Hall of Honor

History of The Distinguished Hall of Honor

The Hall of Honor, which began in 2006, recognizes those alumni who have distinguished themselves beyond their high school years through their significant accomplishments or service. The distinguished alumni are feted on both Friday and Saturday of the Hall of Honor weekend. Friday, the honorees meet with students at the high school, tour the building, speak to a number of classes, are served lunch by the Culinary Academy in the Blackhawk Cafe, and are presented with their plaques which are prominently displayed in the high school auditorium foyer. Saturday, the honorees are feted at a banquet in their honor at the Aurora Country Club and are presented with replicas of their Hall of Honor plaques.

The Hall of Honor program’s goals are to honor distinguished alumni for their achievements and national / international impact and to raise the self-expectations of West Aurora students with the realization that the distinguished alumni grew up in their neighborhoods and attended their schools.

The A+ Foundation continues to seek distinguished alumni to add to its Hall of Honor. If you would like to nominate someone, please fill out the online nomination form or contact Ingrid Roney, ingridroney@sd129.org.

Hall of Honor Recipients


 Dr. Julie Cassiday, Class of 1982

A preeminent scholar and Professor of Russian at Williams College As a college professor, the essence of Dr. Cassiday’s work has been to nurture, teach, and mentor young people. Dr. Cassiday travels extensively for her work and has been invited to present her research at academic venues around the world. Her numerous academic publications have added to the understanding of Russian theater and film, gender and sexuality in Russia, and popular culture in Putin’s Russia. Dr. Cassiday has achieved eminence and recognition as a proponent of social equality for LGBTQ individuals worldwide. Her extensive research on gender and sexuality as culturally constructed phenomena contributes significantly to the understanding of recent trends – both for greater inclusion of LGBTQ subjects and of global homophobia – that affect young people not only in the United States but around the world. She has spoken at Oxford University, The Ohio State University, Stanford University, the European University in St. Petersburg, Harvard University, and the University of Oregon on this subject.

Dr. William B. Farrar, Class of 1967

A distinguished scholar in the field of surgery, cancer research, and practice. He currently serves as the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; the Director of the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center; Medical Director of Credentialing, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute; Professor of Surgery, The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center; and the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solve Chair in Surgical Oncology. He has received over eleven million dollars in grants for Breast and Bowel Cancers Research and given over 200 presentations on cancer research. He has published over 100 articles on cancer research and authored chapters within fourteen books. Included in these articles is how cancer-related treatments impact the whole patient and how these treatments relate to depression and anxiety. He speaks to that whole patient and his overall health and recovery. Dr. Farrar has also been recognized by his peers and by professional organizations for his contributions as an educator, researcher, and physician.

Dr. Timothy Fisher, Class of 1987

Chair of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, UCLA. He leads the Nanoscale Transport Research Group, which studies transport processes by electrons, photons, and fluids, addressing problems in aerospace, energy, micro-and nanoelectronics, and sensor systems. He and his team are studying how to diminish/equalize the effects of heat as it is produced on or in an object hurtling or computing at great rates of speed. Dr. Fisher has developed nanotechnology to capture and spread the heat around or through the internal components of aircraft or the outer ‘skin’ of an object, cooling the aircraft/electronics to keep them from overheating and becoming victim to burn out. The applications of this technology are far-reaching - NASA, airlines, computers, and the like. Dr. Fisher is also the founding director of the Center for Integrated Thermal Management of Aerospace Vehicles, which is supported by the US Air Force Research Laboratory. His technical success, combined with his success as a mentor and teacher, has earned him numerous honors and awards. He is well-published in his field and respected by colleagues and students alike.

Mr. Raphael L. Podolsky, Class of 1961

Attorney/legislative advocate for the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut negotiating with the Connecticut legislature for low-income housing, landlord-tenant issues, family issues, and consumer rights. His specialty has been housing - particularly landlord-tenant law - and he has been involved with most of the housing legislation before the Connecticut General Assembly. He served on the first Blue Ribbon Commission on Housing in 1987-1989, as one of the principal drafters of the Affordable Housing Appeals Procedure, and on the second Blue Ribbon Commission in 1999-2000. He created the Legal Services Housing Index, a research manual for housing lawyers. And, he was one of the authors of an amicus brief to the Connecticut Supreme Court on Connecticut’s retaliatory eviction statute. He has played critical roles in the adoption of the statutes related to plain language in consumer contracts, repossession of consumer goods, limitations on attorney fees, debt collection practices, and rent-to-own contracts. He was one of the founders of Kehilat Chaverin (Community of Friends). Kehilat Chaverim was established to find ways to express Jewish identity that is independent of synagogue affiliation.

The Honorable Eric P. Whitaker, Class of 1974

28 years in the US Foreign Service, positions as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and current posting as the US Ambassador to Niger. Whitaker’s career in service began as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. He joined the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer. The bulk of his assignments have been in Africa. He served as Director of East African Affairs and Acting Deputy Assistance Secretary of State for East Africa and the Sudans at the Department of State. Whitaker’s overriding focus was the humanitarian efforts. He has countered violent extremism and terrorism, assisted in resettling refugees, provided services to American citizens overseas, and promoted democracy and human rights. In his most recent role as Ambassador to Niger, Whitaker has the responsibility for American citizens as well as his Nigerien Embassy personnel. He has earned recognition by the people he serves, and he has earned 12 Superior or Meritorious Honor Awards at the Department of State, as well as the Department of Defense’s Meritorious Civilian Honor Award.

Kristen Ziman, Class of 1991 

Chief of Police, Aurora, Illinois. From her cadet years to her being named the first female Police Chief in the State of Illinois happened in 27 years. She is sought as a Keynote speaker. She sits on the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor Committee and works with the Illinois Sentencing Police Advisory Council. As a former President of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, she continues to mentor women in Law Enforcement. She sits on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Former FBI Director, James Comey, selected Ziman to give input on issues of race, domestic violence, and homicides. She was awarded a FEMA grant to fight terrorism and selected as one of twenty law enforcement professionals to discuss reducing sexual assault on Uber and like platforms. Former Vice President, Joe Biden, selected her to collaborate on gun control laws. Her education includes degrees from Boston University, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Naval Post Graduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security. She is working with the department in developing a Critical Incident Intelligence Center and Drone Program, and is involved in the United Way, the National Latino Peace Officers’ Associationthe LGBTQ Equality Commission, and through IACP improving relationships between police and the mental health community.



