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A Congressional Medal of Honor recipient; one of Major League Baseball’s premier pitchers; a sitting U.S. ambassador; an international opera star; a celebrated civil rights leader; the federal judge who locked up one of America’s most notorious gangsters. What do these people have in common? They are all members of the Patchogue-Medford Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame, now in its fourth year, is taking hold as source of tremendous excitement throughout the Patchogue-Medford schools and the entire community. Thousands of donors and dozens of local and regional businesses have already joined together to help support and grow this institution into the powerful source for pride and positive values that its founders envisioned. Establishing a Hall of Fame to identify and honor the Patchogue-Medford School District and community’s many prominent alumni, teachers, administrators, volunteers, business and civic leaders was the brainchild of Manny Felouzis and Harry Farides, both 1969 graduates of, and former teachers at, Patchogue-Medford High School. Along with co-founders Tom Combs, the former PM athletic director, PMHS principal Dr. Randy Rusielewicz, and Larry Roberts, the district’s former director of music, the group formed a plan to create the Hall as an entirely community-funded program, and in 2015 won approval from the Board of Education to erect and maintain a state-of-the-art Hall of Fame Learning Center at the high school once the funding goal of $500,000 is reached. The immediate success and impact of the Hall of Fame has brought that goal well within reach.
“People throughout the community are already amazed to learn about the enormous quality and range of achievements of our first three classes of inductees,” says Felouzis. “Once the Learning Center is up and running, not only will students be exposed to these inspirational role models on a daily basis, but the entire community will benefit as well. The Hall of Fame was designed to focus attention on the very best of what Patchogue-Medford people have achieved over the course of more than a century, and continue to achieve and accomplish today. The positive messaging shines the brightest possible light on our area, and we especially invite the many businesses throughout our community to join us by helping to spread awareness and pride in the great new community institution that is the Patchogue-Medford Hall of Fame.”
The dinner and ceremony to induct each class of Hall of Fame members has quickly become an eagerly anticipated annual springtime tradition at the PMHS campus. The day of the ceremony is made even greater when members of the incoming Hall of Fame class, and previous inductees as well, come to the school to spend the day mentoring students. On the day of the inaugural induction ceremony, May 6, 2016, excited Pat-Med students got to spend part of their day with Nancy Bikoff Petit (Class of ’71), the current U.S. Ambassador to Latvia; Renee Felice Smith (’03), one of the stars of the TV series NCIS: Los Angeles; Kevin Connolly (’92), a star of the TV series Entourage; and Denise Jefferson Casper (’86), the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S. federal judge in Massachusetts, who presided over the 2013 trial of the notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, condemning the multiple murderer to two consecutive life sentences—plus five years.
One inaugural Hall of Fame member who could not be there was nevertheless well known to the students: Lieutenant Michael Murphy (’94), a Navy Seal who became the first naval officer to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in more than 40 years after he was killed in a raid on the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2005, and in whose honor the Patchogue-Medford High School campus was named in 2014. Another absentee was Marcus Stroman (’09), who was pitching that day for the Toronto Blue Jays. And one other was W. Burghardt Turner, the late founder of the Patchogue and Brookhaven branches of the NAACP, former PMHS teacher and Stony Brook professor.
All prospective Hall of Fame members are nominated by the public, not by any of the Hall’s officers, trustees, or volunteers. Each application must include a brief biography of the nominee, three letters of recommendation, and supporting documentation for the nominee’s achievements such as press clippings. Nominees are then evaluated by one of three committees—Sports, Arts, or General Achievement—before final selections are made.
The Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) organization. Prospective supporters and advertisers are invited to call 631-275-7924.