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Five Tyrone Distinguished Alumni recognized by school district and students

The Tyrone Area High School Alumni Association, School District and students recognized the first class of distinguished alumni Friday morning at the high school in part of a recognition weekend lasting through Saturday evening.
Those honorees included Dr. Joseph Fink, Dr. Mark Mooseker, Dr. Timothy O’Rourke, The Honorable Judge Brooks Smith, and Dr. Nick Leasure. An introductory class for the first ever alumni association that will be difficult to surpass.
The five distinguished alumni began their morning at TAHS in the Eagle Inn for breakfast, along with a warm welcome by Superintendent Dr. William Miller. He noted the largeness of the event for the administration, teachers and students, and how important it is for all.
Miller stated, “The five men and their achievements will certainly continue to kindle the fire in you, as students, to achieve, do your best, and set high goals for yourselves.”
After breakfast, there were classroom visits by the distinguished alumni for remarks and discussions with students. Each alumnus visited a class while being guided by an individual ninth grade student from the newly created ‘academic academy.’
Dr. Fink visited Mrs. Marasco’s 12 grade AP Calculus class, Judge Smith visited Mr. Abbott’s 10 grade Civics class, Dr. Mooseker visited Mr. Nale’s 9-10 grade Biology class, Dr. Leasure visited Mr. Gruber’s 11-12 grade Physics class, and Dr. O’Rourke visited Mr. Merryman’s 9 grade English class.
While in the classrooms, each alumnus answered questions from students and spoke of their field of interest, and what Tyrone offered each of them. The visits gave the students an opportunity to get to know these distinguished alumni more personally on a one on one level.
An assembly was held at 10:15 a.m. in the Tyrone auditorium for all students from grades 8-12, giving these distinguished alumni the opportunity to address all students on the benefits Tyrone provided each of them, and even offering advice for students to carry with them into the future.
Each alumnus was introduced by a ninth grade academic academy student in an informative, and at times, playful way. Introductory remarks to begin the assembly were given by Miller.
“I am certain, in talking with these distinguished alumni – the Inaugural Class of 2002 – and, in my opinion, a class that will be unparalleled in the field of public service to humanity, that they would point out the significant importance of being well grounded in the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – very basic to their success in life,” said Miller.
TAHS ninth grader, Nathan Barber, introduced the first alumnus to speak, Dr. Fink. He was a graduate from Tyrone in 1965. Fink is the son of Mardell and the late Leslie Fink of Logan Avenue.
After high school, Fink studied at The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and graduated from there in 1970. From Philadelphia, he traveled to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. where he earned a degree in law.
For the past twenty-five years, Fink has served in the south at the University of Kentucky, both as a Professor of Pharmacy and as Associate Vice-president for University Research. Presently, he is Editor of ‘Pharmacy Law Digest,’ the most widely used pharmacy law text in America. In 1988, Fink was honored as Pharmacist of the Year in Kentucky.
“It’s an honor to be here and I’m pleased to be one of the first group so honored,” said Fink. “Some of the very best (teachers) I’ve been exposed to operated in this building. They practiced their craft in front of a classroom where they challenged you to be an analytical thinker, to write well, to reason well, to express your thoughts clearly and to take those skills with you through the rest of your life.”
He added, “Life is too short to do what you don’t like. Make sure that in life you find something that you really do like and that matches well with your interests and abilities, and go do it.”
“The Tyrone Area School District prepared me very well to do that,” said Fink.
Dr. Mooseker was introduced by academic academy student, Danielle Anders. He is a graduate of the class of 1967. Mooseker is the son of the late Hank and Lorraine Mooseker who use to live near Birmingham.
He studied biology at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He received both his Bachelor and Doctorate Degrees from The University of Pennsylvania. For nearly twenty-five years, Mooseker has served as Professor of Molecular Biology at Yale University in Connecticut. As a professor at Yale, he has worked hard as a researcher, international speaker and teacher.
Mooseker has directed cell research on defects that contribute to blindness and deafness. He has spoken about his findings in diverse places such as France, Austria, Germany and Japan, and has served as a valued teacher to other younger college students training to become research scientists.
“This is a remarkable honor for me, even though I don’t think I deserve it,” said Mooseker. “It’s really remarkable to come back here. I haven’t been in this building for 35 years and it’s very exciting.”
Mooseker continued, “This school has had an incredible impact on preparing for me in terms of forging me into the individual into which I have evolved, as a teacher and as a scientist.
My teachers here went beyond the boundary of being teachers and became mentors to us.”
He added, “In terms of the impact the programs and the performing arts had on me it was just incredible, the richness and diversity of programs available to us gave me the confidence to stand in front of people and actually get out there.”
Ninth grader, Kristen Gurekovich, introduced the third alumnus to be honored, Dr. O’Rourke. He graduated from Tyrone High in 1967. He is the son of Dorothy and the late Vincent O’Rourke of Bald Eagle Avenue.
O’Rourke earned his Doctorate Degree in Political Science from Duke University. He has served as a Political Science Professor and Dean at The University of Virginia, Clemson University, The University of Missouri and presently at Salisbury University in Maryland, where he is Dean of Liberal Arts.