Robert McWethy, Class of 1937

Graduated with distinction from the Naval Academy in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for submarine duty and joined the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco in the South Pacific.  After finishing intense training at submarine school, he chose duty assignment with the newly constructed USS POGY.  After sea trials in 1943, the submarine made 6 war patrols from Pearl Harbor and Midway Island, sinking or damaging 23 enemy ships, for which McWethy earned the Silver Star.  At the age of 24, he was given the first of his 5 commands.  Post war, Lieutenant Commander McWethy’s posts included the submarines USS PICUDA, the SKATE (a target ship for the Pacific A-bomb tests), and the USS ENTEMEDOR.  In 1949, he was assigned to the icebreaker USS BURTON ISLAND, and from there McWethy developed the groundbreaking plans for submarines to operate under the Arctic ice pack, for which he was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal in 1958. In 1965, he was named Commodore of Oceanographic System Atantic, the secret sound surveillance system for tracking subs which led to his 1969 major command. The final assignment, was the USS PROVIDENCE, a guided missile cruiser with a crew of 1400+. Retired from active duty, McWethy continued to teach sailing to midshipmen.

Thomas Ochsenschlager, Class of 1962 

Had, for 8 consecutive years, been named to the Top 100 Most Influential People by the national magazine, Accounting Today.  He has been sought after by venues such as ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN, PBS, Wall Street Journal and other main stream media to explain the technical aspects of tax policy.  Throughout his career, first as Principal for Arthur Young where he was responsible for their Washington DC tax department to his partnership with Grant Thornton LLP where he tracked legislative tax developments and, finally, as Vice President of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants where he interacted with the IRS, Treasury, and Congress in his DC post, Mr. Ochsenschlager impacted US tax policy.  After his retirement from the AICPA in 2010, he taught at George Washington University and he continues to serve as a consultant on technical tax topics.

Dennis R. Olden, Class of 1957

Began his career as a pilot for Northwest Airlines, after leaving service as a US Army First Lieutenant serving as a Psychological Operations officer at Ft. Chaffee, AK, Fort Jackson, SC, and Ft Devens, MA.  As a pilot for Northwest he flew sic aircraft types retiring as a Senior Captain on the Boeing  747-400 flying international routes.  He also served as an instructor on the Boeing 757.  While a pilot he served as Chairman of the Retirement and Insurance committees for Northwest pilots and also the National Airline Pilots Association.  He chaired the Finance and Insurance Committee for the International Pilots Association in London, England where he was awarded the Scroll of Merit, the highest award an airline pilot can receive worldwide.  He is one of only 50 airline pilots from the US to have received this award.  As a Certified Senior Advisor he saved the healthcare and pension benefits for the retirees of Northwest, US Air, and Delta Air Lines  when those airlines were in bankruptcy.  He has served on the National Board of Trustees of the Arthritis Foundation and also served for eight years as Chairman for the Florida Chapter.

2017 Friend of A+ Foundation Award Recipient

The Dunham Fund, Established by John C. Dunham in 1996, the Dunham Fund was funded in 2007 in accordance with the provisions of Mr. Dunham’s trust.  The fund continues to be nurtured during the intervening years by Mr. Dunham and a board of personally appointed advisors.  The Dunham Fund honors Mr. Dunham’s life and philanthropy through grants to Aurora, Illinois area organizations that have the vision and programs to help fulfill Mr. Dunham’s dream of “making the world a more comfortable, safer place for mankind to live and prosper.”  The Dunham fund is a self-sustaining money maker as well as a gifting organization. It seeks grant applications from organizations that — like Mr. Dunham — encourage innovation and collaboration in educational and community development programs and projects to effect positive change in the Dunham Fund service area.  (information from dunhamfund.org)


Dr. Phyllis Bleck-Class of 1954

Dr. Bleck followed one of her passions at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University where she majored in music. She continued musical studies in Trumpet at the University of Southern California where she received a D.M.A. in music.  She played trumpet for the North Carolina Symphony, the Florida Symphony Orlando, The Pittsburgh Wind Symphony, the Tanglewood Berkshire Music Center, and the Symphonica Nationalde in Peru, South America.  Her expertise was not limited to music as in 1977 she began her medical studies at Rush Medical and continued studying surgery at University of Illinois.  She began her cardiovascular surgical residency at Rush Presbyterian and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.  She continued her medical career at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center where she was both a surgeon and a professor. Dr. Bleck also served as staff doctor at Rush Copley, Provena-Mercy, Delnor, Edward, Sherman, and Valley West hospitals. Dr. Bleck currently resides in Aurora.




Dr. Rodger Pielet- Class of 1979

Dr. Rodger Pielet, Class of 1979, surgeon and noted professor, believed that appearance is the foundation of a person’s self-confidence, esteem, and value.

A 1987 graduate of Tulane’s medical school, Dr. Pielet served ten years as a faculty member at the University of Chicago’s School of Surgery. He taught laser physics and laser training, gaining national and international renown in the practice of Portrait PCA. Dr. Pielet’s work led to his private practice in Chicago in 1997, while continuing to serve as a clinical associate at the University of Chicago.

He donated time and services to the Northwest Medical Teams and Doctors Without Borders in remote Mexican villages and performed reconstructive surgery on those with congenital deformities. Dr. Pielet’s volunteerism also extended to Chicago’s Esteem Makeover Team, where individuals without the means to correct significant physical problems receive physical make-overs.

He was an active member of the prestigious American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the Chicago Society of Plastic Surgery and the Midwestern Association of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr. Pielet received recognition for his surgical techniques and innovations. Dr. Pielet has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald. He made appearances on radio and television programs including Fox News, WGN-TV, NBC-5, Access Hollywood, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah After the Show. In addition, he is the author of numerous scientific articles, textbook chapters, and lectured on the scope of plastic surgery and reconstructive microsurgery. Dr. Pielet passed away on January 18, 2014.


Dr. Michael Fagel- Class of 1970

Dr. Michael J. Fagel’s mission to “protect, defend and deter acts of terrorism by planning, education and training worldwide” are his life and avocation.

Dr. Fagel’s inspiration came from his parents, Harold and Shirley and many wonderful teachers. His activities at West - Trainer, AV Tech, and Business Manager - led to 25 years as an EMT volunteer in college and the North Aurora Fire Department. Teaching local fire departments led to teaching nationally; working in the family business spread his reputation nationwide.

FEMA recruited him. Three weeks in Oklahoma City after the April, 1995 bombing led to 100 days in New York after September 11, 2001. Charles Blaich, Deputy Chief, the Fire Department of New York said: “(Mike Fagel) organized, directed, and cajoled until order again appeared in our efforts for the thousands of personnel struggling at rescuing and recovering the victims of 9/11. Many of the Ground Zero workers have their health still intact because of Mike’s courage and efforts.”

Dr. Fagel serves the Departments of Defense, Justice, Energy, and Homeland Security. His adjunct University appointments include: University of Chicago and Northwestern University in their masters programs, as well as appointments at Illinois Institute of Technology, Northern Illinois University, Louisiana State University, East Kentucky University and Aurora University.

