Past Dukes of Distinction

Elmhurst School District 205 launched the York Distinguished Alumni Program in 2013, which was designed to recognize and honor York Community High School alumni who have distinguished themselves through significant and/or extraordinary accomplishments, service and/or an outstanding contribution to society.

Click on the arrow next to an honoree's name for more information


2019 Dukes of Distinction

Thomas Ballent and Alice Jahnke Ballent- Class of 1974

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 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 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 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

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. 

NOTE: The York Distinguished Alumni Program was on hiatus in 2018 in order to celebrate York High School's centennial. 

2017 Dukes of Distinction

2017 YDAP Event Information

2017 “Dukes of Distinction” were honored on
Thursday, November 2, at 6:30 PM in the
York Community High School Commons

The event was free and open to the public. The following day, the honorees met with York High School students in both large and small group settings to serve as an inspiration to our current Dukes.

Lieutenant David Bosse, BFD Ret. Class of 1980

Lieutenant David Bosse, BFD Ret. Class of 1980 – After exploring many jobs, he answered an ad looking for part-time firemen. Dave was hired fulltime by the Bartlett FD, where he graduated from the Paramedic Program with honors. After the 9-11 attacks, he aided the NYFD; then in 2005, Dave worked the aftermath of Katrina, receiving Armed Forces Humanitarian and Mutual Aid Box Alarm System medals for his service. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2007. He also received the Medal of Merit for his actions at a fire where a woman was trapped. Lieutenant Bosse retired in 2016 after 20 years of full-time service.

Blake Byrne, Class of 1953

Blake Byrne, Class of 1953 – spent 35 years in television broadcasting before retiring in 1997. He is Chairman of his son’s company, Byrne Acquisition Group, with TV and radio stations in Wisconsin and South Carolina. Blake founded the Skylark Foundation, advocating for the protection of LGBTQ rights and supporting diversity. Blake is a supporter of the arts and an avid art collector. He is a Lifetime Trustee of MOCA, was the Founding Chair of the Nasher Museum, and was honored with a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, an honor given for making a significant contribution to the
arts in France.

Brigadier General Thomas Fisher, Class of 1986

Brigadier General Thomas Fisher, Class of 1986 – began his military career in the Michigan Army National Guard and continued with the Utah Army National Guard. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2016, a position appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the US Senate. He is currently the Land Component Commander. BG Fisher was deployed to Iraq from 2003-2005 and graduated from the U.S. Army War College with a Masters of Strategic Studies. In his 23-year civilian career, he has served as a transportation planner and county manager for five counties in Michigan, Colorado and Utah.

Linda French, Class of 1982

Linda French, Class of 1982 – is a twelve-time U.S. National Badminton Champion. As captain of her team, she led York Community High School to a second-place finish in the team State finals in 1981 and 1982. She won the Illinois State Badminton Singles Title in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Linda qualified through a rigorous year-long international process for the U.S. Olympic Badminton Team in 1992 and qualified again for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. Extensive travel inspired Linda to serve as an immigration lawyer. Linda represents athletes, businesses and individuals. She is proud to represent, pro bono, asylum seekers and victims of violence.

Dr. Judith Bond Johnson, Class of 1955

Dr. Judith Bond Johnson, Class of 1955 – is a nurse and was the first to receive a PhD from the Adult Education program at the University of Minnesota. Her company, HealthQuest, serves individuals, companies and hospitals whose interest is living with chronic illness. Dr. Johnson’s PhD thesis, the I Can Cope cancer patient education course, was adopted by American and international hospitals. Dr. Johnson has lived and traveled abroad. She was appointed as a Fulbright Scholar in 2010. She is editor of the journal Asian Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing and presents on living with chronic illness and patient education.

