Hall of Honor
In June of 2020, the Ambridge Area School District will induct the 7th round of recipients into the “Hall of Honor.”
The Hall of Honor was established to honor outstanding Ambridge Area School District graduates who have made significant community contributions and/or career-related accomplishments. One-time distinctions or awards may be appropriate if they are at a national or state level. Nominees must have graduated at least ten years prior before they are eligible. The purpose of the Hall of Honor is to recognize alumni who have achieved outstanding accomplishments and to establish a lasting relationship with their alma mater. The goal of the Hall of Honor is to provide a visual incentive to our current students, which may help them aspire to the greatness that these people have achieved.
Nominations are being accepted until April 30, 2020. Selected recipients will be recognized at the Graduation Ceremony on June 5, 2020 in the Ambridge Area High School Gymnasium.
Attached are the Hall of Honor overview and application form. Please contact Mrs. June Mueller at 724-266-2833 ext. 1263 with questions.
Please send completed nomination forms and accompanying information to:
Hall of Honor Committee
C/O June Mueller
901 Duss Avenue
Ambridge, PA 15003
HALL OF HONOR APPLICATION TO RECOGNIZE OUTSTANDING ALUMNI
Please submit the application to the Superintendent’s office electronically or hard copy
Superintendent’s Office, 901 Duss Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003
* Nominees must have graduated from Ambridge Area School District at least 10 years ago
* Nominees must have made significant community contributing and/or career-related accomplishments. (One-time distinctions or awards may be appropriate if they are at a national or state level).
Dr. Robert J. Ackermann - 1966 graduate
Dr. Robert J. Ackerman is Professor and Director of the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research & Training Institute at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is co-founder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. As an author he has published numerous articles and research findings and is best known for writing the first book in the United States on children of alcoholics in 1978. Twelve books later, many television appearances, and countless speaking engagements he has become internationally known for his work with families and children of all ages. His books have been translated into thirteen languages.
Mr. Kelvin Fisher - 1987 graduate
Upon graduation from Ambridge, Mr. Fisher attended Arizona State University, where he received his degree in social work. While at ASU, special athletic awards and honors include the MVP of the Coca Cola Bowl, voted team captain, and he was a four year starter on the football team with P.A.C. Ten honors. He was the first fullback in the history of Arizona State University to run for 1000 yards and catch for 500 yards. He was featured in Bigger, Stronger, Faster Magazine as one of the top running backs in the NCAA. In 1992 he was a free agent for the New York Jets and was on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad in 1993. In his career he totaled 1,763 rushing and 797 receiving yards, with 12 touchdowns. Mr. Fisher is currently a west coast college scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his time with the Steelers, they have won two Super Bowl championships. He currently lives in Arizona with his wife and two children.
Mr. Mike Lucci - 1957 graduate
Mr. Mike Lucci was a National Football League player for the Cleveland Browns for three seasons from 1962 to 1964 and nine seasons with the Detroit Lions from 1965 to 1973. He played collegiately at the University of Tennessee and for one year at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a 6’2”, 230-pound middle linebacker known for his ability to play through injury. Mr. Lucci was voted by his teammates the Lions’ Defensive Most Valuable Player from 1969-1971. In addition, he was All-NFL in 1969, and NFC All-Conference in 1970-1971. Mr. Lucci also appeared in the film based on the George Plimpton book Paper Lion. The 1968 film starred Alan Alda, Lauren Hutton, and several Detroit Lion football players. After retiring from the NFL, Mr. Lucci was a successful business executive and entrepreneur. He is the former president of Bally Total Fitness which at the time was the largest commercial operator of fitness centers in the United States. Over the past several years, Mr. Lucci has made generous monetary donations to facilitate our football locker room.
Mr. Mickey Marotti - 1983 graduate
Mr. Mickey Marotti is the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Florida. He is one of 57 people in the world to hold the Master of Strength and Conditioning (MSCC) certification. Entering his fourth year at the University of Florida, he has already developed eight All-Americans and two first-round NFL draft choices during his tenure. The Florida Gators have won two BCS National Championships and two SEC Championships in the past three years with Mr. Marotti as the Director of Strength and Conditioning. He currently lives in Gainesville, Florida with his wife and two children.
