November 19, 2015 at 6:38 PM
SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Eight alumni were inducted into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The honorees included a rock star, a TV and film screenwriter, a Tuskegee Airman, a Vice Admiral, a long-time staple in the local community and the only Major League baseball player that Scotch Plains-Fanwood has ever produced.
“All of the inductees serve as outstanding role models for our current students and community,” said Dr. David Heisey, principal of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. “It means a lot to us to recognize these individuals, and it’s reciprocal, it means a lot to them as well. That made the evening even more meaningful.”
- Sir Peter Emery, Class of 1943, member of the British Parliament for more than four decades and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Emery served as a junior minister and as spokesman for the Treasury, Economics and Trade under Sir Edward Heath, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970-74.
- Pat DiNizio, Class of 1973, vocalist and guitar player of the rock band The Smithereens, which he formed in 1980. In 1989, he wrote the hit song “A Girl Like You” (see video link below) which peaked at #38 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. DiNizio ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000. In 2006, he starred with other rock stars including Joan Jett in the ESPN 2 special “7th Inning Stretch Baseball Meets Rock & Roll,” which highlighted his recovery from a life-threating nervous disorder and his open tryout for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
- Laura DiFrancesco Swidersky, Class of 1944, dedicated community volunteer for over 70 years. An active member of the SPFHS Alumni Association, Laura also serves on the Memorial Day Parade Committee. She was instrumental in the growth of the Scotch Plains Department of Recreation.
- Malcolm Nettingham, Class of 1936, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and 2014 Scotch Plains Memorial Day Parade grand marshal. Nettingham enlisted in the Armed Forces at Fort Dix in 1944. He was a member of the first racially integrated flight radio communications class and was assigned to the 617th Squadron, 477th Composite Group as radio operator/gunner in 1945. He has been a resident of Scotch Plains for more than 90 years.
- Keith Lippert, Class of 1965, retired Vice Admiral if the U.S. Navy, Director of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, and the commanding officer of six different organizations. Prior to his promotion, he served as vice commander, Naval Supply Systems Command from 1997 to 1999.
- Michael Swerdlick, Class of 1974, film and TV screenwriter and producer. Swerdlick wrote episodes of hit TV shows including Boy Meets World, Doogie Howser, M.D., and Beverly Hills 90210. He was executive producer of the reality documentary Confessions of a Teen Idol in 2009.
- Jeffrey Hammonds, Class of 1989, college All-American (Stanford) and former MLB baseball player. He was selected fourth overall, ahead of New York Yankees SS Derek Jeter in the 1992 MLB Draft. During his 13-year MLB career, he hit 110 home runs and batted .272 for six teams and was selected to the MLB All-Star Game in 2000.
- Todd Robinson, Class of 1981, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala and a career diplomat with the rank of Minister Councelor. Before his current assignment, Robinson served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
“One of the great things about events like this is that you get to see some of the people that you haven’t seen in many, many years,” said Vice Admiral Lippert. “The leadership qualities that made me successful were learned here at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.”
“This is the greatest honor that I’ve ever received,” said DiNizio, whose grandfather helped create the Italian American Club in Scotch Plains. “I love this town and I will live here ‘til I die.”
The celebration was held in the Multi-Purpose Room of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.
“As long as I’m healthy and able, I’m going to keep it up,” said Swidersky, who was the last inductee to speak. “Whatever time I have left, I will do my best to continue to help everyone, whether it’s my family or the community.”
The SPFHS Alumni Association was formed with the purpose of encouraging scholarship, sportsmanship, recreation and education, and leadership of students attending the high school. Two $1,000 scholarships are annually awarded to applicants who have demonstrated not only excellent grades, but have made contributions to the school system in volunteer service.