Get to Know Our CCHS Hall of Fame Members
All Hall of Fame members’ abbreviated bios are listed in the order of the year they were inducted. The bios were written on the year of induction, reflecting where the inductees were in their lives at that time their respective accomplishments to that date. Their plaques are permanently on display in the Hall of Fame wing of Colonie Central High School directly across from the entrance.
Inducted in 1994
Ralph Boyd, Jr. (Class of 1975)
Ralph Boyd has been a federal prosecutor and assistant United States attorney. He has prosecuted cases involving domestic terrorism, bombings, narcotics trafficking, federal firearms violations and gang-related violence. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he spent a great deal of time speaking to law classes about criminal law issues and supervising student interns. He also counselled inner-city youth on the importance of education, developing positive values, and the inevitable consequences of committing serious crimes.
Charles Campagna (Class of 1973)
Chuck Campagna was the first professional football player to graduate from Colonie Central High School. He went on to study at American International College, graduated college and played for the New England Patriots of the National Football League and the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League despite battling 14 serious and career ending hamstring injuries. He went on to become President and CEO of Amerlux Global Lighting for more than 20 years, leading the company in becoming one of the most prestigious architectural lighting companies in the world. Campagna has been married to his wife Lynda (Dawson), also a graduate of Colonie Central High School. They have four children.
Brian Casey (Class of 1967)
As a D.A.R.E. officer with the Colonie Police Department, Brian Casey touched the lives of many children in South Colonie. After graduating from Hudson Valley Community College, he served in the U.S. Navy for two years, completed Basic Officer Training and attended the FBI Academy’s Special Tactical Training Firearms School. He spent countless hours counseling students on the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the importance of wearing seatbelts and bicycle helmets.
John Gregg (Class of 1957)
John Gregg has five degrees including a D.D.S., an M.S. in Anatomy and Oral Surgery and a Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology. He has been published more than 75 times and has served as a consultant to dozens of hospitals and advisory boards. A nationally known oral surgeon, he has been a full professor at the University of North Carolina and an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech University and the University of Maryland. He has worked in the practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery research at Virginia Tech University.
Bruce Leland (Class of 1964)
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Hartwick College, Bruce Leland went on to get his Ph.D. at Rutgers University. A professor at Western Illinois University, he has been acting chair of the English Department and director of the Writing Program. He has published three textbooks and many articles. He has also served for years on the Board of Directors for Macomb Community Theatre.
Diana Marchitto (Class of 1962)
After graduating from SUNY Albany, she returned to South Colonie to teach. She has been published in the Journal of Business Education. As a trustee of the Schalmont Board of Education, she has worked to provide a less-toxic environment for students. Because of her efforts, Schalmont Schools have been recognized as a statewide leader in environmental efforts.
Don Mion (Class of 1970)
With degrees in education, Don Mion has been a teacher in North Colonie Schools, head football coach and wrestling coach for Shaker High School. He has helped to organize Students in Local Government Day and was a member of the History and Art Museum.
Inducted in 1995
Mary Brizzell (Class of 1961)
As Town Supervisor, Mary Brizzell has dedicated many years of service in the Town of Colonie. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Russell Sage, she taught at Saint Ambrose School in Latham. In 1971, she and her husband, Bill, combined talents to begin their retail/wholesale gardening business, Brizzell’s Flowers. Brizzell was an active volunteer in the North Colonie Schools. She has also been a supporting member of the Friends of Pruyn House and the two local Chambers of Commerce. In 1991, she was named Woman of the Year by the Latham Business and Professional Association. During her 12 years as a Town Board member, she served as liaison to a wide range of town departments and on countless committees and councils.
Leo Carignan (Class of 1961)
Leo Carignan has been a “super-fan” of the district’s Girls Basketball Program since its inception in 1975. In 20 years, he had never missed a game. At home games, he could be found working the concession stand or selling 50-50 tickets. Back in the early days, he served as a fill-in equipment manager, he went on scouting assignments and helped arrange the awards banquet. Although he never had a child play on a Colonie team, he supported the girls during the good and bad seasons. Before he became a bus driver and custodian for South Colonie Schools, he worked for 20th Century Fox Film Corporation as a manager.
Alden ‘Joe’ Doolittle (Class of 1963)
As Vice President for Quality Improvement, Joe Doolittle has been a founding member of CHP’s management team with many years of leadership in development and operations HMO’s. He has also served on the Executive Committee of the Governor’s Excelsior Award and has been a board member of Health Care Underwriters Mutual (HUM) and The HMO Group Insurance Co., Ltd. He has also held an appointment as lecturer in the Sloan Services Administration at Cornell University. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Colgate University and a Master’s Degree in medical and hospital administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
Frank Myers (Class of 1963)
Frank Meyers graduated from SUNY Albany with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1968 and a Master’s Degree in 1977. He has been a business teacher and coach at Colonie Central High School for many years. He was the first Girls Outdoor Track coach at Colonie and began the popular Colonie Recreation Department’s summer track meets and Dynamic Duo road race. As a coach, he has to his credit a state championship Girls Cross Country Team, a national indoor mile championship, a two-time state champion 1600 meter runner and a Penn Relays’ 1500 victor.
Edward Winders (Class of 1960)
Edward Winders has worked as chairman of a Long Island-based engineering and architectural firm. Prior to purchasing this firm, he was corporate senior vice president of another engineering organization for 17 years. He started his professional career as assistant commissioner at the New York State Department of Transportation in 1976. Three years later he was appointed deputy commissioner of the State Racing and Wagering Board. At 25 years old, he served as a member of the Albany County Legislature from 1968 to 1975 and as a minority leader in 1974. He is the recipient of numerous awards and has been a member and head of many local and civil community boards.
Inducted in 1996
Janet Worth Moen (Class of 1961)
Janet Worth has been an assistant/associate professor of Sociology at the University of North Dakota and has served as the faculty coordinator for the Center of Peace Studies.
Harold ‘Pep’ Sands (Class of 1947)
“Pep” Sands has served this community for more than 30 years as a guidance counselor, coach and involved citizen. He has been co-chairman for the cancer drive, collected for the Heart Association, American Cancer Society and Multiple Sclerosis Society. He has counselled troubled young men through jail visitations.
Richard Kruse (Class of 1959)
Richard Kruse has been band director and head of the Music Department at the Romulus School District in Michigan. He has led students to more than 75 First Division ratings. The music reading system he developed called “ ‘A’ for Everybody” is now being used by more than 40 teachers throughout Michigan.
Henry Dennis, Jr. (Class of 1961)
Henry Dennis’ firm is responsible for building the Turf Inn on Wolf Road, the Park V restaurant, luxury homes at Cobble Hill in Loudonville, Twin Lake Apartments in Clifton Park and the Polish American Club in Albany. He has been a representative in the Albany County Legislature, helped to plan many events for residents of the Ann Lee Home and has been an associate professor at HVCC.
Inducted in 1997
Eric Emerick (Class of 1982)
While at Colonie High School, Erick was All-Metroland quarterback, but in 1986 suffered a devastating injury in an automobile accident. Despite suffering from quadriplegia, he persevered in sports to become a tennis champion. In 1995, he won the U.S. Tennis Association National Indoor Doubles Wheelchair Championship and in the following year, he won the same championship while adding the singles championship. In 1996, he also won the U.S. Open quad singles championship. Mr. Emerick has operated a freelance desktop publishing company in his home.
Sharon Falkenheimer (Class of 1970)
Air Force Colonel Sharon Falkenheimer was Utah’s “Mattie Wattis Award” recipient honoring the spirit of American women. The award acknowledges the determination and dedication of individual females for their accomplishments in what used to be male occupations and environments. Falkenheimer graduated from Harvard with a master’s degree in Public Health and is a graduate of Upstate Medical College and the School of Aerospace Medicine. Colonel Falkenheimer played a valuable role in the preparation of military personnel traveling to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm. Falkenheimer was a member of the first graduating class that included women at Union College and served as the first-ever female medical group Squadron Commander. As a doctor in the Air Force, she flew in the cockpit of an F-15 as well as providing medical care for other F-15 pilots and their families.
Kim Halburian (Class of 1976)
Kim Halburian has been a police officer with the Metro Dade Police Narcotics Division in Florida and received the “Officer of the Year” award in 1996 by the Dade County Police Officers Assistant Trust. He received his department’s “Exceptional Service Award.” The Police Officers Trust Fund provides financial assistance beyond that of health insurance policies for law enforcement personnel and their families throughout Dade County. An avid fundraiser, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rochester Institute of Technology. After college he served with the Rochester police force and later as a police officer in Vermont.