Award winning author, TV and radio contributor, Dr. Fagel provides insightful solutions to help communities, organizations, and nations become better prepared to cope with disasters. He’s “like finding a goldmine in your own backyard.” (Kane County Public Health Committee)

Dr. Joan Swinehamer Edwards- Class of 1963

Dr. Joan Swinehamer Edwards has had a national and international impact. Her education includes degrees from the Copley Memorial School of Nursing, University of Illinois, University of Washington, and University of Texas. She is currently Professor and Director of the Center for Global Nursing Scholarship at Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Edwards also spent four years teaching in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia as a medical missionary where she translated English nursing textbooks into Indonesian for her students.

In addition to teaching nursing, Dr. Edwards’ career includes years of practice in labor and delivery, leadership of two People-to-People Ambassadorship Program’s Women’s Health and Midwifery delegations to China, and world-wide conference presentations. Her research and invaluable mentoring services are matched only by numerous professional journal articles.

In 2006, she was elected President of the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), a prestigious, international, 24,000 member organization. She was instrumental in broadening AWHONN’s focus to include the global healthcare needs of women and newborns.

A 2011 Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Edwards conducted research and piloted a project to compare current Indonesian undergraduate nursing curricula with the 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) global standards for initial education of professional nurses. While fulfilling her Fulbright trajectory, Dr. Edwards worked with nurse leaders and encouraged them to use the WHO document to achieve an Indonesian Nursing Practice Act. The culmination of Dr. Edwards’ consultation resulted in the passage into law of the first Indonesian Nurse Practice Act in September, 2014.


Dr. Linda Demetry Cowan- Class of 1966

Following in the footsteps of great women researchers like Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Rosalind Franklin, and so many others, Dr. Linda Demetry Cowan left her mark on the field of Public Health. While at West High, she knew the key to her future depended on her education. In 1970 she received her BS in Nursing, 1972: Master’s in Nursing Education, 1975: Master’s in Public Health, and in 1979: PhD in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Her formal education complete, she went to work as a biomedical research scientist before becoming a professor and medical researcher at the University of Oklahoma.

During her 27 years at OU which led her to be appointed Chair of her department, Dr. Cowan served as a visiting professor at Harvard and New York University and as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. As a tribute to her desire to cure disease and improve public health around the world, she received many distinguished awards, including the most prestigious honor given to any professor at OU: the George Lynn Cross Research Professorship.

Her research took her to many places around the world, including Africa, where she risked her own health to find solutions to public health problems claiming countless lives of children and adults alike. Linda committed her life to the betterment of the human condition without consideration to the location of the problem.



Bruce Scafe- Class of 1960

Bruce Scafe has had a career as a musician, television director, producer and teacher. His most noted accomplishment is the creation of the longest running music television program, Austin City Limits on PBS. The show started in 1975 and has been in continuous production. The show’s pilot, directed by Scafe in 1974, featured a relative unknown, Willie Nelson. Scafe also directed Billy Joel’s and REO Speedwagon’s first TV shows.

Col. Adam Slaker- Class of 1873

Col. Adam Slaker graduated from West Point in 1877, as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted four times throughout his service. During his tenure, which lasted through WWI, Slaker became aware of what made guns effective. This knowledge may have led him to author, “Steel as Gun Metal.” Slaker contended that steel be used in “small arms” and “considering the possibilities of the alloy, it is to be hoped that experiments will be made with a view to introducing it in the manufacture of heavy guns.” His conclusions were aligned with the U.S. decision to make its weaponry of steel.


Dr. James Puklin- Class of 1959

Dr. James Puklin, a retina specialist and fellowship-trained ophthalmologist who specializes in vitreo-retinal diseases, is a Professor of Ophthalmology at Wayne State University School of Medicine Detroit and a retina expert at Kresge Eye Institute. His more than 260 presentations, dozens of grants, 58 published scientific articles, and six book chapters are proof of his dedication to the field of ophthalmology.


Dr. William Beschorner- Class of 1965

Dr. Beschorner’s compassion for his patients and his frustration in treating their leukemia made him accept the challenge of finding a way to eliminate the rejection of transplanted organs (bone marrow). He was a pioneer in xenotransplantation, the science of transplanting organs from one species to another. In addition, his work with bone marrow transplants and pathology was internationally recognized.


Kittie Barton Frantz- Class of 1961

Kittie Barton Frantz is an internationally renowned breastfeeding advocate, pediatric nurse practitioner, educator and filmmaker. Called the “mother guru of breastfeeding,’” she was designated a “national treasure” by Mothering Magazine.


Carol Cauldwell McElroy- Class of 1961

A teacher of English who has educated one hundreds of young professionals and university students from Afghanistan to Yemen and a myriad of countries in between. She and her husband, Richard, go into developing countries to teach children and adults ways in which to better themselves and their communities. She has also influenced many by instructing teachers on how they can become more effective in their classrooms.

Edgar Neil Foster, Jr.- Class of 1938

A world famous magician invited to perform at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He was the editor of The New Tops, a trade journal for magicians, edited several magic books, invented many effects marketed by Abbot, a national magic firm which he managed and acquired and ran the Chavez School of Magic.

Michael Oros- Class of 1980

Is a Prosthetist and Orthotist, a faculty member of Northwestern University’s orthotic/prosthetic program and president of an orthotics and prosthetics firm. He ideates innovative ways to implement traditional prosthetics fittings. His personal attention to the details of his patients’ ease of movement involves everything from finding ways to allow a patient to take a shower to fitting diabetics with limbs that would not damage skin integrity. His expertise extends beyond the borders of the United States as he and a team of associates make yearly trips to remote villages


Robert Garrison- Class of 1954

An astronomer, author and educator. His primary research has involved the discovery and description of certain types of stars. He is known by colleagues as a meticulous researcher and inspiring teacher. He has taught undergraduates, graduates and Vatican Observatory Summer School students on the basics of astronomy and, more specifically, the advanced areas of the Milky Way Galaxy and analysis of the stellar contents of star clusters, making each of these topics more accessible for his students.


Bruce Kammenzind – Class of 1976

Bruce Kammenzind is an engineer for the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory which supports the United States Nuclear Naval Program. The laboratory designs, oversees the construction and supports the operation of the U.S. nuclear-powered submarine and aircraft carrier fleet. He has been with the Bettis Laboratory for 33 years. Currently, Kammenzind is a manager of the Reactor Core Materials Technology subdivision, with approximately 50 engineers and scientists reporting to him. His group is responsible for research and development work supporting reactor core material performance in the nuclear Navy fleet and in new designs. Kammenzind has edited two books on the performance of zirconium alloy in the nuclear industry for ASTM International, and has published approximately 20 technical papers.

J. Scott Jordan – Class of 1980

J. Scott Jordan is a professor of Psychology and director of the Institute for Prospective Cognition at Illinois State University. He has developed an international reputation as a cutting-edge scholar on the topic of human cognition, with a special emphasis in the area of consciousness. Jordan has been an invited scholar at universities in Germany and Japan and has given more than 40 invited colloquia at internationally renowned institutions, including the McDonald Institute of Archeological Research at the University of Cambridge, England; The Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich, Germany and The Riken Brain Institute in Tokyo, Japan. Jordan also has edited three books and published more than 40 papers.

