North Stonington Education Foundation

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Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni

As it is the mission of Wheeler High School to mold students to live a life of accomplishment and satisfaction in a changing and complex world, it is the mission of the Distinguished Alumni Committee to recognize and honor these Alumni of Wheeler High School who have put themselves forward as the paradigm of that ideal.

It is also the mission of the Distinguished Alumni to inspire current WHS students to aspire to similar achievements, and to underscore the importance of exploiting the fine educational opportunities offered by the North Stonington School System.

2012 Distinguished Alumni Inductees

The North Stonington Education Foundation, in conjunction with the North Stonington School District, is proud to announce the 2012 distinguished alumni inductees: Catherine Carabine (Class of 1996), Leonard A. Brennan, Ph.D. (Class of 1975), and Mrs. Veronica Mathewson (Class of 1956). These inductees were selected as they best recognized WHS graduates who have made significant achievements in any of many occupations and professions.

Catherine Carabine

LCDR Catherine Carabine graduated from Wheeler High School in 1996. Upon graduating, she attended the United States Coast Guard Academy and in 2000, she earned a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. She earned her "wings of gold" in 2003 and her Masters of Aeronautical Science in 2010. LCDR Carabine is a distinguished aviator who is serving the United States of America and the Department of Homeland Security with distinction. She has continually demonstrated heroism and technical acumen as a MH65C helicopter pilot. While stationed in Houston, Texas, LCDR Carabine executed over 75 search and rescue cases, saving 136 lives with the biggest impact being the rescue of 108 lives during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. While at the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, FL, she deployed on Coast Guard cutters to perform Airborne Use of Force and was the first crew to interdict a go-fast with the MH65C. A well-rounded officer, she served as the Supply Officer at Air Station Houston and the Flight Safety Officer at HITRON amongst other collateral duties during her over 12 years of active duty. Throughout her career, she has been awarded several medals for her valor such as the Air Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the Coast Guard Achievement Medal. In addition to her services to her country, she has also has given back to her local community by volunteering for the USO and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

Leonard A. Brennan, Ph.D.

Dr. Leonard A. Brennan graduated from Wheeler High School in 1975. Upon graduating Dr. Brennan attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and Humboldt State University in California. In 1989 he earned his Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Sciences-Wildlife Ecology from the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. Brennan's primary research interests pertain to habitat and population ecology of wild quails in Texas and the Americas. He has authored over 130 scientific articles, and more than 100 extension publications. He has published papers in many international journals such as Oecologia, the Condor and The Journal of Wildlife Management. He authored the Northern Bobwhite Species Account in the Birds of North America Series and he edited 4 books, including Texas Quails: Ecology and Management. In addition, he has presented over 240 papers at various scientific conferences. In 2001-2002, Dr. Brennan served as the Editor-in-Chief to The Journal of Wildlife Management and he has served as Associate Editor to various other international wildlife journals. Currently, he is a professor in the Department of Animal, Rangeland and Wildlife Sciences at Texas A & M University - Kingsville, and holds the C. C. Winn Endowed Chair for Quail Research at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Dr. Brennan is a world-renowned expert on wild quails.

Mrs. Veronica Mathewson

Mrs. Veronica Mathewson graduated from Wheeler High School in 1956 as a member of the first graduating class from Wheeler High School. Upon graduating, she remained in the North Stonington community and started a family, having three children. Veronica started working as Wheeler High School/Middle School secretary in 1965 and continued in that position until her retirement in 2011. Over the 46 years as the "fixture of Wheeler" she dedicated herself to the students and families of Wheeler and had contact with over 3,000 students. Any student or family associated with Wheeler since 1965 fully knows she was there for everyone, whether it be a student who forgot his/her lunch money or counseling students who needed someone to talk to. During her tenure, she worked for nine principals, four superintendents and hundreds of faculty members. With the constant changes, Mrs. Mathewson was the "go to" person which everyone knew would provide advice or knew the answer. Throughout her 46 dedicated years of service, she had a major influence on the lives of Wheeler Students and played a role in raising many children throughout North Stonington.

2011 Distinguished Alumni Inductees

Mr. Thomas Weissmuller (Class of 1983)

His extracurricular activities included swimming and martial arts. He was (and remains) a member of the North Stonington Grange and Fair Committee. Tom graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in political science and earned his juris doctorate from Washington University School of Law before practicing law in Washington State where he continued to volunteer as a swimming coach and martial arts instructor.

Astounded by the poverty, drug abuse, and violent crime on western Indian reservations, and concerned about corruption within emerging Indian gaming establishments, Tom joined an effort to ensure justice on Indian lands. He earned an appointment to the tribal bench in Washington and assisted in developing the Tulalip and Swimomish tribal courts. He ultimately returned to Connecticut to assume the position of Chief Judge on the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Indian Reservation.

Tom served on the Board of Directors of several national justice organizations. He has worked with various offices of the federal government, advised the United States Attorney General, and testified before the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Tom continues to consult and lecture on justice matters, he teaches martial arts, and works to combat bullying and violence. His dedication to the law and his community exemplifies the spirit and accomplishments of Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

James Patton (Class of 1988)

He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1994 with degrees in Biology, Philosophy and Art. From 2000 to 2004 he simultaneously completed a Master of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University's Fletcher School and a Master of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School.

Throughout his career, Mr. Patton has continually worked to support peaceful development aspirations throughout the world. As a member of the United States Peace Corps he spent several years in rural Paraguay teaching beekeeping and other sustainable development programs. He later conducted field research in Bolivia and in Cambodia on human rights issues. He spent four years in Colombia coordinating human rights and conflict transformation projects throughout the Andean region as Deputy Regional Director for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee. In addition, as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the United States Department of State, James worked as a member of expeditionary diplomacy teams to analyze and support stabilization in southern Sudan during their historic Referendum for Independence.

