Five inducted as Waite High School Distinguished Alumni

Press Staff Writer

        Five Morrison R. Waite High School alumni were honored as Distinguished Alumni at the 58th Annual Purple and Gold Dinner Celebration held Oct. 29 at St. Michael Centre in Oregon.
        The awards were established in 1981 to recognize Waite High School graduates who have maintained alumni status for the last 10 years, who have excelled in their fields of employment, and who have gone above and beyond leading and serving their communities and country.
This year’s honorees include:
Heather N. Griffin-Lenkey Beam, who graduated from Waite High School in 1994 and subsequently earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education in 1998 from Bowling Green State University. In 2001, she earned a Master of Education Degree in Special Education with an emphasis in low incidence disabilities and certification in early childhood special education and early interventions, also from BGSU.
        She went on to complete graduate training in applied behavior analysis from Penn State University then began her career as a special education teacher and program administrator. She is a board-certified behavior analyst and licensed intervention specialist with more than 20 years of experience working with families and children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. She has been a classroom teacher, an educational services coordinator and a consultant for children with special needs.
        In 2004, she founded Capable Kids, a private clinical practice serving children and adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral needs. She currently serves as executive director. She has also been an adjunct faculty member at BGSU Division of Intervention Services.
        She and her husband, Jeffrey, who partners with her to support the children, families, and employees at Capable Kids, reside in Sylvania. They have one son.
        Ralph G. Brockett, Ph.D., graduated from Waite in 1972 and went on to graduate from The University of Toledo as a psychology major in 1976. He then enrolled in the master’s degree program in guidance and counseling at UT, graduating in 1977. He subsequently moved to Albany, New York, to work in adult and continuing education for human services providers in New York state.
        In fall 1979, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Adult Education at Syracuse University and graduated with a doctorate and a certificate in gerontology in 1982.
        He subsequently taught at Syracuse, Montana State University at Bozeman and the University of Tennessee, where he taught until his retirement and appointment as professor emeritus in December 2019.         Over the years, he served as a visiting professor at several universities. He continues to teach online courses for two universities.
        He is an author, co-author or editor of more than 115 publications, including 10 books.
        Throughout his career, he has volunteered for many leadership positions in the adult education profession and has received several awards for his writing and service. He was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 2005.
        He and his wife, Mary, live in Knoxville.
        Stephen M. Junga graduated from Waite in 1978. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication from UT in 1983 with a dual major in broadcasting and public relations.
        While working for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio as benefit definition analyst, he decided to pursue a career that better suited his love of sports and his ability as a writer. In 1985, he began as a writer, columnist, and photographer for the weekly publication, The Press newspapers (Metro Press and Suburban Press).
        Still working both jobs, he was hired by The Blade in 1987 to work in the sports department. He was elevated to full-time sports reporter in 1991.
        During his career at The Blade, he has covered professional, college, and high school sports, as well as youth and adult amateur sports. He is best known for his coverage of the high school sports. He has been innovative with expanding the paper's prep sports coverage, including overseeing Blade Polls for football and basketball and the selection of All-Blade football and basketball teams ongoing since 1995 and 1996, respectively.
        He has received multiple writing awards and honors.
        • Martin L. Ramirez graduated in the top 10 percent of the Waite class of 1983, then pursued leadership roles for the next six years in the glass and lime industries.
        In May 1989, he joined his wife, Melissa Kurek Ramirez, at the U.S. Postal Service. He was elected president of the Toledo Main Post Office Diversity Committee and earned National Diversity Achievement of the Year awards in 1999 and 2000.
        In 2000, he graduated from the USPS-Associate Supervisor Program with distinction. He served as an acting postmaster for three post offices in the Toledo area. Later that year, he stepped down from his traveling management position when circumstances necessitated his return home to family.
        Since 1999, he has been hired as a paid and volunteer speaker, addressing students at UT and BGSU. As a parent of a son with Down Syndrome, he shares his insights on the challenges and solutions to raising children with special needs.
        In 2007, he authored, “Living It Up With Downs! – How My Son Became My Mentor.”
        He is in the process of penning two new books and booking speaking engagements.
        In 2016, he assumed the role of Maintenance Craft Director in the Toledo American Postal Workers Union Local 170. He served as president of the APWU Local 170 from 2020 until his retirement in 2021, culminating his 32.6 years of service.
        He and his wife, Missy, live in Maumee. They are the parents of three adult sons.
        • George D. Thompson was an active member of the Waite class of 1976. Upon graduation, he enrolled at UT with the goal of becoming a dentist. Making the decision to leave college, he began working in a men’s clothing store and purchased his first rental property in 1977 with his older sister, Debra.
        That same year, he attended the Barbizon School of Modeling. Upon completion of the program, he was hired as a part-time instructor.
        In 1978, he and his sister partnered to open D&J Carry Out. A few years later, he sold his share of the business to his sister. He enrolled in a bartending course and was hired to be a bartender-waiter. Years later, he returned to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in business.
        A friend encouraged him to invest in and sell gold jewelry and he hosted parties in his apartment, in homes, and out of his car trunk. He enrolled in a jewelry course where he learned simple stone setting and repair skills. He soon converted his kitchen into a small repair shop.
        In 1980, he began taking courses offered by the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, followed by classes at the Gesswein School of Jewelry Manufacturing in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the GIA Diamond and Gem Identification in Philadelphia.          He served an apprenticeship in Cleveland, at C.M. Stephanoff Fine Jewelers, where he was a master goldsmith, while also working as a benchman at Dolgin Jewelers in Toledo.
         In 1984, he became a partner in George Steven Designs and worked designing, manufacturing and repairing jewelry for other jewelers. The next year, he established George D. Thompson Fine Jewelers. In 1988, he moved from the basement of a carryout to a retail shopping center on Monroe Street where he specialized in wholesale goldsmithing and manufacturing and in retail fine jewelry sales.
        In 1990, he opened Georgjz Bar and Grill in South Toledo with his sister. Although it was a very successful venture, he sold the business in 1994 and Doc Watson’s was born. After the death of his sister in 2001, he sold the carryout. Five years later, he left the world of retail and continued to sell jewelry by appointment.
        In 2016, he opened Georgjz419-Fun, Food, & Spirits on Adams Street in downtown Toledo. He lives in Toledo.


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