John T. Phillips
Class of 1965
Judge John T. Phillips is a Circuit Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit, Lake County, Illinois. He was unanimously elected by his fellow Circuit Judges to serve as the Chief Judge of the 19th Circuit for a two-year term. Judge Phillips was admitted to practice before the Iowa Supreme Court and practiced briefly as a supervising attorney with a legal assistance clinic in Davenport, Iowa prior to his entry on to active duty with the U.S. Air Force in October, 1972. Judge Phillips has served in all Divisions of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Lake County, Illinois. He serves on the Illinois Supreme Court's Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning. He has been active in both the Illinois and Lake County Bar Associations.
His message to Leyden students: "What you do and experience today will absolutely shape and affect what you will be able to do tomorrow. Integrity matters."
Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, Ph.D.
Class of 1976
Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl is an Applied Development Psychologist and a Professor in the Department of Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She began her professional career first as a middle school teacher and then as a secondary school teacher at an alternate school for "at risk" adolescents. For more than two decades, Dr. Schonert-Reichl's research has focused on the social and emotional development of children and adolescents with a particular emphasis on identifying the processes and mechanism that foster children and adolescents' positive human qualities including empathy, altruism, kindness and resiliency. She has been recognized nationally and internationally for her work.
Her message to Leyden students: "There is so much I learned at West Leyden, and those years served as a foundation for the work I am doing today. I would tell Leyden students to cultivate their optimistic thinking, find their passion, and nurture their relationships with friends and family! I would emphasize to them the importance of finding teachers and other adults in school who believe in them and can serve as role models or mentor."
Class of 1964
Don Smarto has worked professionally with prisoners and ex-offenders for over thirty years. He is known nationally as a keynote speaker at major conferences, speaking about restorative justice, prisoner aftercare, and the educational methods most effective with prisoners. As a nationwide consultant, Don has played a key role in the development of ex-offender programs. Don taught criminal justice courses at Wheaton College and Trinity University for twelve years. He has authored thirteen books. Three of his books about restorative justice have been college textbooks. Currently, Don is the host of the daily Dallas radio show "Parenting Today's Youth" with 29,000 listeners each day.
His message to Leyden students: "In the famous fable, the tortoise won the race by not giving up. I got off to a slow start, but my East Leyden teachers encouraged me and I did not give up. My teachers were my mentors and changed the course of my life."
Dr. Daniel Martinez
Class of 1986 ~ East
Dr. Martinez is a Board Certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist. He is the President of Comprehensive Clinical Services, a multi-specialty mental health clinic. In addition, he is the Psychiatric Services Coordinator for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. He attended Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine where he earned his M.D. degree. He completed his residency at Loyola University Media Center.
He has received numerous awards, including the Pfizer Psychiatry Resident of the Year (1997), the Dr. Jorge Prieto Medical Achievement Award (2005), and the Welford Award in Community Mental Health (2008).
Memories of Leyden: "I received an award by the Kiwanis Club. I recall getting an award at a breakfast at Denny's on Mannheim. The recognition I received is among the best memories of Leyden."
Nola Ilchene Theiss
Class of 1964 ~ West
Nola Theiss has worn many hats in her life and traveled down three different career paths. She has taught English and photography, owned her own business, and has served as the Mayor of Sanibel Island, Florida. She is currently the Founder and Executive Director of "Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships." She has spoken about human trafficking to over 14,000 people in five countries, helping to increase awareness of this problem and calling others to action throughout the world.
Nola Theiss holds a Masters in Public Administration as well as degrees from Johns Hopkins and the University of Illinois. She fights against human trafficking through public awareness, using her multitude of talents and experiences.
Memories of Leyden: "Mr. Loprieno and his willingness to go the extra mile with students who needed to learn about the larger world is my best memory. My love of art, history, and sense of dedication to those in need came from him, and my feeling that I could and must make a difference was his gift to me."
James R. Weigand
Class of 1973 ~ East
Mr. Weigand is the President of DuPont Sustainable Solutions, USA in Wilmington, Delaware. In this role, "Mr. Weigand leads a global solutions business specializing in transforming workplaces and work cultures with services and technologies that bring about sustained improvements in safety, operational and environmental performance." He continues to build on his very successful 30-year career at DuPont where he has held numerous positions and leadership roles.
He is involved in his community and has made many contributions to organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, and the United Way. In addition, he serves on the Arizona State University Carey School of Business Leadership Advisory Board.
