Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
1998 – Jack Overman
1999 – Dr. Donald Cooper
2001 – Ron Marrone
2002 – Dr. Robert M Golub
2003 – Dick and Kaye Lynne Webb
2004 – Don Gutteridge
2004 – Bob Timmons
2005 – Dr. Phillip Cedeno
2006 – Richard Miller
2007 – Vae Rose Fultz
2008 – Connie Scott Solomon
2009 – Rick Webb
2010 – Lt. Col. Charles S Chenowith II
2010 – John Matthew Knoll
2011– Dr. Travis Scott
2012 – Sheriff Sandy Horton
2013 – Paula Baker
2014 – Barbara Rhodes
2015 – John Lair
2016 – Henry Menghini
2017 – Dr. Joseph South
2018 – Gary Pepin
2019 - Joe Grisolano
2020 - Bill Russell
2021 - Caleb Hoyer
2022 - Dr. Nancy Brooker
Since 1998 this annual award has been given to Pittsburg High School graduates who have distinguished themselves through their work, personal accomplishments, or in the lives of others. These individuals serve to inspire our students to greater achievement.
Nominations are submitted each year to the USD 250 Foundation. The nominee:
• Must have graduated from PHS at least ten years prior to the nomination.
• Has made a significant contribution of time, talent or effort to their profession, community, country or the world.
• Possesses high moral character which serves as a positive example to others
• Demonstrates leadership in activities which promotes the greater good.
• Has made achievements that leave a lasting and positive effect.
1998 – Jack Overman, community supporter, PSU employee
Jack Overman was presented the first Distinguished Alumnus Award at the Pittsburg High School Graduation Ceremony. The Distinguished Alumnus Award was created to recognize the outstanding leadership, special contributions, and significant achievements that Pittsburg High School graduates have made in their profession, community, country or the world. By presenting the award at our high school graduation, we hope to inspire our students to greater achievement and service to others.
Mr. Overman graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1936. Throughout his life, he has been known to be a true giver. Active on the YMCA Board, Rotary, PSU Foundation, Hospital Foundation Board, First State Bank Board, and his church board, Mr. Overman has made significant contributions to Pittsburg as ha civic and community leader. A devoted state employee, he was honored by Pittsburg State University with the naming of Overman Student Center for him. Although now retired, Mr. Overman is still very active in all of the organizations mentioned above. Pittsburg Community Schools is honored to recognize Jack Overman as the first Distinguished Alumnus Award winner.
1999 – Dr. Donald Cooper, Sports Medicine physician
For more than half a century, Dr. Donald Cooper has roamed the sidelines of stadiums and arenas around the world. His circle of friends and acquaintances ranges from Jesse Owens to Arnold Schwarzenegger. When and where did his “sideline roaming” begin? The answer is Pittsburg High School way back in the mid-1940s where he volunteered for water boy after concluding that, at 5-foot-1 and 105 pounds, his participation options were limited.
From Pittsburg High School, Cooper went to Kansas State College in Pittsburg, where he served as team trainer and equipment manager and graduated in three years. He completed the University of Kansas Medical School in 1953. After service as a captain in the Air Force he began private practice in Manhattan, Kansas. In 1957 he became team physician for the Kansas State Wildcats and assistant director of student health services.
In 1960, Cooper moved to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater taking on the roles of team physician and director of the Student Health Center until 1990. He continued as team physician and the director of Athletic Medicine until his retirement in 1998.
For 38 years, Cooper served as OSU’s team doctor and was a favorite of fans. He is known for his vivid sideline manner. “I’ve been standing on sidelines and sitting on benches for over 50 years, and I’ve never gotten a technical foul or a penalty.” Said Cooper, I’ve been warned hundreds of times to be quiet.” Once when an OSU coach berated Cooper for attending to an injured opponent Cooper shot back, “This is somebody’s son. He’s hurt and I’m going to take care of him.”
Cooper does not reserve his penetrating voice for game officials and coaches. He has used his voice to become one of sports medicine’s most recognized figures. During his career he spoke widely to describe the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and bigger, faster, stronger bodies colliding on the football field. He appeared on national television programs and was quoted in books, magazines, and newspapers.
Among other career highlights, Cooper served as 1968 U.S. Olympic Team Physician, won the Edward Hitchcock Award for outstanding contributions to college health, and twice testified before Congress on issues related to sports medicine. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan and again by President George Bush, he served twelve years as a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Cooper chaired the first Russian-American Conference on Student Health. He has served the American Medical Association, NCAA, U.S. Wrestling Federation, International Federation of Body Builders, Southwestern and the American College Health Associations, National Athletic Trainer’s Association, U.S. Olympic Committee, and the Presbyterian Church.
2000 – Gary Zukav, author
After graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1960, Gary Zukav furthered his education and graduated from Harvard University. He also served in Vietnam as a Green Beret.
In describing his life, Zukav wrote, “My journey from an angry man with no regard for Life to who I am now has been long, often difficult, joyful, and extremely rewarding. It has shown me that anyone can make the same kind of journey in his or her own way. For the last ten years I felt that the best contribution that I could make to the world that is being born is to live a conscious life, challenge and heal the frightened parts of myself and be a good neighbor.”
