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home : news : news   July 24, 2014

1/2/2014 4:21:00 AM
Entertainers, professors among OTHS hall of fame nominees

Stephen Hawk
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Stephen Hawk

OTTAWA — A Grammy Award nominee is among the seven individuals and two teams who have been selected as inductees for the 2014 class of the Ottawa Township High School Hall of Fame.

The focus of the Hall of Fame is to recognize excellence in achievement while a high school student, after leaving Ottawa High, or a combination of both. Further, honorees may or may not have attended Ottawa High but were significant and accomplished contributors to OTHS.
A banquet will be held to present and honor inductees on Saturday, Feb. 8. Additionally, inductees will be introduced at the OTHS basketball game the prior evening, Feb. 7.

The inductees announced in a press release this week will include trumpet player and professor Stephen Hawk and comedian/ventriloquist Taylor Mason, as well as Bob Jordan, Dr. Kenneth Nikels, Michael Babcock, Stephen Nelson, Susan (Hynd) Lewis, the 1970 boys tennis team that went 16-0 in dual meets and finished third in the state and the 1961-62 football team that went 9-0.

Hawk, class of 1973, received his master of music degree in trumpet performance from the University of Texas at Austin, and his doctor of musical arts degree in trumpet/jazz emphasis also from the University of Texas at Austin.

He is a professor of music at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, and also performs as a freelance trumpeter.

As a trumpet performer, he has been nominated for a Grammy Award on five separate occasions. He has played lead trumpet with jazz legends including Dizzy Gillespie and Manhattan Transfer, and has performed as principal trumpet with Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Orchestra.

Hawk has been featured on many recordings with his big band CD, “The Hawk’s Out,” selected by New York’s Cadence Magazine as its Outstanding Big Band recording of the year in 1998.

In addition to his own recordings, he played lead trumpet in Nancy Wilson’s 2004 Grammy winning CD “RSVP,” as well as her 2006 Grammy winner, “Turned to Blue.” In addition to his numerous performance honors and appearances, Hawk received the Pennsylvania Music Educator’s Citation of Excellence in Teaching Award, the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence from Slippery Rock University and membership into the Who’s Who Among American Teachers.

Mason, class of 1974, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1979, majoring in agriculture and communications. While at the University of Illinois he played varsity football, suffering a knee injury during his junior year. During and after his recuperation period he began performing as a disc jockey and comedian, developing ventriloquist skills, which he incorporated into a one-man variety show.

Mason earned a master’s degree in advertising in 1983 from Northwestern University, and during his time at Northwestern worked as a ventriloquist at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago. By the end of 1983 he was working full time in show business, either at Zanies or The Second City, also in Chicago. He later won the grand prize in 1990 on the nationwide talent show competition “Star Search” hosted by Ed McMahon. Mason now is one of the top ventriloquists in the world. He is a nationally known comic, regularly performing for the Disney Cruise Lines and corporations including Microsoft and Wal-Mart.

During an 11-year period beginning in 1989, Mason did more than 1,500 college shows, during which time he won two Family Entertainer of the Year Awards. He has appeared at every major comedy club in the United States, including venues in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Carnegie Hall, and the Red Rocks in Colorado, as well as the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. He has appeared on numerous television shows including “An Evening at the Improv, “Comic Strip Live,” “Caroline’s Comedy Hour,” and MTV’s “Half-Hour Comedy Hour,” as well as the “Comedy Club Network” show, and “Comedy on Campus” for Showtime on cable television.

Jordan, class of 1938, graduated from Oberlin College in 1943, spent four years in the Air Force, commissioned as a weather officer and stationed among other locations at Saipan and Iwo Jima. After beginning graduate school at the University of Chicago, Jordan returned to Ottawa to partner with his brother Bo in running Jordan Hardware, as the fourth generation running the family retail hardware business.

When the business was sold in 1983, Jordan Hardware was the oldest retail business in Illinois to be operated by the same family in the same location, having been established in 1840. After retirement from the hardware business, he developed an interest in genealogy, joining the La Salle County Genealogy Guild, donating a building to house original county probate records dating back to 1831.

Nikels, class of 1962, was president of the civic council, captain of the OTHS Military Program, captain of the OTHS track team and also was one of three OTHS students to win a national math contest as a senior. He received his doctorate degree in developmental psychobiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1971, Nikels joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He served as chairman of the psychology department 1979-83, and later became dean of graduate studies and research in 1987, continuing in that role after being appointed associate vice chancellor of academic affairs in 2002. He received the 2001 Distinguished Service Award from the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. In 2012, University of Nebraska at Kearney named a laboratory, the Kenneth W. Nikels Physiological Psychology Laboratory. At the dedication of the laboratory, the school’s chancellor stated: “Ken Nikels must be included in the ‘historic figure’ category at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He was crucial in instituting undergraduate research and in developing a modern psychology department. Ken served the University so well and in so many capacities that he became an invaluable asset to the campus. He will always be remembered for his superior teaching and his vision to improve higher education. UNK was very lucky to have Ken Nikels and his legacy will continue for many years to come.”

Babcock, class of 1963, is a professor of economics at Kansas State University. He is recognized as a national and international authority in three research areas: the impact of public policy on transportation market shares, agricultural transportation and shortline railroad transportation. He has published more than 80 articles in professional journals, along with numerous monographs and technical reports, receiving government research grants aggregating in excess of $2 million as the principal investigator or co-investigator. While at OTHS, Babcock was company commander of the OTHS military program, and was a four-year member of three sports, basketball, football, and baseball. He graduated from Drake University with a degree in business administration in 1967, and thereafter received a master’s degree and doctoral degree from the University of Illinois in 1971 and 1973 respectively. Babcock has received national awards for his transportation research, including the A.T. Kearney Award, the United Parcel Service Foundation Award, the Burlington Northern Railroad Award and the Rail-Tex Corp. Award. Also, he is only the eighth person in 46 years to receive the Herbert O. Whitten Transportation Research Forum Service Award, the highest award bestowed by the Forum.

Nelson, class of 1980, two-year starter at defensive tackle in football for the University of Illinois, including the 1984 Rose Bowl team, and 1984 and 1985 NCAA Division I national championships qualifier as a heavyweight wrestler. He trades Standard and Poor’s 500 options and futures on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, leasing two seats for the independent trading company which he owns.

Susan (Hynd) Lewis, class of 1982, was the first OTHS Lady Pirate to receive a Division I athletic scholarship. She played basketball for four years at Eastern Illinois University. This followed her basketball accomplishments at OTHS, where she held at the time the all-time career scoring record accomplished in her two-year varsity career. After graduation she was selected to play with an American all-star basketball team traveling the Pacific Rim. At OTHS she earned a medal in the Class 2A state meet in the high jump. She was selected to represent the Blue-Grey Division in the Illinois Prairie State Games after graduation, medaling in the high jump and helping her team to a first place finish in the games. After graduation from Eastern Illinois University, Lewis began a teaching and basketball coaching career at Wheaton-Warrenville High School. She has additionally traveled to the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia on numerous occasions to help teachers there improve their teaching skills.

1970 tennis team members include Larry Whiteaker, John Duffin, Scott Anders, Brad Riley, Don Harris, Jim Muus, Dave Chapman and John Muus, with head coach Tom Henderson and assistant Lyle Guenther.

The unbeaten 1961-62 Pirate football team finished the season ranked No. 6 by The Associated Press among all high schools in the state. Harold “Tyke” Burgwald was an honorable mention selection to the National High School All-America team.

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