Memories of Leyden: "Representing East Leyden on the basketball court and the baseball field as well as the friends I hung around with and the teachers that inspired me (Ralph Schuler, Gene McCormack, Art Reisman, Judy Wright and Norm Goodman)."
Class of 1976 ~ West
Barb Cascio graduated from West Leyden High School in 1976. After high school, she attended Triton College earning an Associate’s degree in Police Science in 1978, and then attended Lewis University earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 1980.
In 1980, she was the first female to be hired as a police officer in Franklin Park. Upon completion of her police training at the Police Training Institute in Champaign, Illinois, she was voted by her classmates as the recipient of the Irvin H. Warren Award. This is given to the most outstanding cadet and the one most likely to succeed in the field of law enforcement. From there she rose through the ranks to Detective, Sergeant, Commander and then Deputy Chief of Police. She spent a great deal of her career working with youth.
According to Ms. Cascio, the highlight of her career took place at East Leyden when she served as the police liaison officer from 1995 to 2002. She touched the lives of many students. In addition, she served as “Officer Friendly” for 27 years; two generations of Franklin Park’s elementary students have been influenced by Ms. Cascio’s instruction and guidance.
Her message to Leyden students is this: “That one person really can make a difference in the lives of others, even if it is a small difference in this large world. A person’s character is her destiny. It is the hopes and dreams we have that make us great. It is important to believe in yourself, remain loyal and honest, and if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish whatever you set out to do.”
Ronald F. Gibbs
Class of 1964 ~ West
Ronald Gibbs graduated from West Leyden High School in 1964. He served his country in Vietnam and Germany as a Captain in the U.S. Army. He went on to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He then earned a Master in Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In addition, Mr. Gibbs has studied at The Hague Academy of International Law, where he earned a Certificate in International Human Rights. He also studied at the London School of Economics.
Mr. Gibbs is the President of National and International Public Affairs Consulting, located in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy.
He spearheaded the passage of legislation establishing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and served on the Board. As Jan Scruggs, President of the Vietnam Memorial Fund stated in his book, To Heal a Nation, “Ron spent many hours walking the halls of Congress. He never asked for public recognition or acclaim. His only desire was to see the names of the 58,000 killed in Vietnam inscribed in a place of honor.” He founded The Kim Foundation with Kim Phuc, whose Pulitzer Prize winning photo was captured by Nick Ut as her village was napalmed during the Vietnam War.
His message to Leyden students: “A good education can be your key to success. Seek to empower yourself. Continually seek to make a difference—with family and friends. Look to help others in the community, nationally and globally. Believe in the ‘power of an idea’ to bring about social change whether in your community, nationally, or internationally.”
Tracy M. Rizzo
Class of 1989 ~ East
Tracy Rizzo graduated from East Leyden in 1989. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rosary College in 1993 and her Juris Doctorate in 1996 from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. After law school she worked at Nadler, Pritikin and Mirabelli, practicing family law.
In July of 2002, after five years of practicing, Tracy Rizzo ventured out and created her own law firm, Law Offices of Tracy M. Rizzo, P.C., which she continues to operate today. Her practice concentrates on all areas of family law: divorce, paternity, custody, maintenance, child support and property division.
In June of 2000, she was recognized by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She earned the Award of Merit because of her outstanding commitment to the protection of children and the knowledge of the Hague international child abduction issues. In addition, Ms. Rizzo has been featured in Chicago magazine and Shore magazine.
Ms. Rizzo is a member of the Illinois Bar Association, Justinian Society of Lawyers, American Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association.
Her message to Leyden students: “You can accomplish any goal in life as long as you focus on your dreams, work hard, and make it happen. But never forget that having a close relationship with your family and friends is truly what is important in life.”
Class of 1971 ~ West
Jane Guill is a published author. Her first novel, Nectar from a Stone, was published in 2005 by Simon and Schuster and is now on thousands of library shelves in the United States! Jane published dozens of short stories in literary magazines. She received two Illinois Arts Council Awards for prose and has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. Jane attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to work as a graphic artist, then as an archaeological illustrator. Eventually she changed her creative focus from art to writing. Jane is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, the Authors Guild, and the Historical Novelists Society. Her message to Leyden students, “The future isn’t as remote as you may think; it’s just ahead like an oasis—but it’s real.”