In 1979 he wrote The Dancing Wu Li Masters which won The American Book Award for Science. The book explains quantum physics in terms a layman can understand. In 1989 he wrote The Seat of the Soul, a U.S. National Best Seller, about evolution and the soul. Together his first two books have sold two and a half million copies, and have been translated into sixteen languages.
Zukav wrote his third book, Soul Stories, in 2000. Soul Stories relates true stories that show how such concepts as intuition, harmony, sharing and forgiveness actually express themselves in people’s lives.
Zukav has also appeared numerous times on the Oprah Winfrey television program and is featured on her www.oprah.com website.
2001 - Ron Marrone, Class of 1969. Business owner, Marrone’s, community volunteer.
Ron Marrone is a person who epitomizes the graduate of the USD 250 school system whom we work to send out into the world based on the guidelines set forth in our mission statement. He is our student who continues to live, learn in and contribute to our ever changing society- and how lucky for us, that he has chosen to stay and do this in the Pittsburg community.
Marrone graduated from PHS in 1969 and has since become a vital part of the Pittsburg community. Ask anyone ins Pittsburg if they know Ron Marrone, and if they do not know him personally, they have read about him in the paper or heard his name.
Ron is part of everything that happens in Pittsburg. His peers refer to him as “Mr. Community” and say he is on about every civic committee that exists in Pittsburg. It is truly amazing how he finds the times to do all these things, run his business successfully and yet work closely with his family – but he does! Additionally, Ron serves in all these capacities as a volunteer, neither seeking nor getting reimbursement or recognition for his service.
Always encouraging and supportive, Ron goes out of his way to help, in any way he can, the students and staff at PHS as well as the other schools in USD 250. Because of his interest in the district, he has served on any committees, the last being the successful committee to pass the school bond issue last January. His unfailing enthusiasm and support is admired by all.
In 1994, Ron organized the PHS Alumni Association and quickly established a scholarship fund for graduating seniors of PHS. This scholarship fund has grown each year with contributions from alumni, through Ron’s promotion at class reunions, and the establishment of the annual PHS Alumni Basketball Game. Ron not only tries to inspire students to continue their education but also works to raise money needed to help them make their dreams and goals possible.
2002 – Dr. Robert M Golub, Class of 1973. Physician, Educator for Princeton, Harvard Medical Schools.
After graduating from PS in 1973, Robert M. Golub MD went on to attend Princeton University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1977. He then attended Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York where he received his M.D. in Internal Medicine in 1981. Later Robert went on to North Western Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he did his internship and residency from 1981 to 1985. The last year of his residency, he acquired the honor of Chief Medical Resident at the hospital.
Robert’s main contributions to his profession include a focus on curriculum development with teaching and significant professional achievement. He has been given the responsibility to figure out exactly how future doctors at one of the top medical schools in the country will be educated. Out of his work, he has been nationally and internationally recognized for his research, teaching and published writings.
The curriculum he has developed includes topics such as clinical epidemiology, study and design, literature critiquing, biostatistics, use and interpretation of diagnostic tests, psychology of decision making, decision analysis, medical informatics and computer decision aids. Because of these efforts, Robert has been on the visiting faculty for Stanford University Faculty Development Program and Decision Making since 1990.
At the request of Dr. Robert Fletcher of Harvard, Dr. Golub has provided his student and faculty guides to help Harvard Medical School develop courses with similar goals. He has also assisted with the development of curriculum at school in Japan, Hungary, Puerto Rico and other US institutions. Dr. Golub has an ongoing relationship with the University of Buenos Aires Medical School in Argentina where he has been on the visiting faculty since 1994. This program is jointly sponsored by Harvard School of Public Health. Robert is the only faculty member outside of Harvard that has been asked to teach in Argentina.
Much of Robert’s work involves clinical practice with patients, medical research and numerous writings for publications. Although he is very deserving of this award for his work in any of these areas, his accomplishments in teaching and training are outstanding. “I believe that being a physician is one of the most complex tasks a person can do. It involves a combination of skills and knowledge that includes communication, ethics, decision-making, economics, law and a huge body of science. These are being applied moment by moment directly with people who are all unique and therefore the physician must be able to appreciate the personality and culture, and to adjust their approach and application of these skills” says Golub.
2003 – Dick and Kaye Lynne Webb, Class of 1956. Founders of Watco Companies
Dick and Kaye Lynne Webb have been members of this community for virtually their entire lives. They both graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1956.
The Webbs exemplify graduates who have not only excelled personally and professionally, but have returned such time, talent and treasure to our community and to PHS.
They provide leadership to the Pittsburg community and their generosity is often unknown. They are a strong booster of many community projects and provide ideas, manpower, and monetary resources. They are well known among their peers as having a “no nonsense” approach to solving community problems.
In 1983, Dick Webb founded Wat.co Companies in Pittsburg with the assistance of Kaye Lynne and other family members. He has quietly been the driving force behind the development of this company which today is recognized in the transportation industry as a very successful, innovative leader in customer service, primarily involving rail related activities. Watco maintains a deep commitment to its associates, helping them to develop and improve in their roles in the community and workplace.
Today, with Dick’s foresight and the support/efforts of Kaye Lynne other family members and staff, Watco has a presence in 16 states, and the distinction of operating the largest privately held short line railroad network in the United States.
