Sunday, May 15, 2011

Of Scientists and Educators

Clairton Successes

Clairton yields failures? Anybody who reads the paper or listens to the airwaves in the greater Pittsburgh area has heard it. Clairton is home to a bunch of losers. Being a minority in Clairton is a double whammy. That’s the way is it and that’s the way it always will be. No consideration is made for the young men on the two-time state championship football team who will go on to college and earn degrees. No consideration is made for the dozens of this year’s grads who will go on to community college, university, or other post-secondary schooling. Many would rather believe the stereotypes.

But suppose a poor minority lad was born and raised in the poorest section of town. Let’s further assume this lad’s parents had little schooling themselves. Say the kid was a good football layer AND a good student as well as a bit of a rabble rouser. You know the type. The kind of kid who, along with a few of his fellow jocks made trouble for the school administration and caused them to open up the cheerleading squad to all races. The administration would be happy when he graduated and took his football swagger to Washington and Jefferson.

But let’s say once he got to college and a coach wanted to put him into typical “jock” classes, he refused and instead demanded to take the most challenging courses that the “other kids” were taking. Maybe this type of student would return home during the summer and along with eight fellow students, press U.S. Steel for employment. Finally, this young man would graduate with honors and a stellar career on the field as well as in leadership roles in student government. Such a resume would make him a no-brainer to hire, one would think. He chose to be a scientist because he did not see other black scientists. Finding a company to hire him would prove to be daunting but he would persevere.

The year was 1932, the young man was Walter Cooper and in his own words, “I looked around and I saw black doctors, black lawyers, but no black scientists. I chose that as a challenge.” He went on to receive advanced degrees including a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Rochester in 1956 and was quickly snatched up by Eastman Kodak Company as a research scientist and continued to work there for the next thirty years, earning three patents and publishing many research documents.

Dr. Cooper not worked as a scientist by day but was also heavily involved in community development and civil rights issues, particular on those that involved educational opportunities and motivation. He saw business and enterprise as a means to achieve equal opportunity. His efforts earned him numerous awards including an honorary Doctorate from his alma mater, W&J. Just a few of his many honors and distinctions include serving as the Chairman of the Education Committee of the NAACP, Chairman of the Urban League’s education sub-committee, Board of Trustees at Washington and Jefferson, Regent of the State of New York, Board of Directors of the Genesee Hospital and Rochester General Hospital, and a list of other leadership roles and awards. Clairton High School should require the reading of Dr. Cooper’s papers mandatory reading. His oft-quoted comment, “Not to educate a child is the worst form of child abuse,” sums up Dr. Cooper’s philosophy. Dr. William Cooper, Clairton lad. But wait, there’s more, an elementary school was recently named in his honor and my best guess is that he is the only Clairtonian who has been named Chevalier of The Republic of Mali.

Another Clairton athlete: Dr. Cooper is not the only successful athlete to hail from Clairton. There have been legions of every race, color, gender, and creed. One such athlete is Nikki Soich, an accomplished equestrian and horse trainer whose horse recently participated in the Pan American games and is a contender to take part in the Olympics. Nikki Soich, Clairton lass.

Clairton Schools: A changing of the guard will occur in the Clairton schools. Superintendent Lucille Abellonio will retire from the district on June 29 after four decades in education. She became assistant superintendent of Clairton in 2007 and became superintendent a year later. Under her leadership about 34 percent of the district's students have met or exceeded state standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. She will be replaced by Wade Killmeyer, 53, area superintendent of Avella and former superintendent of Washington County. Killmeyer holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Duquesne University, a masters in secondary math from Slippery Rock University, a masters in English literature from the University of Maryland, a bachelor's in computer science and a bachelor's in math, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

Clairton passings: Among those Clairtonians who passed on this week are Frank Mincone, age 82, John Gimliano, 92, Raymond Sisco, 92, and John Hemenic, 92.
A little blogging music Maestro.... “Be True to Your School” by the Beachboys.

Dr. Forgot

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