Mr. George Vujnovich - 1933 graduate
Mr. George Vujnovich was born to Serbian parents in 1915. When he was 14, he moved to Aliquippa and two years later to Ambridge. After graduating from high school, he worked at a Heinz vinegar plant for $1 a day. In 1934 he received a scholarship from the Serb National Federation and left home to attend college to study medicine in Belgrade. While living in Belgrade, Mr. Vujnovich met and married his wife, Mirjana, a teacher. Their life was disrupted in 1941, when the German Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade in Operation Punishment. Mr. Vujnovich was a first-hand witness to the bombing, nearly losing his life when a falling bomb destroyed a nearby streetcar. After the bombing, Mr. and Mrs. Vujnovich fled Yugoslavia, and he accepted a job in Ghana as assistant airport manager while Mirjana moved to Washington, DC to work at the Yugoslav Embassy. When the US entered the war, Mr. Vujnovich received a commission as a second lieutenant and assumed command of an airbase in Nigeria. While working at the airbase, he was recruited by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner of the CIA, and was later sent to the OSS post in Bari, Italy. From this post he saved the lives of his fellow servicemen and earned the title of hero. Due to his organization of this secret mission known as “Operation Halyard”, over 500 downed US airmen in occupied Yugoslavia were rescued. In 2007 “The Forgotten 500”, the first book about the daring mission, was released. Mr. George Vujnovich is the lead character in the book.
Ms. Doreen Welsh - 1968 graduate
Ms. Doreen Welsh has been a flight attendant for US Air for 38 years. She was aboard US Air flight 1549 when it went down in the Hudson River in New York early in 2009. There were 150 passengers, the pilot, co-pilot and three flight attendants on board when the plane went down. Flight 1549 had been struck by something. It would later be determined that birds had taken out both engines. The pilot had to land the plane on the frigid Hudson River. Ms. Welsh was instrumental in saving 150 lives as she made sure everyone got out of the plane safely. She was the only one injured on board the aircraft. Ms. Welsh stopped a passenger from opening a rear door and letting in a gush of water, then made her way forward directing everyone out onto the wings. Captain Sullenberger checked the cabin twice. Thanks to his crew of flight attendants, he didn’t find any forgotten passengers.
Mr. David Woten, Jr. - 1987 graduate
Just out of high school, Mr. Woten enlisted in the United States Army Reserves, where he served eight years as a heavy-wheeled mechanic and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Slippery Rock University in 1991 and a Master of Music in Music Education in 1997. He has traveled throughout the state and country as a musician, conductor, and guest speaker. Mr. Woten teaches at Carson Middle School in the North Allegheny School District and is an Adjunct Professor at the Duquesne University Mary Pappert School of Music. In 2008 Mr. Woten was selected as the “2008 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year” and “Slippery Rock University Young Alumni Award Winner”. In 2006 he was recognized by “Who’s Who Among American Teachers”. In May, 2009, he was inducted into the Beaver Valley Musicians Hall of Fame. During his years at Ambridge Area School District, it was under the direction of Mr. Lee Tolfa and Mr. Sal Aloe that his commitment to music was fostered. Mr. Woten brings such dedication to the role of music educator that the elective program at North Allegheny has grown from fifty students to more than two hundred and fifty under his direction. Mr. Woten lives in Economy Borough with his wife and two sons.
Lieutenant General USMC (Retired) George C. Axtell –1938 graduate
Lieutenant General George C. Axtell served four combat tours during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Navy Cross; Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and three Gold Stars; Distinguished Flying Cross with one Gold Star; and an Air Medal with one Silver Star.
Bud Bilanich, Ed.D –1968 graduate
Dr. Bilanich received a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State; a Master of Arts degree from the University of Colorado; and his Doctorate degree in Education from Harvard University. He is the author of ten books, a Success Coach, and Motivational Speaker. Dr. Bilanich writes a monthly column called “Common Sense” in PM360, a print magazine that provides the best, most current and practical marketing information to pharmaceutical product managers.
Kara Dolinski, Ph.D. –1988 graduate
Dr. Dolinski is the Assistant Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. She has given presentations at numerous national and international molecular biology and genomic meetings.
Alexander Vasilakis, M.D. –1976 graduate
Alexander Vasilakis, M.D., F.A.C.S., is the director of the cardiac surgery program at Heritage Valley Health system. He received a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. After three years of graduate study in Mexico, Dr. Vasilakis completed his Doctor of Medicine degree at West Virginia University. Prior to graduation from medical School, he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He went on to complete his general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery residency training at West Virginia University Hospitals. Dr. Vasilakis was then appointed as faculty in the department of surgery at West Virginia University, where he attained the rank of Associate Professor.
A native of Ambridge, Dr. Vasilakis returned to the area in 1999 to lead the cardiac surgery program at Heritage Valley Beaver. Dr. Vasilakis is certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and an active member of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons and The Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. He has contributed over thirty articles, posters and book chapters to the medical literature and given over 125 formal lectures on various topics in surgery. He has served on numerous hospital committees, currently serving as Treasurer of the Medical Staff and chairman of the credentials committee. Most recently, he was elected to the Heritage Valley Health System Board of Directors. Dr. Vasilakis’ practice includes a broad variety of heart and lung surgery with a specific interest in complex coronary artery bypass grafting and cardiac valve repair and replacement.