Over the years, the Webbs and Watco have brought educational opportunities such as the “A train” to the community, as well as investing time, money and effort into the proposed Immigrant Park. While many people are involved in their communities, the Webbs are the type of people who don’t just attend meetings – they roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Congratulations to Dick and Kaye Lynne Webb for your outstanding service to USD 250 and the community of Pittsburg.
2004 – Don Gutteridge, Class of 1930. Major League Baseball player, coach, manager.
Don Gutteridge participated in baseball for 62 years as a player, coach and manager. Shortly after graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1930, his baseball career began with the St. Louis Browns. He was a member of the Browns’ organization that won the pennant in 1944. He later joined the Boston Red Sox in 1946.
Don used his talents as a major league coach and manager after his playing days ended. From the sandlots of Pittsburg, Kansas, to the major leagues, he left an indelible mark on the game of baseball. He had great dedication and love for the game of baseball and served as a positive role model for others. Don played for the love of the game.
Don’s career highlights include:
First big league game at Ebbets Field sealed the dream of making it to the major leagues.
Involved in five double plays in Yankee Stadium in 1944, a record for many years.
Winning the American League Pennant with the St. Louis Browns in 1944.
Winning the American League Pennant with the Boston Red Sox in 1946.
Winning the American League championship as a coach, 1959, Chicago White Sox.
Scouting for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
Columbus, Ohio Hall of Fame
St. Louis Browns Baseball Hall of Fame
Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame
Pittsburg, Kansas Lifetime Achievement Award
The Don Gutteridge Sports Complex, Pittsburg, Kansas
Most recently, Don published his autobiography, Don Gutteridge in Words and Pictures. The book features great stories from Don’s days with the Gas House Gang, the St. Louis Browns, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and is packed with over 100 vintage photos from Don’s personal collection. “I wanted to get my story out there not so much for what I’ve done in my baseball career,” Mr. Gutteridge humbly says, “but I wanted people to enjoy the funny stories that I experienced first-hand involving Pepper Martin, Dizzy Dean, Lon Warneke and a host of others.”
To say that Don Gutteridge has distinguished himself, inspired others to greater achievements, made special contribution of time, talent and effort to his profession and community, is of high moral character and served as a positive example to others is to describe his exemplary life. Don is a man of many lifetime achievements and he has never forgotten his family, friends and where he got his start...Pittsburg, Kansas.
2004 - Bob Timmons, Class of 1942. KU Track and Cross Country coach
After over 50 years of coaching, Bob Timmons was recognized for his accomplishments at the University of Kansas with his induction into the inaugural class of the KU Relays Hall of Fame (Spring 2004.) Quite an accomplishment for a guy who described himself as an athlete that “was not very good” at Pittsburg High School. Bob was the head coach of the KU track and cross country teams from 1965-1988, leading them to twenty-nine Big 8 titles and four national championships. One of Bob’s athletes included world record holder, Jim Ryun.
After graduating from PHS in 1942, he spent a year and two summers at Pittsburg State University before heading to KU. Bob was having difficulty making up his mind on a major, as options in college were quite different than today. While trying to make a career decision, Bob spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Bob recently told a reporter at the Morning Sun “I was just terribly unhappy with school and the only thing I was really interested in was sports. I finally had the courage to tell my folks that I was going to change my major to physical education and that I wanted to be a coach.” And one of the men who turned Bob on to coaching was none other than legendary KU basketball coach, Forrest “Phog” Allen.
Bob’s first coaching assignment was at Caldwell High School as assistant football and head basketball coach. He then went to Wichita and coached at Wichita East and Wichita West High Schools. He later returned to Wichita East High School where he added seven more state titles in track to their trophy case.
In addition to being coach and mentor to world class athletes, Coach Timmons also is famous for being a great motivator, teacher and mentor. He has made a profound and positive impact on the lives and personal value systems of athletes, managers, trainers, and parents who have been privileged to take part in his high school, and college level programs. These programs date back from the mid-1950s and continue to the current day.
Timmons Memorial Chapel on the Pittsburg State University campus is named in honor of Timmons’s mother, Bess Spiva Timmons. Aside from his coaching accomplishments, Timmons is now known for his Rim Rock Farm, which has hosted the KSHSAA Class 5A and 6A State Cross Country Championships since 1992. When one thinks of world class track and field athletes and coaching in Kansas, one thinks of Bob Timmons and the impact his life has had on the sport and its participants in this state and worldwide.
2005 – Dr. Phillip Cedeno, Class of 1974. General Surgeon
Dr. Philip Cedeno is a well-respected member of the medical community in southeast Kansas. He is a 1974 graduate of Pittsburg High School. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biology at Pittsburg State University and graduated from medical school from the University of Kansas. Dr. Cedeno contributes to his profession and mankind through his commitment to his belief that his skills and intelligence are God given gifts and that his work as a surgeon is a vocational calling. Whether practicing surgery as a Major in the Air Force or as a private physician, his belief is that everyone must have medical care. Dr. Cedeno works closely with community agencies that help those in need. This dedication began early in his career. While serving in the Air Force, he spent time in the Philippines with a mobile tactical hospital serving those most in need of surgical care.