Mary McEnerney Woolley, Class of 1964 

Mary McEnerney Woolley, Class of 1964 – is an influential medical and health research advocate. She is president/CEO of Research!America, the nation’s largest non-profit alliance dedicated to making medical and health research a higher national priority. Mary is an elected member of the distinguished National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She sits on the National Academy of Sciences Board on Higher Education and the Workforce and is a Founding Member of the Board of Associates of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.  She holds two honorary doctoral degrees.


2016 Dukes of Distinction

2016 YDAP Event Information

This year, seven Dukes of Distinction were chosen by a panel of judges and were honored Thursday evening, November 3, 2016 beginning with a reception at 6:30 PM in the York High School Commons followed by a program at 7 PM.
At that time, the honorees shared brief remarks and be recognized with a plaque.

Dan Konopka – Class of 1993

Dan Konopka – Class of 1993 - Dan is the drummer for and a founding member of Ok Go, a Grammy Award winning, American alternative rock band formed in 1998 here in Chicago, Illinois. The band is a viral sensation, with over 125 million views on YouTube. They were dubbed the “first post-internet band” by the head of Apple’s marketing. In 2006 the group released the video for the song “Here it Goes Again” to YouTube; it has been viewed 100 million times and  won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video and the 2006 YouTube Awards for Most Creative Video. 

Jack Lavin – Class of 1980

Jack Lavin – Class of 1980 - Jack has dedicated himself to a life of public service. He served as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s chief of staff and has been active in numerous Illinois charities and community organizations, serving in leadership capacities that were vital to the organizations’ ongoing success. A strong advocate for the disability community, he chaired and provided recommendations to the Chicago Public Schools Task Force on Special Education. He is president and CEO of Lavin Strategies, Inc. He has worked with numerous organizations and received awards for this work.

Judd Lofchie – Class of 1976

Judd Lofchie – Class of 1976 - Judd has worked as a lawyer, commercial developer and real estate broker and is the owner and president of Judd Lofchie & Associates, located in Aurora, Illinois, for 25 years. Judd is founder and Director Emeritus for StreetWise Inc., a newspaper he created in 1992 for homeless persons in Chicago, assisting over 10,000 people of whom 40% have earned their way back to financial independence. He currently serves an emeritus board member. A world traveler, he speaks several languages.

Tekki Lomnicki – Class of 1974

Tekki Lomnicki – Class of 1974 - Tekki is a solo performer, playwright, director and educator. In 1995, Tekki co-founded Tellin’ Tales Theatre. The company, dedicated to shattering the barriers between the disabled and non-disabled worlds through personal story, produces adult solo performance as well as Six Stories Up, a life-changing mentoring program and show, featuring middle school students and adults with and without disabilities. Tekki performs her solo work for schools, conferences, and theater audiences all over the U.S. and Canada, and starred in the award-winning film, The Miracle by Jeffrey Jon Smith.

Barbara Kegerreis Lunde – Class of 1955

Barbara Kegerreis Lunde – Class of 1955 - Dr. Lunde was the second female to get a PhD in physics from Iowa State University and became the first woman Professional Electrical Engineer in Iowa. While in Iowa, she was the engineer for the construction of two commercial radio stations and then stepped in to operate them for 12 years. She received two patents for developing rocket guidance instruments and served as a project manager for NASA from 1961-65. Barbara designed and studied solar energy systems from 1976-80.

O. Robert Nottelmann – Class of 1943 (1925-2003)

O. Robert Nottelmann – Class of 1943 (1925-2003) - Bob Nottelmann (deceased) was a distinguished business leader, philanthropist and volunteer. With an MBA from the University of Chicago, he spent his whole career at Inland Steel and its principal subsidiary. We have Mr. Nottelmann, and the other founding board members, to thank for the Foundation for Educational Excellence which has raised $2.5 million, adding many enhancements and innovative, new programs to District 205. To date, 552 Thiems grants have been distributed to support students and teachers. Mr. Nottelmann will be represented by his son, Mark Nottelmann.

