High school honors top alumni

Glen Burnie selects 8 graduates with success stories to serve as role models for students

October 12, 2008|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Baltimore Sun

After John Schillinger graduated from Glen Burnie High School in 1956, he developed several popular varieties of soybeans that are used today by a majority of farmers in the United States.

Alfred Lipin, Class of 1939, became a state senator. Lori Ann Slezak, class of 1987, opened a colon and rectal surgery practice two weeks ago in Tampa, Fla.

They and five others are the first alumni to be honored on the Wall of Honor at Glen Burnie High School. School officials awarded plaques to honorees or their family members at a ceremony Friday before the homecoming football game. Their names will be the first of many displayed on panels just outside the school's media center, said Jessica Paugh, the school's community liaison. Each year the high school will pick four alumni who have become "stellar" examples to students.

Slezak, 38, who did her surgical residency at Yale University, was unable to come to the ceremony because she was still setting up her new office. But the physician said she likes the idea of showing students what their potential could be.

"I think it's a very difficult time for teenagers, and I think having role models of similar backgrounds is important," she said by phone from Tampa.

School officials and the Glen Burnie Business Advisory Board developed the idea of a Wall of Honor nearly two years ago to get alumni involved in mentoring, said Pat Kasuda, chairwoman of the business advisory board. They hope the wall will encourage more alumni to keep in touch, she said.

Some former students, such as National Football League rookie Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs, did not make the first round because the chosen alumni must have graduated at least 10 years ago. Kasuda said other famous graduates were not among the 25 nominated. Organizers, however, didn't want fame to be a top criterion.

"You don't have to be famous to be successful," Kasuda said.

Schillinger, whose family turned his high school watermelon stand into what is now Papa John's Nursery in Severn, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in science from the University of Maryland. He went on to earn a doctorate in plant genetics from Michigan State University. Schillinger returned to teach at the University of Maryland, but he moved to Iowa in 1973 to do soybean research for Asgrow Seed Co. After he retired as president of Asgrow in 1999, he went on to form two other companies, Schillinger Seed Inc. and Heartland Fields.

Schillinger, 70, said it felt great to be honored.

"I love Maryland," he said. "My heart is still there."

Two of the eight nominees have died.

The late Alvin Lenz graduated from Glen Burnie in 1946 and worked at the Lake Shore and then Riviera Beach volunteer fire companies. He rose to become a division chief at the Anne Arundel County Fire Department before retiring in the mid-1980s. He died in 2000 of organ failure at age 72.

Madeline Lenz said her husband helped with the early organization of the county fire service.

"He had his hand in everything," she said. "He loved the fire department."

Russell Coile, who graduated in 1961, died in 2003 from complications of brain cancer at age 60. He was the senior strategist for Health Strategies & Solutions Inc., a health care management consulting firm in Philadelphia, according to his school biography. He became a nationally recognized health care management consultant and wrote 11 books on the subject. In 2002, he was named one of the top 100 health leaders in the nation by Modern Healthcare magazine.

The other honorees are:

Lipin, 88, Class of 1939. The Pasadena native enrolled in the University of Baltimore after graduation, but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. He is a recipient of the Silver Star for valor in helping to stop a German advance in Belgium. Lipin worked in the hardware business before entering politics. He was a state delegate from 1966 to 1970 and a state senator from 1970 until he retired in 1977.

Paul L. Higgins Jr., Class of 1978, an active supporter of the high school band boosters. Higgins was an officer for the Freetown PTA, as well as a coach and softball commissioner for Harundale Youth Sports League. He also was a youth programs director for the Knights of Columbus. Higgins served as chairman of The Big Glen Burnie Carnival and has volunteered with the Glen Burnie Improvement Association.

Barbara Moeller, 65, Class of 1961, a Glen Burnie activist. Moeller started volunteering with the Glen Burnie Improvement Association in 1987 and served as chairwoman of the Glen Burnie Carnival from 1990 to 1992, and again since 1999, still serving today. Moeller has been president of the Glen Burnie Recreation Association for about 20 years and volunteers every week with the Multiple Sclerosis Bowling League.

Arlene Page, 71, Class of 1955, former executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Worcester County. Page, who lives in Bishopville, worked in logistics for the National Security Agency. After retiring in 1996, she became a building coordinator for Habitat. She became executive director in 2001, the same year she was named volunteer of the year. Currently, she is helping to develop affordable housing on land around a former cannery in Berlin.

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