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TCHS Alumni Association to induct Cook, Butler, Kalmar

The TCHS Alumni Association is more than honored to be inducting three very worthy TCHS graduates during the 87th Homecoming Week 2018. Dr. Rebecca Cook, Class of 1966; Janet Butler, Class of 1968; and Dr. John Kalmar, Class of 1973 will be the Hall of Fame inductees at the Alumni Association Hall of Fame Induction Luncheon Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. at the Douglas County Museum.

Dr. Cook was nominated by Alumni Board member Barb Utterback (‘62). Barb shared the storied special education career of Becky, who still teaches full-time at Eastern. Janet was nominated by Tim Hoel, her brother-in-law. She was able to move back to Tuscola in retirement to continue her community volunteer work upon wrapping up her business career. Eileen Kalmar and Frank Kalmar, wife and brother of John, made it very clear of the dental career path that he took following college.

Dr. Rebecca Cook – Class of 1966
During her career in Early Childhood Special Education, Dr. Rebecca Cook (TCHS class of 1966) has trained and taught thousands of teachers and college students, and benefited, directly and indirectly, the lives of countless young children with disabilities and their families. After graduating from TCHS, Becky earned a B.S. degree in 1970 from Eastern Illinois University. In 1972, she acquired a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Illinois.

Extending services to young children with disabilities began in earnest in the 1970’s driven in large part by research showing the significant benefits of starting services for children with disabilities as soon as possible. Becky was inspired by and fortunate to work closely with two pioneers in this emergent field at this exciting time: Dr. Merle Karnes and Dr. Jeannette McCollum at the University of Illinois. Through this experience, she found her life’s calling.

Her career path is extensive and varied, beginning with being a teacher at the University of Illinois-affiliated preschool and in the Urbana school system. She also served as a consultant to early childhood special education programs in Rhode Island and Maryland and trained teachers of migrant families in Idaho through a grant from Random House. In addition, she contributed to Dr. Karnes’ creation of early special education curriculum in language and science, for Milton Bradley.

In 1978, she moved to Denver, Colo., and accepted a position as a consultant to Head Start for children with special needs. Working under a Federal grant, she operated in the states of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South and North Dakota, and Utah. During this period, she also evaluated and provided training for early childhood special education programs at various Native American reservations including Hopi schools in Arizona, tribes in Wyoming, and northern Minnesota.

In her free time, Becky volunteered at the National Child Abuse Center in Denver, provided free tutoring for elementary students in the inner city, and training at her church. In 1985, she resigned her position in Colorado to dedicate her life to another love: her faith. Working through Youth With a Mission, based in Hawaii, Becky traveled the globe to places like Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Belize performing Christian missionary work.

She eventually returned to Tuscola for a visit and to meet her new nephew, Stephen Fox (TCHS 2003) and niece Emily (Lawrence) Fernandez (TCHS 2003). This powerful experience led her back to Illinois to further her work and education and be near family.

Upon the return home, Becky was an instructor at Parkland and a researcher and instructor at the University of Illinois. She also began the Doctoral program at the University of Illinois, earning a Ph.D. in Special Education in 1996. During her Doctoral program, she began teaching at Eastern Illinois University in 1993.

In her 25-year career at Eastern, she has received many university awards including the Gholson Endowed Faculty Service Award, two Achievement and Contribution Awards, and two Excellence in Research and Technology awards. In 2006, she was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award from The Illinois Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, awarded annually to a college professor within Illinois.

She has published many professional peer-reviewed articles plus has made over 100 presentations at professional conferences across the nation. She voluntarily created an online mentoring program for first year early childhood special education teachers based upon her concerns about the alarming rate of early burnout. This led to her appointment as Coordinator of a state grant for mentoring new teachers at all levels.

Today, Dr. Cook’s compassion for others in need is undiminished. She is still a full-time professor at Eastern, still in love with her calling, still thrilled to help both parents and young child with special needs gain a better life.

