ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury High School honored academic excellence on Thursday, Oct. 11 with its annual Academic Excellence Recognition Evening, where students in grades 10 through 12 were presented certificates and awards for achieving a 3.75-grade point average (GPA) or higher in the 2017/2018 school year. Just over 350 students achieved this honor.

In addition to academic achievement, the program also showcased the vocal and musical talents of Jacob Wood (Gr 12), Amanda Melchers (Gr 11), Ian Hachey (Gr 12), and Austin Kurbansade (Gr 12), all were also award recipients.

This year, 162 First Year Awards were handed out, 112 to sophomores, 19 to juniors, and 31 to current seniors. Second Year Awards followed for those individuals who have a 3.75 GPA or higher for two consecutive years with 88 juniors and 26 seniors earning this distinction. Third Year Awards were given to 75 seniors for reaching this goal three consecutive years.

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Roxbury’s Director of Guidance Emilie Bacchetta also recognized two seniors, Ian Hachey and Carrie Luan, for earning National Merit Scholarship Awards.

In addition to honoring these current high school students, the Roxbury Board of Education honored three individuals for this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Rich Alexander, Board of Education member described how this award came to be.

“The genesis of this award was as we were doing alumni outreach, we started noticing the impressive credentials of some of our former students. We have a Roxbury Athletic Hall of Fame and we questioned, why don’t we have an Academic Hall of Fame. This quickly morphed into the idea of the Roxbury Distinguished Alumni Award.”

“To date, we’ve inducted five Distinguished Alumni including a scientist, an artist, an educator, a community leader, and a State Supreme Court Justice who exemplify the spirit of the Roxbury community and our education system.”

Adding, “Students, you are here today because of your achievements. But how will you channel your passion and intellect not only for personal satisfaction but to benefit others in society? The Roxbury Distinguished Alumni Award has been created as a guidepost for what is possible.”

This year we recognized three individuals who stand out in their chosen professions. They are Dr. Don Boroson, class of 1969, Dr. Russell Svenningsen, class of 1990, and Dr. Col. Brian K. Sperling, Class of 1985.

Unfortunately, due to schedules, Dr. Boroson and Dr. Svenningsen were unable to be present to accept their award but each was recognized respectively.

Dr. Boroson

Dr. Boroson was recognized for his exemplary work in satellite communication system designs. Boroson graduated Roxbury High School in 1969. He has lived in Needham, Mass. ever since graduate school. After completing his undergrad and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at Princeton University, he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT’s) Lincoln Laboratory. There he is a Lincoln Laboratory Fellow in the Communication Systems Division. He has contributed to several advanced satellite communication system designs, developed digital beamforming algorithms, efficient receiver architectures, and novel modulation formats.

Alexander shared with the students that, “Dr. Boroson coordinated the integration and test planning for the Laser Intersatellite Transmission Experiment and served as team leader for the development of the next generation of optical space terminals. He was the lead engineer and associate manager for the GeoLITE program, and collaborated on the design of the subsystem in the space-to-ground laser communications (lasercom) system, which in 2001, became the world’s first successful space-based, high-rate lasercom system.”

Dr. Boroson served as a lead system engineer on the NASA-sponsored Mars laser Communication Demonstration study team and oversees programs that push the state of the art in free-space lasercom.

Alexander added, “When describing his personal connection with outer space, Dr. Don states: I absolutely remember the first space missions of Alan Shepard and the rest of the Mercury 7 astronauts. It was such an exciting time! My family didn’t miss a televised launch, no matter the hour.”

Fellow 1969 graduate, Denise Ryan Carlascio nominated Dr. Boroson for this recognition. She too, unfortunately, couldn’t make it but did reflect on their time together at Roxbury saying, “Don and I graduated from Roxbury High in 1969. My family had moved to Succasunna in the middle of my junior year. Don and I took almost all of our classes together, and he was always very kind to me. In our senior year, I think we were two of four or five students in French IV, and I remember sitting behind him or in front of him in American History. I admired his talent as a pianist, and he was just a really nice guy.”

Alexander also noted Boroson’s talent on the piano remarking, “For fun, Dr. Boroson plays classical, 20th century, ragtime, theatre, jazz, and rock and roll piano. And he’s also a sometimes musical-theater director for local theaters, so apparently, props to our music and science departments.”

Carlascio too recalls his talent on the stage sharing, “I remember our talent show senior year, and if memory serves, Don brought the house down with his performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.”

Carlascio reconnected with Boroson at their 30th reunion in 1999, became Facebook friends where she can follow Boroson’s impressive career. “I am at a loss to describe his professional accomplishments in any detail, but suffice it to say that he’s a rocket scientist with a PhD from Princeton.”

To end Dr. Boroson’s recognition at the Academic Awards Night, a video with Bill Nye, the Science Guy got sent over the Moon via the LADEE Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) laser link.