Martha Evans Sloan – Class of 1957

Martha Sloan is a professor and associate chair of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. She is especially noted for her groundbreaking service to engineering societies. Sloan is the first woman to serve as president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Computer Society, the IEEE, and chair of the American Association of Engineering Societies. Her early committee work in computer engineering curricula laid the basis of what is now one of the three largest engineering disciplines.

Raymond W. Reed – Class of 1964

Raymond Reed was a dedicated advocate, counselor, educator and administrator whose own progressive hearing loss enhanced his commitment to assisting others in achieving communication access and living fully while being deaf or hard of hearing. Reed began his 25-year career as a counselor and instructor at the Delgado College Regional Education Center for the Deaf. Later, he obtained his doctorate in Special Education and Habilitation and served as a specialist with the Communication Access Technology and Training Services within the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Walter Bothe – Class of 1959

Walter Bothe achieved national recognition as a security professional, and was most eloquently memorialized for his achievements by Dr. Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller and news anchor Ted Koppel at his death in 1987. He served as Director of Security for Dr. Henry Kissinger and as the Senior Security Advisor for David Rockefeller and the Rockefeller family. He traveled the world providing personnel protection for the Rockefeller family and for Dr. Kissinger in that capacity. Bothe began his career as a special agent for the United States Secret Service, conducting many high profile investigations as a member of the elite Federal Organized Crime Strike Force. In a subsequent position with the USSS, he provided personnel protection to then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during Kissinger’s many shuttle diplomacy trips to the Middle East, engagement in the Vietnam peace talks and key diplomatic role in the opening of China.

William C. Gifford – Class of 1959

William Gifford has been a lawyer, author, and teacher of great distinction. As a specialist in U.S. and international tax law, he worked in Washington, New York, and Paris as a partner in three leading law firm, planning, negotiating, and implementing the tax aspects of large international business transactions. He taught income taxation, international tax planning, business planning, commercial law, and estate planning as a regular faculty member at the law schools of Cornell and the University of Alabama. He has also taught various tax law courses at New York University, University of Virginia, Yale, and Columbia. He has written several books and dozens of articles on tax law and related subjects. Gifford shares the distinction of membership in both the Hall of Honor and West High’s athletic Hall of Fame with Jim Groninger, a 2011 Hall of Honor inductee.


J. Allison (Al) Binford - Class of 1948

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, 
A beautiful day for a neighbor, 
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?  
Won’t you be my neighbor?

This refrain conjures up an image of a sweatered gentleman who came into the lives of children nationwide. And, for the millions who didn’t ‘touch that dial,’ Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood also served as an introduction to an NET (National Educational Television later to become PBS) series, “What’s New,” an award winning show hosted by the neighbor West Aurora is proud to call one of its own, J. Allison (Al) Binford, Jr.

Binford, raised on Calumet Avenue, graduated as a member of West Aurora’s Class of 1948. Binford’s eclectic pursuits at his alma mater may have been the precursors for his successes as a pioneer in public broadcasting.

Al Binford - member of West High’s National Honor Society (1946 - 1948) -- aside from his BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Chicago in 1951, Binford was instrumental as a producer/director/writer for groundbreaking instructional programs for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Archdiocese. He also hosted “Children’s Fair” a daily educational program for youngsters as well as, beginning in 1963, produced and supervised WTTW’s local children’s and public affairs programming while serving as Executive Producer for Public Affairs.

Al Binford discovered his flair for the English language nurtured by his high school English teachers, Marian Winteringham, Oleda Rislow and Louise Lane (1946 - 1948) -- during his years at WTTW (1962 - 1973), Binford produced and directed several notable documentaries for PBS including “The Battered Child,” the first National documentary on Child Abuse and “Stand Up for Counting” about two boys, one black and one white, as they confront the racial values in America.

Al Binford - president of his high school Freshman class (1945) -- in the mid 1980’s, Binford’s leadership skills led to his supervising a production department that won several Emmys for Connecticut local programs. His staff also received several awards from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting for programming and personal accomplishments, including the personal advancement of women in broadcasting.

Al Binford - member of the mighty Blackhawks basketball team (1945 - 1948) -- In 1987, Mr. Binford signed on as Director of Marketing and Development for WYIN, Indiana, and raised contributions from virtually zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars using Indiana and Purdue University basketball games and PBS-style commercials as the driving force.

Many accolades accompanied his professional pursuits. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson invited Binford to the White House for the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act -- an honor afforded him because of his hosting 400+ programs in the “What’s New” series. While at WTTW, he was awarded an Emmy for the teenage talk show “Our Two Cents Worth.” And, in 2010 The Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame inducted Binford, and his name sits alongside those of other media greats such as John Drury, Paula Zahn and Bruce and Claire Newton.

In 1999, the West side welcomed home its famous son, his lovely wife, Lois, and daughters, Lauren and Erin. Binford returned to Aurora as Associate Editor of Country Business magazine for Country Sampler in St. Charles and served as editor of all Sampler publications. Now, Binford describes himself as “unofficially retired” but, knowing his personal drive, he will still be looking for the next big challenge.

Binford’s “What’s New” had a theme song of its own. Every day, children would hear "In and out...and round about.....here and there....and everywhere!“ These lyrics proved to be prophetic and continue to serve as a chronicle for J. Allison Binford a 2011 inductee to the West Aurora Hall of Honor.

James Groninger -- Class of 1962

Although he has travelled far and wide as a result of his professional and charitable pursuits, James Groninger’s heart still beats to the Roll On rhythm of a West Aurora Blackhawk.   As a 1990 inductee to West's Sports Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements in football, basketball and track, Mr. Groninger continues to score touchdowns in his educational and professional careers.

Ever the Blackhawk, James Groninger was a contender even during his high school years.  He was a devastating tackler at linebacker as well as a punishing, high scoring running back leading West High to the Big 8 Conference championship in 1960.  He also excelled at basketball starting as a rugged Blackhawk forward.  His drive and endurance also earned him a place in the National Honor Society his junior year. Add to all his high school accomplishments being named an Eagle Scout, and it is no wonder that his years at West became the training ground on which Groninger developed the skills that led to his future successes.

Groninger earned a Bachelor of Science from Yale University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. At Yale, Groninger, a three time varsity letter winner in football and lacrosse, garnered numerous awards and commendations including the Francis Gordon Brown Award for Leadership and Academic Achievement, The Neely Mallory Award for Academic Achievement, Leadership, and Character and membership in the 1966 All-American LaCrosse Team.  Academically, he amassed a similar all-star status with Dean’s List honors his freshman, junior and senior years. His tenure at Harvard was no less impressive with his ranking in the top 1/4 of the class of 1968 while adding his athletic prowess to their Rugby Club.