Ruth-Ercile Hodges (Class of 1990)
Ruth-Ercile Hodges served at the time of her death as a U.S. Consular Corps staff member. Hodges was formerly commissioned as a foreign service officer and awarded her first overseas posting to the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. Fewer than 3 percent of all applicants examined for foreign service officers by the Department of Defense are selected. While studying for her bachelor’s degree at Spelman College, Hodges was one of 12 students in the nation to receive the Foreign Affairs Fellowship, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and U.S. Department of State. Hodges received a master’s from George Washington University. While at CCHS she organized the Human Rights/Group Council and coordinated the Capital District’s “Day of the African Child” for UNICEP and the United Nations. Hodges died in an automobile accident before she got to serve her post in the Dominican Republic.
Martha Maurer (Class of 1970)
Colonel Maurer was one of eight out of 800 officers to be recognized on the Joint Staff and one of only 15 officers selected from the Air Force as a National Defense Fellow. Maurer was appointed Adjunct Research\ Fellow/Affiliate at the J.F.K. School of Government at Harvard. She spent 23 years in the military serving in the communications field and has received eight personal military awards. She served 10 years in Europe prior to the end of the Cold War. Colonel Maurer received a master’s in human relations from the University of Oklahoma and attended three professional military schools. She has authored a book on Coalition Command Control that is used as course material for military education in both the U.S. and its allied countries. She graduated from CCHS in only three years and was class Salutatorian.
Inducted in 1998
Jane (Charles) Shaw (Class of 1980)
Jane (Charles) Shaw has made a career in the film industry. She was an executive producer at Apple Box Productions in Vancouver, where she is working on a feature length film about a Russian woman who walks across Canada to her homeland. She produced a feature film called Once in a Blue Moon, which premiered at the Toronto and Vancouver Film Festivals.
Carol (MacHaffie) Lewin (Class of 1966)
Carol (MacHaffie) Endres is an internationally recognized folk artist. She has had her own company and storefront in Kinderhook selling and licensing her “American Primitive” artwork. Among the many pieces of home furnishings that have displayed Endres’ work are calendars, stationary, giftware, textiles and wall art. Her designs have been in great demand with the gift and home furnishing industry to whom she licenses her work. The Franklin Mint has produced a limited edition, six-plate series of her work depicting scenes from American life.
James D. Ryan (Class of 1966)
James D. Ryan has been partner and executive committee member of Clough Harbour & Associates, an engineering firm based in the Capital District. Ryan has been director of the Industrial Facilities Division, which provides consulting engineering services to many Fortune 500 companies throughout the country.
Inducted in 1999
Steven Jensen (Class of 1965)
Steven Jensen attended Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and prior to that, he was a chaplain and commander in the U.S. Navy. He served aboard a battleship and several submarines. Jensen received several awards while in the Navy including the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, as well as numerous ribbons including recognition for sharpshooters rifle and expert pistol. In 1984, Jensen was selected as Military Officer of the Year for the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay. Jensen attended SUNY at Albany, upon graduating from Colonie Central High School, and graduated in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and German.
Dean Rueckert (Class of 1965)
Dean Rueckert has been the managing partner for Rueckert & Shanley Advertising and Public Relations firm, responsible for the day-to-day operations, client relations, marketing strategies and the development of creative strategies and production. His multimillion-dollar full-service agency had a wide array of clients with an emphasis in health care. He has also served the Town of Colonie as deputy supervisor and as a member of the Town Board. In addition to his town work, he has also represented the 25th Legislative District of Albany County. Rueckert has served on the board of directors for the Capital District YMCA and the Shaker Road Loudonville Fire Department. Upon graduation from Colonie Central High School, Rueckert was active in varsity and intramural sports, as well as the school band. He majored in graphic design at the Art Institute of Boston.
Edward Sim, Jr. (Class of 1975)
Edward Sim has been a police officer, firefighter, and emergency medical technician in the Town of Colonie. He started with the Town of Colonie Police Department as a dispatcher in 1977 and became an officer in 1981. As a member of the Colonie Fire Department since 1975, Sim served as chief from 1982-84 and again from 1988-92. He was president of the Colonie Fire Department. In 1979 he was honored as Officer of the Year and, in 1987, was designated as Firefighter of the Year by his department.
Inducted in 2000
Phillip Kolker (Class of 1959)
Phllip Kolker has been the principal bassoon with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 1972. Over many years, Kolker has been chosen to be the principal bassoon and soloist for a variety of the finest orchestras in the nation. He has been heard performing on many commercial and radio broadcasts. Kolker has studied music at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and has been awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. He has been a model performer and teacher of the bassoon on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, where he served as Chairman of the Woodwind, Brass, Harp and Percussion Department. He has presented master classes at numerous conservatories including the Curtis Institute, the Eastman School of Music and the Interlocheb National Camp.
Inducted in 2001
Inducted in 2002
James J. Morrell (Class of 1962)
James Morrell has been the owner of seven automobile dealerships, 27 radio stations and nine other businesses in the Capital District area. He was honored in 2002 with the Trefoil Award for work with the Girl Scouts of America and is a former Man of the Year for the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters organization. He was awarded the Dr. Egon Plaeger Humanitarian Award from Siena College and the Danny Thomas Humanitarian Award from St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Professionally, Morrell was named Time Magazine’s “Dealer of the Year” by the National Automotive Dealers Association and was president of the New York State Automobile Sales Association. In addition to managing 43 different businesses, Morrell has continued to find time to “give back” to the community in an attempt to improve the quality of life. One of the many examples is that his Albany Broadcasting Company (ABC) sponsored the building of a Habitat for Humanity house. This property was a home valued at more than $100,000 and donated to a needy family as part of the Habitat for Humanity program. After the September 11th attacks on America, ABC also gave away 120,000 American flags and raised $120,000 in money and supplies for the New York City disaster relief efforts. While attending CCHS, Morrell was President of the Student Council and was a member of 23 school clubs and organizations. He continued his involvement at Siena College where he graduated in 1966.
Joseph ‘Chuck’ Zarriello (Class of 1957)
Chuck Zarriello has been well-known in the Albany area both as a community leader and volunteer. He served as Albany County Legislator from 1992 to 1994 and on the Colonie Town Board from 1995 to 1999. He was then appointed by Governor George Pataki to be the State Liquor Authority Commissioner. Zarriello is past president of the Albany County Restaurant/Tavern Association and a past vice president of the State Restaurant/Tavern Association. He has been a member of the Fuller Road Fire Department since 1955 where he served as president. Zarriello was a well-respected leader in many area organizations and in the community and was seen as a great communicator. Perhaps his best quality has been his ability to treat everyone fairly and got the job done in the most efficient manner. In 1989, Zarriello survived serious health problems and, following this, he decided to get his EMT license in order to help others when they were injured or ill. He became a first responder with the Fuller Road Fire Department.
Kym Frank Gaylo (Class of 1977)
Kym Frank Gaylo has been a true friend to the environment. As a chemical engineer for the second largest Proctor & Gamble plant in the world, Gaylo traveled the globe for the company — making sure its manufacturing plants were operating efficiently and monitoring the air quality. In her position, she has been head of a department consisting of 13 managers and 20 technicians. Gaylo was also part of a task force in Cincinnati, Ohio, that compared air pollution and air quality tests against government results. As a graduate of Rochester Polytechnic Institute, Gaylo spent time on the college campus in Troy recruiting graduates for positions in Proctor & Gamble company. She was also active in the community working for many years with the Big Sister organization. She earned a master’s degree from Iowa State University and served on the Board of Directors of Good Will of Iowa. She was a member of the Phi Sigma sorority. In her free time she has been an ice dancer and a member of the Queen City Figure Skating organization.
Don Myers (Class of 1967)
Don Myers has been an avid runner, athlete and friend to the youth of Colonie. A multi-letterman in cross country running, outdoor track and basketball while a student at Colonie Central, Myers was the school record holder in the one-mile run from 1967-1975. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from the State University at Cortland and a master’s degree from Russell Sage College. Myers has continued to be active as the Assistant Superintendent for the Town of Colonie Parks and Recreation Department. In that position, he has been directly responsible for the Colonie Recreation Department’s summer playground program, the running of the Colonie relays, and was involved with the Town of Colonie Golf Course and the Town Park swimming pool. All of these organizations serve the youth of the South Colonie and North Colonie schools. Myers was awarded the Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club Distinguished Service Award for his work with the Colonie Recreation Department’s summer track program, which he helped start in 1968, and for his sponsorship of the Colonie Dynamic Duo road race which had 1979 as its inaugural year. Myers was also a hero and was recognized for saving two people who had fallen through the ice on Saratoga Lake in the winter of 1989. He and the other rescuers were given an award by the New York State Legislature and the event was filmed by WTEN Channel 10. Myers has been a member of the New York State Recreation and Parks Society and a charter member of the Capital District Track Officials Association. He has also been facilities coordinator for the Latham Circle Soccer Program.
