classmates to give the commencement address. He has earned board certification in internal medicine, medical oncology and hospice and palliative care.

The late Joseph J. DiNunno graduated from South Union High School in 1938 with a 3.96 grade point average. DiNunno began his college education at the Penn State Fayette Campus and in 1940 transferred to the University Park campus, where he earned his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1942.

After holding several positions, DiNunno transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and became one of the regulatory staff who monitored the safety of nuclear reactors, along with uranium and plutonium processing plants. In 1967, DiNunno was reassigned as the AEC's scientific representative in Paris, where he served as a technical liaison with the International Atomic Energy Commission and with the atomic energy authorities in 10 European countries.

Dr. Mark Esper graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in 1982 with honors and earned varsity letters in football, basketball and track. He attended the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1986 as a Dean's Life student and recipient of the MacArthur Award for Leadership.

Lt. Esper served in various leadership positions in the 101st Airborne Division and deployed with the Screaming Eagles for the 1990-91 Gulf War. His battalion was part of the famous “left hook” that led to the defeat of the Iraqi Army. For his actions, Esper was awarded a Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and various service medals. He went on to command an Airborne rifle company in Europe, was selected to serve as an Army Fellow at the Pentagon and completed his master's degree at Harvard University's JFK School of Government.

Douglas Matthews graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in 1983. He graduated from the Penns State in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and received a master's degree in business administration from Duquesne University in 1993.

Dr. David Sheba graduated from Laurel Highlands High School in 1990. He received his undergraduate degree from Penn State and his medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

After completing his training, he returned to Uniontown in 2004 and opened his practice. Currently on staff at Uniontown Hospital, Sheba specializes in minimally invasive hip and knee-joint replacements and offers treatment for shoulder and arthroscopic surgery, sports medicine, trauma and fracture care. He and his wife, Toni, reside in Uniontown.

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