The life of a surgeon is not one that individuals should consider lightly. One truly has people’s lives in their hands. Dr. Phil Cedeno sets himself apart from the typical surgeon. His inner spirit of generosity shines through in every interaction. He is an example of how a demanding career does not have to lead to a demanding personality. Dr. Cedeno treats his patients and co-workers with respect and dignity. He understands that most frustrations come from process, not people. He is helping to teach future medical providers the humanity and skills to be outstanding practitioners. He spends time being a preceptor to medical students attending the University of Kansas. In addition, he and his wife, Melissa, fund a Pittsburg state University scholarship for pre-med students.
Dr. Cedeno provides behind the scenes leadership throughout Crawford county communities. Much of his work goes unnoticed as he does not seek or require recognition. He simply acts as a public servant through is skills as a surgeon. Dr. Cedeno has served in leadership roles in school, church, and within the medical staff structure at Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center. He is always willing to get involved and help in Pittsburg Community Schools. Most notably, Dr. Cedeno assisted with the most recent successful bond elections by lending his voice to a series of commercials.
2006 – Richard Miller, Class of 1966. CEO, Miller’s Professional Imaging
Richard Miller, a 1966 graduate of Pittsburg High School is an accomplished photographer and has become one of Pittsburg’s most successful and respected businessmen. After his graduation from PHS, Richard went on to earn a degree in math in 1970 from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Today, Richard serves as Chief Executive Officer of the business known as Miller’s Professional Imaging.
Miller’s Professional Imaging is the largest professional photo lab in the United States, with locations in Pittsburg, KS and Columbia, MO. The company has grown exponentially under Richard’s leadership, and has been recognized with literally hundreds of awards, including “Photofinisher of the Year.” Richard believes in people first, and has never lost touch with the strong roots from which the company was founded. Richard has been quoted as saying he believes the greatest assets of his business are the employees.
Richard is a strong voice for education, and recognizes the importance of strong programs. He has spoken numerous times to students in high schools and to business classes in PSU and MU regarding the importance of math in the real world. He sends a message to students that “there are great opportunities and needs for mathematicians in the business world.” Richard is an active community participant, serving as President of the PSU Foundation Board of Trustees and has served on numerous other boards in Pittsburg and at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Richard is a powerful example of a true leader; sharing his knowledge, experiences and material resources so that others may benefit and write their own success story. He is the epitome of generosity. His philanthropic gifts have benefited the Pittsburg community many times over and will touch many young people for years to come. Most admirable, is the example he sets in demonstrating the true essence of “gift”. Richard very willingly shares his resources, never seeking the limelight, never asking for anything in return – no strings attached. He simply gives. For that reason we may never be fully aware of the magnitude of his kindness.
2007 – Vae Rose Fultz, Class of 1956. Educator for the Deaf, Deaconess United Methodist Church
Vae Rose Fultz, a 1956 graduate of Pittsburg High School, is a retired teacher of children with disabilities. After her graduation from PHS, Vae Rose went on to earn her BSED in 1959 from Pittsburg State University, MS in Deaf Education from the University of Kansas in 1963, MA in Psychology in 1976 from the University of Illinois and Ed.D in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Northern Colorado in 1985. After her retirement in February 1999 she attended the Hiff Seminary in Denver, CO and has been commissioned as a Deaconess by the General Board of Global Ministries in the United Methodist Church.
She has had many professional awards bestowed upon her, including the International Runner Up for Professional Handicapped Woman of the Year (1972), Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women’s Club (Jacksonville, IL, 1976), and Outstanding Service Award by the Jacksonville Community Center for the Deaf (1996). In October 2002, she was appointed by the Bishop to serve as District Coordinator of Services for HUD in the building of special housing for senior citizens and deaf persons with special needs.
Vae Rose Fultz is a credit to her family, her community, and most of all herself. Severely hearing impaired from birth as well as suffering from cerebral palsy she never let herself or anyone else even consider the fact that she might have a handicap. Vae Rose continues to make a difference in this world through her countless corporal acts of mercy. She helps alleviate suffering by responding immediately to those who are in need. She helps eradicate the causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth through affordable housing, accessible social activities and the development of problem solving abilities. She shares in the building of a global community by opening eyes, hearts, and minds to the needs of all people.
An inspiration to all, Vae Rose Fultz improved the lives of many by giving much of herself.
2008 – Connie Scott Solomon, Class of 1958. Educator, Chief of Staff for Congressman Hefley, CO.
Connie Scott Solomon is a 1958 graduate of Pittsburg High School. After her graduation from PHS, Connie earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters of Art degree in Special Education from the University of Kansas. She began her professional career as a first-grade teacher in Kansas City, Kansas. She retired in 2004 after serving eleven years as Chief of Staff for Congressman Joel Hefley of Colorado.
Early on, Connie served underprivileged children as director of the University of Kansas Medical Center Hospital School. In Colorado she became the director of a pre-school for children with Down’s Syndrome.
Connie’s quiet and powerful strength is credited for her significant professional achievements. In 1984 she began a career in the political arena as field director for U.S. Senator Willian Armstrong, handling casework and serving constituents of Teller, Park, Elbert and El Paso counties in Colorado. She then went on to serve as area representative for US Representative Hank Brown, Colorado.