Nicholas J. Feduska, M.D.– 1959 graduate
Dr. Feduska is a well known and respected surgeon. While training as a surgeon, he served as a Captain in the United States Army. He subsequently served in the United States Navy at the National Naval Medical Center and the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. He held the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was Director of the Division of Transplantation. Upon receiving an honorable discharge from the Army and Navy, Dr. Feduska was invited to join the faculty at the University of California San Francisco. He later became the Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at California Pacific Medical Center and subsequently assumed the role of Director of the Multi-Organ and Kidney Transplant Programs at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. He was recruited to become associated with the Kidney Transplant Program at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. Dr. Feduska established a successful private practice of vascular access and general surgery. Since closing his medical practice about five years ago, he has continued to passionately serve the needs of others as a realtor in the greater Las Vegas area where he has come to be known as “The Doctor in the House.” He and his wife currently live in Henderson, Nevada.
Robert Matzie - 1986 graduate
Rep. Matzie is a lifelong resident of Ambridge. He received an associate degree in high technology communications from the Community College of Beaver County and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University. Prior to his election to the House in 2008, he worked as a state Senate staff member for 14 years. He also served as Mayor of Ambridge, was elected to the Democratic State Committee to represent Beaver County, and served on the Ambridge Planning Commission, Member of the Board of Directors of the Ambridge Redevelopment Corp. as chairman of the Residential Committee. Shortly after Mr.Matzie was sworn in, his legislation was chosen as one of the first key pieces of legislation pushed in the 194th session by House leaders. Act 2 was signed into law on June 3, 2009. The legislation makes COBRA health-insurance coverage available to Pennsylvania businesses with fewer than 20 employees. His efforts helped convince the Rendell Administration that Old Economy Village should remain open and led to the PHMC and Friends of Old Economy to reach an agreement to operate the site. Upon being sworn into his second term on January 4, 2011, Rep. Matzie said he will continue to work on many levels to make the 16th Legislative District and all of Western Pennsylvania a wonderful place to live, work and enjoy time with family and friends.
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Angela K. Zondos, Ed.D. - 1951 graduate
Dr. Zondos, Professor Emerita, Physical Education and Special Education at California University of Pennsylvania, achieved significant career related accomplishments in Special Education and Special Olympics throughout her career. She received a commendation for her participation in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Additionally, she is a past member of the Board of Directors of Ambridge Area School District.
Jody Ann Brylinsky, Ph.D. - 1973 graduate
Professor and Coordinator of the Master of Arts in Coaching Sport Performance program at Western Michigan University Fellow in the North American Society for Sport and Physical Education, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Past President of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, member of the NASPE Sport Hall of Fame, author of numerous publications for coaching.
John Choma, Ph.D. – 1959 graduate
B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering University of Pittsburgh Professor of Electrical Engineering and the former Chair of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering at USC Technical Fellow at Scintera Networks, Inc. in Sunnyvale, California, 2009 joined the Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Electronics Center in El Segundo, CA, as a Technical Scholar in Residence.
Lt.. Col (Dr.) Kelly L. Dorenkott – 1990 graduate
Associate Chief of Medical Recruitment and Sustainment Deputy Director of the Medical Corps, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General Oversees execution of a $280M/year Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) Force Sustainment portfolio to include all AFMS scholarships and special pays Joint Services Graduate Medical Education Boards, and AFMS Force Development Panel Coordinates AFMS policies and executive decisions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Major Commands, and Air Force Personnel Center.
Reed D. Hankinson, Ed. D. – 1988 graduate
Bachelor of Science in Education from Pennsylvania State University Master of Science in Education, emphasis on School Psychology, from Duquesne UniversityDoctorate of Education, emphasis on Educational Leadership, from Duquesne University Co-founded EduLink, Inc., an educational consulting and technology company in 1998 Designed and developed the online teacher recruiting system-Teacher LinkUSA. Pioneered first Act 48 continuing education submission process for the PA Department of Education in 1999.
Mr. Alan Klaich – 1965 graduate
Lifelong resident of the Ambridge Area School District
Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree in Education from California University of PA
Served forty-two years as an Applied Engineering and Technology Education teacher
and department chairman in the Ambridge Area School District, retiring in 2011
Served on the executive boards of the Technology and Engineering Education Association of PA and the Technology Student Association
David Niklewicz – 1969 graduate
Received an Oscar plaque in 2003 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Scientific and Technical Advancement for his part in the design and development of Kodak Vision Premier Color Print film-2392, used for many films including Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, Cars, Monster, Inc, Tangled, and Brave.
He is a graduate of the University of Rochester (MS Chemical Engineering). He spent 39 years at the Eastman Kodak Company and currently is Kodak’s Product Manager for distribution films used in the motion picture industry.