After his successful academic career, he stormed onto the field in the world of finance.  From 1970 through 2004, Groninger worked as an Associate, Principal, Partner or Managing Director with investment banking firms where his focus was raising equity capital for small, rapidly growing companies.  Some of these companies, such as Reebok and Bob Evans Farms Inc., are quite well known and bear the winning Groninger touch.  

His excellence extends to his work in the field of charitable organizations, as well.  He has been a Trustee of The Chautauqua Institution, a nationally recognized education and cultural institution, since 2007.  He has also served as Director and member of the Finance Committee for the Richmond Virginia Ballet Company, sponsored the Fresh Air Fund, and assisted in strengthening the Hope Project which does construction for low income housing.

Currently, James Groninger is CEO and President of LBS Technologies, a privately-owned biotechnology company which develops and commercializes patents in the fields of genomics and proteomics.  He also serves on the boards of several biotechnology companies, many involved with stem cell research. One such company NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Bedminster, New Jersey, is a company in the forefront of developing new treatment options for patients with gastrointestinal and endocrine disorders.  Another company, Expression Pathology, Inc., a private biotechnology company, leads the field in the development of innovative tissue protein analysis methods for research and diagnostic applications. In all capacities, he has been involved in the development of projects that do, and will continue to, advance medical science in the global environment. 

His focus on finance has extended to health care companies and companies specializing in providing environmental cleanup products and remediation services.  Companies such as Allied Waste Corporation, Ionics Inc., and Groundwater Technology are nationally and internationally recognized for their cutting edge technologies in solid waste disposal, water waste treatment, and groundwater remediation, respectively.

Mr. James Groninger, while never one to be sitting on the sidelines, does enjoy a respite from his frenetic professional schedule by spending time with his wife, Elisabeth, of 40 years and his two children, James, a physician residing in Arlington, MA, and Katherine, a graduate student at St. Andrews University, St. Andrews, Scotland.  Further relaxation techniques include gardening, swimming, and stamp collecting.

So, welcome back to West Aurora, Mr. Groninger.  We are proud of your accomplishments and prouder of the fact that you are one of us . . . continue your excellence, continue your involvement in innovation, and, of course, continue to Roll On!


Albert W. Alschuler– Class of 1958

Armed with skills developed as captain of West High’s State Finalist Debate Team, Albert W.Alschuler graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School where he was Case Editor of the Harvard Law Review. He clerked for Justice Walter V. Schaefer of the Illinois Supreme Court and served in the Justice Department during the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration. His teaching career began at the University of Texas at Austin, continuing at institutions including the University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley, Columbia, and the University of Chicago where he taught for twenty-two years and was Julius Kreeger Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology. In 2006, Alschuler assumed his current position as Professor of Law at Northwestern University. Alschuler has written over 100 articles on topics such as Federal Sentencing Guidelines, search and seizure, courtroom conduct, the right to privacy, and the ethics of the O.J. Simpson defense team. Alschuler was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Sutherland Prize from the American Society of Legal Historians. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Law and Society Association, Consultant to the Special Committee on Courtroom Conduct for the New York City Bar Association, and Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.


Annbritt (Gemmer) duChateau- Class of 1983

Annbritt (Gemmer) duChateau’s formal education includes multiple degrees from DePaul University's School of Music in Chicago. From her experiences at West High as an member of many bands and the pit orchestra for spring musicals to her recent engagement as Musical Director for the international showing of Mary Poppins, Annbritt would agree, however, the education received on-the-job is the most beneficial. She has been Associate Conductor for such Broadway productions as Les Miserables, Frogs, Pal Joey, Phantom of the Opera, and Into the Woods. Her talent also has garnered her positions as Assistant Conductor for the National tours on Kiss Me, Kate, and Musical Director - Conductor of Miss Saigon and Aspects of Love. Her keyboard skills have been captured on several Tony and Grammy-nominated cast albums. duChateau’s resume reflects venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, Studio 54, London's Royal Albert Hall, and the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center and stars such as Vanessa Williams, Nathan Lane, and Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of the band ABBA. Annbritt’s musicianship and intelligence have proven to be her entree into the highly competitive (and primarily male dominated) field of music directors in the Broadway theater industry.

Arthur R. Wyatt– Class of 1945

Arthur Wyatt, a three-time alumnus of University of Illinois / Champaign (UIUC) completing his Doctorate in Accounting in 1953, taught accounting and coached golf at UIUC leaving in 1966 to become a partner at Arthur Andersen & Co. in Chicago. After his retirement, Wyatt’s love of accounting led him to continue teaching as an adjunct professor of accounting at Northwestern University and UIUC. Wyatt served as director of Inprimis Inc. and director of First Busey Corporation from 1995 through 2009. He has sat on many boards and committees, among them University YMCA, Alumni Foundation Fund for the Alpha Delta Phi Illinois Chapter, Campaign Illinois, Andersen Campaign Leader, and Advisor to the Dean of UIUC College of Business. His expertise in accounting led to many awards including his induction into the Accounting Hall of Fame in 1998, service to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and the Accounting Exemplar Award -- American Accounting Association in 2000. Add to those his authorship of several accounting books and contributions to numerous journals, Arthur R. Wyatt emerges as a dedicated participant in nurturing both the roots and growth of the field of accounting.

Pam Kohn Hait– Class of 1961 

Participation in A Cappella Choir, Girls’ Club, Writers’ Committee for the Choir Show, Music Appreciation Club, Cheerleading, Fall Play, Pep Club, and Speech Team gave Pam Kohn Hait a broad base from which to create her articles and books. Hait began her career as a journalism student at Northwestern University. Her ability to capture pictures in words continued as she published for Rand McNally, Resident and Staff a national medical magazine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Phoenix Magazine and a host of other venues. She has written articles on issues ranging from news and economics, to design, art, humor, and tourism for such notable publications as USA Today, Travel and Leisure, Metropolitan Home, McCalls, Forbes, and Life Magazine. Ladies Home Journal selected Hait to conduct the first media interview with newly appointed, Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. Hait has authored more than a dozen books whose topics run the spectrum from History of the American Society of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons, Inc., to Paul Calle: An Artist’s Journey, to The Tao of Time. Currently, Hait works through her own company ‘Strategies,’ providing marketing and strategic planning services to clients throughout the southwestern U.S., Mexico, U.K., and Europe.