Inducted in 2003
Dr. Anthony C. Campagna (Class of 1977)
Dr. Anthony C. Campagna has been named one of Boston magazine’s top physicians in the field of pulmonary medicine. He has been a full time attending physician at the Lahey Clinic, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, since 1999. Prior to that he worked in internal pulmonary medicine at Deaconess Waltham Hospital. Dr. Campagna has done extensive research in his field of medicine, authored numerous professional articles and lectured at medical conferences. He has been licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New York and California. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Siena College and attended Albany Medical College. “Throughout my career, I have attempted to balance the clinical care of my patients with teaching and mentoring students and research,” Dr. Campagna said. “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work in nearly every environment this profession offers.”
Dr. Cashell Jaquish (Class of 1983)
Dr. Cashell E. Jaquish did extensive research in genetics for the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., where she was employed. Her self-initiated research in the genetics of cardiovascular disease risk factors (obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol) has lead to several discoveries that have helped to decipher the complex pathways leading to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Dr. Jaquish has also initiated several large international studies to investigate how genes interact with diet and the environment to cause disease. A Summa Cum Laude graduate from the New York State University at Albany, Dr. Jaquish has been published in national and international scientific journals and served on a delegation with Japanese scientists to promote collaborative research. She has belonged to many professional organizations including the American Heart Association and the American Society for Human Genetics.
David A. Gamble (Class of 1989)
David A. Gamble was the only CCHS alumnus to play in the National Football League. A Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos in 1998, Gamble was awarded the key to the Village of Colonie for his accomplishments and continued support to area youth. He has continued to mentor, motivate and serve as a positive role model through his involvement with Little League, Pop Warner and high school athletics. A CCHS letterman in three sports (football, basketball and track), Gamble was cofounder and director of the Need for Speed Strength and Conditioning summer camp at CCHS. A 1993 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, his accomplishments as a student athlete there included president of the Black Student Union and captain of the football team. He remains one of the top offensive players in UNH history in terms of yards gained and touchdowns scored. He has served as director of youth services for Trinity Institute, Homer Perkins Center and was executive director of the Field of Dreams for the City of Albany. He was assistant football coach at Siena College and also played in the Canadian Football League.
Inducted in 2004
Patrice J. Ricciardi (Class of 1971)
Patrice J. Ricciardi has been an accomplished businesswoman and a tireless educational activist in the Baldwin, Maryland, area where she has resided since 1990. Over the past 13 years, Patrice has been an active member of the school community both as PTA President (1998-2000) and as a member and past chair of the School Improvement Team at Carroll Manor Elementary School. Most important was the contribution she made convincing the Baltimore County Board of Education to focus and prioritize a request for a $2.1 million renovation to that school, seeing the project through to completion in 2003. This helped lead to Carroll Manor Elementary being named one of only two Blue Ribbon Schools in Maryland — with its students earning the highest scores in the state for reading and math. Patrice has served on the Maryland Parent Advisory Council and the Baltimore County Education Coalition. Professionally, she has been a senior account manager for Global Payments, Inc. — responsible for Global’s operational alliance with Discover Business Services generating more than $400 billion in transaction volume annually with over 5,000 customers. Prior to that, Patrice worked for 22 years with PHH Arval — the No. 2 vehicle fleet management company in the world, managing one million vehicles for clients ranging from small companies to a third of the Fortune 500 companies. She has received numerous professional honors and recognition over the years. Patrice graduated Summa Cum Laude from Siena College and attended the graduate program at George State University in Atlanta.
Michael A. DiPietro, M.D. (Class of 1966)
Dr. Michael A. DiPietro has had a long and distinguished medical career and has been a full professor of radiology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He has been board certified in pediatrics, diagnostic radiology and pediatric radiology and has been listed in various “Best Doctors in America” publications/lists over the years. He has written numerous published peer review papers in his field, which have earned him a Silver and a Bronze Award from the Society for Pediatric Radiology. Dr. DiPietro has been a medical lecturer all over the world including appearances in Europe, Argentina and Singapore. He has maintained membership in 16 key professional organizations and is active in the Michigan Pediatric Radiological Society, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine Society of Pediatric Radiology, the Association of University Radiologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 1991, Dr. DiPietro was a founding member and co-director of the Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Society. For decades he has funded the Charles DiPietro Memorial Award at Colonie Central High School. The scholarship, named for his father, has been given to a senior showing promise in any aspect of graphic arts. Dr. DiPietro is a graduate of Union College and earned his medical degree at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. He has also practiced medicine in Pittsburgh and Boston and done residency work at Yale University and was a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School.
Inducted in 2005
Inducted in 2006
J. Dennis Cafaro (Class of 1966)
J. Dennis Cafaro has spent many tireless years dedicated to the children of the South Colonie Central School District as a member of the Board of Education and founding member of South Colonie Dollars for Scholars campaign. Cafaro served on the school board for 10 years from 1995-2005. During his tenure he was school board President for two years (2001-2003), Vice President for three years (1998-2001) and a member of every school board committee during his tenure. He also served over the years as chairman of the board’s Finance, Communications, Transportation and Government Relations Committees. He was a former treasurer of the Capital District School Boards Association and a frequent presenter at National and New York State School Boards Associations conferences. His many accomplishments on the school board included serving as a member of the South Colonie Schools 50th Anniversary Steering Committee in 1999 (where the Alumni Scholarship Fund was born) as well as helping to oversee a variety of capital improvement projects. Today, he is Second Vice President and Immediate Past President of the South Colonie Dollars for Scholars chapter and a member of the Project Lead the Way Partnership Team at Colonie Central High School. His community involvement includes former president and current member of the Financial Stewardship Committee of the Church of St. Clare, former manager/coach in the Colonie Little League and assistant pack leader for the Cub Scouts. Cafaro has worked for 23 years with Clough Harbour & Associates LLP in Colonie. Today, he is an associate with the company and Manager of Office Operations and a member of the National Association of Purchasing Management — Eastern New York. He graduated in 1970 from Oklahoma City University with a bachelor of science degree in Marketing and Management.
Charlene Dukes (Class of 1985)
Charlene Dukes is the first African American Deputy Public Defender for the State of Maryland and the youngest to hold that position in the history of the agency. She was appointed in August, 2004, and manages an agency with more than 1,200 employees and a budget of over $85 million. At CCHS, Dukes was a member of Student Government and the Mock Trial Team and attended Howard University on a debate scholarship. Today, she is a Mock Trial coach and judge. While at Howard she worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and earned a Certificate of Outstanding Service. She graduated from law school at the University of Maryland in three years while working full time as a counselor at a group home. Dukes is a member of the faculty at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and a former adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. She has worked as In House Counsel for State Farm Insurance Co. and has taught and practiced civil and criminal litigation. She is a member of the Washington, D.C., the National and the Women’s Bar Associations and is licensed to practice law in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Texas, New York and before the U.S. Supreme Court. At CCHS, Dukes was an exchange student/host to Spain, an Albany County Legislative intern and a page for the New York State Assembly. She was also a member of the varsity track and soccer teams. She remains active in the community as a mentor and tutor and is committed to supporting organizations that provide funding for research and treatment of cancer, AIDS and kidney disease. In 1997 she became a member of the National Organ Donation Society when she donated a kidney to her father. She has served on the Board of the Arena Players and has been a volunteer for the Woman in the Community organization.