Dr. Ken Cirka - 1989 Graduate
Dr. Cirka is a 1989 graduate of the AASD. Dr. Cirka received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College and a Master of Arts degree from Slippery Rock University. He attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, where he received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine. Dr. Cirka is a cosmetic dentist who was named Best of Philadelphia, America's Best Dentist, Life Magazine Top Dentist and a six-year recipient of Consumer Research Council's Top Dentist award. He is engaged in numerous philanthropic activities.
Mrs. Karen Larrimer - 1980 Graduate
Mrs. Karen (Petcash) Larrimer, a 1980 AASD graduate, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Point Park University. She is currently the Executive Vice President, Head of Retail Banking and Chief Customer Officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. Mrs. Larrimer is the first female chairwoman of the board for the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and a board and executive committee member of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. She was recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker Magazine in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Capt. Charles D. Rowley - 1952 Graduate
A 1952 graduate, Captain Rowley retired after 30 years of service in the United States Navy. After graduating from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, he completed seven deployments, including two tours of duty and more than 160 missions during the Vietnam War. The Commanding Officer of the Naval Training Center from 1985 to 1990, Capt. Rowley was responsible for 1,300 people. He also was the Director of Computer Resources and Avionics with the Navy as well as the principal and chairman of the Joint Services Review Committee for Avionics. Captain Charles D. Rowley is receiving this honor posthumously.
Ms. Rhonda Wozniak - 1979 Graduate
Ms. Rhonda Wozniak is a 1979 AASD graduate. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from the University of Colorado at Denver; her Master of Arts Degree in Art Conservation from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo; and her Certificate of Advanced Studies in the Conservation of Marine Archaeological Objects at the Western Australian Maritime Museum. Ms. Wozniak was the objects conservator and only female crew member aboard the 1994 RMS Titanic expedition that recovered over 400 artifacts from the shipwreck. The expedition was featured as a National Geographic documentary. Ms. Wozniak lived and worked in France for two years as the primary conservator to prepare the Titanic objects for world-wide exhibit.
Ms. Marita Grabiak - 1976 Graduate
Ms. Marita Grabiak is a 1976 alumnus. She attended Carnegie Mellon University and graduated with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in Motion Picture/Television and a minor in Art History. She is a veteran television director and writer, with 40 credits in episode television. Ms. Grabiak’s TV movies – both thrillers and romantic comedies – are highly rated on the Lifetime and Hallmark channels. A versatile director, she has worked with acclaimed actors such as Emma Stone, Kathy Bates, George Clooney and Sally Fields. With thousands of hours of film production experience, she moved to television directing on the long-running NBC series “ER” in 2001. She has been a financial supporter of the Laughlin Memorial Library, as well as a loyal patron. Ms. Grabiak was especially fond of a rare 1917 Fairyland map that was displayed in the children’s room. Upon discovery that this map was no longer in good condition, she went to great lengths to provide a restored copy that is now returned to its rightful spot in the library.
Mr. Brandon Gulish - 2003 Graduate
Mr. Gulish is a 2003 alumnus. He graduated with honors from Temple University, with a degree in Film and Media Arts. In a very short period of time, he has made a mark on the field of Reality TV. Mr. Gulish is a sought-after producer and director, and has traveled to more than 40 countries. Some of his credits include producer/director of Weird But True (National Geography), The Great Human Race (National Geography) and co-executive producer of Uncommon Grounds (Travel Channel) and Dangerous Grounds. He received the 2019 Daytime Emmy award for his work as the Director of Weird But True. Through his work, he encountered some of the world’s most struggling countries and became determined to use his skills as a director and producer to give back. In 2018, Mr. Gulish traveled to Uganda with a team of filmmakers to document the South Sudanese refugee crisis and to raise awareness of the lack of education and clean water in this area of the world. Following his trip, he and his team raised thousands of dollars to help provide clean water in the Ugandan refugee camps. Heregularly volunteers for his church and is instrumental in producing footage for an annual fundraiser to provide meals for 10,000 families throughout the Philadelphia area.
Dr. Dianne Kasnic Prinz – 1956 Graduate
The late Dr. Dianne Kasni Prinz was a 1956 alumnus. Dr. Prinz held a doctorate degree in physics from John Hopkins University and was a space scientist for the Naval Research Laboratory. In the 1970s, Dr. Prinz was the first woman selected to be trained as a payload specialist y NASA, and was scheduled to be sent into space. Her flight was cancelled following the 1986 Challenger explosion. She worked in a field dominated by men. In the early 1970s, when she was an official involved in a satellite launch at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, Dr. Prinz had to improvise, because there were no women’s restrooms at the site. She was the recipient of the Navy Award for Merit for Group Achievement, the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award and the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award. Dr. Prinz volunteered for the Navy Community Outreach Program and gave lectures about space research at schools in the Washington, D.C. area.