She played a significant role in many professional organizations, including the Republicans Leadership Program, El Paso County Republican Party, Cheyenne Mountain Republican Women’s Club, Republican Federation of Women, and the National Association of Volunteers in Criminal Justice. Connie was involved civically as well, serving on the Association of the United States Army Board, Colorado Springs Mental Health Board, Workout Board for Juveniles and the State Board Cooperative Extension in Colorado.
Connie Scott Solomon’s contributions to her profession and community are probably best summed by Hon. Joel Hefley of Colorado in his tribute made part of the June 17, 2004 Congressional Record. He stated, “Ms. Solomon has dedicated her life and professional careers to assisting and improving the lives of others. Her perseverance and commitment to her fellow man is certainly uncommon... a truly unique and compassionate friend.”
2009 – Rick Webb, Class of 1978. CEO, Watco Companies
Rick Webb is a 1978 graduate of Pittsburg High School. After graduating from PHS, Rick earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics from Pittsburg State University.
Born and raised in Pittsburg, Rick was taught at an early age that people, especially family, come firsts and that anything is possible. His late father, Dick Webb, had a vision to create a business that served the unmet needs of railroad customers across the United States in and 1983 that vision became a reality when Watco Companies opened its doors for business.
A rail transportation service provider, Watco started with one location and a handful of employees. Today, Watco is the largest mechanical repair provider in the United States with 14 railcar repair shops. In addition to mechanical services, the Watco Team of 2,000 serves hundreds of customers in 26 states with 20 railroads, 22 switching locations, 7 warehouses and 11 transload/intermodal locations.
Chief Executive Officer since 1998, Rick learned the business by working alongside his father in various positions within Watco, including management and leadership positions in operations, purchasing, marketing, accounting and financial management.
An active participant in efforts to improve rail transportation, Rick is the Chairman of the Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC), a group developed by federal law to advise the Department of Transportation, the Surface Transportation Board and Congress on rail issues facing small shippers and small railroads. Rick also represents Watco as a member of the Transportation Center – Northwestern University Business Advisory Committee and the National Industrial Transportation League Board of Directors.
A vigorous supporter of his community, Rick welcomes opportunities to improve life for the people of Pittsburg and the surrounding area through support for PSU and the many local schools and community organizations. He is member of the Pittsburg State University Foundation Board of Trustees, Community National Bank’s (CNB) Advisory Board of Directors and U.S. Bank’s Market Board of Directors.
Rick and his wife Stacey live in Pittsburg with their two children, Megan and Jake.
2010 – Lt. Col. Charles S Chenowith II, Class of 1984. Commands 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment
LTC Charles Chenoweth, a 1984 graduate of Pittsburg High School, is a decorated member of the United States Army. Designated as a Cadet Commandant and a Distinguished Military Graduate, he was commissioned in the Field artillery upon graduation from Pittsburg State University in 1990. Additionally, LTC Chenowith earned a Master of Science degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University in 2003.
LTC Chenoweth assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), Fort Lewis, Washington, in August 2008. LTC Chenoweth served in many assignments over the length of his military career, including deployment in support of Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
LTC Chenoweth has served a remarkable and decorated military career, earning 15 medals which include the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Service Star, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal from both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
2010 - John Matthew Knoll, Class of 1984. Director of Tennis Operations, Baylor University
John Matthew Knoll, a 1984 graduate of Pittsburg High School, has enjoyed a successful career as Director of Tennis Operations at Baylor University.
Matt began his collegiate tennis career at Kansas State University. He transferred to Washburn University, where he graduated Cum Laude and received Academic All-American honors, while also being named the team’s Most Valuable Player. He went on to earn a Masters of Arts degree from Kansas State University. He finished his playing career by traveling on the Satellite Professional Tour.
While at Baylor, Matt Knoll has produced phenomenal results, amassing a 312-76 record. His teams captured multiple Big 12 conference regular season titles, including eight in a row beginning in 2002, and seven Big 12 Tournament championships, including three in a row beginning in 2007. In 2004, the team captured the NCAA national championship.
Matt was inducted into the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008, becoming just the second tennis representative to receive the honor. During his tenure at Baylor, the tennis program has risen to the top, becoming the nation’s most successful collegiate men’s tennis team over the past eight seasons.
2011- Dr. Travis Scott, Class of 1991. Radiologist.
Dr. Travis Scott is a 1991 graduate of Pittsburg High School and a successful radiologist in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Scott graduated from Pittsburg State University in 1995, and it was during his years at PSU that he discovered his passion for the medical field. His first application to the University of Kansas medical school was denied, but he persevered and eventually earned his way into KU on the second attempt. As part of his studies at KU, Scott returned to Pittsburg to work alongside Dr. Ron Seglie and for his six-week rural medicine clinical rotation.
In 2000, Scott began an internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The following year, he began his four-year radiology residency. To further his knowledge, he entered the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Body Imaging Program. There he helped supervise the radiology residents and was selected by the program director to give a lecture to first-year medical students.
In 2006, he accepted his first official professional position as a radiologist in Osage Beach, Missouri. Four years later, he moved to his practice in Hutchinson.
Scott credited PHS and USD 250 for providing a “solid educational foundation” that helped him achieve professional success.
2012 – Sheriff Sandy Horton, Class of 1973. Crawford Country Sheriff 1995 – 2013.