Stephen F. Sundlof -- Class of 1969

Stephen F. Sundlof, in his position as Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in Washington D.C., oversees the regulation of the $1 trillion U.S. food industry. Under his supervision, the FDA is responsible for the safety of the U.S. food supply except for meat and poultry. Key among his responsibilities is constant vigilance for tracking down and removing contaminated foods from the market. Along with these life-saving investigations, Sundlof established federal regulations to prevent Mad Cow disease, and his leadership continues to ensure the safety of food for all citizens. His colleagues and the international community have sought his expertise as a liaison to the United Nations on issues of food safety standards. Sundlof sits on a number of international committees responsible for setting policy to ensure the safety of food and assist in international trade. His active membership in the in the American Academy of Veterinary and Comparative Toxicology, the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, and the American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in which he served as President attests to the breadth of knowledge and respect accorded him through his recognition by the University of Illinois as a 2008 Outstanding Alumni.

Thomas F. Gallagher -- Class of 1962

Although it seems to be a quantum leap from his high school forays with A Cappella Choir, Cross Country and debate teams, Thomas F. Gallagher’s career as an experimental physicist has been on a steady course ever since his graduation from West High. From his undergraduate career at Williams College to his graduate and doctoral work at Harvard University, Gallagher has devoted his talents to the study of atoms, in particular the Rydberg atom. His curriculum vitae includes positions as a Senior Physicist at SRI and Chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Virginia, where he currently holds the position of Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics. He also chaired the Annual Meeting of the Division of AMO Physics of the American Physical Society. Gallagher has published and co-published over 250 articles giving his field an extensive library of understanding which has,according to colleagues, “stimulated theoretical investigations, inspired new experiments, and provided physical insight into many other problems.” His awards and recognitions include: Fellow of the American Physical Society, Fellow of the Optical Society of America, the Davisson-Germer Prize of the American Physical Society, and Outstanding Scientist of Virginia.



Frank H. Wethy- Class of 1901

Thanks to Frank H. McWethy, an Aurora company was to play a significant role in the building of the Panama Canal. As vice president of the Aurora-based Stephens-Adamson Manufacturing Co. in its New York office, McWethy was able to secure several contracts that generated significant work and growth to the Aurora community.

Michael Cavender- Class of 1972

Michael Cavender has achieved national and regional recognition for broadcast journalism, including six Emmy awards and an Edward R. Murrow award for outstanding news programming, documentary productions and daily news reporting, writing and editing.

Dr. Phillip E. Johnson- Class of 1958

Dr. Phillip Johnson, long-time professor of law at the University of California-Berkeley, is not only the author of widely used textbooks on criminal law and criminal procedure, but he is also generally recognized internationally as one of the foremost critics of Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Randy Shilts- Class of 1969

Randy Shilts was an acclaimed journalist and author who gained international recognition with his book “And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic,” an account of the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.

Richard Olson- Class of 1947

As mayor of Des Moines, Iowa during the 1970s, Richard “Dick” Olson was not only leading force in stimulating almost $1 billion in new development to rejuvenate the city’s downtown, but he also was co-founder of the city’s Big Brothers mentoring program. From 1984 until 2002, Olson chaired the United States Olympic Committee for eight Midwestern states


Thomas C. Ewing- Class of 1969

Tom Ewing, senior vice president and general counsel of US Stores for Wal-Mart, assisted in the development of a generic prescription drug program that has helped millions of people obtain affordable medicine. The program allows customers to purchase one of 300 kinds of generic prescriptions for just $4.


Dr. George Everitt- Class of 1961

When the space shuttle reenters Earth’s atmosphere, protective tiles shield the vehicle and its occupants from the extreme heat. The tiles contain heat-resistant ceramic fibers developed and patented by George Everitt during his work as a research chemist at 3M Corporation and Imation. Those same fibers today shield rockets and aircraft, protect NASCAR drivers, line furnaces, prevent flames from burning through doors and walls and are used in firefighters’ clothing. In addition to his important contributions as a scientist, Everitt brought his exceptional organizational skills to bear in his work with the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.

Dr. R. Lawrence Hatchett- Class of 1977

Dr. R. Lawrence Hatchett, MD is a national leader in the field of urinary medicine. After a noteworthy career at Marquette University, where he was a student-body leader and four-year letterman on the varsity basketball team, Dr. Hatchett attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and later completed a fellowship through the Harvard University School of Medicine. He went into private practice in 1991 and became director of The Bladder Control Center of Tallahassee.

In 1996, Dr. Hatchett founded Incontinence Center Consultants, Inc., a national consulting firm designed to educate hospitals and physicians in the development of an incontinence niche through surgical training, market evaluation and practice marketing. Dr. Hatchett’s main interests lie in men’s health, benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), erectile dysfunction, and kidney stone treatment and prevention. As a leader in his field and has toured as a national speaker for a variety of health-related topics and consults on minimally invasive techniques to treat BPH. He founded Southern Illinois Urology in May of 2003 in Herrin, Ill.

Edward Ochsenschlager - Class of 1950

Edward L. Ochsenschlager, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, chaired the Department of Classical Languages for 8 years, the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology for 7 years, served on the Committee for Administrative Policy for 15 years and founded and directed the CUNY Archaeological Research Institute.

He served as the Director or Assistant Director of excavations at Aphrodisias in Turkey, Thumuis, Mendes and Taposiris Magna in Egypt, Sirmium in Yugoslavia, al-Hiba in Iraq, and Jujah in Yemen for, among others, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Institute of Fine Arts of NYU, the Brooklyn Museum, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Detroit Museum of Art with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and many private foundations. He has lectured extensively and given guest seminars at leading Universities both here and abroad.

Ochsenschlager has authored more than 40 books and articles, among them his 2004 book “Iraq’s Marsh Arabs in the Garden of Eden,” which has made a significant contribution to the discipline of ethnoarchaeology and recorded a way of life which no longer exists. His most recent work focuses on the relationship between classification, style and visual perception and a cognitive study of the link between the human mind and the origins of art.

H. Ashley Barber- Class of 1929

H. Ashley Barber (“Ash”) was an inventor of road building and materials handling equipment covered by 16 U.S. patents and a number of foreign patents. He was instrumental in applying the continuous principle of material handling and processing to a variety of applications. He played a major role in the development, testing and introduction of the first successful asphalt-paving machine and the continuous asphalt mixing plant that eventually were utilized all over the world. In addition, he is responsible for many of the innovations that are still used on virtually all asphalt pavers.

After graduation from West High, where he was a student leader and football captain, Barber earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1933 from the University of Illinois and joined Barber-Greene Mfg. Co. He was elected president in 1954 and retired as chairman in 1976. Barber served on the boards of Copley Memorial Hospital, Aurora Redevelopment Commission and Northern Illinois Gas. He was a member of the Illinois Governor’s Advisory Council and the Governing Board of the Illinois Council on Economic Education.

Jacqueline Pongracic - Class of 1979

Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD is working toward the elimination of children having to suffer from allergies and asthma. Featured in Chicago Magazine as one of Chicago’s top doctors of 2006, Dr. Pongracic heads the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago and is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.
Her clinical practice and research have focused on inner-city asthma and food allergy. She has been active in advocacy initiatives for children at the state and national level. She has also been an educator, teaching medical students, physicians, nurses and the public about food allergy and asthma. With her clinical practice and current academic research— a federally funded look at asthma among inner-city children and the Children’s Memorial Food Allergy Study—she is trying to find remedies for both of those afflictions.

