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Wall of Fame Gains New Members

Posted by Elwin Green on October 7, 2016 at 7:25 PM

Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy 6-12 is still known to most as simply "Westinghouse," and is remembered by many of its older alums as the school that prepared them for the world.

 

For years, the Westinghouse Commission on Recognition has celebrated some of those alums who went on to significant achievements in the world with the Wall of Fame, a series of plaques that hang in the school's first-floor hall.

 

On Wednesday, the number of alums so honored grew by 19 as alums and students gathered for the 2016 Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The event was part of the run-up to Westinghouse's homecoming weekend. capped by tonight's football game against the University Prep Wildcats.

 

The new inductees covered multiple generations, with graduates from the early 1960s standing alongside those from the 1990s.

 

I was not there for the entire program. But I was there long enough to watch one alum, who actually dropped out before graduating, struggle to hold back tears as he said, "I have lived the American Dream because of this school."

 

Gleyn Ward dropped out in 1962, but credits the school with instilling the character needed for him to get his diploma the following year via night school, then to work his way up through the ranks at KDKA to become national sales manager.

 

A 1970 graduate, Carol Waller Pope, spoke of how her parents moved to Homewood - get this, now - "for the opportunity." She continued pursuing opportunity well enough so that she is now Chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

 

A third inductee became a member of the first parent-child duo to earn their places on the Wall.

 

Brett Banks, class of 1995, is senior executive for visual merchandising with Ralph Lauren. He has been with the fashion company for 12 years, after a stint at Tommy Hilfiger.

 

"Homewood is my foundation," he said. But not just Homewood: Westinghouse.

 

"You go across the country and around the world and you mention Homewood, and they definitely say, 'Westinghouse'."

 

His mother, Cheryl Jones Banks, graduated from Westinghouse in 1964 and was inducted in 2009. Ms Banks spent 35 years with Allegheny County's Office of Children Youth and Families (which means that she was there before it even had that name), and was the first African-American female to be hired as a supervisor there.

 

Quick obeservations:

 

1) Westinghouse pride is a BIG DEAL.

 

I am native of Louisville, Ky., and a graduate of Louisville Male High School (the first high school west of the Allegheny Mountains). I have good feelings about Male, but I confess that my feelings about Male pale in comparison to what I see among some Westinghouse alums. Sometimes I want to say to them, "You know that feeling that strongly about the school you attended 40 years ago is not normal, right?" But I'm afraid that saying so will be taken as a criticism, rather than simply an expression of wonderment.

 

2) The Wall of Fame is, if possible, an even bigger deal. Each person there has a story worth knowing.

 

I'll leave it at that for now.

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In October 2005, after a bullet came through his living room window, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Elwin Green began writing "My Homewood," the first blog on the P-G's website. For 4 1/2 years, "My Homewood" shared stories of tragedy and beauty, of perplexity and hope - stories that live again in "The Homewood Chronicles."

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