Allan Tereba – Class of 1965

Allan Tereba – Class of 1965 - Dr. Tereba played a significant role in advancing the field of forensics by developing new materials, devices and techniques to improve the quality of DNA fingerprinting, greatly diminishing the time needed to prepare DNA evidence from large numbers of crime scene samples. This technology has also been used in related applications and to identify genetic markers associated with cancer. During his working career, and in retirement, he has volunteered his time, talents and leadership skills for community service.


2015 Dukes of Distinction

2015 YDAP Event Information

These outstanding individuals were honored at a reception at 6:30 PM on November 5 in the York Community High School Commons. A program followed at 7 PM. 

Lee Daniels – Class of 1960

Lee Daniels – Class of 1960 - Lawmaker, businessman, civic leader and advocate, he served as a state representative in the Illinois General Assembly from 1975 to 2007. Mr. Daniels was elected House Republican leader, served as Speaker of the House and also as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Illinois. Known as a champion for the rights of people with mental and physical challenges, he is also the founder of Lee Daniels & Associates, a consulting firm for government and community relations.

Mark Dyer – Class of 1980

Mark Dyer – Class of 1980 - Originally the owner of a successful advertising and direct marketing agency, he sold the company and began volunteering for the international UK-based disaster relief charity ShelterBox, a humanitarian organization that delivers self-contained boxes of equipment to families who have lost their homes following a disaster. Mr. Dyer has served as Response Team Leader on 8 of 12 deployments to major disasters across the globe following flooding, earthquake, tornado, tsunami and events of war.

Dr. Susan Groenwald – Class of 1967

Dr. Susan Groenwald – Class of 1967 - President of Chamberlain College of Nursing since 2006, Dr. Groenwald has grown a single site with 400 students to 18 sites in twelve states with a total enrollment of over 24,000, graduating more than 21,000 nurses in eight years. An oncology nurse, she served as coordinator of the Rush University College of Nursing Oncology Graduate Program.  She also led BarterCorp and later became Director of Clinical Operations for Focused Health Solutions, leading significant growth for both companies.

Tom Marcucci – Class of 1970

Tom Marcucci – Class of 1970 - Mayor of Elmhurst from 1993 until 2009, during his four terms of office, Mayor Marcucci transformed Elmhurst into the thriving city it is today. Revitalization of the central business district, commercial/retail developments and the passage of two citywide bond referenda helped put Elmhurst on the map. In 2003, Chicago Magazine ranked Elmhurst the #1 suburb. He also served in a variety of county, regional and state governmental roles that resulted in significant quality services for Elmhurst.

Dr. Clifford McDonald – Class of 1980

Dr. Clifford McDonald – Class of 1980 - A medical doctor and Senior Advisor for Science and Integrity in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, his work in infectious diseases has played a major role in improving treatment, preventing emergence of antibiotic resistance and controlling outbreaks around the world. Along with his wife Lisa, a nurse, Dr. McDonald has adopted 12 children, some with special needs, from China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Ethiopia and the United States.

David Swartz – Class of 1959

David Swartz – Class of 1959 - Nominated by President George H. W. Bush he was confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Belarus from 1992-94, when Minsk was liberated as part of the dissolution of the USSR. Ambassador Swartz served for 28 years in various capacities as a Foreign Service Officer of the U.S. Department of State, stationed in Moscow, Kiev, Zurich, Calgary, Warsaw and Washington, D.C. In 2006, he co-founded the Center for Belarusian Studies at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas and is currently Associate Executive Director.

Kenneth von Heidecke – Class of 1970

Kenneth von Heidecke – Class of 1970 - In addition to choreographing 70 productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and at other opera houses around the world, he founded both the Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet and the Von Heidecke Dance Center. Alumni include Olympic figure skater Evan Lysacek and Joffrey Ballet principal Joanna Wozniak. Legendary Prima Ballerina Maria Tallchief named him as her protégé in 2009 and he appeared in a PBS documentary of her life. Mr. Von Heidecke is now the subject of a film about his own life.