Sandy Horton, a 1973 graduate of Pittsburg High School, served his community as a member of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years. He served as Crawford County Sheriff from 1995 to 2013.
Horton began his law enforcement career while still a senior at PHS, when he accepted a position as a dispatcher and jailer with the sheriff’s office. Throughout the next seven years, he earned the ranks of deputy sheriff, chief deputy sheriff and undersheriff. In 1980, he left the department to work in the private sector. In 1986, Horton returned to the sheriff’s office and the position of undersheriff.
On April 4, 1995, his dream of becoming sheriff finally came true. Horton said serving as sheriff was “all I ever wanted to do.” During his tenure, Horton earned several awards and accolades, including being named the Kansas Sheriff of the Year in 2006.
Horton was instrumental in launching the Seatbelts Are For Everyone (SAFE) program at PHS and the surrounding Crawford County Schools. In 2001, Horton was appointed the executive director of the Kansas Sheriff’s Association. He also served as chairman of the Southeast Kansas Drug Enforcement Task Force and as chairman of the Tri-State Major Task Force.
2013 – Paula Baker, Class of 1976. CEO Freeman Health Center
Paula Baker, a 1976 graduate of Pittsburg High School, has served the healthcare needs of our four-state area for more than thirty years. Since 2012, Paula has served as the CEO for Freeman Health System, Joplin, Missouri. Freeman Health System is recognized as a national healthcare leader.
Previously, Paula served as CEO of Ozark Center from 2003-2008. She joined Ozark Center in 1981 and through her leadership and dedication to continuous quality improvement; Ozark Center grew to become the largest and most comprehensive behavioral healthcare provider in the area. Paula was the guiding force behind the development of Ozark Center for autism and continues to provide executive leadership for the program.
Honors include the Missouri Hospital Association 2008 Visionary Leadership Award, Joplin Tri-State Business Journal inaugural class of 10 Most Influential Women, appointment to the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2008, Pittsburg State University Outstanding Alumni, Pittsburg State University Meritorious Achievement Award, Hero in Healthcare Award, and Joplin Citizen of the Year.
Paula attended Lincoln Elementary, Roosevelt Jr High, and Pittsburg High School. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in secondary education and a master’s in clinical psychology from PSU.
2014 – Barbara Rhodes, Class of 1968. Co-owner Ron’s IGA, community volunteer.
Barbara Rhodes, a 1968 graduate of Pittsburg High School, along with her husband Ron, opened a family-owned grocery store in Pittsburg, Kansas in 1976. For 38 years Barbara and her family have owned and operated grocery stores, which are currently located in four different communities in two states. As a successful business owner, Barbara continually gives back to the youth of Southeast Kansas by employing hundreds of high school students.
Barbara attended Pittsburg High School and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Physical Education from Kansas State Teachers College (PSU), 1972.
Barbara’s belief is that there is no better place for a young adult to get a start in the workforce than at a supermarket. As an employer, Ron’s IGA nurtures those lifelong skills while supporting the many extracurricular activities of student employees. Barbara’s contributions to our youth and community are wrapped in kindness, warmth, conviction and integrity.
Barbara, along with her family, has received numerous business awards including the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, 1996 & 2008, and the Rex Crowley Award for Outstanding partner in Progress for Pittsburg State University n 2006. Barbara’s family’s commitment to Pittsburg Community Schools began with her parents, owners of Rex’s Superette and continues with her three sons, all Pittsburg High School graduates.
2015 – John Lair, Class of 1991. National Team USA Special Olympics coach.
John Lair has spent his time since his 1991 graduation from Pittsburg High School committed to improving the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. John started his professional career at Pittsburg’s New Horizons in 1995. In 2001, John became the Program Director at New Hope Services of Pittsburg and then was named the Executive Director of the organization.
John is certified to coach sixteen different sports and is the Head Coach for the New Hope Bulldogs, volunteering over 2,000 hours annually to daily practices and coaching. Incorporating Special Olympics into his program has resulted in his athletes successfully contributing to the Special Olympics movement in Kansas and across the USA. John is a Team USA Coach and has coached at World Games. John is a role model not only for persons with intellectual disabilities but also to those who are involved in Special Olympics.
John Lair has received numerous local, state and national honors for his work with Special Olympics and was recently named Special Olympics North America’s 2014 Coach of the Year. In accepting the award, John stated that “my wife Linda deserves the biggest thanks because she supports my passion and is always by my side.”
2016 – Henry Menghini, Class of 1982. Attorney, Community volunteer
Henry Menghini, a 1982 graduate of Pittsburg High School has been committed to improving the opportunities for our youth in Pittsburg. An attorney in private practice, Henry has also served as Pittsburg’s City Attorney since 2001.
A graduate of the University of Kansas, Henry was the founding president of the Tri-State Chapter of the KU Alumni Association. For his service to KU, he was the recipient of the Dick Wintermote Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in 2007. Menghini graduated with a Juris Doctorate from the Washburn School of Law, with honors in 1991.
Henry was a founding member and the first President of the USD 250 Educational Foundation from 2001 to 2004. He along with other alumni formed a group dedicated to raising private funds for the school district. They began by raising funds to refurbish Hutchinson Field and build the Megan Mallatt Activity Center. Henry has donated generously of his legal expertise to the Foundation.