Inducted in 2007
Brigadier General F. David Sheppard (Class of 1970)
Brigadier General F. David Sheppard is the Director of the New York State Office of Homeland Security and Commander of the 53rd Troop Command, New York State National Guard. Prior to his current assignment he served as Deputy Adjutant General of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. He is credited with coordinating the joint New York Organized Militia Force emergency response to civil authorities during the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks. General Sheppard began his military career after graduating in 1970 by attending U.S. Army Basic Training and subsequently graduating from U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot Flight School. In 1972 after receiving his U.S. Army pilot wings, General Sheppard reported to South Vietnam and served as combat helicopter pilot flying 841 hours during his one-year tour of duty. He completed his active duty service as an Instructor Pilot at Fort Rucker, Alabama before joining the New York Army National Guard in 1975. He served in a variety of other military assignments as well. General Sheppard earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University at Albany in 1988, certificate from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government— State and Local programs in 2002, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks with a master’s degree in Strategic Studies. He is a licensed fixed-wing and rotary-wing Commercial Pilot, a Foundation Board Member of Empire State College, an Executive Board Member of the Boy Scouts of America Twin Rivers Council, and an Executive Member of the New York State Governor’s Medal for Valor. His numerous military decoration and awards include: the Bronze Star for Valor, the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, an Air Medal for Valor, 15 Air Medals for Combat Missions, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star, the Army Aviation Broken Wing Award, and the New York State Governor’s Medal for Valor.
Officer Gregory Jensen (Class of 1973)
Gregory Jensen has spent more than 32 years as an officer in the Colonie Police Department, and has been a strong role model for the youth of the community. He started his law enforcement career in January, 1974 as a police dispatcher, and in October, 1979, he became a Colonie Police officer. Officer Jensen has served in various capacities within the Police Department over the years, including: working all three patrol shifts; serving in the Internal Affairs Division, The Juvenile Investigations Unit, Community Services Unit, and the D.A.R.E. Unit. Officer Jensen is certified as a New York State Crime Prevention Specialist, where he has established long-lasting relationships with the local businesses and community groups. In his 14 years as a D.A.R.E. Officer (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) which ended in 2007, he has worked very closely with the students, faculty, parents, and administration of the South Colonie Central School District. He served as one of the School Resource Officers to the five elementary schools, Sand Creek Middle School, and Colonie Central High School, teaching thousands of children how to stay safe, and relaying the anti-drug and violence message. He has served on the individual school crisis teams, is a Parent Advocate for the Committee on Special Education, and continues to serve on the South Colonie Safe Schools Committee. Officer Jensen is a second generation life member of the West Albany Fire Department No. 1, where he has held many line officer positions. He is a past fire chief and a past fire commissioner, and is still an active member today. He is also a member of the former West Albany Emergency Ambulance Squad, where he served many years as an EMT. Officer Jensen is the recipient of numerous police department and community awards. In 2006 he was named Officer of the Year by the Capital District Bank Security Officers Association for his work with financial institutions on how to both prevent and safely survive a robbery. In 2007 he was named Officer of the Year by the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post, and recognized by the South Colonie Board of Education for his outstanding service to students.
Inducted in 2008
John A. Monteiro (Class of 1975)
As a longtime member of the South Colonie Board of Education and activist in local youth organizations, John A. Monteiro has spent tireless hours dedicated to the children of Colonie. Monteiro was elected to three, five-year terms on the South Colonie Board of Education (1992-2007), serving as President from 2003-2005 and Vice President from 2001-2003. He was also a member of the Capital Region BOCES Board of Education from 2005-2007. He has presented at numerous national and state school boards conventions and helped organize cultural exchanges for South Colonie students. Monteiro is employed as Director of Human Resources for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services where he manages a statewide work force of more than 4,000 employees. He is also very active in the community where he is Secretary for the Colonie Youth Center Board of Directors, coach in the New Scotland Soccer Club; Treasurer, coach and past President of the Colonie Soccer Club, member and past chairman of the New York State Personnel Council, and former Vice President of the West Albany Neighborhood Association and Colonie Work on Waste. He has also been involved in the St. Francis de Sales mentoring program, South Colonie Dollars for Scholars, and the Shaker Road PTA among other organizations. Monteiro has earned numerous awards and merits over the years.
David M. Chico, DVM (Class of 1983)
David M. Chico is a friend to animals as a longtime veterinarian and organizer of animal emergency response teams in New York State. He was a companion animal veterinarian in private practice for 12 years before joining the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as an Emergency Programs Coordinator. In that position, he organizes animal response teams throughout the state. The response teams are comprised of community volunteers trained to help meet the needs of the animals during disasters and emergencies. Chico also serves on the Board of Directors of the Albany Damien Center — a community center for individuals and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. He helps organize and run wellness clinics providing free veterinary care to Capital District HIV/AIDS victims. The clinics help remove some of the financial barriers that may prevent these individuals from enjoying the support and companionship of their animals during their illness. Chico is a member of the New York State and Capital District Veterinary Medical Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, earned a master’s degree in Public Health from the School of Public Health at the State University at Albany, and a bachelor’s degree in Toxicology from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.
Lorenzo Hodges (Class of 1978)
As President of the Joshua Foundation of New York, Lorenzo Hodges has dedicated his life to helping poor countries of the world, especially Africa, and promoting quality health care and good living conditions. He is a glowing example of how one man can overcome personal hurdles in life not only to help people, but save millions of lives in the world. In 2007, his organization raised enough money to purchase $7.5 million in medical supplies which he personally delivered to needy people in the African nations of Ghana and Malawi. Starvation and disease have conspired to reduce life expectancy in these countries. This was enough medication to treat about 5,000 people for malaria and other diseases. While in Africa, Hodges met a young girl at the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The girl had suffered massive injuries in a road traffic accident on her way to do missionary work. She sustained facial scars and partial amputation of her left arm. Hodges invited the girl to America where doctors performed plastic surgery on her face and fitted her for a prosthetics device at the expense of the Joshua Foundation. Hodges’ humanitarian work has been recognized by President George Bush and Congress, and the foundation has been entered into the Congress Book of Records. His foundation’s work will continue.
Inducted in 2009
Dr. Neil J. Belgiano (Class of 1967)
Dr. Neil J. Belgiano, D.O. is an accomplished physician whose service has included performing surgical and medical procedures for people living in the remote villages of Haiti. A former Student Council President and football player at Colonie Central High School, Dr. Belgiano now operates an internal medicine practice in Milford Township, Michigan. In 2007, Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital (Michigan) named him Physician of the Year after being honored as Teacher of the Year for internal medicine by the same hospital in 2005 and 2006. Huron Valley-Sinai is one of nine hospitals and institutes operated by Detroit Medical Center, a leading regional health system. Dr. Belgiano is a 1976 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and did both his internship and his internal medicine residency at Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He also attended Siena College in Loudonville and the University of Arizona. A member of numerous professional societies, Dr. Belgiano maintains five hospital affiliations and has been a clinical instructor at Wayne State University since 1997.
Mary Ann Chesky (Class of 1984)
Mary Ann Chesky has been dedicated to the children of South Colonie for nearly 30 years, beginning her career as a volunteer, fundraiser, community leader and role model at the age of 14. Despite facing many physical obstacles in her life, her continuous “pay it forward” actions and belief that children should always come first is what makes her a truly unique individual. A retired RN, Chesky became a nurse two days before her CCHS graduation after completing the BOCES nursing program. At 15, she was the youngest person in the local diocese licensed to teach religious education classes, something she did for many years. Her first major fundraising effort came as a Hibernian in 2001, when she organized a campaign to furnish and clothe a local family of eight which lost everything in a fire. She has been a volunteer for the Equinox shelter and the Ronald McDonald House, and a singer/performer at the annual Cerebral Palsy telethon, the St. Clare’s Hospital Follies and other events. In April, 2008 she received the Jefferson Award for Public Service “Certificate of Excellence” honoring local volunteers for their commitment to service to their community from this national program. Her long PTA career began in 1998 as a chair for Veeder Elementary School field day. She later became PTA President at Lisha Kill Middle School helping oversee and organize numerous events and fundraisers including working as volunteer producer to reinstate the Drama Club. She was also a member of the CCHS PTSA and PTA Advisor for the Veeder, Lisha Kill and Roessleville PTAs. Today, Chesky is President of the PTA Council after serving two years as Vice President and one year as Treasurer and was lead coordinator for chartering the new SEPTA chapter. She is Fundraising Coordinator and Community Educator for South Colonie Dollars for Scholars, a nonprofit organization that raised $55,000 in scholarship money for CCHS graduating seniors during her tenure. District-wide, she has been a Key Communicator and served on the Superintendent Search Committee in 2004. For two years she has been a parent representative on the district’s Professional Development Council and Public Relations/Fundraising Coordinator for CCHS Family Fun Day. She assisted with the production of the South Colonie district calendar for many years.