Class of 1966 ~ West
Richard Heckinger is currently a Senior Policy Advisor in the Financial Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Richard started his career
in financial markets at the Chicago Board Options Exchange in 1973. In the 1990s he was the Chief Operating Officer of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. He volunteers regularly for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and informally counsels cancer survivors. He earned a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, and a Bachelors Degree in Math from Illinois State University. His message to Leyden
students, “Look for opportunities that might not be too obvious and follow your passion.”
Richard E. Nardini
Class of 1952 ~ East
Richard E. Nardini worked at The Chicago Sun-Times for fifty-six years. At the time of his retirement, he was their longest standing employee! He started as a messenger and retired as the Director of Classified Advertising and Advertising Promotion and Production. He is the only non-owner and non-editorialist in Sun-Times history to have a bronze plaque for outstanding achievement. Richard Nardini was elected and served as a Leyden School Board member for 36 years, 29 of those as President. In addition, Mr. Nardini volunteers at Hines Veterans Hospital. His message to Leyden students, “Enjoy your opportunity for an excellent education. Take part in the many activities the school offers. Enjoy yourself and make friends. They will be with you for the rest of your life. Your Leyden years are some of the best years you will ever have.”
Class of 1977 ~ East
Guy Porfirio is a freelance illustrator. He started drawing as a kid and no one ever told him to stop! Over the years he filled his walls and notebooks with sketches of cars, airplanes, and an occasional portrait of Megan, his dog. When he was old enough, he enrolled in the American Academy of Art in Chicago. After graduating, he worked as an illustrator at a Chicago agency. Eventually he moved to Tucson to try his hand at freelancing. Years later, he is still in Tuscon with his family and living out his dream. He has received numerous awards for his illustrations. His message to Leyden students, “No matter what we want to make happen in our lives, there is real joy in moving towards that goal no matter how slow or unattainable it may seem at the time. Nothing is impossible, and not everything has been done before.”
Class of 1981 ~ East
Bradley Stephens is currently the mayor of Rosemont, Illinois. Before his appointment as Mayor, he was a Village Trustee for 18 years. He also served as Leyden Township Supervisor for nearly 16 years. Mr. Stephens is an enthusiastic volunteer of both his time and talents. He is on the Board of Directors for the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Also, he is an active fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital. He is involved in supporting various youth programs through Leyden Township. He is the co-founder of Leyden Eagles Youth Travel Baseball and Softball. His message to Leyden students, “Stay focused and diligent on your studies and activities. Enjoy every day you are here and never forget where you came from.”
Dr. Karen Fitzner
Class of 1966
Dr. Karen Fitzner is currently the Chief Science and Practice Officer of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She provides leadership, guidance and support for the association's research efforts and evidence based practice guidance program. She is an active member of the National Diabetes Education Program. In addition, she is the Board President of HOPE of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation. She is the founder of the Professional Women in Health committee.
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Illinois State University , and her Master of Science in Economics in Social Policy and Planning from The London School of Economics. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong .
She has given numerous presentations on four continents and written various publications regarding health care and health care management. In addition, she has numerous professional certificates earned in a variety of health-related areas.
Her message to Leyden students is: “Believe in yourself. Savor your educational opportunities and be willing to try the unusual—but always have a goal in mind.”
Ms. Karyn Fritz Brown
Class of 1985
Karyn Fritz Brown is currently a faculty member at Mississippi State University in Starkville , Mississippi . She is an instructor and coordinator of broadcasting in the Department of Communications. She oversees the student-produced shows. She has much to offer her students, as her experience in communications is plentiful. She has worked as an anchor, producer and director of WWIR-TV in Macomb , Illinois . In Columbus , Mississippi she was a general assignment reporter for WCBI-TV (CBS affiliate) where she was responsible for reporting, writing and editing news stories and performing live coverage of events. She also served as a fill-in anchor and producer.
Ms. Brown earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication and Political Science from Augustana College in Rock Island , Illinois and a Master of Arts in Public Communications and Broadcasting from Western Illinois University , Macomb , Illinois .
Her message to Leyden students: “Focus on being yourself, not what others tell you to be. If you stay true to yourself, your talents and skills will be recognized.”
