David E. Dix
Frank Capra’s great film “It’s A Wonderful Life” has become an effective metaphor for the Kent City Schools Hall of Fame induction ceremony a week ago Saturday in the Kent State Hotel and Conference CenterThe Pizzuti Ballroom was packed, where attendees were greeted by Superintendent George Joseph.
Banker Howard Boyle, one of 10 inductees, cited the 1947 film as inspiration. It tells the story of a community banker who, despite his dreams of adventure in the afterlife, spends his entire life in his hometown where he has an overwhelmingly positive effect on the lives of its people.
Now think of Kent: No one in the business community has been more cohesive and creative in advocating for the transformation of Kent’s nearly dilapidated mid-1970s town center into the bustling, rejuvenated community center it has become today.
Boyle has played a leading role in Hometown Plaza, the Kent Downtown Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation which helps secure land titles for improvements on both sides of the Cuyahoga River, the Kent Architectural Advisory Board, the Kent Historical Society and its successful restoration of the Erie Railroad Depot, the Kent Jaycee car at the Depot and Kent Rotary.
His 22-year tenure on the Kent Board of Education saw the addition of Stanton Middle School and many educational improvements. Meanwhile, his leadership of Hometown Bank has grown it from an institution with $8 million in deposits to one with over $200 million. Howard’s recognition came in the Academic and Professional Achievements category.
So many stories at the ceremony were inspiring.
In the athletic achievement category, recognition came for Deral Boykin, who played in the NFL, and is now in entertainment and real estate in Los Angeles.
His non-profit organization, “Fly Kick for Kids”, distributes sneakers to low-income students. Many Boykins have been outstanding Roosevelt athletes over the decades, and the evening’s emcee, John Nemec, Roosevelt High’s legendary football coach, burst out laughing when he recalled a Roosevelt’s contest with the perennial powerhouse of Louisville in which Deral Boykin ran up and down the field scoring for Roosevelt. Nemec said the Louisville coach asked him when he was going to run out of Boykins. “When I retire, you’ll know it’s gone,” Nemec replied.
Jennifer Keller-Birkes was honored in the Cultural and Performing Arts category. His experimental dance films have been shown around the world. His Rock Dance Company brings positive messages to children in western Pennsylvania. She has danced professionally in New York and Pittsburgh and with the Pennsylvania Dance Theater and is currently on the faculty of Slippery Rock University, where she also served as Dean.
Linda Ferlito, who taught Physical Education and Health in Kent City Schools, was honored for her contribution to schools. As District Wellness Coordinator, she was appointed to the National School Health Alliance. For 25 years, she coached Special Olympics athletes in track and field and swimming. With her late husband, John, Kent’s health commissioner, the town and the school district’s wellness program got in sync
A sad part of the program was the father-son induction of Scott Hamilton and his son, the late Adam Hamilton, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011. Adam’s stellar athletic accomplishments and kindness to others were beautifully remembered. Scott and Connie Hamilton’s contributions to Kent City Schools on Adam’s behalf were noted. They include the $2,500 Adam Hamilton Memorial Athletic and Academic Scholarship for a senior male and female Roosevelt graduate, renewable for four years.
Two were recognized for science and technology. Scott Rudlosky, a 2000 graduate, physicist and lightning expert, conducts research that helps meteorologists. He leads a scientific team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some good news: Scott is joining the faculty at Kent State University.
Tatiana Rynearson, class of 1990, is a pioneer in biological oceanography and a professor at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of marine plankton, the basis of marine food webs. It took her to all seven continents. An inspiration to women seeking to enter a scientific field, Tatiana led a team of female science students across the Southern Ocean in Antarctica.
Keith “Stepp” Stewart, Class of 1981, is an Emmy Award-nominated producer, director, choreographer, songwriter, performer and playwright. He spoke movingly of being rescued as a young man by an aunt who enrolled him in schools in Kent where, he said, “I never felt the color was a factor. He is the Dr. Oz Show’s Dance Fitness Guru. It was recognized in the category of Cultural Achievement and Performing Arts.
The late Kathleen Zimmerman, Class of 1972, a graduate with honors from Yale Law School, was recognized in the Academic and Professional Achievement category for her work in environmental and conservation law. Having worked for 20 years for the National Wildlife Foundation, she was responsible for keeping millions of acres of national monuments and forest lands open to the public and preserving threatened wildlife habitat. She was director of public lands policy for the National Wildlife Federation when she died in 2018. Her partner, Bill Cheatwood, accepted her award. As a student of Roosevelt, she founded the “Futurist”, a high school environmental group and helped organize Roosevelt’s first Earth Day.
They say the best part of the Hall of Fame program comes the school day before the induction ceremony when recipients speak in an assembly of students at Roosevelt’s Roberts Auditorium and then meet small groups of students. Imagine those Hall of Fame role models and how inspiring those encounters must be for young adults in high school.
David E. Dix is a retired editor of the Record-Courier.