Dr. Russell Svenningsen

Dr. Russell Svenningsen was recognized for his accomplishments in music. He is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Augustana University where he teaches applied voice, aural skills and is a conductor of the University Chorale. He holds a DMA in Music Education from Boston University, an MM in Choral Conducting from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, and a BM in Music Education from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

“Dr. Svenningsen is an active conductor, performer, and clinician. Most recently he has performed Benjamin Britten’s The Holy Sonnets of John Donne as a part of a collaboration with Dr. Mitchell Harris at Augustana and appeared with both the South Dakota Orchestra and the Northwestern Iowa Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of the Grammy-nominated South Dakota Chorale. Currently, he is preparing several recital presentations around the region of Franz Schubert’s epochal song cycle Winterreise for the winter of 2019,” shared Alexander.

Although Dr. Svenningsen couldn’t make it for the evening, he sent in a video for his acceptance explaining that he had a few students with upcoming recitals that he had to help prepare them for. Even though he couldn’t be present, he still thanked many of his past teachers who all helped him get to where he is today professionally.

“The teachers in the music department: Mr. Bott, Mr. Baratta, Mr. Owens, and of course Ms. Lynch in the choral area. I spent a great deal of time in the music department, marching band, jazz band, and of course the choirs: Roxbury Revelation and Classic Sounds. The things that I learned there were not just music, but how to work hard. I learned how to push myself. I learned how to always strive for the next level for excellence. To appreciate the work that has been done but to always be challenging myself and also of course to work with others. I also learned just how fun it is to make music with people you care about and I have tried to let those lessons be a part of how I work with my students ever since.”

In an email from Svenningsen, he recalled Ms. Lynch always encouraging and pushing him and his fellow students to be better and work harder. “Sometimes things didn’t go the way we had hoped or we were discouraged. Ms. Lynch would look us directly in the eye and tell us, “You’re better than that.” She meant we had a choice to make; wallow in self-pity or start over and work harder. We were better than that. We ARE better than that. I’ve never forgotten that. Life presents many challenges and I’m not immune. When it’s been tough I always remember Ms. Lynch telling us that “you’re better than that.”

Svenningsen has been back a few times since graduating the hallowed halls of RHS noting, “The most significant moment for me professionally was when Ms. Lynch called me a few years ago and invited me back to RHS for the annual High School Choral Competition held there each spring. It was then that I knew I had done something right and it was the thrill of my professional life to walk the halls again and work the incredibly talented students at the school.”

Adding, “Words cannot express my excitement at being a part of that amazing event. It was such a thrill to be back at RHS and hear how incredible the program had become and how fantastic the choirs were! I tell everyone now that Roxbury really is a ‘mini-conservatory of music.’ The students are still as warm and friendly as I remember and the ensembles are out of this world. To be back as an alum and guest artist felt like coming home in the best possible way.”

Svenningsen will return once again as a guest artist this coming March for the annual Choral Competition adding “Music is the joy of my life beyond my family of course.”

The third and final recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Dr. Col. Brian K. Sperling was able to make the event up from Alabama along with his parents, brother and sister-in-law, and sister who still live in New Jersey.

Dr. Col. Brian K. Sperling

Dr. Sperling was born and raised in New Jersey by his parents, Edward and Patricia Sperling, and graduated from Roxbury High School in 1985. In 1989, he graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering Systems from the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. He was first commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in Army Aviation.

Upon his graduation from flight school, Sperling was assigned to the 4th Squadron of the Seventh US Cavalry in Germany where he successfully led his Cobra Platoon through their deployment to Desert Storm and was awarded a Bronze Star and an Air Medal with “V” for valor in combat. He then transitioned to the Apache Helicopter and served as a Company Commander in Fort Campbell, KY.

From there, he began his career as an Operations Research and Systems Analyst. He earned an MS in Operations Analysis from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Alexander noted that Sperling had served at the Combat Readiness Center in Fort Rucker, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Engineering at West Point, he stood up for an Analysis Branch in the U.S. Army Pacific Command, was the Deputy Director of the Center for Army Analysis in Fort Belvoir, Virginia and ended his military career as the Deputy Director of the Resource and Analysis Directorate in Central Command in 2017.

Sperling’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Superior Award, five Army Meritorious Service Medals, and the Army Outstanding Volunteer Award.

In addition to Sperling’s impressive military career, in 2016 he became the Founder and President of a non-profit organization called Collectibles for Christ, whose mission is to enable missionaries to spread the gospel to all nations.

In Col. Sperling’s acceptance speech, he started with saying “I’m indeed honored, humbled, and quite frankly a little surprised by this award and being invited to this ceremony with a fine group of young men and women. I graduated Roxbury High School in 1985. I enjoyed my time at Roxbury and have fond memories when I think back. Thirty-three years ago on this stage, I was literally on top of a human pyramid dressed as a cheerleader and also rolling around in diapers doing a mock Huggies commercial for my Senior Show. Those were different times for me.”