Mayor Jeffrey T. Sherwin
Class of 1971
Jeff Sherwin is currently in his third term as the Mayor of Northlake, Illinois . He is a life-long resident of Northlake and has a strong commitment to the community. As Mayor, he has improved and established many new parks for residents. With his help, the City now has a Senior Citizens Center. New sidewalks, streets and sewers have gone into many areas of the town, and much has been done to improve Northlake's infrastructure. Under his administration Centerpoint Preserve has also seen improvements. He has served on the Library Board and the Fire Protection District. He has worked tirelessly on education referendums for district 212, 83 and 87. He is also active with the Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus.
Mayor Sherwin earned his Associates Degree from Triton College and then went on to Northeastern Illinois University to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then attained his law degree from Kent Law School .
His message to Leyden students: “Set a goal and work towards it. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”
Mr. Floyd M. Yager
Class of 1985
Floyd Yager is currently the Assistant Vice President of Product Operations for Allstate Insurance Company, in Northbrook , Illinois . He has had other titles at Allstate: Assistant Vice President of Research and Development and Senior Actuary, to name a few. He manages day-to-day internal operations for the Midwest Region of Allstate, where he is responsible for the growth and profit of the regional operation, including decisions on pricing, underwriting and marketing. He has been given the honor of the Allstate “Good Hands” Award for Outstanding Community Service.
Mr. Yager earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute , Indiana . He earned a Masters in Business and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
His message to Leyden students: “Work hard. The world is open to you, but do not expect things to be given to you. Take advantage of the opportunities you have before you. Have fun and work to make the world a better place.”
Dr. Peter D. Chemello (Class of 1978) is a board certified oral surgeon with the Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Center located in Arlington Heights and Elgin . In addition, he is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry and lectures at the University of Pennsylvania . He was one of the original founders of the mobile dental clinic which gives dental care to needy people in the Wheeling , Palatine , and Elk Grove Townships . For the past fifteen years, Dr. Chemello has participated in the Elgin Dental Survey sponsored by the Junior League. He treats children in the U-46 school district that are identified to be in need. He is a member of the American Dental Association, the Chicago Dental Society, and a Fellow of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He attended Loyola University and the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. His message to Leyden students: “Any success starts from within. It is incumbent on each individual to seize the opportunity and make his best effort. Thinking that there is no chance will only insure you will have no chance. Opportunity exists everywhere.”
Mr. Ruben Melesio (Class of 1955) is the president and owner of the Highway Safety Corporation, which furnishes and installs traffic protection equipment. He is a member of the Illinois Road Builders Association and in the past has served on their Board of Directors. In addition, he has served as one of the founders and president of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association. He has received national awards for being the Association's minority contractor of the year. He is also a member of the Shriners since 1971. Mr. Melesio is a long-time member of the Leyden Old Timers. His message to Leyden students is, “Choose your words wisely. People will judge you by them.”
Mrs. Sence Wagner Feldmann (Class of 1978) is currently a certified nurse midwife at the Center for Women's Health at the University of Illinois Medical Center. She is a member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. She earned her Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees from the University of Illinois , College of Nursing . In 1983, she received the Alumni Association Outstanding Leader Award. In addition, Mrs. Feldmann is the First Ward Alderwoman in the City of Northlake . She has served as the Treasurer and President of the Whittier School PTA. Over the years, she has been extremely active in the Leyden Bears Football and Cheerleading program and coached the Northlake softball team for girls. Her message to Leyden students, “If you think you can, you will. Believe in yourself!”
REBECCA DAWSON KUNTZ (Class of 1979) is currently vice-president of Harris NesbittHarris Bank's investment bank. She is responsible for selling new issue corporate loans to financial institutions. She manages the Firm's relationships with a diverse set of buyers in the loan market. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Loan Sales and Trading Association. In addition, she speaks frequently at industry conferences.
Smith College , Rebecca's alma mater, benefits greatly from her involvement. She has helped to raise $1 million for Smith College in the past ten years, working as Special Gifts Chairperson. Also, Rebecca is an active member of the First United Church of Oak Park.
Rebecca's message to Leyden students, "Hard work is never wasted. Don't be afraid to reach higher and don't listen when people tell you to scale back your expectations."
LUCIA KAMM-STEIGELMAN (Class of 1965) is a Distinguished Scholar and Associate Professor of Women's Wellness in the Wellstar Department of Nursing, at Kennesaw State Universiry in Georgia . She earned her B.A. degree from Dominican Universiry, a M.S.N. from Rush Universiry, an M.B.A. from Bowling Green State Universiry. and a Ph.D. from Emory Universiry. She is a member of numerous professional organizations and has been involved in several research projects in nursing. In addition, she is a motivational speaker and runs a transition planning business for mid-life women.