Inducted in 2010
Amy Seyboth Tirador (1998) New Military Wing
Staff Sgt. Amy Seyboth Tirador, CCHS Class of 1998, is the first inductee into the new Military Wing of the Colonie Central High School Hall of Fame. The new military wing was added to the Hall of Fame in 2010 — dedicated to those who have lost their lives while on active duty. Seyboth Tirador was honored during the high school’s annual Memorial Day observance in May. Seyboth Tirador died in November, 2009, from non-combat-related injuries received while serving in Iraq. The 29-year-old was the first woman from the Capital Region to die in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts. She was laid to rest with full military honors at Saratoga National Cemetery. At the time of her death Seyboth Tirador was working as an Arabic-speaking interrogator on her second tour of duty. She enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1999, and had lived in Washington state the last few years. According to military reports, Seyboth Tirador had seen action and saved at least one American life during her first tour of duty when she served as a medic. In 2004, she was credited with saving an American soldier who had been shot down during a convoy mission, the Times Union newspaper reported. Seyboth Tirador was a member of the National Honor Society and a Regents graduate at Colonie Central High School, finishing her four years of study with a 90% average and ranking 59th in a class of 384. She studied Spanish through Level 6, took college-level economics through Hudson Valley Community College, was a four-year member of the school band. She played trumpet in the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Orchestra, was a member of the Key Club and played girls softball and varsity lacrosse. Following Seyboth Tirador’s death in 2009, her family was presented with a special award from the CCHS Key Club in Amy’s honor. About 50 members of the Tirador family were on hand last fall as Amy’s parents received the Sandy Nininger Award on behalf of their daughter. Sandy Nininger was the first Medal of Honor recipient in World War II and was also a former member of Key Club. According to CCHS Key Club Co-Advisor Lisa Eichholzer, the award was presented in memory of Seyboth Tirador as a former CCHS Key Club member who not only made the most of her opportunities in high school, but also beyond in her career in the military. It is the highest tribute a Key Club can give to a member for making the most of their talents in service to others. The award was part of Key Club’s annual induction ceremony where more than 130 members were inducted for their service. As a member of the band, South Colonie music teacher and band director, Karen MacWatters, called Seyboth Tirador, “one of those students who stands out in your memory forever.” “It wasn’t just her music talent or intelligence that left an impression on you, it was the way she never took life too seriously,” MacWatters said. “Amy would walk into a room, a rehearsal, a concert and absolutely light up the room with her spirit. For a person who was so young she really knew how to live.”
Inducted in 2011
Paul Gordon (Honorary Inductee)
Paul Gordon — an honorary Hall of Fame inductee — had a long and distinguished career serving on the South Colonie Board of Education. Although not a Colonie Central High School graduate, Gordon was presented with an honorary degree with the Class of 2011 at commencement ceremonies in June for his dedication to the children of the district. Gordon was first elected to the South Colonie Board of Education in 1987 and served nearly five terms. He was elected school board Vice President in 2006-2007. Gordon is a life member of both the PTA and Friends of Music and served as South Colonie Friends of Music (SCFOM) treasurer for six years. He also chaired the committee that developed the district’s summer music program. In 1978, he founded the Regional Spelling Bee that has grown to include the entire Capital District and sends its winner to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Gordon has been an educator in both New York State schools and in Department of Defense schools in Europe. He taught Social Studies at Colonie Central High School and completed 34 years in education before retiring. He also earned a Teacher of the Year Award in South Colonie.
Brian Palazzolo (1992)
Brian Palazzolo is a self-made businessman. At age 19, just out of high school and with a business loan of $10,000, he established Albany’s Classe Catering. Today, Classe Catering is a $2.5 million-a-year special events planning and hosting business, employing more than 100 workers and serving hundreds of clients. Over the years, Palazzolo has shown creativity and leadership by diversifying the business to weather economic swings in the Capital District. This includes developing two additional catering product lines — Gourmet Express and Big KaHoona — which has enabled Classe to maintain steady growth, recognized quality of service and significant market share. Palazzolo has also served as a role model and mentor for his employees, providing tuition reimbursement, scholarships to encourage students to attend culinary and hospitality schools. He serves on the advisory board to Schenectady County Community College’s (SCCC) nationally ranked Hotel and Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts program and contributes his time and knowledge as a guest speaker at many colleges and organizations including the New York State Restaurant Association, SUNY Cobleskill, SCCC and Hudson Valley Community College. He has received numerous awards including the Excellence in Small Business Award, the Flavor and Flair Award, the Bronze Medal Salon Award, the SCCC Dedication Award and the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award presented by the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Raymond Roland (1956)
Raymond Roland has logged well over 50 years as a dedicated public servant in the Town of Colonie, both as a police officer and volunteer firefighter. He had a long and distinguished career as a Colonie Police officer for nearly 40 years, serving 35 years as Sergeant. During that time he was a board member for the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education program better known as DARE. DARE teaches school-age children about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol and helps build positive self-esteem in our young people. Roland was also a 55-year member of the Midway Volunteer Fire Department, and served as President for two terms. He was twice voted Fireman of the Year. He also served on the Midway Colonie Ambulance Service for 20 years. He has been recognized with several professional awards including the New York State Chiefs of Police Medal of Honor, the Heroes Award for rescuing and saving a woman’s life, the Edward Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, a 50- year plaque for his service to the Midway Fire Department.
Inducted in 2012
Robert A. Domenici (2004)
Robert A. Domenici is a highly decorated military veteran, who served seven years in the U.S. Army including two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Following graduation, Domenici enlisted in the U.S. Army. His first assignment was to the 1/11th Armed Calvary Regiment, California. During his first assignment he trained hundreds of soldiers in the tactics, techniques and procedures of the potential adversaries that the units would face in Iraq and Afghanistan. After re-enlisting in the Amry, Sgt. Domenici was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, serving in Afghanistan from 2009-2012. During this time he was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received while conducting joint combat operations with the Afghan National Security Forces in the province of Kandahar. He and his unit conducted more than 100 military operations. He was honorably discharged from the Army in March, 2012, and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. He earned numerous other awards during his service to America including the Combat Infantry Badge, Global War on Terrorism Medal, NATO Service Ribbon, Army Achievement Medal, Overseas Ribbons, National Defense Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal, and more. Domenici plans on attending college in the fall, majoring in computer networking and/or studying to be a nurse or paramedic.
Julie Pamkowski (2004)
Julie Pamkowski is an award-winning artist and photographer, who has worked in her free time tutoring special needs students and senior citizens to help them develop further artistically. Following graduation from CCHS, Pamkowski attended SUNY New Paltz and earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts, cum laude, in Photography. Today she is attending graduate school at SUNY Albany, and has received a teaching assistantship for the Beginning Photography and Digital Imaging course. She is also lead coordinator of fine arts photography events at SUNY, lecture series coordinator, a member of the Art Graduate Student Organization, and assists Art Department faculty in their coursework. She has also volunteered her time working with individuals suffering from traumatic brain injuries at the North East Center for Special Care in Lake Katrine, New York, transporting residents to and from art classes and assisting them in creating photographic collages and books. She has been a contributor to the Arts for Aids Sake program, and a 10-year volunteer for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk For the Cure. Her work has appeared in many personal and group exhibits over the years including HVCC, where she won the 2008 Juried Student Art Exhibit Purchase Award. She was also a recipient of the Traverso Photography Scholarship, and a nominee for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Award.
Inducted in 2013
Joyce Gay (1962)
Joyce Gay is a long-time supporter of education with more than 30 years of service to South Colonie Schools as a valued employee, agent of the administration and Board of Education, and exemplary volunteer. She began her career with the district in 1980 as an office clerk, and became secretary to the Assistant Superintendent For Instruction (1991- 1999), and later secretary to the Superintendent of Schools from 1999 until she retired in January, 2013. She served under three different superintendents and had been District Clerk since 2006. During her tenure, Gay was an instrumental part of the planning committee for South Colonie’s 50th anniversary celebration as a school district during the 1998-1999 school year. She was also an organizer and charter member of the South Colonie Dollars For Scholars chapter (2003), a not-for-profit organization that provides college scholarships to graduating seniors of Colonie Central High School. She served as chapter president and secretary for four terms, and was chairman of the SCDFS Awards Committee for eight years. She was recognized for her efforts in 2012, being named New York Volunteer of the Year by Scholarship America and the Northeast Region of Dollars For Scholars. She has always put education first and has been an advocate for scholarships to encourage further education for graduates. Outside the district, Gay has been involved in community service for four decades. Married in 1965 to Reverend Charles Gay, she has been a pastor’s wife leading various women’s groups, was a Sunday school teacher, worship music leader and vocal soloist. She was also a member of Albany Pro Musica (1990-1996). The couple’s three children attended and graduated from South Colonie Schools.
