2013 Hall of Fame Press Release
Aurora Alumni Honor Retired Teachers
Educator Hall of Fame
The Aurora Alumni Association, joined by city and local school officials, inducted four retired Aurora teachers on October 11th, 2013 into the Aurora Alumni Hall of Fame. Inducted as “Honored Educators” were John Smolko, Bob Luckay, Mary Ann Balbach, and Dan Dyer. The inductees were nominated into this newly created Hall of Fame category by Aurora High School alumni and selected by a special committee which included members of the Aurora Alumni Association Board of Directors. Brian Brookhart, assistant High School principal and Alumni Board member served as master of ceremonies. Alumni President Matt Shanholtzer spoke of the alumni association’s recent growth, and their new approach in merging the Athletic, Distinguished Alumni, and Honored Educator divisions into one consistent Aurora High School Alumni Hall of Fame program.
Proclamations and remarks were given by Mayor Jim Fisher, from the city, Michelle Dirda, from the Aurora Education Association, Board of Education President Jerry Kohanski from the Aurora School Board, and Russ Bennett, Superintendent of Schools. Tributes were also given to each of the honored educators by their nominating alumni.
John Smolko taught Art at Aurora High School from 1983-2008. Many of his contributions were recognized in the proclamations he received, including founding the AP Art program and guiding many students toward award-winning pursuits in the field. His nominator was Jeff Champ (Class of 1991), who provided his tribute as a video clip from his studio in California. Champ recalled Smolko’s advice, “Never allow anyone else to define who you are – define yourself.”
Bob Luckay taught Social Studies at Harmon Middle School from 1978-1998. His city and teachers’ association proclamations celebrated his founding of the Harmon School Natural History Club, and his real life social studies perspectives as a city councilman, which included his leadership roles with the Heritage Festival and Landmark Commission. He was nominated by Evan McCarthy (Class of 1998), who provided a video tribute from his current assignment in the U.S. Embassy in Latvia. He credited Luckay with instilling in him a love of nature and history, saying, “You [Luckay gave us a zest for life, a thirst to know about the trees around us, and about our own history – about where we came from.”
Mary Ann Balbach taught Social Studies at Harmon Middle School from 1982-2007. Her proclamations from the city and teachers’ association acknowledged her many achievements including her implementation of a Mock Congress program and the Global Issues Seminar in northeast Ohio. She was nominated by Erica Eckert (Class of 1999), now a professor at Kent State University, who spoke of the impact Balbach’s teaching approach has had on her own role as a teacher. “I am here today because of you,” remarked Eckert, citing the old saying, “imitation is the highest form of flattery. I think of you every day when I am in front of my classes.”
Dr. Daniel Dyer taught Language Arts at Aurora Middle School (now Craddock Elementary) and then Harmon Middle School from 1966-1978, and 1982-1997. His numerous contributions to the school and community were celebrated by proclamations from the city and teachers’ association, including his creation of the Farewell to Harmon Show, his other extensive drama program endeavors, founding of the Aurora Youth Theater, and various national teaching awards including Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Delta Kappa. He was nominated by Brian Brookhart (Class of 1998) who reflected, “He [Dy showed us all by example that there is no greater happiness in life than being yourself, pursuing your passion, and finding the good in everyone.”
The four inductees were honored during halftime of the Greenmen’s victory over Wickliffe. The four educators stood at mid-field and were announced to the crowd. The crowd gave them a standing ovation.