Samuel Williams – Class of 2003

Samuel Williams – Class of 2003 - A six-time US Paralympic Boccia champion and coach, Mr. Williams was the director for the Boccia National Championships held at York High School in July of 2012. A person living with cerebral palsy, he has served as a Paralympic Athlete Ambassador of the U.S. Olympic Committee and Special Projects Coordinator at Dreams for Kids since 2010. With a degree in Community Health (rehabilitation studies), he holds clinics throughout the country to support sports and fitness for those with disabilities.


2014 Dukes of Distinction

2014 YDAP Event Information

YDAP announces the selection of its 2014 class of “Dukes of Distinction” who will be honored on Thursday, November 6, 2014, in the York Community High School Commons. The reception begins at 7 PM, with a program following at 7:30 PM. Both are free and open to the public.

That evening, seven alumni will be recognized at a celebratory reception followed by a recognition program during which they will speak. The event is free and open to the public (no ticket necessary). The following day, November 7, honorees will present to and interact with York students in large and small group settings.

Dr. Robert T. Chen, Class of 1973

Dr. Robert T. Chen, Class of 1973 – has been a leader in immunization research at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for about 30 years. He helped create the vaccine safety infrastructure needed to meet the “post-modern” challenges of mature immunization programs, where adverse events are more prominent than the nearly eliminated target vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), including: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project, the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network, the Brighton Collaboration, and the Safe Injection Global Network (SIGN). 

Many of Dr. Chen’s more than 200 publications provided scientifically rigorous evidence for policymakers on various vaccine safety issues (e.g., autism) and chronicle lessons learned from his investigations of outbreaks of VPDs (e.g., measles, diphtheria, pertussis, polio). His research helped establish the protective correlates of immunity to measles, the control strategy for measles and the resurgence of diphtheria in the former Soviet Union. Dr. Chen is currently working on HIV prevention research at CDC and serves on the World Health Organization’s HIV Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, he immigrated to the U.S. at age ten. Dr. Chen received his B.S. in Chemistry and Honors Biology from the University of Illinois (Urbana), an M.A. in public policy studies and his M.D. from the University of Chicago. He then trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine, including the “disease detective” Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Fellowship at the CDC. He is an adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, Associate Editor of Vaccine, Fellow of the International Society of Pharmacoepidemiology, and Captain (retired) in the US Public Health Service. He is married with two daughters and resides in Atlanta, GA.

Nominated by Sue Montgomery

John Coughlan, Class of 1960

John Coughlan, Class of 1960 – coached track and field/cross country for 36 years. He served as Head Track and Field/Cross Country coach at Illinois State University, where he guided the men’s program for 23 years; the last 10 years were combined men’s and women’s programs. He was the most decorated track and field/cross country coach in the history of Illinois State University athletics, as well as the Missouri Valley Conference history. He was named the Missouri Valley Coach of the year 24 times, the NCAA District Coach of the Year 9 times, and the 1996 NCAA National Indoor Coach of the Year.

He led his teams to 25 league championships. On the national level, he guided 195 athletes to the NCAA championships, producing 41 All-Americans. Three times his athletes became NCAA Champions. He served a four-year term as a member of the executive committee of the NCAA Division I Track Coaches Association. He also served for 12 years on the executive committee of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Coaches Association.

John is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame (1993), the Drake Relays Hall of Fame (1997), the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame (2003), and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame (2009). He was named 1977 National High School Coach of the Year and Midwest Coach of the year while coaching at Maine East High School. His 1970 team was the undefeated state champions and was named The National High School Cross Country Champions. His love of the sport translated to his athletes, in that at retirement in the year 2000, 84 of his former athletes had become high school track/cross country coaches.

Nominated by James Bolin

Beth Finke, Class of 1976

Beth Finke, Class of 1976 – spent most of her time while a student at York, with her friends in the band room or in Mrs. Rollow's classroom typing up stories for the York Hi student newspaper. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1980 and worked at the International Studies Office there until 1986, when an eye disease caused her to lose her sight.