Kenneth Olsen (1999)
Kenneth Olsen is Assistant Principal Cellist (No. 2 Cellist) for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and one of the most successful musicians to come out of the South Colonie music program. His talents as an elite musician have taken him all over the globe Olsen began playing cello as a third grade student at Shaker Road Elementary School. When he was a senior at Colonie Central High School he was already performing on the national level with live appearances on NPR and at the Aspen Music Festival. In fact, he missed his own high school graduation because he was performing in Cuba that weekend. He was accepted into the Chicago Symphony in 2005 at the age of 24, becoming the youngest member in the orchestra at that time. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and a winner of the school’s prestigious concerto competition. His other awards include first prize in the Nakamichi Cello Competition at the Aspen Music Festival and second prize at the 2002 Holland-America Music Society Competition. His teachers have included Richard Aaron at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Joel Krosnick at New York’s Juilliard School of Music and Luis Garcia-Renart at Bard College. He also has been a participant at the Steans Institute for Young Artists (the Ravinia Festival’s professional studies program for young musicians) and at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute. Olsen has been on the faculty of Northwestern University and Roosevelt University. He is a founding member of the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, a conductorless string orchestra comprised of young musicians from orchestras and ensembles all over the country. As a member of the Civitas Ensemble, Olsen is a musical ambassador in the Chicago area and role model for youth, providing musical appreciation to young audiences and musical healing to those with limited access to classical music. In 2008, Olsen performed a world premiere with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. While in the area he took time to meet with, perform for, and encourage South Colonie music students.
James Plourde (1995)
James Plourde will be long remembered as the iconic image of the Boston Marathon bombing on Patriots’ Day, April 15, 2013, carrying a wounded victim in his arms from the bloody scene near the finish line of the 26.2-mile road race. When people ran from the explosion, Plourde, a four-year member of the Boston Fire Department, went toward the smoke. Moments later a photographer captured an image of Plourde carrying a girl away from the bomb scene on Boylston Street. The picture quickly went viral on social media. “I crawled through the scaffolding … it was an absolutely horrid scene,” Plourde said. “There were so many people hurt, I was thinking, ‘Who can I help first?’” Three people died and 264 were injured as a result of two homemade pressure cooker bombs allegedly planted among marathon spectators by two Chechen brothers described as “extremists.” The bombs exploded 13 seconds and 200 yards apart. In his rescue efforts, Plourde came across a 20-year-old Northeastern University student with a large leg wound. She was being tended to by a civilian who tied a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. Plourde scooped her up and dashed her to a waiting ambulance. She was whisked to the hospital and survived. The former Boston EMS Paramediic rushed back in and helped more victims before heading to the medical tent to triage severely injured victims. Plourde’s long-time emergency medical training came in handy. Before moving to Boston he was an Explorer in the Shaker Road Loudonville Fire Department and a long-time volunteer with the Midway Fire Department. In his free time he also helped raise more than $70,000 for the Lupus Foundation of America and the Lupus Foundation of New England towards the research and development of a cure for Lupus – an autoimmune disease. He is also a member of the Capital District Scottish Games planning committee.
Inducted in 2014
Paul Gansle (1960)
Paul Gansle is a Masters Track and Field champion, the longest tenured varsity head coach in Colonie Central High School history, and a role model to South Colonie children for nearly a half century. Gansle taught Physical Education in the district for 47 years before retiring in 1997. A runner and hurdler for SUNY Cortland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Gansle was a varsity running coach at Colonie High for 32 years for the outdoor and indoor track and cross country teams. He ended his coaching career with 256 cross country dual meet victories, 28 invitational wins and 15 Section II championships in track and cross country. He also coached many other high school sports over the years, and continued to support South Colonie track and field well into retirement. Outside of the sporting arena, Gansle was a decorated lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. As a long-time athlete, Gansle won numerous Masters Track and Field championships competing since 1984 in the Empire State Games, Empire State Senior Games and the Long Island Senior Games. He holds many meet records in these three meets. He was awarded the Adirondack Association’s age-graded Grand Prix Award for track and field from 2000-2003. His highest personal achievement came in 2003 when he won the U.S. Masters Indoor National Championship at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston jumping 4-feet, 11-1/4- inches in the high jump at the age of 61. His state and national masters’ highlights also include winning the 100-meter run, 200m, 400m and 300m hurdles, and being a part of three winning relay teams at the 2002 state masters. Locally, Gansle organized and laid out the course for the Village of Colonie’s Mayor Trophy 5K Run, which was run annually for 15 years on Columbus Day. He is also the founder of the annual South Colonie Elementary Cross Country Meet, still in existence today. His five children are all Colonie Central High School graduates.
Lt. Col. Robert Kirkland (1984)
Lt. Col. Robert Kirkland is a highly decorated military officer, teacher and a recognized author. He retired after a 26-year career in the U.S. Army which culminated as the Army ROTC professor of military science at the University of Southern California (USC). Kirkland is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Air War College and the Army Command and General Staff School. As a young officer, Kirkland served two tours of duty both in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. His awards and decorations for service include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal (2 awards), the Iraq Service Medal (2 tours), the Southwest Asia Service Medal (2 tours), and foreign awards from the countries of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He also earned the parachutist badge, the air assault badge, the Army Ranger tab, and the Combat Action Badge. After his combat duty, Kirkland was named Assistant Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) from 1998-2001. He was honored as the best Army ROTC instructor in the United States in 2005, and headed the Army ROTC program at Claremont McKenna College (CA) from 2006-2009. From 2009-2010 he served as Chief Historian for all multi-national forces in Iraq and was chief historian advisor to Commanding General Raymond Odierno. In addition to his military career, Kirkland has contributed greatly to the academic community. Contributions/achievements include: a PhD and master’s degree in History from the University of Pittsburgh, authoring two books and numerous academic articles, appearances on the History Channel and Biography Channel, interviews in numerous periodicals and newspapers, guest lecturing, and serving on the Executive Committee and as President and Vice President of the Middle Atlantic Council on Latin American Studies’– earning the E. Bradford Burns Awards for his contributions to this organization. He has earned many other awards and honors. Kirkland is a life member of the Military Officers Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Military Academy Association of Graduates and the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association.
Inducted in 2015
Jeffrey M. Zelka (1984)
Jeffrey M. Zelka – Class of 1984 – has assembled an extraordinary record of service to the residents of Colonie since graduating from high school 31 years ago. He is known locally as a “go-to person” in nearly every facet of his life from his career and public safety work, to his parenting, and continuous volunteerism in school and church programs, and youth athletics. Zelka has been employed by the Town of Colonie since 1985, and today serves in the Fleet Maintenance Department, requisitioning parts and coordinating maintenance and repairs of all town vehicles and equipment. He was a volunteer member of the Shaker Road Loudonville Fire Department for 18 years, moving up the ranks from Firefighter to Lieutenant and Captain and rounding out his career as First and Second Assistant Chief. He also received the Human Action Award for his rescue efforts at a structure fire in May, 2001, and was named Most Improved Firefighter by the Fire Department in 1997. During his tenure, he obtained numerous fire department certificates and trained members in various areas of firematics. During his career in public safety, Zelka was a Certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for eight years. He earned two lifesaving awards from the Regional Emergency Management Organization of Hudson Valley in 1996 and 1998 for the Reversal of Cardiac Arrest. Zelka’s community service extends to his church, St. Pius X, where he has been a member all of his life. He has taught religious education and has served on various committees during the last 30 years. Zelka returned to his South Colonie alma mater supporting his daughters’ theater productions as a set construction volunteer and later joining the Sand Creek Middle School PTA. As a member, he became involved with many school activities, eventually becoming the PTA President, the first male president in the school’s history. When Sand Creek was introduced to the Olweus Bully Prevention Program, he volunteered to become certified as a trainer; supporting the South Colonie School District’s new program. His strong anti-bully convictions lead him to coordinate the “Hug the School” campaign — symbolizing Sand Creek student’s embrace of a bully-free environment. As his children moved to Colonie Central High School, so did his school support, continuing his PTA service as a volunteer, PTSA Vice President for three years, CCHS Building Planning Team Parent Representative, member of the Raiderfest planning committee, and drama performance volunteer. District-wide, Zelka has been a member of the South Colonie PTA Council, Assistant Clerk for South Colonie budget and school board votes, and a member of the District Bus Stop Review Committee. In May 2015, the New York State PTA recognized his 10+ years of service to the students and the organization’s ideals with honorary lifetime membership. Zelka’s strong dedication and leadership was recognized by his high school baseball peers earning him the prestigious Cleary Award in his senior year at CCHS. His love of the sport and easy leadership and mentorship style led him to assist and coach his daughters’ West Albany Athletic League softball teams for 10 years. These characteristics lead him to serve as an Albany County Election Board Committeeman from 1998-2008. Today he serves as Assistant Director for the Albany-Schenectady Harley Owners Group. During his lifetime, Zelka has prided himself as a role model for young people. But perhaps one of his biggest achievements, as he will proudly tell you, is his recovery from alcoholism. Now sober over 10 years, he candidly speaks to young people about the dangerous affects the disease can have on all facets of a person’s life. His commitment to his family and community, that he has served for over 30 years, are the cornerstones of his continued sobriety. He is honored to call Colonie his home and hopes that his contributions and triumphs have and will continue to serve current and future generations.