As a scholar, teacher and public servant in each of these colleges, O’Rourke has made it his mission to help citizens old and young become more involved in the government of the United States of America.
“This is a great place to grow up,” said O’Rourke. “What’s wonderful about growing up in a small town is that at a very early age it seems as if there are really no limits, that the world is one of boundless opportunities.”
He continued, “If you want to succeed, you must be prepared to fail. I learned when I came through the Tyrone school system how to define those opportunities for my own life.”
“It’s a wonderful place to be, it is a place to become, it’s certainly a place I’m proud to be from, and I’m grateful to have the chance to come back to Tyrone,” said O’Rourke.
The Honorable Judge Smith received an introduction from ninth grader, Tiffany Bradford. Smith graduated from TAHS in 1969. He is the son of William and Betsy Smith who lived on Clay Avenue.
Smith earned his Pre-Law Degree at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. He took his Juris Doctor from The Dickinson Law School in Carlisle, in 1976. He returned to Altoona to practice law for two years.
In 1983 and 1984, he served as Blair County District Attorney. From 1984 to 1987, Smith was Judge of Blair County Court of Common Pleas. Then in 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed Smith as one of the youngest justices on the federal bench for The United States District Court of Western Pennsylvania.
This past summer, The United States Senate confirmed Smith as a justice on The United States Court of Appeals, which is just one step below The United States Supreme Court.
“I commend all of you who teach at this institution today as I commend those who taught me,” said Smith. “I too have memories of many fine teachers here, those who taught me substantively and those who also taught me the discipline of learning.”
He continued to the students, “Be a teacher. You have an opportunity to pick up a great profession if that is your choice. But even if it’s not, you have an opportunity to teach in other ways as well. Teach by example of hard work. You can teach by setting goals and having focus, and sticking to those goals, and you can teach by simply demonstrating trust in one another.”
Smith added, “It has been my great privilege to participate in this event, I commend this school system and this high school for many, many things, including instituting this program.”
Dr. Leasure was introduced by academic academy ninth grader, Matt Elder. He is a graduate of the class of 1975. Leasure is the son of Nick and the late Vera Leasure of Washington Avenue.
After an outstanding academic and athletic career at Tyrone, Leasure earned a degree in Biology from Saint Francis College with highest honors in 1979. In 1989, he graduated with honors from Hahnemann University Medical School in Philadelphia where he was named Intern of the Year.
Leasure has pursued research study in bone marrow transplants. Presently, he serves with a group of doctors as a Cancer and Blood Specialist.
“When I was a senior in high school I had no idea I was going to be a physician or end up in medical school, and I think that’s important to know,” addressed Leasure. “You need to have goals and you need to pursue them, but you need to pursue not just single-mindedly, you need to have a very broad education and you need to be the best at everything you can be, because you never know which direction you’re going to end up going.”
Leasure continued, “There are many people in Tyrone that you’ll meet along the way and it isn’t just what you’re learning, it’s really the inspiration that you’ll draw and the role models that you’ll see as you come through here.”
“I’m not sure I look at coming back to Tyrone as coming back, in many ways I feel like I never left,” said Leasure. “One of the nicest things about Tyrone is the nurturing environment. The community really cares about the school, the athletic programs, the non-athletic programs – it cares about every one of you.”
At the conclusion of the assembly, the Chamber Choir, under the direction of Mrs. Cathy Young, performed the song ‘Try To Remember’ in honor of the distinguished alumni.
A question and answer session for the alumni was cut short due to time restraints. Ninth grade students, Cynda Ormsby and Zach Yeaton were chosen to present the questions to the honored alumni.
During the assembly, Leslie Ieraci presented a plaque and certificate for the newly formed Tyrone Area High School Alumni Association to Mooseker, naming him a lifetime member, which will be displayed in the TAHS lobby.
All alumni will receive a plaque and certificate tomorrow evening at a recognition dinner at the Bull Pen at 6:30 p.m. Mooseker is unable to attend Saturday evening, so he was presented his plaque and certificate Friday morning.
Miller stated, “The portraits will hang in the halls of TAHS to remind everyone of their accomplishments.”
The Distinguished Alumni Class of 2002 toured the Tyrone High School/Middle School and heard a presentation by Vicki Aults, Technology Coordinator following the assembly.
The alumni also toured the Tyrone Elementary School after hearing an introduction of the Central Office Administration by Miller and a review of program offerings by Mrs. Spewock and Mrs. Dutrow.
A breakfast will be held Saturday morning for the alumni at Joybeans Coffeehouse, with Mayor Stoner sharing some comments about the town. The alumni will end their weekend at the Bull Pen Restaurant for a recognition dinner and presentation.
Editor’s Note: The Daily Herald congratulates the five Distinguished Alumni. My first interview in the media was with Nick Leasure as a 10 year-old for WTRN. I’m glad we were able to lighten the mood with the jokes about Dr. Mooseker. Welcome home to the Tyrone Area High School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2002.