Mr. Patton has been awarded several grants and fellowships. These have allowed him to work around the world to assess needs and support the generation of appropriate resources to help people help themselves develop economically and mitigate the sources of violent conflict. He has stated that his effort is a small one alongside the extraordinary, difficult and unsung work done by many others, but he hopes that it might one day serve as inspiration for his infant daughter. James Patton's dedication to making the world a better place for all people exemplifies the spirit and the accomplishments of the Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

2010 Distinguished Alumni Inductees

Mr. Larry Chappell

Mr. Larry Chappell graduated from Wheeler High School in 1970 and attended Central Connecticut State University and graduated with a degree in education. Upon graduating, he spent 32 years teaching physical education at North Stonington Elementary School. He retired from the teaching profession in 2006. In addition to his time as a physical education teacher, Larry served as the Girls Cross-Country Coach, winning to state championships in 1999 and 2000.

Upon his retirement the North Stonington Education Foundation dedicated a track behind the Elementary School in his honor as a testament to his commitment to physical fitness for all the youth in North Stonington. Larry continues to work for the betterment of children through his service on the Juvenile Review Board.

In addition to his service to the school system, Larry has dedicated himself to the community of North Stonington. He is the minister of the North Stonington Bible Church and has served as the Chaplin of the North Stonington Volunteer Fire Department.

Larry Chappell's dedication to education and the youth of North Stonington exemplifies the spirit and accomplishments of the Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

Bruce Wilkinson

Mr. Bruce Wilkinson graduated from Wheeler High School in 1973 and from Gordon College in 1977 with a degree in Economics. He also earned his MBA in International Management from the University of Cambridge. Bruce has dedicated his life to the betterment of underprivileged people around the world.

Bruce, working with his wife Linda, has made doing missionary type work in Africa his life's work. He has worked with the Peace Corp and most recently with World Vision as the Chief of Party for RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support). In this capacity Bruce provides the overall direction and implementation of many programs benefiting over 350,000 vulnerable children and 150,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. An example of his work with international organizations is World Bicycle Relief, who donated over 26,000 bicycles to volunteer caregivers in Zambia who travel to the remote areas of the country to service those people who are the most vulnerable.

Bruce Wilkinson's dedication to the betterment of the underprivileged of the world exemplifies the spirit and the accomplishments of the Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

2009 Distinguished Alumni Inductees

The North Stonington Education Foundation, in conjunction with the North Stonington School District, is proud to announce the 2009 distinguished alumni inductees: Dr. Francis Y. Falck, Jr., M.S., PhD., M.D. (Class of 1969) and  Mr. Sean O'Keefe (Class of 1973).  These two inductees were selected out of the twelve candidates that were nominated as they best recognized WHS graduates who have made significant achievements in any of many occupations and professions.

Dr. Francis Falck

Dr. Francis Falck graduated from Wheeler High School in 1969 and earned his Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1982. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School Of Medicine in 1986. Dr. Falck is board certified in ophthalmology and is an internationally recognized glaucoma expert and cataract surgeon.

Dr. Falck has dedicated his life to Public Health. Whether serving as a Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Connecticut or holding several patents in the area of medicine. He co-developed the most widely used surgical procedure for glaucoma treatment which he developed at the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan. He wrote over a dozen publications regarding eye disease and received many national awards for his contributions to the cataract surgical procedures.  Francis Y. Falck's commitment to education and public health exemplifies the spirit and accomplishments of the Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

Sean O'Keefe

Mr. Sean O'Keefe graduated from Wheeler High School in 1973 and from Syracuse University in 1978. He taught at several universities, including Pennsylvania State University and Syracuse University. He served many high-level positions within the United States Government. O'Keefe was the Comptroller at the Department of Defense from 1989-1992 and the Acting Secretary of the Navy under President George H. W. Bush from 1992-1993. He served as the Administrator of NASA from 2001-2005. His tenure at NASA saw many triumphs such as the Mars Exploratory Rovers and his plan to send humans to Mars. After leaving NASA, O'Keefe became the Chancellor of Louisiana State University where he served until 2008.

Mr. O'Keefe's commitment to education and public service exemplifies the spirit and accomplishments of the Wheeler High School Distinguished Alumni.

Eligibility Requirements

Graduates of WHS become eligible for Distinguished Alumni consideration ten years after graduation, and once their name has been placed before the Selection Committee.  Eligibility will be reviewed for three consecutive years.

The selection committee is made up from career educators and citizens of the North Stonington community and will consider the applicants for their contributions in the categories of: Academic/Career Accomplishments, Athletic Accomplishments, Cultural/Performing Arts and Major Contributions to Wheeler High School.

If you would like an application for consideration or recommendation as a Distinguished Alumni candidate, please contact the high school. If you or someone you know meets the criteria to become a Distinguished Alumni, we encourage you to apply.

If you have submitted an application previously, your application will be reviewed each year up to three years. At that point, the candidate would need to re-apply. Applications are due by the end of February, selections take place in the beginning of April, and the awards are presented during the senior awards night in June. The Distinguished Alumni Committee received many outstanding applications the first year and hope the numbers will be even higher next year.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, which was supported by the North Stonington Educational Foundation, shined a light on the outstanding achievements Wheeler graduates have accomplished and provided a glimpse of what a Wheeler senior can attain. Like in Mr. O'Keefe's case, the sky is the limit.

Distinguished Alumni Application Form