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Alumni Office

The Office of York Community High School Alumni Relations is coordinated through the Department of Communications. 

The office is located at the District 205 Center, 162 S. York, Elmhurst.

Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

630-617-2300 x2761

Hollstein, Debbie
Sys Admin
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2014 Dukes of Distinction

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York Distinguished Alumni Program Names 7 “Dukes of Distinction”

In the fall of 2012, District 205 launched a York Distinguished Alumni Program (YDAP) in collaboration with York Community High School and the District 205 Foundation. This program is designed to recognize and honor those alumni who have distinguished themselves through significant and/or extraordinary accomplishments, service and/or an outstanding contribution to society.

YDAP announces the selection of its 2014 class of “Dukes of Distinction” who will be honored on Thursday, November 6, 2014, in the York Community High School Commons. The reception begins at 7 PM, with a program following at 7:30 PM. Both are free and open to the public.

That evening, seven alumni will be recognized at a celebratory reception followed by a recognition program during which they will speak. The event is free and open to the public (no ticket necessary). The following day, November 7, honorees will present to and interact with York students in large and small group settings.


Honored as Dukes of Distinction for 2014:


BobChenAug2014-4.jpgDr. Robert T. Chen, Class of 1973 – has been a leader in immunization research at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for about 30 years. He helped create the vaccine safety infrastructure needed to meet the “post-modern” challenges of mature immunization programs, where adverse events are more prominent than the nearly eliminated target vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), including: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project, the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network, the Brighton Collaboration, and the Safe Injection Global Network (SIGN).

Many of Dr. Chen’s more than 200 publications provided scientifically rigorous evidence for policymakers on various vaccine safety issues (e.g., autism) and chronicle lessons learned from his investigations of outbreaks of VPDs (e.g., measles, diphtheria, pertussis, polio). His research helped establish the protective correlates of immunity to measles, the control strategy for measles and the resurgence of diphtheria in the former Soviet Union. Dr. Chen is currently working on HIV prevention research at CDC and serves on the World Health Organization’s HIV Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, he immigrated to the U.S. at age ten. Dr. Chen received his B.S. in Chemistry and Honors Biology from the University of Illinois (Urbana), an M.A. in public policy studies and his M.D. from the University of Chicago. He then trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine, including the “disease detective” Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Fellowship at the CDC. He is an adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, Associate Editor of Vaccine, Fellow of the International Society of Pharmacoepidemiology, and Captain (retired) in the US Public Health Service. He is married with two daughters and resides in Atlanta, GA.

Nominated by Sue Montgomery

John Coughlin_Final.jpgJohn Coughlan, Class of 1960 – coached track and field/cross country for 36 years. He served as Head Track and Field/Cross Country coach at Illinois State University, where he guided the men’s program for 23 years; the last 10 years were combined men’s and women’s programs. He was the most decorated track and field/cross country coach in the history of Illinois State University athletics, as well as the Missouri Valley Conference history. He was named the Missouri Valley Coach of the year 24 times, the NCAA District Coach of the Year 9 times, and the 1996 NCAA National Indoor Coach of the Year.

He led his teams to 25 league championships. On the national level, he guided 195 athletes to the NCAA championships, producing 41 All-Americans. Three times his athletes became NCAA Champions. He served a four-year term as a member of the executive committee of the NCAA Division I Track Coaches Association. He also served for 12 years on the executive committee of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Coaches Association.

John is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame (1993), the Drake Relays Hall of Fame (1997), the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame (2003), and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame (2009). He was named 1977 National High School Coach of the Year and Midwest Coach of the year while coaching at Maine East High School. His 1970 team was the undefeated state champions and was named The National High School Cross Country Champions. His love of the sport translated to his athletes, in that at retirement in the year 2000, 84 of his former athletes had become high school track/cross country coaches.

Nominated by James Bolin

Beth Finke Photo_Final.jpgBeth Finke, Class of 1976 – spent most of her time while a student at York, with her friends in the band room or in Mrs. Rollow's classroom typing up stories for the York Hi student newspaper. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1980 and worked at the International Studies Office there until 1986, when an eye disease caused her to lose her sight.

Beth took to writing after that. Her memoir Long Time, No See was published by University of Illinois Press in 2003, and her children's book about seeing-eye dogs, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound, was published by Blue Marlin Publications in 2007. Her essays air on National Public Radio, and her work has appeared in Woman's Day, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Dog Fancy and The Bark. Most recently, a story she wrote about animal intelligence was included in an anthology published by National Geographic School Publishing. A regular contributor to Chicago Public Radio, Beth is a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. She, along with two WBEZ colleagues, won the Chicago Society of Professional Journalists’ Lisagor Award for sports broadcasting.

She teaches weekly memoir-writing classes for senior citizens in Chicago, sponsored by the City of Chicago's Commission on Aging and Lincoln Park Village, a non-profit organization helping people over 65 remain in their homes as they age. She received a writing fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts last year and is working on a book about those memoir classes. She is married to Mike Knezovich. They have one grown son, Gus, and live in the Printers Row neighborhood of Chicago with Beth's Seeing Eye dog, a Golden Retriever/Labrador cross named Whitney.

Nominated by Robin Rogers

Gary Rydstrom, Class of 1977 – is a film sound designer, director and re-recording mixer extraordinaire. At Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, he has designed and mixed many films, including Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, A River Runs Through It, Toy Story, Quiz Show, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars: Episode I, Punch-Drunk Love, Finding Nemo and War Horse.

