Nine alumni will be inducted this fall into the Gallery of Success, a hall of fame for Amherst graduates.
“It’s a very diverse group, which I like. It’s not all academics or pop culture personalities,” said Russ Marty, advisor to the student council at Steele High School. “It shows that success can be defined so many ways.”
Student council members met in June to review 14 nominees. Marty said the teens engaged in about four hours of meaningful conversation about the qualifications of each potential inductee, putting a tremendous amount of thought into the selection process.
This year’s honorees are:
• Photojournalist J. Ross Baughman, who started his career working on the school newspaper, The Record, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Graduating from Steele in 1971 as salutatorian and then from Kent State University, he earned acclaim as an investigative reporter for The Lorain Journal with a series called “Nazis in America,” infiltrating the Cleveland and Chicago nationalist parties for seven months.
Baughman also worked for the Associated Press, reporting on the Rhodesian civil war while embedded with mercenaries there. He covered stories in Newsweek and Life magazines, became photo editor of The Washington Times, and served on the faculty at New York University and Parson’s School of Design.
He was nominated by Emily Marty.
• Rita George, chief operating officer of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
A 1988 graduate of Steele High School, she served on student council, was class president, played volleyball, and was on the yearbook staff. She earned a degree in journalism from Ohio State University.
George was among the first volunteers to petition and campaign for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to open in Cleveland. In 1995, she started working for the Rock Hall as a visitor services representative, working her way up to director of visitor services.
When the Grammy Museum opened in 2008, she relocated to California to become director of museum facilities and operations. She was promoted to deputy executive director and is now COO. Since then, she has spearheaded efforts to develop museums and exhibits in Mississippi, New York, and China.
George was nominated by Olivia Sliman.
• Mark Irwin, associate professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California.
A 1970 graduate of Amherst Steele, his poetry and essays have graced many literary magazines including Antaeus, The American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, The Nation, New England Review, and The New Republic.
Irwin has taught at a number of institutions, including Case Western Reserve University, the University of Iowa, Ohio University, the University of Denver, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Nevada, and Colorado College.
He is the author of six volumes of poetry and has translated two more — one from French and the other from Romanian. Irwin’s work has garnered a number of awards, as well as fellowships from the Fulbright, Lilly, and Wurlitzer foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and Ohio Art Council.
Irwin was nominated by Maryann Kordeleski.
• Darrell and Denise McCarty, owners of Olde Town Pizza and Dairy Mart on Cleveland Avenue in Amherst.
Darrell is a 1979 graduate and Denise is a 1976 graduate of Steele High School. Soon after their marriage, they purchased the pizzeria from Denise’s parents, later purchasing the building as well. More recently, as Dairy Mart prepared to close its doors, the McCartys saved the small convenience store.
They have been strong supporters of Comets fundraising efforts over the years. Darrell has worked to develop Maude Neiding Park, remodel St. Joseph School and social hall, coached CYO and Amherst summer recreation teams, and helped launch the Comets ice hockey team.
The McCartys were nominated by Robert Games.
• Attorney Stephanie Pinskey, a 1994 Steele graduate, began her career as a manager at McDonald’s and then a line worker for Ford Motor Company.
She earned a degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, graduating cum laude in 2011, and took a position in procurement law. Today, her practice focuses on criminal law, juvenile delinquency, and guardian ad litem work.
Pinskey is the lone defense attorney for the Lorain County Recovery Court, which hears felony drug charges. She also serves on the Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services board and is a member of the Stepping Up initiative of the Lorain County Coalition.
Pinskey was nominated by Denise Keane and Elizabeth Smith.
• David Taylor, former mayor of Amherst.
A 1958 alumnus of Central School, he went on to graduate of Bowling Green State University and worked 37 years for TRW/Nelson Stud Welding.
Taylor was elected in 1970 to Amherst city council, where he represented the second ward. He was appointed the city’s service director in 1972 and was sworn in as mayor in January 2004, serving three terms through 2015.
For more than three decades, he volunteered and led the Amherst Athletic Association.
Taylor was nominated by Jami Anderson, who served as his assistant at city hall.
• Architect John Williams, a 1978 graduate of Steele High School, is founder of Process Creative Studios.
Among his projects are Heinen’s supermarkets in Chicago and Cleveland, Ohio City’s transformer station, a Cleveland art space for the Bidwell Foundation, the Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights, and the Terminal Tower observation deck.
With more than 25 years in the design profession, Williams is an avid collector of contemporary art and photography. He serves on the boards of the Contemporary Arts Society, which is connected to the Cleveland Museum of Art, as well as Roots of American Music, a nonprofit that shares music with disadvantaged communities.
Williams was nominated by William Strohm.
• Maryanne Zeleznik, news director and host of “Morning Edition” for National Public Radio WVXU, Cincinnati.
A 1979 graduate of Amherst Steele, she was involved in Sandstone Summer Theater, choir, drama club, and the International Thespian Society, earning the Best Thespian title in 1978. After earning a degree in communications and broadcasting from Miami University, she worked briefly for several small-market radio stations.
In 1985, Zeleznik signed on with the NPR station WNKU at the University of Northern Kentucky, serving as its news and public affairs director for 20 years. In 2005, she moved to WVXU, where she hosts “Morning Edition” and is responsible for daily news and features.
Zeleznik was nominated by David Cotton.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.