Dr. Cook lives in Tuscola and is married to Mike Carroll (TCHS 65). She is the daughter of the late Kenneth and Wilma Keigley. Her sisters are Libby Fox (TCHS 62) and Sarah Lawrence (TCHS 64).

She credits her zeal for helping others through teaching to the inspirational examples she had throughout life, including the many outstanding teachers in the Tuscola school system.

Janet Spence Butler – Class of 1968
After meeting her future husband, Janet’s planned path to be a medical doctor completely changed. She married her husband David after her freshman year at the University of Illinois and moved to the San Francisco bay area. She worked for two years for Pacific Bell as a long-distance switch traffic analyst. With David’s entry into the U.S. Army, Janet and her husband were on the move living in Georgia and then two years in Thailand. Janet has always said that living in a foreign country made her a better person and to really appreciate being an American. As a military dependent Janet was not allowed to work in Thailand, so she volunteered at a local school to tutor young adults who wanted to improve their English. This experience inspired her to help others.

When they returned to the U.S., David continued at the U of I while Janet worked for Universal Bleachers Company in Champaign. Upon his graduation, they moved to Des Plaines, Ill., and Janet began her career with GTE Directories (Verizon Information Services after a 2000 merger). Janet had a great desire for higher education and advancement with GTE. She began going to college at night while working her full-time job. With her commitment and determination, she completed, over a six-year period, an associate degree in Business from Oakton Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Government and Business at the University of Texas at Dallas. She furthered her education by completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She was sponsored by the VIS President and was accepted into this MBA program that was rated in the top ten U.S. MBA programs at that time.

Janet was highly regarded at Verizon for her work ethic, commitment to her employees and customers, and her integrity. She was the “go-to” person for her boss and colleagues for advice, information and problem solving. During her career Janet was promoted several times. When she was promoted from a manager to a director, reporting to a vice-president, she felt like she had broken through the glass ceiling. As the National Accounts – Operation Director, she was responsible for $750 million of revenue and 300+ employees in five geographical locations. During her career, Janet mentored many people, particularly women, helping them to be successful in a large corporate environment and making a positive difference in their lives. She always supported and encouraged those who wanted to further their education, adjusting their work schedules when possible.

Janet was chosen to serve on many special projects and teams. She was a key member of the executive team that led to GTE Directories Corp. winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1994. She was part of the group that attended the presentation and reception in Washington, D.C., and met President George W. Bush. She won several company and industry awards during her career, but the one that meant the most to her was the GTE Directories Corporation Quality Advocate. It was the highest honor that GTE Directories awarded to a non-sales employee.

In 1998, Janet was chosen to lead a task force, in a partnership with Sterling Software that would develop and implement a multi-million dollar new computer system for National Accounts. The online system replaced National Accounts’ yellow pages advertising processing system with an integrated marketing, advertising processing, and customer service system. The system was so successful, that in 1999 Sterling Software purchased an advertising cover wrap featuring Janet for an issue of Forbes magazine to tell the success story and promote their product.

When Janet took early retirement in 2003 and returned with David to Tuscola, her #1 priority was to find opportunities to serve people in the Tuscola Community, especially children. One decision that led to many opportunities to serve was joining the Tuscola Kiwanis Club. Since 2005, she has chaired and participated in dozens of service projects and fundraisers, and served in club and district officer positions. For many years, she has volunteered twice a week at North Ward Elementary School, working with students in kindergarten. She spends numerous hours a month for the six not-for-profit organizations where she serves as Secretary. On average, Janet volunteers 30-40 hours per month.

Another one of Janet’s passions is the Douglas County Museum. She is the current Secretary for the Museum Association of Douglas County, and served as Treasurer for many years. She believes that the museum with its thousands of artifacts must continue to preserve our history, provide education, and protect the thousands of items that are Douglas County’s history. To assure the financial stability and success of the museum, Janet is one of the trustees on the Board that spearheaded a Douglas County tax referendum in April 2017. The voters approved the establishment of the Douglas County Historical Museum District. Janet was selected to serve as a Trustee of the new district and holds the office of Secretary. The future of the Douglas County Museum is now financially stable and bright.

