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School News

The West Jefferson Hills School District is proud to announce the members of the district’s Hall of Fame Class of 2024. A total of 24 Thomas Jefferson High School graduates or district contributors and two TJ athletic teams are set to be inducted in March 2024.

“As a District, we are thrilled to honor those who graduated from the West Jefferson Hills School District,” said WJHSD Superintendent Dr. Janet Sardon. “We had a memorable inaugural Hall of Fame induction last year and are excited to welcome the members of the Class of 2024. The honorees bring a diverse set of achievements, accomplishments and contributions that have made an impact locally and across the globe. They are role models and mentors for our students and strong representatives of who we are and who we want to be as a school district,” added Sardon.

The district re-launched its Hall of Fame program in 2022-23 and inducted its first two classes last March. West Jefferson Hills had announced it was starting the Hall of Fame program during the 2019-20 school year, but the first class of inductees were never announced or recognized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas Jefferson High School graduates who have distinguished themselves in the areas of academics, arts or athletics, as well as teachers/staff and community members, are eligible for induction, if they meet the established Hall of Fame criteria. Nominees included former students, teachers, staff and community members who have made unique and lasting contributions to the United States, worldwide and to the district, including the West Elizabeth, Jefferson Hills and Pleasant Hills communities.

Sub-committees in each of the four areas - academics, arts and athletics, teacher-staff/contributors - considered the nominees and recommended selections for induction to the entire Hall of Fame Committee.

The HOF class will be inducted at the WJHSD Hall of Fame banquet on March 9, 2024 at the Georgetown Centre in Pleasant Hills.

The members of the WJHSD Hall of Fame Class of 2024 are below:

ACADEMICS

Dr. Corey Bakalarski ’98 – Valedictorian, National Merit Scholar and National Honor Society. Earned PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard Medical School. Is Senior Principal Bioinformatics Scientist with Genentech Research and Early Development.

Dr. Scott Brancolini ’90 – National Honor Society. Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine for the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine (UPSOM) and UPMC’s Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine. Has helped train 500+ medical students, residents and fellows.

Dr. Amy Hosmer ‘01 – President of National Honor Society, TJ Scholar athlete and CalcuSolveBowl Champion. Assistant Professor of Medicine, University Hospitals Cleveland. Multiple publications in the field of Gastroenterology. Recognitions in medical education and female leader in therapeutic endoscopy.

Dr. Mary (Schlitt) Kostalos ‘62 – National Honor Society. Earned PhD at University of Pittsburgh, taught biology at Chatham University for 36 years. Founded Rachel Carson Institute. Authored or co-authored 18 scientific papers; testified before the U.S. Congress on Women in Science.

Ashley Kramer ‘01 – National Honor Society. Regional All-American in girls soccer - 132 career goals. Old Dominion University Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Has held engineering, product and marketing roles with NASA, Amazon and Tableau Software. Is Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer with GitLab.

Col. Walter Richter ’87 – Faculty excellence award in music; honors and regional Band. U.S. Army Attaché to Germany at the U.S. Embassy, Berlin. Service in U.S. Army since 1987 as foreign area officer, strategist, armor officer and musician. Earned Bronze Star as strategist to Multinational-Corps Iraq. 

Nicole Stout ’90 – Honors graduate. Research Assistant Professor at West Virginia University Department of Cancer Prevention and Control and Associate Director of WVU Cancer Survivorship program. An internationally recognized leader and researcher in oncology rehabilitation and survivorship.

ATHLETICS

2007 Thomas Jefferson HS Football team - Won TJ’s fourth WPIAL and second PIAA football 3A Championship with a 16-0 record. Out-scored opponents, 590-133, with three shutouts.

2014 Thomas Jefferson HS Softball - Captured TJ’s first WPIAL softball 3A championship as the No. 13 seed. Improved from a three-win team in 2013 to WPIAL Champions.