Sperling went on to impart some words of wisdom with those in attendance saying, “Recently, I heard and interview with Lou Holtz, a very famous coach that had humbled beginnings. What struck me the most was his comment that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, yet he was very dirt poor. Like him, I was taught by my parents and by my teachers at Roxbury High School that life is a matter of making choices. Wherever you are, good or bad, is because of the choices you make. If you get an education and are willing to work to overcome problems or difficulties, in this great country, you can rise up, reach your goals, and give back to your community.”

“My parents were role models. They raised, nurtured and inspired me to live the most honorable of ethics, values, and beliefs that were completely consistent with West Point and the Army for which I served for 28 years. They were also instilled in me by a number of influential teachers in this high school. During my time at RHS, I developed relationships with various students and teachers. I was inspired by teachers like Dick Cannon, Chris Wilkins, Pete Abeles, Sandy Pfife, and Don Thompson. Our relationships lasted. Thirty-two years after my graduation, Don Thompson and Dick Cannon attended my military retirement last year in Florida. These teachers in the school presented opportunities to me. From them, I gained a deep sense of purpose which helped me make choices that led to paths which provided direction in my life. I learned no one is entitled to anything, not even opportunity. So, when you’re given an opportunity, what are you going to do with it.”

Adding, “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to serve in our military. It took me many places that my wife and I likely wouldn’t choose for vacation. I’ve seen young adults like you in the Horn of Africa whose entire job was to fill in holes with sand during the day and by the end of the day, the holes they filled were empty again. I’ve seen young adults your age in the streets of Manila whose job it was to clean feces off the streets because people would use the streets as toilets. I’ve seen young adults your age in a field in Zimbabwe playing soccer with a ball made out of plastic and duct tape because they didn’t have access to a real soccer ball. I’ve seen young adults your age in the streets of Afghanistan and Iraq carrying AK-47s and rifles fighting for things they know nothing about. They’re just angry and they don’t know why. I’ve seen young adults like you in Rwanda rebuilding a country after years of genocide. None of these young adults were given the opportunities you have in this school and in this country. So I ask again, what are you going to do with those opportunities when they are given to you. I say be prepared but be poised to take action. You never know when an opportunity may present itself.”

“I can tell you this, I can achieve my goals with hard work and sacrifice and I will guarantee everyone sitting here that no matter what I tell you or anyone else tells you in the future, you will experience fear in the pursuit and uncertainty of pursuing your goals. If you learn to understand those fears and face them, you’ll find that it’s not as difficult to overcome as you expected. With hard work and sacrifice, you can achieve those goals. Know this, if you think you can do something or you think you cannot do something, you are absolutely right.”

Sperling closed his speech noting that relationships are what matters, not your accomplishments or accolades and hopefully the students will take that message with them as they continue on after high school.

A special thanks to Principal Dominick Miller and the high school administrative staff for supporting the academics and student achievement of Roxbury High School.

The Roxbury Public Schools Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2015 to honor alumni who have exemplified the Roxbury School District’s tradition of excellence and brought honor to the community by their personal accomplishment, professional achievement, or humanitarian service.

Nominations are now being accepted for 2019. Visit www.roxbury.org/DistinguishedAlumni to nominate Roxbury Alumni now!

PHOTO ATTACHED (courtesy of Roxbury Public Schools):

  • Roxbury Board of Education Member Rich Alexander, Distinguished Alumni Recipient Brian Sperling, and RHS Principal Dominick Miller
  • Distinguished Alumni Recipient Brian Sperling with his family
  • Distinguished Alumni Recipient Brian Sperling with award
  • Col Brian Sperling recognized as Distinguished Alumni Recipient
  • Col Brian Sperling delivers speech to students
  • Dr Don Boroson on LADEE
  • Dr Don Boroson Recognized as a Distinguished Alumni Recipient
  • Dr Russell Svenningsen a Distinguished Alumni Recipient
  • Principal Dominick Miller at Academic Awards Night
  • Roxbury Board member presents Distinguished Alumni Award to Brian Sperling
  • Roxbury Board of Education Member Rich Alexander talks about the Distinguished Alumni Award
  • Distinguished Alumni Recipient Brian Sperling and his parents with RHS Principal Dominick Miller and Superintendent Loretta Radulic
  • Academic Awards Night – Students Sing the Star Spangled Banner (L to R): Jacob Wood, Amanda Melchers, Ian Hachey, and Austin Kurbansade
  • Don Boroson Headshot
  • Russell Svenningsen Headshot
  • Brian Sperling Headshot

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For more information, contact: Roxbury Community School/Community Relations Coordinator Ann Rhodes at arhodes@roxbury.org or 973-584-7699.

ABOUT ROXBURY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Roxbury Public Schools is a K-12 school district preparing the children of today for tomorrow. As a dynamic and thriving district, in partnership with a supportive and collaborative community, Roxbury Public Schools inspires and empowers all learners to flourish as ethical and global citizens in the 21st century. The district serves students throughout Roxbury Township, New Jersey, including the areas of Landing, Kenvil, Succasunna, Ledgewood, Mount Arlington, Port Morris, Flanders, and Wharton. Connect with us online at www.roxbury.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RoxburyPublicSchools.