The Distinguished Hall of Fame has been in place in Hudson since 2013, honoring exceptional Hudson High School alumni, and that was certainly the occasion Oct. 4 and 5, when seven alumni, Dr. Bradley Lepper, Bridie Carroll Srsen, Ken Kuryla, CDR Russell J. Gates, Richard Grell, Dr. Darin Zahuranec and Melissa Makris were inducted.
The events began with a Friday luncheon in the Malson Athletic Center with HHS student leaders and school district administrators, where the students had a chance to talk to the accomplished alumni and give them a tour of the school.
Later that evening, the inductees were recognized at the high school football game. The induction ceremony and breakfast took place the next day.
"Our high school is proud to help sponsor this well-deserved recognition as it helps foster a healthy, developmental relationship between students and staff of the past with those walking our halls today," said Hudson High School Principal Brian Wilch.
According to the district, the purpose of the Distinguished Hall of Fame is to "Recognize the individuals for their achievements and accomplishments, build a stronger sense of community across generations, provide a networked resource which is accessible to our current students and also to the inductee class members, reinforce the importance of education and involvement and recognize diverse contributions beyond high school in the arts, sciences, business, technology, entertainment, humanities, government and community."
Possible inductees must be at least in their 10th year after commencement, and are nominated by colleagues, administrators and citizens associated with Hudson High School. The Distinguished Hall of Fame is done every odd-numbered year, while the Athletic Hall of Fame is done every even-numbered year. The 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame nominations can be made at www.hudsonschoolsfoundation.com, starting Nov. 1.
The 2019 Distinguished Hall of Fame inductees include as follows:
Bradley Thomas Lepper, Manager for Archaeology and Natural History and the Senior Curator of Archaeology for the Ohio History Connection, was part of Hudson High School class of 1974.
He gives the following advice to students: "I was never going to tell myself to quit on my own initiative. There were many things I could have done to fail ... but that’s one thing, to fail because of external circumstances. But to fail because you’re gonna say, ‘Well maybe I’m not good enough so I’m gonna quit,’ I was determined never to do that."
Among many accomplishments, some highlights include participating in the excavation of the 13,000-year-old Burning Tree mastodon, receiving the 2008 Public Awareness Award from the Ohio Archaeological Council and the 2007 Society for American Archaeology Public Audience Book Award. Lepper is currently working on the surviving remnants of the Newark Earthworks.
Bridie Carroll Srsen (class of 2000), is a musical theater and Broadway performer who currently works with the non-profit The Musical Theater Project, working to bring musical theater to over 130 schools in Northeast Ohio.
Some of the musicals she has been in include "Hairspray," "The Little Mermaid," "The Sound of Music," "Bye Bye Birdie," "High School Musical" and "Grease." One of her greatest accomplishments was being a part of the musical "Wicked" as well. Srsen has served as the Equity Deputy for almost all of the equity productions she has been in since 2006, and has been recognized in numerous magazines and newspapers.
"Little by little, a little becomes a lot," she said. "Sometimes dreams don’t come true right away. They can seem impossible or unattainable, but if you wake up everyday wanting and wishing to accomplish your dreams then you will continue to stay motivated to get to that day when they become a reality."
Kenneth G. Kuryla, president and founder of multimillion dollar company KGK Gardening and Design Corporation, is a member of the Class of 1978. He got his passion for the outdoors at a young age, as he was raised on a 20-acre farm in Hudson. Kuryla gives back to the community in numerous ways, such as public and private landscape projects, including the Scott Malson Memorial Gardens, Veterans Memorial at the Hudson Memorial Stadium entrance and St Mary’s Grotto. He has also won over 25 awards for Northeast Ohio landscape design and construction projects.
As advice for following dreams, Kuryla believes, "Never give up. Use your mistakes as learning experiences. Love what you do."
Cdr. Russell J. Gates, class of 1981, is a deceased Navy Test Pilot and a Navy Carrier Landing Signal Officer. Gates was a highly decorated Naval aviator, with just a few of his numerous awards being the Navy Commendation Medal (five awards including with valor and four Gold stars), the Air Medal (six awards including twice with Valor and two Gold Stars), the Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal. He also earned the the officer rank of full Navy Commander, and flew 84 combat missions. Gates would want young people to have self confidence, and to act to others how they would like people to act to them.
Darin B. Zahuranec, an associate professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan, is from the class of 1992. For him, the student luncheon was one of the most important parts of the weekend.
"It reconnects me to my roots in Hudson and helps me to reflect on what a great jump-start the Hudson High School education got me in my career," he said.
His accomplishments include publishing over 60 scientific articles, serving on multiple national writing committees for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and serving on the International Stroke Conference Program Committee for three years.
Interior designer Melissa Makris, class of 1979, is the designer and founder of Design for Living, LLC. Her graphic arts education at Hudson High School and art history and architecture education at the University of Connecticut, and Parsons School of Design, New York helped her reach some of her accomplishments, including being a Designer and Art Director for TIME magazine and Design and Creative Director for Bankers Trust. Among many other achievements, she was named 100 Designers by Connecticut Cottages & Gardens, was the cover feature story for Fairfield County Life Magazine and did the restaurant design for SoNo Baking Company & Cafe in Westport, Conn. for PBS baker John Barricelli. Makris advises to follow dreams like flying a kite: "Sky high dreams are for the chasing, yet keep tethered by the kite string."
Richard Francis Grell, a Windsor chair maker, graduated from Hudson High School in 1967. Since 1972, he started researching the lost art of chair making. This interest led to skilled craftsmanship, and his chairs have been shipped all over the world to places such as Hong Kong, France, England and Sweden.
Additionally, Grell has been commissioned to make chairs or chair parts for numerous buildings and organizations: the University of New England, Case-Barlow Farm, the Hunt Club in Gates Mills and Stan Hywet Hall. His work has been featured in over 50 pages of national publications, and also won the Hudsonite of Distinction award in 1999.
"I found that watching people and listening to them gave me a roadmap. How they handled problems, treated other people and dealt with difficult situations all enhanced my education," he said.
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