making a difference in 2011
JODY COLBY and BRIENNE COLBY SEMBRAT The Colby name is synonymous with service in Mt. Lebanon. For decades, Robert “Dale” Colby served the public in many ways, from volunteer work with the Mt. Lebanon Soccer Association and the Youth Sports Alliance, to a decade as Commissioner of the Fourth Ward. But the Colby name kept working even after his death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2010. Most notably, his wife, Jody, and daughter, Brienne Colby Sembrat, jumped right in and went to work on the fundraising committee for the Veterans Memorial. The pair took on the task of leading the 10 district schools through fundraising drives by performing at assemblies that infused students with enthusiasm for the project. As a result of their direct efforts, the schools raised more than $10,000 for the project, ensuring that each school’s name will be engraved on the memorial as a permanent tribute. Their efforts also ensure the Colby name remains forever associated with enriching the community.
- MADISON CABLE and LUKE HAGY The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been naming male and female Athletes of the Year since 1979. The list includes legends like Dan Marino, Suzie McConnell-Serio, Bill Fralic, Swin Cash and Neil Walker. Along the way, a couple of Mt. Lebanon stars have made the list: soccer player Erin Butcher in 1992 and swimmer Kaitlyn Orstein in 2004. The male and female athletes have never come from the same school. Until this year.
Madison Cable, a senior guard on the Lady Blue Devils basketball team—the team that won an unheard-of three state championships in a row—and Luke Hagy, an old-fashioned three-sport athlete who starred in football, basketball and baseball for the Blue Devils, received the honor this spring. Cable, who has since graduated and is attending Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship, was the Post-Gazette’s and Associated Press’s choice as Player of the Year, and also was selected to the Parade Magazine All-American team. Hagy, a senior this year, has been attracting scouts’ attention with his performance on the football field, where he is a running back and safety, named to the Post-Gazette’s Fabulous 22 team last year. He was also the starting point guard on last year’s basketball team and an all-section outfielder on the baseball team. Hagy plans to play football at Cornell in the fall.
CECE KAPRON With shows such as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, seems everyone’s dancing today. That wasn’t the case in 1972, when Cece Kapron, a dancer with a phys ed degree, started out as a “gym teacher” at Mt. Lebanon High. Several years later, she founded Mt. Lebanon High School’s Dance Company and the rest is history. Kapron, who also directs and choreographs the high school musicals, has grown Mt. Lebanon’s company into a premiere dance program that has garnered many honors, including a Presidential Citation Award from the National Dance Association and a Best Programs Award from the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance. In addition, Kapron has been Pennsylvania’s Dance Educator of the Year, the National Dance Association’s Dance Educator of the year and was named a Teacher of Distinction by the Teacher Excellence Foundation. Seems nothing can slow her down.
M.A. JACKSON For the past six years, M.A. Jackson has steered the Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon (HSMTL) toward the future. Her first task upon becoming president was acquiring a small space on Lebanon Avenue for a Mt. Lebanon History Center, which opened in June 2009. During her two-term tenure, she’s worked tirelessly to raise the society’s profile by instituting new programs, curating five exhibits and making sure the society is represented at community events, including ULTRAparty, which HSMTL co-sponsored in 2010 and 2011. Although she steps down at the end of the year, she made sure to find time for one last project—compiling the new Mt. Lebanon photo book, issued by Arcadia Publishing. Full disclosure: M.A. is mtl’s associate editor, and we’re very proud of her.
BILL CALLAHAN A farm boy from the Midwest, Bill Callahan worked his way east to Pittsburgh, where he helps protect Western Pennsylvania’s historic built environment as the region’s rep from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Not content to make historic preservation a day job, Callahan has served two terms on Mt. Lebanon’s historic preservation board, where he forged good relations with the planning board, the Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh’s RenPlan and other community partners. He currently is finishing his second presidency. Under his leadership the board has gained visibility and prestige, prodding the community to the view historic preservation as a powerful economic development tool. Callahan’s current mission is to see Mt. Lebanon listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an honorary designation that boosts a town’s cachet and property values.
RON BLOCK From preservation of historic buildings to preservation of green space, Ron Block has been a community caretaker. Earlier this year Block, whose avocation is landscape design, completed his work as a member of the historic preservation board, where he championed trees as an important part of our built environment. Currently he is president of the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, where a focus is ensuring that Mt. Lebanon has a healthy “urban forest.” Block is no stranger to multitasking. His community service resume also includes work with the Mt. Lebanon Arboretum Committee, and he was a charter member of the Mt. Lebanon Veterans Recognition Committee.
BONNIE VANKIRK You’ve likely seen Bonnie VanKirk’s face in many regional volunteer capacities with such organizations as the UPCI-Hillman Cancer Center, the Carnegie Science Center, the August Wilson Cultural Center, Chatham University and the Downtown YMCA. She’s also volunteered in Mt. Lebanon, including positions on the library Board, the historic preservation board and the veterans memorial fundraising committee. This year, she added two large notches to her belt. First, she was able to convince her father-in-law, Theodore “Dutch” VanKirk, the navigator of the Enola Gay, to speak at a fundraiser event for the Veterans Memorial. His appearance helped raise more than $50,000 for the memorial, to be dedicated this spring. As if that weren’t enough, when First Ward Commissioner Raja resigned to run for Allegheny County Chief Executive, VanKirk stepped up to fill his seat for a six-month appointment with a steep learning curve. Undaunted, she sharpened her pencil, cracked open the proposed budget and jumped in like she had been here all along.