Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
December 3, 2013 Issue
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Eli Ruiz | Democrat

Harrison “Slam” Allen accepts congratulations from Monticello CS Superintendent Daniel Teplesky as emcee Les Kristt, center, looks on.

Monticello Alumni make school proud

Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO — November 12, 2013 — The Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium was packed for Monticello High’s first ever Hall of Distinction induction ceremony last Sunday.
The event started off early with a special pancake breakfast for inductees.
Besides the 10 Hall of Distinction honorees, the school also used the event as an opportunity to also recognize 27 current students as new National Honor Society members.
The awards were presented by family, friends and even Monticello staff.
The school’s first ever Hall of Distinction inductee turned out to be 1984 alum Harrison “Slam” Allen. Allen, a Blues singer and guitarist, was named “Future Legend of Blues” by Blues Magazine and has written and produced four critically acclaimed albums. Allen was also lead singer and guitarist for legendary Blues harmonica player James Cotton.
Next was Robert H. Benmosche, a 1962 Monticello graduate. As the current President and CEO of insurance giant AIG, Benmosche had arguably the most impressive resume Sunday. Benmosche previously headed up another industry giant, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. At the onset of the recent financial crisis Benmosche was asked by the U.S. government to come out of retirement in order to help save AIG from bankruptcy. In little more than three years Benmosche has helped make AIG financially solvent.
“It’s important to have the courage to think about tomorrow,” said Benmosche. “I get a little worried when I hear people say they’ll ‘wait for the right opportunity.’ If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career it’s to not be afraid to treat every opportunity that comes your way as the most important opportunity that comes your way… it may be the only one that comes your way.”
The Class of 1987’s own Stephanie Blythe, who began her professional music career in 1994 as a member of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera was next. Having toured internationally with the Metropolitan Opera Company, Blythe made her Lincoln Center debut in 1998. Signed to the Virgin Classics label, Blythe has performed all over the world and made her Carnegie Hall debut in March.
Among the most distinguished inductees was the late former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, the Honorable Judge Lawrence H. Cooke. Cooke was instrumental in ushering in reform in such matters as uniform work hours and vacation, extended civil arbitration and uniform rules for all trial courts. Cooke got his start serving the public when he was elected a NYS Supreme Court Justice for the Third Judicial District. In 1979 Governor Hugh L. Carey appointed Cooke the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Cooke served in that post until 1984. In 1997 the Sullivan County Courthouse was named in his honor.
The rest of the inductees:
Milton K. Berlye: Faculty, 1940–1972. Mr. Berlye was an author, inventor, businessman and most of all a beloved teacher known fondly as “Mr. B.” As administrator, he served as Director of Adult Education, Chairman of the Industrial Arts Dept., and creator of the Work Study Program.
David Kaufman: Class of 1947. Dedicated public official, community activist and inspired humanitarian, Kaufman’s career spanned 40 years. He is known for his decades of compassionate self-sacrifice and commitment to helping the citizens of Sullivan County find a better way of life.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes: Class of 1946. Fuentes was the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and was one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was a woman’s rights activist for over 50 years.
Jeff McBride: Class of 1977. A prominent performer, innovator and visionary of contemporary magic, Jeff McBride is a three-time winner of the International Grand Prix of Magic. He is the founder of McBride’s Magic and Mystery School, a unique, experiential retreat for magicians. He is also a three-time Guinness World Record holder.
Ida Mae Mitchell: Board of Education Member, 1969–1977. Member and Vice President of the Board of Education, Ida Mae Mitchell was known for being a dedicated and selfless advocate for Monticello students. A volunteer in Monticello and beyond, her devotion and passion are evidenced in the many awards and honors received during her life.
Roland Paramore: Class of 1984. During his 27 year career, Senior Master Sergeant Roland Paramore rose through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force to ultimately serve as Superintendent, Presidential Flight Attendant to President Barack Obama. SMSgt Paramore also served on Air Force One under Presidents Clinton and G. W. Bush.
“Moments like these are meant to cherish,” said Congressman Chris Gibson (R–19, Kinderhook), who was one of several dignitaries present for the ceremony. “This speaks to achievement, it speaks to service, but it also serves as an inspiration going forward for future generations. I congratulate you Monticello.”

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