Beth took to writing after that. Her memoir Long Time, No See was published by University of Illinois Press in 2003, and her children's book about seeing-eye dogs, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound, was published by Blue Marlin Publications in 2007. Her essays air on National Public Radio, and her work has appeared in Woman's DayChicago Tribune MagazineDog Fancy and The Bark. Most recently, a story she wrote about animal intelligence was included in an anthology published by National Geographic School Publishing. A regular contributor to Chicago Public Radio, Beth is a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. She, along with two WBEZ colleagues, won the Chicago Society of Professional Journalists’ Lisagor Award for sports broadcasting.

She teaches weekly memoir-writing classes for senior citizens in Chicago, sponsored by the City of Chicago's Commission on Aging and Lincoln Park Village, a non-profit organization helping people over 65 remain in their homes as they age. She received a writing fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts last year and is working on a book about those memoir classes. She is married to Mike Knezovich. They have one grown son, Gus, and live in the Printers Row neighborhood of Chicago with Beth's Seeing Eye dog, a Golden Retriever/Labrador cross named Whitney.

Nominated by Robin Rogers

Gary Rydstrom, Class of 1977

Gary Rydstrom, Class of 1977 – is a film sound designer, director and re-recording mixer extraordinaire. At Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, he has designed and mixed many films, including Terminator 2Jurassic ParkA River Runs Through ItToy StoryQuiz ShowTitanicSaving Private RyanStar Wars: Episode IPunch-Drunk LoveFinding Nemo and War Horse.

Gary was nominated for 17 and won seven Academy Awards for Sound and Sound Editing, as well as receiving Career Achievement Awards from both the Cinema Audio Society (2004) and Motion Picture Sound Editors (2005). He believes that sound has the power to motivate and move audiences. The blending of the right sound with an image makes it come alive. One of his sound heroes is Treg Brown from Looney Tunes and Road Runner cartoons. For Pixar Animation Studios, he directed two shorts, the Oscar-nominated Lifted and Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation. For Studio Ghibli, he directed the English-language versions of The Secret Word of ArriettyFrom Up on Poppy Hill and The Wind Rises. Currently, he is directing an animated feature at Lucasfilm, which will be released by Disney.

Gary is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (1981) and has been named a Notable Alumni by USC. He has returned to the School of Cinema-Television as a guest lecturer and has also given seminars at the American Film Institute and the Directors Guild. He shares his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm with aspiring sound design artists throughout the country and has been mentioned with “special thanks” in 15 documentaries, films and shorts, including The Long Green Line (2008), the story of York High School’s Cross Country team and legendary coach, Joe Newton.

Nominated by Holly Kost

Kathleen Sherman, CSJ, - Class of 1970

Kathleen Sherman, CSJ, - Class of 1970 – is a singer, composer and activist. Her passion is writing music that fosters hope and healing for our world, music that proclaims “All Are ONE!” She has been composing music and lyrics since 1966. Her inspiration lies in the conviction that all of life is permeated with the sacred. She is deeply committed to working for non-violence (especially in Chicago) and advocating for the protection and healing of our planet.

Kathy is energized when working with creative teams and composing music that strengthens a group’s mission and message. Her compositions have been performed at major conventions, conferences and liturgical celebrations. In November 2012, Kathy and her work were featured in the New York Times for a song entitled Love Cannot Be Silenced which became an anthem for many, especially Catholic women religious. That same year, she inaugurated “Circle of Song for Women,” a non-auditioned singing group whose members believe in music’s capacity to create community and give voice to compassion and joy. Her present initiative, “Artists for Systemic Change toward Unity,” sees the Arts serving as a powerful agent for changing unjust systems and creating a global vision of peace and unity. An essential aspect of Kathy’s work is ministering to others through music at profoundly significant moments in their lives. 

