York Distinguished Alumni Program
2019 DUKES OF DISTINCTION ANNOUNCED
This year, 6 Dukes of Distinction have been chosen by a panel of York alumni judges and will be honored on the evening of Thursday, November 7, beginning with a reception at 6:30 PM in the York High School Commons. The program is free and open to the public.
- Thomas Ballent and Alice Jahnke Ballent- Class of 1974
- Kathleen Harger - Class of 1972
- Joel Herter - Class of 1955
- Susan Grohne Harry - Class of 1990
- Laura Orvidas - Class of 1978
Thomas Ballent & Alice Jahnke Ballent , Class of 1974 - The alumni couple first met at Northern Illinois University, both graduating in 1978. Alice went on to a successful career in sales and marketing. Meanwhile, Tom pursued his master’s degree and a career in finance. In 1992, they learned that their son, Adam, had a profound hearing loss. In 1995, they became involved with a small group of other parents and the Director of Deaf Education at Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. In early 1996, with seed funding from a foundation, they were able to open the first Oral School for Hearing Impaired Children in the Chicago area.
Kathleen Harger, Class of 1972 - Kathleen graduated from the University of Illinois in 1976 where she was commissioned as an Ensign from the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. She then served 25 years in the Navy, retiring in 2002 as a Captain. Kathleen served in assignments associated with the technology and operations of antisubmarine warfare, space operations and special access programs. After active duty, Kathleen served as a political appointee, bringing innovation into the Department of Defense. That assignment was followed by one with a premier defense research agency to deliver effective, adaptable solutions to our country’s military.
Joel Herter, Class of 1955 - Joel firmly believes that York High School prepared him to be life ready! After graduating from Elmhurst College and the military, Joel began an accounting career. His firm blossomed into the largest independent CPA firm in DuPage County. Retiring in 2014, his community service also made a mark countywide. As Board Chairman of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, the new hospital was built for $450M and while leading the DuPage Water Commission, the DuPage System, a $500M project, was built bringing Lake Michigan water to DuPage County, the largest public water project of its kind at the time.
Susan Grohne Harry, Class of 1990 - Susan earned multiple degrees in Marketing, French and International Studies from Indiana University. Her career in sales has included living and working in Philadelphia, where she pursued her passion for wildlife conservation as Director of Sales for the Philadelphia Zoo. While working for the zoo, Susan became aware of the escalating crisis facing rhinos, volunteering her time to promote conservation. Her success led to a trip hosted by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, where she received an honorary award from the world’s foremost rhino conservationist Anna Merz.
Laura Orvidas, Class of 1978 - Since beginning her career as a doctor of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Laura has distinguished herself as someone of great knowledge and dedication to her profession. Although she did not attend a prestigious undergraduate college or medical school, she worked to land an internship and residency program at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Now, a nationally-recognized expert, Laura has made a continuous effort to mentor physicians. Mayo Clinic is where people go to find answers, and Laura is the kind of caring and committed doctor, who also is a life-changing representative of the Mayo Clinic mission.
YDAP Program Honors York Alumni
In 2013, Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 launched the York Distinguished Alumni Program.
The Dukes of Distinction award honors exemplary York Community High School graduates who:
- Display leadership characteristics through achievement of significant and/or extraordinary accomplishments or service
- Have made an outstanding contribution to society
- Serve as a positive influence while exemplifying the honored York traditions of teamwork and selflessness
- Embody the ideals of YCHS and School District 205, therefore bringing pride and prestige to the school, the District and the community
The exemplary alumni who receive the York Distinguished Alumni Award will raise self-expectation among the current students through their realization that these "Dukes of Distinction" once walked the halls of York High School and the streets of this community.
Lisa Fanelli (Class of '79) and York High School Alumni Association President Jay Webb (Class of '75) discuss the York Distinguished Alumni Program (YDAP) with Elmhurst Now host, Ken Bartels.