Amherst graduates go on to do great things.
Six were honored Friday in a biennial induction ceremony for the Steele High School Gallery of Success.
Selected by student council members from a pool of nominees were Scott Bentz, emergency department medical director and medical staff president-elect at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colo.; Mark Dobrow, Broadway stage manager; illustrator and librarian Matthew Kish; Rick Lewis, executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association; Fay Van Nuys Ott, Amherst historian and author; and Chris Russo, owner of The Brew Kettle in Strongsville and Amherst.
“The Gallery and its members serve as role models for students in our district,” said principal Michael May as the ceremony opened.
Although their post-graduation experiences are varied, each inductee shares a common bond, he said — school pride.
Late Comets wrestling coach Dale Smith earned praise from two inductees who said he pushed them to work hard.
Bentz said he wasn’t a star wrestler but found direction from Smith. “I learned how to succeed. I learned how to fail. I learned how to get back up again,” he said.
Russo, who was a Southwestern Conference, sectional, and regional wrestling champion and state runner-up, also recalled his mentor’s influence. He is responsible for the creation of the Dale Smith Scholarship Fund in the coach’s memory.
Others spoke of the value of an Amherst education.
Lewis said he was lucky to grow up in Amherst. With the OSBA, he’s worked with districts that have metal detectors but no Advanced Placement classes, districts plagued by poverty and poor grades.
He credited Amherst teachers with providing a solid foundation for his success.
In addition to Smith, two teachers’ names were raised time and again by the day’s honorees: Bill Strohm and Bill Matthews.
Of the six alumni honored, only Dobrow was unable to attend, tied up in technical rehearsals for a brand-new play called “The Bandstand.”
That didn’t stop him from honoring former Amherst drama teacher Dave Cotton. His mother, Estelle Dobrow, read a letter explaining how Cotton introduced him to the stage and how Dobrow became involved with stage management in a Steele production of “Our Town.”
That teacher-student relationship led to a high-profile career in the drama world.
The situation was slightly different for Ott, who graduated in 1944 from Central School before Steele was built. She remarked how her memories of teachers, hallways, and classrooms were so very different from the other inductees’.
Yet Ott was humbly awestruck by her inclusion in the Gallery.
“I never dreamed I would be a part of this,” she said, talking of her substantial work preserving Amherst history through books, a business database, and even national recognition of Rupert Becker, the only Amherst police officer ever killed in the line of duty.
Kish — whose art has appeared at Italian festivals, at concerts, and in books from Europe to Asia — advised students to heed the words of “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville: “Keep true to the dreams of your youth.”
“I think about myself and the things I dreamed about here at Steele. Those are the things I hold true to,” he said. “The things you’re thinking about here today, they might be your dreams but tomorrow they will be your reality.”
The collective sentiments of the new inductees can be summed up in Bentz’s words.
“There are role models everywhere,” he said, urging students to seek out and emulate people with admirable traits. “Pretty soon you’ll be the expert at whatever you set out to do.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Scott Bentz is chairman of emergency medicine at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver, Colo., where he also serves as medical director. A 1990 Amherst graduate, Bentz holds a bachelor of arts in neuroscience from Oberlin College and a doctorate from Wright State University.