Inducted in 2016
Claudia Marks (Adams-Kanne) (Class of 1966)
Claudia Marks is part of an Emmy-winning television writing team, movie actress, and award-winning playwright and documentary writer/producer, who has used her tragic life experiences to work as an advocate for change. After graduating from CCHS in 1966, she saved up enough money to attend Hudson Valley Community College and the State University at Plattsburgh. She moved to California to teach but found out her credentials were not valid in that state. After working at odd jobs and supporting her mother, she got a position as a flight attendant on Military Air Command missions that brought U.S. soldiers to Vietnam. During one flight in the 1970s she helped save 252 military families from a burning aircraft at Yakota Air Force Base. The airline presented her with their “Perfection/Not Correction” Award. Marks’ dream was to be in the movies ever since she had landed the leading role in the CCHS school play, Gramercy Ghost. So she went to Hollywood, but soon discovered there were few roles for women at the time so she tried to change that by writing for television entertainment. Her first scripts were for the long-running TV dramas Knots Landing and Cagney and Lacey, where she collaborated with other writers on the “Who Said It’s Fair” episode that won an Emmy Award and an NAACP Image Award for Excellence in Television. For that specific Cagney and Lacey episode, she was invited to become a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the Writers Guild of America. As a playwright, her production, “POW-Police Officers’ Wives/Prisoners of War” about her life married to a police officer exposed spousal abuse on the police force and was nominated for two NAACP Excellence in Theatre Awards and won one. She also wrote the play, “My Client’s a Lunatic” based on the transcripts of her trial when she was beaten and sexually assaulted by a security guard. That play won several awards and was chosen as one of the Top 10 theatre productions that year. Marks later turned to documentary writing. In 2010, she produced, co-directed and wrote a documentary short, “A Far Off Cry” filmed in Pakistan. It was accepted into 17 film festivals and won awards at six, including the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival and the Walt Ratterman Humanitarian Award. A second documentary, “Dry Clean Only” documents her efforts to prove that a dry cleaning solvent was killing her and ends with her testifying against the chemical companies, helping to get the first banning of the chemical in the United States. This production won four health and science awards. Marks is presently in post-production on her third documentary, “Like No Other” about the 2010 Pakistan floods. Her dream to become an actress came true when she landed a principal role as Madam of the Tortuga Cantina in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with Johnny Depp and later, scoring a role in The Lone Ranger. Marks has been involved in many other humanitarian efforts over her life such as helping sexually abused children, speaking to at-risk youth, producing Public Service Announcements for No Drugs America, leading Adopt a Highway campaigns, fighting homelessness, and establishing a college scholarship for children who have transitioned through the foster care system.
James (Tim) Ryan (Class of 1966)
As a longtime member/officer of the South Colonie Board of Education and as an activist in local youth athletics and organizations, James (Tim) Ryan – Class of 1966 – has spent countless hours dedicated to the children of Colonie. First elected to the Board of Education in 1994, Ryan continues in that role today after more than two decades in the governance of South Colonie’s approximately 5,000 public school children. He served as school board President for 12 years (1998-2001), (2005-2009), and (2013-2015), has been chair and/or member of numerous school board committees. These committees include Academic Achievement, Accountability and Board Operations, Audit and Finance, Communications, Facilities, Graduation/Hall of Fame, Information Technology, Policy, Strategic Planning, and Transportation. During the 1990s he served on former Superintendent Dr. Thomas Brown’s Shared Decision Making Committee, which brought more parents and community involvement to the district. He has also served as school board liaison for Town of Colonie Planning and Labor Management. He has made numerous presentations at the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and National School Board Association (NSBA) conventions. Ryan has also been involved in a variety of activities as a member of the greater Colonie community. This includes serving as an usher, lector and Eucharist Minister (1990-present) at Christ Our Light (St. Francis de Sales) Church, Little League and Babe Ruth coach (1989-1993), coach, manager, and Financial Director of the West Albany Athletic Association (1980s-1990s), Scoutmaster (1988-1990) for Cub Scout Pack 90, Colonie Central High School Basketball Booster Club President (1993-1996), member and Booster Club President of Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs (2002), and the Albany-Colonie Yankees (1994), and Booster Club member of the Albany River Rats (1994-2000). He has also assisted in the yearly collection and distribution of winter clothing items for area needy. Ryan is a 1970 graduate of Siena College with bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He worked in New York State government for 35 years, starting with the Commission for the Blind and Visual Handicapped, teaching visually impaired individuals business and independent life skills. He went on to manage and administer several statewide programs to help low income families and the aged, including Food Stamp Outreach, HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program), and EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit Program). He retired from state government in 2005.
Meaghan Nichols Sammons (Class of 1993)
The late Meaghan Nichols Sammons – Class of 1993 – leaves a long legacy as a community humanitarian and as a strong role model for young women. A three-sport student athlete and team leader while at CCHS, Sammons earned an associate’s degree in Human Services from Schenectady County Community College and attended the State University at Albany. She started her career as an intern in 1996 at Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, a free after school/summer camp program that inspires at-risk girls in grade K-12 to be strong, smart and bold. She rose through the ranks during her 18-year career at Girls Inc., being named Director of Programs in Albany and Schenectady from 2008-2015. Through her work at Girls Inc. she influenced many young ladies’ lives and provided them with a positive role model and constant support. In 2007 she was awarded the YWCA Women of Achievement and Reach Award for impacting young women’s lives. In 2004, Sammons wanted to do something else in her life to help people so she joined the Midway Fire Department. She quickly rose to Lieutenant, then Captain, and then Assistant Chief. Ten years after joining the department she became the first female Fire Chief in the Town of Colonie. Sammons was known in the firehouse as a teacher and mentor for new members, and she was always one of the top responders each year. During her tenure at Midway, she received many honors. This included being named Midway Firefighter of the Year in 2007, and earning the Law & Order Community Service Award from the Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520 American Legion in 2011. In the summer of 2014 she was diagnosed with cancer, but still carried out her duties as Fire Chief during her treatment. She would not let the illness define her, and at the end of 2014 she was still one of the fire department’s top responders. Sammons passed away in March of 2015. A year later she was posthumously awarded the Everyday Hero for the 2016 Community Impact Awards given by The Stakeholders, Inc. – an organization whose mission is to inspire and equip people to take action in their communities. She will always be remembered as a humanitarian who dedicated her life to assisting others.
Inducted in 2017
Michael J. Aidala (Class of 1955)
Michael J. Aidala is a longtime Colonie public servant and member of Colonie Central High School’s first graduating class in 1955. A resident of the Village of Colonie for many years, he was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 1979 and serves as Deputy Mayor. He is also a former Albany County Legislator representing the 27th District. Last elected Trustee in 2016, Aidala is Commissioner of the Albany County Sewer District, and Liaison to the village Department of Public Works, Sign Review Board and Tax Assessor. Aidala is past President of the Hudson Mohawk Elected Officials Association, and a member of the West Albany Italian Benevolent Society, the Albany Polish American Citizens Club, the Thunder Road Senior Citizens Club, and a social member of the Colonie Fire Company. He is Assistant Scoutmaster with Boys Scouts Troop 278, manager of Our Lady of Mercy Church Little League team, and former President of the Forest Park Elementary School and Sand Creek Middle School PTA groups. A retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, Aidala is past President of the Capital District Chapter Association of the U.S. Army, serving on the Board of Governors, and a member the Joseph E. Zaloga American Legion Post No. 1520. During his long tenure as village Trustee, Aidala has played an active role in improving village streets, sewer service, and local parks and playgrounds. He has been a supporter of veterans, senior citizens, and youth baseball programs, as well as the Central Avenue Outreach Center and Family Recreation Center. He also helped facilitate the construction of a new village firehouse and EMS station.