Kathy has published 22 CDs of music which are sung throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Her music is available at and her soon-to-be-launched website, She holds a B.S. in Education from Western Illinois University and a Masters of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University. She is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph and has a studio in LaGrange Park, IL.

Nominated by Melanie Zitek

Dr. Martin Stoker, Class of 1939 (1921-2006)

Dr. Martin Stoker, Class of 1939 (1921-2006) – practiced Internal Medicine and Non-Invasive Cardiology from 1956-1989 at the Elmhurst Clinic. He continued practicing at Elmhurst Hospital from 1989 until his retirement in 2004. Dr. Stoker was born in McComb, Ohio and moved to Elmhurst in 1936.

After graduating from York, he attended the University of Illinois. He was drafted into the Army from 1943-1946. Always a stellar student, Martin was enrolled in a specialized training program by Uncle Sam, which led to classes at the Universities of Oregon (Engineering) and California (Premed), as well as two years at Stanford University School of Medicine. He then returned to U of I, where he received his MD degree in 1948. From 1951-1953, Dr. Stoker was recalled to duty as a medical officer in a “MASH” unit in Korea.

Dr. Stoker was instrumental in developing many new programs at Elmhurst Hospital, including founding and running the Radioisotope Lab, the first Central Venous Catheter in CCU, the first Peritoneal Dialysis, DC defibrillation, organizing CPR and ECG classes for nurses, launching the Stress Lab and Holter Monitoring, creating “new” emergency room services and introducing the first Adenosine Thallium Stress Test - all of which brought state-of-the-art care to Elmhurst Hospital patients.He was appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Chicago Medical School from 1964-1968 and at Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola, from 1969-1972. He was involved in many professional organizations within the medical community. Dr. Stoker’s wife, Jeanne, resides in Oak Brook. They have six grandchildren, two great grandchildren and are the parents of three: the late Susan Cummins (York ’64), Jean Belz (York ’66) of Texas and Dr. Tom Stoker, Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Nominated by Shirley Demeris

Joseph Vanek, Class of 2003

Joseph Vanek, Class of 2003 (1984-2007) – was a paratrooper in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and a member of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment and 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Deployed to combat in Iraq three times (Mosul, Tal Afar, and Baghdad), his final deployment was located in one of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods, Sadr City. On November 12, 2007, Sergeant Vanek was killed by sniper fire during a patrol. Joe was a consummate professional, an exceptional leader and a tremendous person. At the age only 22, he was a squad leader, watching over his soldiers with quiet confidence and a sly sense of humor.

After the Army, Joe planned to attend college and major in history. His love of history is remembered through the Elmhurst College “Light of Knowledge” scholarship in his name.  Sgt. Joseph Vanek was honored on April 20, 2009 when the swearing-in room at the Chicago Military Entrance Processing Center (MEPS) was officially named the Sgt. Joseph M. Vanek Ceremony Room. Now, as the more than 6,000 young men and women annually process through this room to take their oaths as either Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, or Coast Guard enlistees, they have an example of another Chicago area native watching over them who exemplified the meaning of selfless service, dedication and courage.

Sgt. Vanek’s personal awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with second award, National Defense Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge and Parachutist’s Badge. His unit awards include the Presidential Unit Citation and two Valorous Citation Awards.

Nominated by Thomas McEllin


2013 Dukes of Distinction

2013 YDAP Event Information

YDAP has recently announced the selection of its inaugural class of “Dukes of Distinction” who will be honored on Thursday, November 7, 2013, in the York Community High School Commons.

That evening, eight alumni spanning four decades will be recognized at a celebratory reception beginning at 6 PM, followed by a recognition program during which they will speak. The event is free and open to the public (no ticket necessary). The following day, November 8, seven of the honorees will present to and interact with York students in large and small group settings.