Pongracic is a 1985 graduate of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and completed postgraduate training at North Shore University Hospital & Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1988, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1991.

Kathleen L. (Forsell) Caldwell- Class of 1979

As a research chemist, Kathleen L. Caldwell tackles diverse health issues from iodine deficiency and lead poisoning, leading causes of preventable brain damage in children to emergency response preparation for chemical/radiological terrorism. Caldwell, who earned a Ph.D in Chemistry from Emory University in 1998, is assistant chief of the Inorganic Toxicology and Radionuclides Laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control. She also is an assistant chief in the Inorganic Toxicology and Nutrition Branch of the Division of Laboratory Science in the National Center for Environmental Health.

Her duties include directing analyses for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and multiple human health studies. She directs research activities toward developing improved analytical methods for the detection of arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium in blood. Caldwell has contributed to the development of many new methodologies aimed at detecting harmful elements in the blood, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. Her work has helped insure future generations will be healthier generations.



Arthur Lage, DVM, DACVIM-Class of 1961

After building up the largest private veterinarian practice on the Atlantic Coast, Dr. Arthur Lage ’61 joined the faculty at Harvard. Today, he is an associate professor of Surgery and of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. In addition, Lage is director of Harvard’s Center of Animal Resources and Comparative Medicine, the Office of Animal Resources, and the Division of Surgery.

One of his innovations at Harvard is the “One Medicine” approach. He has brought together veterinarians, PhDs and surgeons to share their expertise. One result is the adaptation of a device veterinarians use in surgery for pediatric surgery. Lage has published 15 book chapters on clinical nephrology and urology. He also has 22 national/international refereed original publications in the fields of human, veterinary and comparative medicine. Lage also serves as the course director for Principles of Vertebrate Surgery at Harvard University and Renal Pathophysiology at Tufts University.

Eric Halfvarson- Class of 1970

Eric Halfvarson sings regularly with the world’s most prestigious opera companies and symphony orchestras. His 2005-06 season included appearances in productions in New York, London, Madrid, Torino and Washington, D.C. He also appears as a guest lecturer and master class teacher in various professional apprentice organizations attached to major opera houses and at Indian University. In 1993 he was designated “Artist of the Year” by the Washington Opera.

In 2002 Halfvarson was inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame. Many Aurorans will remember Halfvarson performing in the Aurora Festival Chorus with his father, Sten, as conductor or his performances of the “Messiah” with the Waubonsee District Chorus conducted by his mother, Lucille.

H. William (Bill) Habermeyer Jr.-Class of 1960

Nuclear energy is the thread that ties together the seemingly diverse careers of Bill Habermeyer ’60. His first career was with the Navy, primarily in the submarine service, although he also served as commandant of midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy. Along the way to being selected for the rank of rear admiral, Habermeyer was earned seven Legions of Merit, two Navy Commendation Medals and various other service and campaign awards.

Upon retirement he went to work for a power company, Progress Energy Florida, and is now its president and chief executive officer. Habermeyer also is chair of the Pinellas Education Foundation and serves as a director/trustee of the Suncoast Boys and Girls Clubs, the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, Eckerd College and the Council for educational Change. He also has taken leadership positions with several business and fin

John Drury- Class of 1945

John Drury devoted more than 50 years to broadcast journalism. He anchored news programs for CBS, WGN-TV and ABC 7. He also reported, investigated, researched and conducted interviews for countless stories. He interviews John F. and Robert Kennedy, Frank Capra and Richard Nixon. 
He also moderated presidential debates and took on Chicago City Hall over the way public money was used at city festivals and won.

During his career, Drury earned four Emmys and the Distinguished Journalism Award from the Better Government Association. He has been inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and the Museum of Broadcast Communications

Max Baratz- Class of 1952

Max Baratz served 42 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve. He received two Distinguished Service Medals, our nation’s highest service medal. He also received a Legion of Merit for service during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He retired as a Major General from Active army service in the Pentagon and completed his career as the Chief, Army Reserve, the highest position in the Reserve.

During his career he projected his personal interest in soldiers and their families by initiating such actions as special pay for reserve component physicians; support to mobilized college students; changes in the soldiers and sailors relief act; and support for changes and upgrade of Veterans Administration benefits for soldiers participating in Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

Paul Ormond- Class of 1967

Paul Ormond is the founder of the company that is now known as Manor Care, Inc., the largest provider of long-term care services in the nation. The company operates skilled nursing centers, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, home care and hospice businesses in 32 states. It has approximately 60,000 employees and generates about $3.5 billion in annual revenues. This year Fortune Magazine selected Manor Care, Inc., as one of America’s Most Admired Companies, giving it a number-one ranking for quality of management in the health care industry.

Ormond has used this platform to become a national leader and advocate for the elderly. He has advised three U.S. presidents as well as numerous members of Congress and state elected leaders on health care policy. Ormond also has served several times a chairman of a regional Alzheimer’s Disease Association fundraising campaign.

Robert Taggart- Class of 1961

Robert Taggart was a Stanford University graduate student in the late 1960s when he and colleague James Janky developed the first dish receiver that could receive television from satellites. Later, in 1979, Taggart founded Chaparral Communications in his garage to produce satellite dishes and other receiver components for this emerging market. Today, this company is a leading innovator and producer of satellite television products that are used in virtually every country in the world that receives satellite signals.

Taggart's company has produced more than 30,000 satellite dish receivers for the Edusat program in Mexico. The lack of sufficient teachers has created the need to develop educational programs that are transmitted visa satellite to primary and secondary children in remote areas. Taggart serves on the advisory boards for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, the School of Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University.

Ruth Van Sickle Ford- Class of 1915

As a young wife and mother in Aurora, Ruth VanSickle Ford ’15 studied, painted and worked as a commercial illustrator. Recognition came when, in 1921, her work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1930 Ruth began teaching at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Later, during the Great Depression, she purchased the school with money borrowed from friends. Some of her more famous students include Bill Mauldin, Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist, and Dick Locher, author and illustrator of the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Ford exhibited her work widely, garnering numerous awards, including prestigious gold and silver medals. Her watercolors and oils are to be found in many museums and private collections, including the Smithsonian Institution. Ford died in 1989, leaving as a legacy the hundreds of artists across the nation whom she trained, and a large body of work. Her paintings can be found at the Aurora Public Library, Aur

Tom Skilling- Class of 1970

Tom Skilling, chief meteorologist for WGN-TV News at Noon and News at Nine and the mastermind of the Chicago Tribune weather page, is known as "a weatherman's weatherman" by many in the field for his passionate, state-of-the-art and in-depth weather reporting. He has been honored by the National Weather Service for holding free tornado and severe weather seminars each spring at the Fermilab National Accelerator complex in Batavia. His clout attracts America's top meteorologists and researchers, while his WGN Superstation visibility draws thousands from all over the Midwest.