Nikki (Allen) Caruso (Class of 1983)
For nearly 30 years, Nikki (Allen) Caruso’s career has been dedicated to the children and families of Colonie. As Executive Director of the Colonie Youth Center since 2007 and Deputy Director before that, she has worked with thousands of children attending the childcare and summer camp programs, and has ensured that behavioral health and counseling services are available when needed. She also played an integral part in creating the Rudy A. Ciccotti Family Recreation Center so that the community’s needs for recreation, health and wellness programs are met. As a leader at one of Colonie’s most valued non-profit organizations, Caruso has witnessed children “graduate” from summer camp and the after-school program to become childcare counselors in those same programs they themselves participated in just a few short years before. Caruso’s professional career at the CYC began immediately upon graduation from the University of Michigan, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She also earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the State University at Albany and an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from Hudson Valley Community College. Before serving as CYC Executive Director she held the positions of Director of Programming and Director of School-Age Childcare Programs. She is proud to have spent her entire professional career at the youth center. Over the years, Caruso has served as an officer and/or member of numerous community groups including the William K. Sanford Colonie Town Library, the Town of Colonie Youth Bureau Advisory Board, the South Colonie Safe Schools Committee, the North Colonie Business Advisory Council, the Shaker Heritage Society, the NYS Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, the Colonie-Albany Kiwanis Club, Colonie Senior Service Centers, Inc., and the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. Caruso has accepted numerous honors on behalf of the work she performs at the CYC including awards from the Colonie-Albany Kiwanis Club, NYS Families Together, Colonie Senior Service Centers, Inc., Capital Region Living Magazine and the Times Union newspaper, the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, and the Medical Fitness Association. Her friends and colleague who nominated Caruso for the Hall of Fame summed up her worthiness this way: “Nikki has spent her entire career serving the youth of the community in which she grew up. This is the ultimate example of ‘paying it forward.’ She is that rare individual who combines the drive, the intelligence and the ability to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to, and that has benefited many she has touched.”
Inducted in 2018
Commander Brian A. Fazzone (Class of 1978)
Commander Brian A. Fazzone is a highly decorated officer whose more than 30 years of success in the military, government and private sector have led to major advancements for the U.S. Department of Defense, foreign allies, and national border security. After graduating from CCHS, Fazzone earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Widener University and a master’s degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. He became a naval aviator in 1982, earning his wings in the U.S. Marine Corps. He transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1989 and retired from active duty in 2006. During his military career he was deployed throughout the world, serving in both Desert Storm and the Bosnian Conflict. He was also an advisor to the Philippine Air Force and aerospace industry in support of counter-terror operations in the southern Philippines. In addition to his flying duties, which included logging more than 2,000 flight hours in seven different aircraft, Fazzone charted a parallel career as an acquisitions professional. In this role he worked extensively in C41 aircraft engineering sustainment, and international aerospace, manufacturing and technology related programs. Major project included implementation of the Pacific Fleet and command, managing Japanese defense contracts, modernizing naval station port facilities, and working on the International Space Station. From 2008 until today, he has worked as Program Manager for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Air & Marine Operations. He is responsible for directing unmanned aircraft systems acquisitions. The Office of Air and Marine is the world’s largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization with more than 1,200 federal agents, operating from 80 air and marine locations, with more than 269 aircraft of 22 different types, and 297 marine vessels. The mission of the Office of Air and Marine is to protect the American people and the nation’s critical infrastructure through the coordinated use of integrated air and marine forces. These forces are used to detect and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs toward or across U.S. borders. Fazzone holds numerous military decorations including a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and three Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy and Marine Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and various campaign, unit and service awards. He has also donated his time over the years to various charitable organizations, working throughout Europe and Japan to help orphaned and disadvantaged children.
Inducted in 2019
The Honorable Christina L. Ryba (Class of 1994)
The Honorable Christina L. Ryba was elected by the people in the third judicial district to serve as Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 2015. Prior to beginning her term in 2016, she held various positions in the court system for the Office of Court Administration (OCA) and in the NYS Supreme Court Third Department Appellate Division including SpecialProjects Counsel to the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Courts Outside New York City and Special Projects Counsel to the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department.Before working with the judiciary, Judge Ryba was an associate at Nixon Peabody where she practiced Labor/Employment Law and Commercial Litigation. She also served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York Litigation Bureau.Judge Ryba’s additional public service includes appointments first as General Counsel and then as Deputy Director for the City of Albany Community Development Agency. She originally began her career in public service with the City of Albany Corporation Counsel’s office.Judge Ryba is a member of the Albany Law School Board of Trustees, the Albany County Access to Justice Committee and is a Past-President of the Albany County Bar Association.She has also served multiple terms on the New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates. She graduated Cum Laude from Skidmore College in 1998 with a degree in Economics and continued her education at Albany Law School where she received her Juris Doctor in 2001. During her senior year at Skidmore, Christina was selected as the 1997 Tulip Queen of Albany, serving as an ambassador for the Mayor’s literacy program.Judge Ryba, then known as “Chrissy Roberts,” has many fond memories ofColonie Central High School which include being inducted into the National Honor Society, participating in Orchestra, Drama Club, Varsity Tennis and Student Government. Most importantly she cherishes her continued friendships with fellow classmates Brooke (LaRosa) Bardack and Nicole (Sfara) Casey.
Mayor Frank Leak (Honorary Inductee)
Colonie Mayor Frank Leak is a life-long resident of the Capital District and a 50-year resident of the Village of Colonie. He is well known for his involvement in local community, religious and civic organizations.A Navy Veteran of World War II, Leak built an unshakable reputation for quality and honesty as a building contractor and then as a municipal government official. As a Village Trustee for 17 years and Mayor since 1995, Mayor Leak has been a driving force in the expansion of services to our senior citizens. He has devoted countless hours and energy in improving the facilities and delivery of service of our Colonie Fire Company, including provision of the newest fire equipment. Mayor Leak is a well-known for his willingness to help anyone he can. He has supported the Colonie Little League, T-Ball, Babe Ruth, Soccer and Girls Softball teams as well as the Boy Scouts of America. He is a member of the BPOE #2192, a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus Council #3394 and Carpenters Union Local #146.Mayor Leak was a leading force in the construction of the Frank A. Leak Amphitheater and complete renovation of the Village Outreach Building. He had partnership oversight with South Colonie Schools assisting in running the highly successful alternative education program in two village locations over the years.Mayor Leak and his wife, Mae, are devoted members of the Village of Colonie. Frank enjoys spending time with his three daughters Joanne, Diane and Roxanne, his three grandchildren RJ, Mellissa and Scot, and his two great-grandchildren Jaden and Olivia. When asked about his term as Mayor, Leak said, “I have been proud to serve the citizens of our Village. Working together, we have helped make this community a prosperous and safe place in which we live and raise our families. I look forward to accomplishing even more in the future.”Mayor Leak is proud to be the recipient of many community awards including many recognitions from the New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), the Living Resources Community Enrichment Award, the Frank C. Moore Award from Albany County, the Friends of Education Award from the South Colonie Central School District and Capital Area School District Association (CASDA), and the Mary E. Brizzell Building a Senior Community Award.
Inducted in 2020
Cogan, a resident of the district, currently serves on the South Colonie Board of Education and as Colonie Central High School PTSA President. She became active in supporting the district when her children began school working in various capacities and serving in officer roles for the Shaker Road Elementary PTA, Colonie Central High School PTSA, and PTA District Council. In her 20 years of PTA service at South Colonie, Cogan was president for 16 of those years earning a Lifetime Member award in 2013. In addition to raising more than $150,000 in funds through volunteer support to benefit South Colonie students, Cogan has also served and supported many other district stakeholder committees.
Cogan was raised and educated in Pennsylvania earning a Bachelor of Finance from Pennsylvania State University. After graduation, she moved to the Capital District to begin her career as a bank examiner with the federal government. Soon after, she met and married Jim Cogan (CCHS ‘84) and stayed to eventually earn the honor of being a 30 year resident of South Colonie. Cogan and her husband have three children Kyle (CCHS ‘13), John (CCHS ‘16), and Julia, Class of 2020.
In addition to her service to the school district, Cogan also is active in the community. She served as president of the South Colonie Girls Lacrosse Booster Club, a trustee at Christ Our Light Church, and treasurer of Boy Scout Troop 1022, from which both of her sons Kyle and John earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Cogan also owns a business that manages professional associations.