Pedro Bowman ‘81 – Had 203 rushing yards to help TJ win its first WPIAL title in 1980; Albert J. Breisinger Award winner. Class AAA Player of the Year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22. Four-year starter at Duquesne and Hall of Fame inductee.

David Branchen ’87 – Boys basketball team captain, selected first-team Pittsburgh Post-Gazette South All-stars and WPIAL Terrific Twenty. Graduated as Washington & Jefferson’s career scoring leader (1,552 pts).

Evan Browne ’05–Four sports,10-time letterman. Inaugural PIAA titles in football & soccer. Four-time WPIAL Champion. Regional All-American, All-State, All-WPIAL in soccer. WPIAL Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Scott Buckiso ’85 – Lettered in four sports. Won 1985 WPIAL wrestling title at 138 lbs. Two-time ACC champion and team captain at Maryland. Is Senior VP & Chief Manufacturing Officer with U.S. Steel.

Dan Crisp ‘73 – A football, basketball and track standout. Selected all-state in football and on the hardwood led the conference in scoring at 18.5 ppg as a senior. Broke the state record in the high hurdles.

Christopher Drager ‘07 – Helped TJ win first PIAA title in 2004. School record 12 TD catches in 2006; Big 33 Classic selection. An Academic All-American at Virginia Tech; helped VT win 2009 Orange Bowl.

Nikki (Presto) Feathers ’06 – A three-year captain on the TJ girls basketball team, leading the Jaguars to section titles in 2005 and ’06. Graduated as TJ’s all-time leader in assists, steals, and three pointers made.

   

Gary Gomolak ’75 – Earned All-Conference, All-District and All 

WPIAL honors in football and basketball and was All-State in football. Garnered athletic and academic accolades at the University of Virginia.

Charles Mozingo ’71 – Won the WPIAL and PIAA crowns in the 440-yard run in 1971, becoming TJ’s first individual state champion. His :48.6 in 440 remains the TJ record. Earned All-IC4A honors five times at Pitt.

Mike Reilly ‘63 – Class Vice President. Led TJ to Section baseball championship and WPIAL finals in the team’s first year, batting .407 with a 9-2 record on the mound. Averaged 16 ppg last two years in basketball.

Grace (Ninesling) Whelan ’11 – Graduated No. 3 in class; U.S. Army Reserve National Scholar-Athlete. First TJ swimmer to qualify for PIAA Swimming & Diving Championships (twice). Swam for Penn State.

Chase Winovich ’14 – All-State, Pittsburgh P-G Fabulous 22; Big 33 Classic. Four-year letterwinner at Michigan; team MVP and second-team All-American. Third round draft pick by New England Patriots, led team in sacks in 2020. Retired from NFL in 2023.

TEACHER-STAFF

Louise Biddle – Taught second grade for 38 years at WJHSD’s former Roosevelt School. Tutored students until she was 98. Member of West Elizabeth Borough Council since 1998; seven years as president.

John “Hoppy” Mitruski ’69 – Graduated with honors. Taught physical education for 35 years. Coached TJ softball team for 33 years, earning 376 wins, then spent seven years as an assistant. A TJ assistant football coach for 20+ years.

Joyce (Hoak) Schmidt ’60 – President of the National Honor Society and TJ’s first Valedictorian. Librarian at Pleasant Hills Middle School for 35 years; created the Jefferson Hills Public Library and Historical Society.

Thomas Sharkey – Teacher and coach for 39 years (30 at TJ). Was the boys basketball head coach for 25 years; led 1987-88 team to 22-6 record, WPIAL runners-up. Led eight different organizations during career.

CONTRIBUTORS

Michael Thatcher ‘02 – Fifth in his class. U.S. Naval Academy distinguished graduate. Lt. Col. In U.S. Marine Corps and battalion commander, earning several awards and decorations after two deployments to Afghanistan, incl. Bronze Star with Valor. Magisterial District Judge; regularly speaks to WJHSD students.

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