Her message to Leyden students. "Maintain your dream of the person you want to be. and the goals you want to achieve. Believe in something larger than yourself."
TERRY A. PIPER (Class of 1963) started working at Franklin Park-based Precision Steel Warehouse, Inc. in 1961 on a high school work study program. In 1999, he became its' CEO and President. His company has 220 employees and $60 million in revenues.
While working at Precision Steel, Terry earned his Associate of Arts degree from Wright Junior College and his Bachelor's degree from Elmhurst College .
Terry, for the past 29 years, has been a football official for the IHSA. In addition, he has officiated for the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin for 12 years. Terry is also an active member of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Lafox , Illinois .
Terry writes, "Finish high school. Don't go to college if you don't really want to. Learn at least one other foreign language. Get along with people."
The Village President/Mayor and Historian of Franklin Park, DANIEL PRITCHETT (Class of 1965) , is one of Leyden 's own! He has been in these two roles since 1996. He also serves as a member of the Franklin Park Chamber of commerce, and the co-founder of the Franklin Park Merchant's Association. He has brought to fruition many initiatives in the area, specifically, Franklin Park 's Veterans Memorial, October Fest, Classic Car Show, and Railroad Daze. He is instrumental in the construction of the Grand Avenue Underpass project and the revitalization of downtown Franklin Park .
In addition to his numerous duties in Franklin Park , he is president of Omar Electric.
His message to Leyden students, "The four years at Leyden go by so fast, but the lessons and memories will last a lifetime. Go for all you can.
Jonathan Cain (John Friga - Class of 1968), longtime member of the band Journey, has been performing, writing and recording music since the eighties. As a song writer, his songs have been recorded by Michael Bolton, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Rogers, the band Heart, Greg Allman, Maria Carey and many others. He co-authored the songs, "Who's Crying Now," "Don't Stop Believin,'" "Faithfully" and "Open Arms." Jonathan has a successful solo career as well, as he has written a series of well received new age albums. In 1999, he received the RIAA Diamond Award for selling over 10 million copies of Journey-Greatest Hits. He was also the recipient of many Bay Area Music Awards and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Journey's song, "When You Love a Woman." Jonathan's message to Leyden students is "to take education seriously, to make the most out of every class and every assignment, to evolve and to improve as a student."
Robyn Chavarrie McCluskey (Class of 1984), is currently the Senior Manager for the Restaurant Business Services with eMac Digital, McDonalds Corporation based in Oak Brook, Illinois. She has worked with McDonald's Corporation for the last ten years in a variety of positions with increased levels of responsibility. Robyn's dedication and hard work has earned her numerous recognition awards during her career at McDonalds. She earned the most prestigious McDonald's President's Award in 2000, only given to the top 1% of employees.
Robyn earned her Bachelor's Degree and Master's of Business and Administration from DePaul University with high honors. Robyn's message to Leyden students is "to get involved in the activities and events offered in high school. These very experiences will benefit you later in life."
Manuel Flores (Class of 1990) The youngest member of the Chicago City Council, Manuel "Manny" Flores, was sworn into office on May 5, 2003. Manny has built an impressive career, demonstrating his dedication to public service and to crime prevention. Prior to being elected Alderman, Manny served as Cook County Assistant State's Attorney. Manny also served as an aide to Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Manny is a member of the Hispanic Illinois State Law Enforcement Association, and an active participant in the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. He also founded Fuerza, a not-for-profit educational advocacy organization that works with Chicago high school students. Manny earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Rosary College and a law degree from George Washington University Law School. His message to Leyden students is "to work hard and commit to intellectual development and other extra-curricular activities that will provide broader experiences outside the classroom."
Matt Janz (Class of 1988), has been cartooning since the age of 8. When he was 11 years old his collection of cartoons, "Dumbells," was published by the Franklin Park Library. He is currently a syndicated cartoonist with the Washington Post Writers Group. His cartoon, Out of the Gene Pool, appears in newspapers worldwide, including the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Seattle Times, and The Taiwan News. Syndicated cartooning is an extremely competitive field, as syndicates receive thousands of comic strip submissions and syndicate only a few each year. In addition, Matt works part-time as a graphic artist and art director at BSA Advertising in Chicago. Matt's message to Leyden students is "you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it; persistence does pay off!