His most recent honor is the IBA Best Weather Show of 2004, as well as 2003 Silver Dome Award for Best Television Weathercast. Skilling's documentary work includes Emmy-Award-winning "The Sears Tower Versus Mother Nature." Skilling's award-winning tornado documentary, "It Sounded Like a Freight Train," and his "When Lightning Strikes" have been widely distributed for use in educational and public awareness efforts.

Wendell Minor- Class of 1962

Wendell Minor may be best known as an award-winning book illustrator and cover artist, but West Aurora High School students also know him as a muralist. His 24-by-9-foot mural of a young Abraham Lincoln reading is the first thing students see when they enter the school lobby. The former editor-in-chief of West High’s yearbook has gone on to a most prolific career. His cover illustrations have enhanced more than 2,000 works, including the covers of bestsellers by Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, Garrison Keillor, David McCullough, Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, Harper Lee, James Michener and Larry McMurty.

Minor is the author and illustrator of numerous award-winning children's picture books, some of which have been published internationally. His “Yankee Doodle America: The Spirit of 1776 from A to Z” was published in April. Minor is a charter inductee in the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame.

Friends of A+

Beginning in 2013, the A+ Foundation initiated the Friends of A+ Awards.  These awards honor individuals and/or organizations who have made significant contributions to the students in District 129 and who exemplify the traditions of Black Hawk, a man who was highly regarded for his wisdom, loyalty, bravery, and determination towards the interests of his people.  The Friends of A+ award recipients work behind the scenes to enhance the educational experience in and outside of the classroom.  Each year, at the Hall of Honor Banquet, A+ presents the recipients with replicas of the bust of Black Hawk created by Gareth Curtis.


Richard "Dick" Ebeling

This year’s 2016 Friend of A+ Award was presented to Richard ‘Dick’ Ebeling, a forty year veteran of the Science teaching staff at West Aurora High School.  In his final evaluation prior to retirement, Jill Bullo, Ass’t Principal wrote: “Dick Ebeling IS West Aurora High School - the traditions, the accomplishments, the recognition, and the high standards. Others can only strive to reach students in the way that Dick has been able to do for forty years.”  This accolade echoes hundreds of notes and letters that students, colleagues and administrators have shared with Dick throughout his years as a teacher.

 Dick, most notably, is the one teacher remembered as the most influential by a large number of our Hall of Honor recipients.  West’s good fortune was realized when  he stepped into the classroom and began his tutelage of its students.  Dick’s philosophy of ‘set your goals higher than you think you can achieve’ served him and his students through his forty years of teaching.  He pushed his students hard - especially the student whom others labeled as ‘average.’  He didn’t let his ‘kids’ quit, ever.  He admonished his students to “make the logical connection; don’t ignore the words in doing chemistry; don’t just memorize the periodic chart - use it to make educated connections.”  He remains the ultimate teacher.

 Much admired by his colleagues, they lauded him as “highly competent and accomplished with a powerful classroom presence” and realized that “Dick inspires me to be a better teacher.” Administrators wanted to harness that passion and offered Dick numerous opportunities to direct and shape the science curriculum in the District. He implemented the National Science Foundation’s SCIS and ESS curriculum that engaged all students; he chaired the West High Science Department; he was the Science Curricular Chair for the District.  But, the one step he wouldn’t take was to leave the classroom. When Carl Dillow offered him the position of assistant principal, Dick responded in characteristic style, “I won’t leave the kids.”  He embodies the heart and soul of the consummate educator.  The A+ Foundation for West Aurora Schools is proud to have honored him with the 2016 Friend of A+ Award.


Joanne Harris/ Tanya Wyeth

Joanne Harris – Established the Robert D. & Betty Hosler Harris Fund in honor of her parents; the fund’s namesakes.  Because of social, economic and academic pressures faced by many children, Joanne supports at-risk programs like the Success Academy and Todd Early Childhood Center.  She believes that our society cannot afford to waste the potential of any of our young children.

Tanya Wyeth – Tanya focuses her prodigious energy on the students, staff members and administration of our schools where she devotes her time.  Staff members who have worked with Tanya describe her as unique, a constant support and an individual with a terrific sense of humor.  All these coupled with a wonderful sense of giving make Tanya so deserving of recognition.


Community Foundation for the Fox River Valley/ Janet Momper

Community Foundation of the West Aurora Schools – is the A+ Foundation’s fiscal agent, holding all cash assets, providing the IRS required donor communications, the annual audit that gives donors the assurance they seek that financial transactions are being properly accounted for, and the record keeping that minimizes annual federal and state reporting requirements.  These CFFRV services give the A_ Foundation great comfort and allow A+ to focus on its mission of serving the students of District 129.  In addition to providing fiscal support, whenever A+ is faced with an unusual request from a prospective donor or have a technical question, Sharon Stredde, the President and CEO of CFFRV is the person to whom A+ turns for answers.  Her coaching and mentoring have been invaluable to A+.  Her vision and commitment to the mission of the CFFRV serve as a role model for all involved in public service.

Janet Momper – is an inspiration and leader of Friends of Aurora’s After-School Programs.  The fact that “if a student leaves third grade reading below grade level, there is a 74% chance that he or she will never catch up” sparked Janet to work closely with Cherie Esposito, principal of McCleery Elementary School and Amanda Talley, Janet’s teaching partner, to create a mentoring program in reading that has trained mentors who work with over 250 at-risk children a week.  The Friends of Aurora’s After-School Program include Lunch Bunch Book Clubs, Family Literacy Nights, the Hope for Tomorrow Reading Mentor Scholarship, and a Summer Library Program.  Janet’s efforts as a volunteer have made reading a skill that hundreds of students whom her organization has touched find enjoyable and rewarding



Jim & Betty Carson/ Brent & Jean Wadsworth

Jim & Betty Carson – give back to District 129 by giving their time to the children.  The Carsons are an ever-present, dynamic duo at Greenman School where they read with third graders.  This seemingly simple task does more than relate the “story”; their devotion helps the students with fluency, decoding, vocabulary and comprehension.  The Carsons greet each student with a friendly hello and the students always ask if they can read with the Carsons today.  As ultimate grandparents, they see these children at the store or as they walk through the halls of Greenman.

Brent & Jean Wadsworth – have become an integral part of District 129 through extensive financial support of the schools and programs.  They have been actively involved through their generous support of numerous programs, beginning with their involvement in 2002 where they have donated to all levels, elementary, middle school through high schools.  Some projects the Wadsworths have supported include ARTS – Art Reaching Students at Freeman School, Team Building at West High and Read with Me throughout District 129.  Each program impacted the lives of students beyond the classroom and into the future.