Gary was nominated for 17 and won seven Academy Awards for Sound and Sound Editing, as well as receiving Career Achievement Awards from both the Cinema Audio Society (2004) and Motion Picture Sound Editors (2005). He believes that sound has the power to motivate and move audiences. The blending of the right sound with an image makes it come alive. One of his sound heroes is Treg Brown from Looney Tunes and Road Runner cartoons. For Pixar Animation Studios, he directed two shorts, the Oscar-nominated Lifted and Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation. For Studio Ghibli, he directed the English-language versions of The Secret Word of Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill and The Wind Rises. Currently, he is directing an animated feature at Lucasfilm, which will be released by Disney.

Gary is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (1981) and has been named a Notable Alumni by USC. He has returned to the School of Cinema-Television as a guest lecturer and has also given seminars at the American Film Institute and the Directors Guild. He shares his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm with aspiring sound design artists throughout the country and has been mentioned with “special thanks” in 15 documentaries, films and shorts, including The Long Green Line (2008), the story of York High School’s Cross Country team and legendary coach, Joe Newton.

Nominated by Holly Kost

Sherman_Kathy_Photo_Final.jpgKathleen Sherman, CSJ, - Class of 1970 – is a singer, composer and activist. Her passion is writing music that fosters hope and healing for our world, music that proclaims “All Are ONE!” She has been composing music and lyrics since 1966. Her inspiration lies in the conviction that all of life is permeated with the sacred. She is deeply committed to working for non-violence (especially in Chicago) and advocating for the protection and healing of our planet.

Kathy is energized when working with creative teams and composing music that strengthens a group’s mission and message. Her compositions have been performed at major conventions, conferences and liturgical celebrations. In November 2012, Kathy and her work were featured in the New York Times for a song entitled Love Cannot Be Silenced which became an anthem for many, especially Catholic women religious. That same year, she inaugurated “Circle of Song for Women,” a non-auditioned singing group whose members believe in music’s capacity to create community and give voice to compassion and joy. Her present initiative, “Artists for Systemic Change toward Unity,” sees the Arts serving as a powerful agent for changing unjust systems and creating a global vision of peace and unity. An essential aspect of Kathy’s work is ministering to others through music at profoundly significant moments in their lives.

Kathy has published 22 CDs of music which are sung throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. Her music is available at and her soon-to-be-launched website, She holds a B.S. in Education from Western Illinois University and a Masters of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University. She is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph and has a studio in LaGrange Park, IL.

Nominated by Melanie Zitek

Stoker2 _Final.jpgDr. Martin Stoker, Class of 1939 (1921-2006) – practiced Internal Medicine and Non-Invasive Cardiology from 1956-1989 at the Elmhurst Clinic. He continued practicing at Elmhurst Hospital from 1989 until his retirement in 2004. Dr. Stoker was born in McComb, Ohio and moved to Elmhurst in 1936.

After graduating from York, he attended the University of Illinois. He was drafted into the Army from 1943-1946. Always a stellar student, Martin was enrolled in a specialized training program by Uncle Sam, which led to classes at the Universities of Oregon (Engineering) and California (Premed), as well as two years at Stanford University School of Medicine. He then returned to U of I, where he received his MD degree in 1948. From 1951-1953, Dr. Stoker was recalled to duty as a medical officer in a “MASH” unit in Korea.

Dr. Stoker was instrumental in developing many new programs at Elmhurst Hospital, including founding and running the Radioisotope Lab, the first Central Venous Catheter in CCU, the first Peritoneal Dialysis, DC defibrillation, organizing CPR and ECG classes for nurses, launching the Stress Lab and Holter Monitoring, creating “new” emergency room services and introducing the first Adenosine Thallium Stress Test - all of which brought state-of-the-art care to Elmhurst Hospital patients.He was appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Chicago Medical School from 1964-1968 and at Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola, from 1969-1972. He was involved in many professional organizations within the medical community. Dr. Stoker’s wife, Jeanne, resides in Oak Brook. They have six grandchildren, two great grandchildren and are the parents of three: the late Susan Cummins (York ’64), Jean Belz (York ’66) of Texas and Dr. Tom Stoker, Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Nominated by Shirley Demeris

Sgt. Joe Vanek.jpgJoseph Vanek, Class of 2003 (1984-2007) – was a paratrooper in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and a member of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment and 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Deployed to combat in Iraq three times (Mosul, Tal Afar, and Baghdad), his final deployment was located in one of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods, Sadr City. On November 12, 2007, Sergeant Vanek was killed by sniper fire during a patrol. Joe was a consummate professional, an exceptional leader and a tremendous person. At the age only 22, he was a squad leader, watching over his soldiers with quiet confidence and a sly sense of humor.

After the Army, Joe planned to attend college and major in history. His love of history is remembered through the Elmhurst College “Light of Knowledge” scholarship in his name.  Sgt. Joseph Vanek was honored on April 20, 2009 when the swearing-in room at the Chicago Military Entrance Processing Center (MEPS) was officially named the Sgt. Joseph M. Vanek Ceremony Room. Now, as the more than 6,000 young men and women annually process through this room to take their oaths as either Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, or Coast Guard enlistees, they have an example of another Chicago area native watching over them who exemplified the meaning of selfless service, dedication and courage.

Sgt. Vanek’s personal awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with second award, National Defense Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge and Parachutist’s Badge. His unit awards include the Presidential Unit Citation and two Valorous Citation Awards.

Nominated by Thomas McEllin