Today, the Foundation is proud to provide student scholarships and teacher grants. Henry’s generosity and vision promote the belief all students can be successful with a quality education. Henry, his wife Julie, and their three children, Aria, Connor and Dante, are all proud to be Pittsburg Dragons.
2017 – Dr. Joseph South, Class of 1989. Director of the National Office of Educational Technology
Dr. Joseph South, a 1989 graduate of Pittsburg High School, has distinguished himself both through his career and personal accomplishments by working to help people get access to technology no matter where they live or what their economic status might be. Since 2013, he has worked for the US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. In 2016, he was asked on behalf of the President to serve as the Director of the Office
Joseph’s talent has been recognized internationally, and his expertise has been sought to lead learning programs and to consult on projects in China, Korea, Mexico, South America, and the Middle East. He is a co-inventor of a patented educational environment and has worked with the State Department and the National Economic Council. Because of his insight and expertise in the field, he was selected to record a TEDx talk on the importance of empowering students by giving them technology tools.
Joseph attended George Nettels Elementary, Pittsburg Middle School and Pittsburg High School. Joseph holds a Bachelor’s in English, and a Master’s and Doctorate in Instructional Psychology and Technology from Brigham Young University.
2018 – Gary Pepin, Class of 1961. Head Track and Field Coach, Nebraska Huskers
PHS Distinguished Alumnus Gary Pepin, began his 38th year as the Nebraska Husker head track and field coach. Not only has Coach Pepin risen to the highest ranks in his profession, he has accomplished this while being a great role model for thousands of student athletes. He has had a remarkable career, holding the honor of being the all-time winningest track and field coach in the history of the Big 12 and the former Big Eight Conference.
A 1961 Pittsburg High School alumnus, Gary attended Pittsburg State University and graduated in 1966. After several years as a head high school coach in Missouri, he pursued a master’s degree at the University of Kansas. There, Pepin had the opportunity to work as an assistant to another Pittsburg High School Distinguished Alumnus, legendary track and field head coach Bob Timmons.
During his stint with the Jayhawks, Pepin’s jumpers established Big Eight bests in every event and earned numerous Big Eight medals, All-America honors and Olympian status. With Pepin’s guidance, Kansas became the first school in the country to have three men jump over 7-2 in the high jump in the same season.
In 1984, Pepin succeeded Nebraska Husker track and field hall of famer Frank Sevigne and became the head coach of the program. During the first four years of Pepin’s NU coaching career, he helped guide the women’s team to three national indoor championships.
Pepin is a USTFCCCA Hall of Fame member and has been honored with 40 Coach of the Year awards. He has led the Husker programs to a combined three national team titles, 72 conference team titles, and developed 59 individual national champions and 561 individual conference champions. Pepin helped Nebraska capture an incredible 44 Big Eight indoor/outdoor titles, more than any other coach in the history of the conference.
Coach Pepin is known for his ability to reach out and connect with athletes from all walks of life, encouraging them to develop not only their athletic talents but to attain their academic goals as well.
“When someone comes to school here, the most important thing is to get a degree, and a result from that degree is to become a productive citizen in our society,” Pepin said. 515 first-team All-America honors have been achieved under Pepin, and 58 CoSIDA Academic All-America honors have been earned.
Gary has maintained close ties in Pittsburg. His friends attest that he is humble about his achievements, and simply feels blessed he has had a lifetime career following his passion of coaching and making an impact on the lives of his athletes.
2019 Joe Grisolano, Class of 1974, Crawford County Treasurer
Joe Grisolano's lifelong resume is filled with involvement in service organizations and leadership within his profession. Joe has excelled in his work with United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas as Board President, which was preceded by his involvement with the Kansas Jaycee's Cerebral Palsy Ranch. His commitment to area organizations has earned him several awards such as the SEK-CAP Caring Service Award in 2018.
He has held President positions in Pittsburg Rotary Club, and professional associations such as Kansas Counties Treasurers and Kansas Counties Officials. As a PHU alumnus, he continues to support our schools with past service on the USD 250 Board of Education and currently on the USD 250 Foundation board.
Joe is currently the Crawford County Treasurer, an office to which he was first elected in 2004. He is a 1974 PHS graduate, Certified Kansas County Finance Executive, and a Certified Public Administration Finance Master.
Joe's wife Debbie is a retired USD 250 teacher. They have two sons, Brian and Tony, both PHS graduates and both US military veterans. Joe and Debbie are blessed with three grandchildren.
2020 Bill Russell, Class of 1966, Professional Baseball Player
Bill (William) Russell is a member of the class of 1966. He received his first baseball glove at 5 years of age and started playing with Little League teams at the age of 9.
During the summer he played American Legion Baseball (no High School Baseball team at the time). As a senior he was the MVP of the State Basketball Tournament and planned to attend Pitt State on a basketball scholarship, but during the summer of 1965 a Los Angeles Dodgers’ scout saw Bill play at an American Legion tournament. As a result, he was drafted by the Dodgers in June 1966. His parents, Fern and Warren, allowed him to sign a contract with the Dodgers, as a 17-year-old outfielder. On April 7, 1969, after 3 years in the minor leagues, Bill made his major league debut.