On a personal note from Janet… “I am so honored and humbled to be receiving this award. I must give great credit to my parents, Dale & Joan Spence, for raising me with a strong work ethic, integrity, and faith in God. As I progressed in my career, I was very proud of my Tuscola roots. Tuscola was a great place to grow up, and I remember my days at TCHS fondly. Go Warriors! I believe in serving others and giving back to our community, as I have been so blessed in my life. I am so happy to be back home in my retirement.”

Dr. John Kalmar – Class of 1973
Tuscola was an awesome place to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s. As the oldest of seven, my siblings kept me in line at home as much as my parents. Yet, when I got on my Schwinn bike (modified with banana seat and high-rise handlebars), there was Ervin Park (swimming pool, tennis courts and baseball fields with real grass infields), the Strand Theatre, the bowling alley, the Youth Center and frequent dances at the Community Building. Even the Monticello kids were jealous.

To make money for college (and warm donuts from Zane’s Bakery), I delivered the morning Decatur Herald newspaper for several years. I still dream about my route, zigzagging the southern half of town. Could probably ride it tomorrow. While in high school, Dad took me to Chicago where I passed an exam for my third class Radiotelephone operator’s license. For two years, I worked at WITT FM radio station: reading the morning farm report with corn and soybean futures, broadcasting track meets and “spinning your favorite platters” on my own show. “In the air, everywhere over Douglas County, this is WITT 93.5 on your FM dial.” Football in the fall, track (discus) and baseball in the spring and band all school year served to round out the high school years with a little help from my friends.

At the University of Illinois, I learned that I needed better study habits and was lucky enough to find them. In the fall of 1974, I saw an ad in the Daily Illini newspaper to try out for the javelin throw. While I finished near the bottom of the pack, the coach allowed me to train with the two winners. The following spring, I set a new school record and in spring 1976, set another record on my last throw (221 feet) that stood for 17 years. Still #2. Following my junior year, I entered dental school at Southern Illinois University in Alton. While there, I studied hard, managed to survive the rugged winters of 1978 and 1979 and graduated first in my dental school class. The winters, though, chased me out of the Midwest, and I took a residency in Hospital Dentistry in Chapel Hill, N.C., followed by training in oral and maxillofacial pathology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Next, I earned a PhD in Pathology at Emory with the help of great faculty and a five-year Physician Scientist Award from NIH. Following graduation in 1989, I became Clinic Director at the Emory School of Postgraduate Dentistry, but Emory decided to close the School a few years later.

I moved to Rochester, N.Y., and learned that “lake effect snow” means serious snow. Working at the University of Rochester, I met an oral surgeon and his wife who, after months of friendship and good conversations, decided I should meet their daughter, Eileen. Nineteen months later, she and I were married. After our first child, Michael, was born the following year, it was time to look for a new job. In 1999, I joined the faculty of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and have since served there in several capacities, including Associate Dean, Graduate Program Director and Director of the oral biopsy service as well as the sterilization monitoring service. Most recently, I was elected President of the Dental Faculty Practice at the College.

As part of my professional duties, I am a Past President of the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, have served on expert panels for the American Dental Association and currently serve as a Director for the American Board or Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. I continue to teach dental students and dental specialty residents and enjoy providing continuing education to a wide variety of professional audiences, nationally and internationally.

Most importantly, Eileen and I now have three amazing children (Timothy and Samantha were born in Columbus) and this fall, all three will be enrolled at The Ohio State University. Our Ohio home has allowed the kids to see and know their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from Illinois and beyond as well as their family from New York. Home is about more than where you grew up, but I am proud to say Tuscola is my hometown, a quiet place amidst the corn and soybeans in the flattest county in Illinois. Go Warriors!

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