Dr. John Baumrucker, Class of 1962

Dr. John Baumrucker, Class of 1962 – a medical doctor who, along with his wife Joanna, volunteered in Montero, Bolivia for 15 years (providing for the donation of over $1 million in medical equipment and supplies), working in the prisons, building schools, clinics and homes there, including a foster home for 21 orphaned or abandoned boys, who are taught parenting, farming and carpentry skills. He was also involved in the “Living Water” project, working with medical students from three leading U.S. universities, to provide them with hands-on experience and ensure clean drinking water for this third world country.

Ron Guenther, Class of 1963

Ron Guenther, Class of 1963 – an All-Big Ten academic and athletic football star for the University of Illinois (Illini MVP in 1966), he served as the Athletic Director for U of I for 19 years and also served as Director of Major Gifts for the U of I Foundation, helping increase endowments from $2 million to $40 million, also raising another $300 million for capital improvements at U of I, including a $121 million stadium renovation. In addition, Coach Guenther built a model program for producing outstanding student athletes. Recently retired, he serves as special consultant to the Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

John Hagstrom, Class of 1983

John Hagstrom, Class of 1983 – a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he has been extremely involved and supportive of music performance in Elmhurst. John makes regular trips to Elmhurst to work with York musicians and perform solos with high school musical groups in concerts. His professional path includes five years of study at the Eastman School of Music, followed by six years in "The President's Own" United States Marine Band in Washington, D.C., where he spent three of those years as principal trumpet. He also helped to initiate Dream Out Loud, a music education advocacy partnership, begun in 2007.

Dr. Peter Holbrook, Class of 1962

Dr. Peter Holbrook, Class of 1962 – a pediatric critical care physician who developed procedures to treat critically ill older children, which proved so successful that there are now 1,800 Critical Care pediatricians (known as Intensivists). This has become the fourth largest pediatric sub-category. He also established the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., recently retiring as Chief Medical Officer following 37 years of pioneering work and outstanding national leadership in the field. He is the editor and co-author of four editions of the Textbook of Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Claudia Lucchinetti, Class of 1982

Dr. Claudia Lucchinetti, Class of 1982 – a full time clinician, researcher and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, she is recognized as an international leader in the field of central nervous system demyelinating disease research, with expertise in immunopathology, experimental neuropathology, neuroimmunology and clinical neurology. Dr. Lucchinetti is the current Chair of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Clinical Neuroimmunology and Brain Tumors Study Section, the first woman and medical doctor to chair this particular study section in the history of the NIH.

Ken Paulson, Class of 1972

Ken Paulson, Class of 1972 – an editor, lawyer and educator who has spent much of his career as a newspaper editor and an advocate for First Amendment freedoms. Paulson is the president of the First Amendment Center and dean and professor at the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. He was one of the founding editors of USA Today in 1982 and returned to serve as editor in chief of the newspaper 22 years later. His career began as the editor of the York Hi student newspaper at York High School. Paulson is a past president of the American Society of News Editors.

Dr. Charles Tilly, Class of 1946

Dr. Charles Tilly (1929-2008), Class of 1946 – a comparative and historical sociologist, analyst of social movements, a social theorist, political sociologist and methodological innovator, Dr. Tilly authored 51 books and over 600 articles, as well as directing over 200 doctoral dissertations. Called “an intellectual global powerhouse” he was a member of numerous scientific academies and a lecturer at universities worldwide whose contributions led to the development of seven subfields in sociology. Family and friends remember him as a great story-teller, a fanatical volleyball player, an avid world traveler and a poet.

Dr. Sidney Carne Wolff, Class of 1958

Dr. Sidney Carne Wolff, Class of 1958 – an astronomer who has served as Director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (which has three national centers), author of two astronomy textbooks, founding editor of the Astronomy Educational Review and an authority on A-type stars. Dr. Wolff was fundamental to establishment of large optical telescopes in the Andes to allow observation and mapping of the Southern Hemisphere sky. She led the development of six major telescope construction projects including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will survey the entire sky over a 10-year period.



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