“My first at bat in the big leagues was a double against the Cincinnati Reds, two games later I hit my first homerun in the Astrodome followed by a single and a triple. If I could have done it all in one game, I would have hit for the cycle!,” said Bill.
In 1969, Bill (“Ropes”) embarked on a distinguished major league journey and played his entire 18-year, 2,181 game career with the LA Dodgers, which is still an LA record. He was the shortstop on one of the greatest infields of all time along with teammates Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Ron Cey, who played together as a unit from 1972 to 1981, setting a major league record. During that run, Bill played in three MLB All-Star games, was the starting shortstop in four NL pennant winners and the 1981 World Series championship team. Bill hit .338 in four NL Championship Series, including a .412 batting average and the pennant-winning hit in the 1978 NLCS. He batted .423 against the Yankees that year in the World Series.
Following the 1986 season Bill retired as a player and managed the Dodger’s minor league team, then served as a coach for the LA Dodgers before becoming the manager in 1996. In 1999 Bill managed the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays AA team, and then in 2000 worked as the bench coach for the major league team. Since 2002, Bill has served as an umpire observer for the MLB Commissioner’s Office observing on average 140 games a year.
Bill was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Association’s Hall of Fame in 1996 and to the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. A field was named the “Bill Russell Ball Park” in the Don Gutteridge Sports Complex in Pittsburg.
2021 - Caleb Hoyer
A 2004 Pittsburg High School alum, Caleb Hoyer's passion for the arts and dedication to his craft have led him to a flourishing career in music and theater in New York City and across the country. Hoyer attended New York University, studying music theory and composition and graduating magna cum laude. While there he was the recipient of the Alan Menken Award, a scholarship bestowed by the EGOT-winning composer.
Hoyer began music directing concerts around the New York cabaret scene, including Jay Armstrong Johnson at Birdland, Unsung Menken, Once Upon a Time in New York City, and eleven editions of If it Only Even Runs A Minute, for which he received a Bistro Award for Outstanding Musical Series. He was the pianist for the American premiere productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as well as playing and singing on its cast recording. He was the pianist and associate conductor for the national tour of the Tony-winning musical The Bridges of Madison County. He made his Broadway debut in 2017 as a musician and assistant conductor on Anastasia and played on its original cast album as well. Subsequent Broadway credits include Beetlejuice and Dear Evan Hansen. He was on the faculty of NYU's Program in Vocal Performance for five years as a vocal coach and also served as a pianist, conductor, and music director of countless productions, including commencement ceremonies at Yankee Stadium.
He is the composer/lyricist of the musicals Nightfall, Hesitation Waltz, Fifteen Minutes to Midnight, and Dance Moms: The Musical, which was featured on the Lifetime reality show of the same name. His music has been heard in such venues as New World Stages, The Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra, and Radio City Music Hall.
At the time of this honor, Hoyer was only 35 years old. "I have been very fortunate to turn my love of and dedication to music and the arts into a thriving career. I only hope that there are many more adventures to come. It's amazing the places music can take you."
2022 - Dr. Nancy Brooker
Dr. Nancy Brooker is a 1982 graduate of Pittsburg High School. She is a proud product of the USD 250 public school system and it is doubtful that without the steadfast support of dedicated educators, her achievements would have been possible. It is because of caring teachers and mentors that Dr. Brooker had so many unique opportunities to grow, compete, and succeed with scientists and innovators worldwide. Public schools provided a solid foundation to build an internationally-recognized scientific career, and it opened doors that would have otherwise remained shut.
Dr. Brooker attended Pittsburg State University (BS in Biology, '86), the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (MS in Plant Pathology/Biochemistry, '88), and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Ph.D. in Biological Sciences/Biochemistry, '92). Following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with the USDA Plant Science Institute, she returned to Pittsburg, accepting a role as the genetics professor in the biology department at Pitt State. During her 14-year tenure at Pitt State, she developed an externally-funded research program on soil-borne soybean diseases, resulting in a US patent for her seed protectants, and had 16 publications. She was promoted to full professor in 2007, and she also served as the acting chairperson of the Women's Studies department. In 2008, Dr. Brooker accepted a global leadership role in Bayer CropScience as Global Quality Manager in Ghent, Belgium, where she worked for over six years developing international standards and managing risk-related issues in biotechnology products. In 2013 she returned to the US and serves her current role as Director of Laboratory Quality at Abbott, including both US Toxicology Laboratories and building COVID-19 testing capability in the US.
Dr. Brooker has been a committed leader and enthusiastic supporter of science education and women in science. It is because of these commitments that she was nationally recognized with the National Institute of Health Award for Research Excellence.
Dr. Brooker has had the unique opportunity of having two full scientific careers; one in academics and a second in industry. This is a testament to how far science education and women scientists have achieved in her lifetime. Special thanks to the teachers and educators who shaped her path to success including: Craig Kasjacka, Fran McGrath, Elaiin Bryant, Al Ortolani, Marjory Sharpe, Dr Bettie Duncan, Dr. James Dawson, Dr. Hugh Campbell, and Dr. Alexander Bednekoff. It is with great pride Dr. Brooker accepted this award with her fellow Dragons and she hopes this has inspired our graduate to reach for their highest goals!