Congratulations to our 2016 class of Alumni Hall of Fame!
David Wark, Denise Lett Arland, Dawndy Mercer Plank
These individuals have set themselves apart from their peers through their achievements, involvement and impact on their personal, professional, and/or local communities over a number of years. Their stories are connected with the threads of educators, colleagues, friends, family and neighbors who influenced their lives and spurred them to passions beyond themselves.
Class of 1976 | Greenfield-Central High School
Professor David Wark
Professor David Wark, as a Greenfield-Central High School student, was involved in a variety of pursuits ranging from drama to team manager of the football and swimming teams. (He was inducted into the G-CHS Athletic Hall of Fame along with his 1973 state champion football teammates.) His Junior year his “Exercise in Knowledge” team won the State Championship. Says David, “I always loved math, which I guess shows in the career I ended up in.” In fact, his high school math teacher remembers David would solve problems in two or three different ways, while other students struggled to solve them in just the one way required.
David pursued his bachelor degree in Physics at Indiana University — where he was named 1980’s Outstanding Physics Undergraduate — and continued with an M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics at California Institute of Technology. He then followed that with a postdoctoral fellowship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has taken his fascination, curiosity and intense dedication to his field and turned it into an impressive career with a huge international impact.
David is a Special Supernumerary Fellow and Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at Oxford University, has served as the director of the Particle Physics Department at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and is one of the leading neutrino physicists in the world.
So what are neutrinos? David’s nominator and high school math teacher, Bill English, tells us, “Neutrinos are among the most fundamental and enigmatic particles in nature. They are produced in basic nuclear reactions, such as those that power the Sun, from which there are about a hundred billion neutrinos passing through an area the size of a thumbnail every second. Neutrinos interact with matter extremely weakly, which means they easily pass through the Earth, making them very difficult to detect. Yet, despite their ethereal nature, they are crucial to the very fabric of the universe.”
David has been the leader of several important projects. He served as UK Co-Spokesperson for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory — the director of SNO, Prof. Art McDonald, was co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for the results obtained by the experiment. (It is important to note that in particle physics experiments leaders are titled “Spokespersons”, they are not press agents.) He was also elected and re-elected as International Co-Spokesperson of the T2K (Tokai to Kamioka) neutrino oscillation experiment, an approximately 600-person international experiment in Japan which first observed the appearance of electron neutrinos in a muon neutrino beam, a key step in determining if neutrinos oscillations are a clue to the matter-anti-matter asymmetry of the universe.
The two projects currently capturing David’s time and energy are the T2K experiment in Japan and SNOLAB. SNOLAB is an underground science laboratory specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics located two kilometers below the surface in Canada. SNOLAB is an expansion of the existing facilities constructed for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) solar neutrino experiment.
Bill also notes, “The discoveries made by the experiments that Professor Wark has helped to invent, design, build, commission, operate, and analyze have substantially advanced our understanding of the most fundamental constituents of nature (as far as we currently know), as recognized by the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for SNO, the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Physics for SNO and separately for T2K, and many dozens of other awards such as inclusion on the Science list of 10 Top Discoveries in Science in both 2001 and 2002, the Franklin Medal, the Cocconi Prize, the Killiam Prize, and many others, all awarded to the SNO experiment.”
It is clear that David’s work has been recognized and honored by many prestigious awards. Additionally, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2007. The Royal Society is the longest-existing professional academy in the sciences and has included scientists such as Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. Election is the highest scientific honor available to scientists in the UK or the Commonwealth.
Other professional achievements include serving as Chair of the International Steering Committee for Hyper Kamiokande, a proposed (even larger) experiment in Japan; Chair of the European Physical Society High-Energy Particle Physics Division; and Spokesperson of the Cryogenic nEDM experiment at the Institute Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France. David has served on dozens of international committees at the highest level in the field, including the CERN SPC and Fermilab PAC (the highest-level scientific advisory bodies to the two largest particle physics labs in the world).
Beyond the classroom and lab, David has devoted considerable time to the public understanding of science. He has given hundreds of talks at schools, museums, science festivals, conferences, and on television, radio, feature film, and even a cruise liner. You can even find him giving presentations on YouTube! He has written dozens of popular articles for newspapers, magazines, websites, and books.
David has also assisted the UK government as an advisor, including as the first chair of the Particle Astrophysics Advisory Panel for the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC, now replaced by the STFC). He also conducted a Triennial Review of three public bodies at the request of the Home Office.
And, still with a finger in the arts, David instigated the Greirson-winning documentary “Project Poltergeist” and was the scientific advisor to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s original production about the Manhattan project, “Oppenheimer.”
David has lived in England since 1990 and finds Europe to be full of interesting places to explore. He encourages others not to do the 8 countries in 12 days whirlwind tour, but to really spend time seeing where people have lived for thousands of years. He has two children.
Congratulations David! We are amazed!
Class of 1983 | Greenfield-Central High School
Denise Lett Arland
Denise Arland moved to Greenfield prior to her sophomore year in high school. Little did she know what the relationships she would forge in those early years in this community would mean to her as life moved, changed and challenged.
Graduating with honors from G-CHS and again from Indiana University with a Marketing degree, Denise married her best friend Andy — whom she had met her first year at G-C — and began down life’s path. In 1993, Denise and Andy learned that they were to be the parents of quadruplets. After a premature birth, the Arlands soon discovered their sons were experiencing varying challenges. Says Denise, “our quadruplets spent almost three months in the neonatal intensive care unit. We learned the value of living in a small community when the boys came home from the hospital. Even with the huge amount of support we had from our families, we still needed more hands on deck to make sure everyone was fed, diapered and had the interaction and stimulation babies need. Guess who else was there and stepped up to help? Our friends from high school and their parents, asking when they could come and how they could help.”
In 1996, Denise, with her friend Amy Borgmann, began a parent support group — Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE), which gained nonprofit status four years later. It started as a way to meet other families who shared common challenges. Says Denise, “It evolved into a long-term volunteer project, and then ultimately, the most rewarding career I could have never imagined. I love being able to bring hope to families and introduce them to information, resources and supports they never knew existed before. When families get connected to services that make a big impact on their child’s life, it brings me great joy to know I played a small part in their journey.”
Denise now serves as the Executive Director of FUSE which serves children and families with diverse special needs throughout Central Indiana from birth to their mid-twenties. Direct services like adaptive swim, transition training, social skills, legal and financial planning, Inspiring Abilities Expo, an early learning series, plus a lending library of adaptive equipment, toys and assistive technology, are just a few of the education and resource options available. FUSE directly serves over 400 families every year and provides resources and information to more than 1,000 families and professionals each month.
Her nominator, Nancy Herndon, has admiring words for the girl she met when a first year teacher, “Denise’s attention to detail is one of her many strengths. Her interaction with others is always professional and fair. She is consistent in the resolving of concerns. She has maintained and managed a large work load, including raising five sons and starting a non-profit, with ease. She is always able to find a solution without any sense of frustration. Many times she is placed in the mediator role, and she handles that responsibility with ease. Community service has become a part of her DNA..” Andy adds, “I don’t know that I have ever met a more compassionate and driven individual who will do anything to help others with her time, talents and support.”
The work of FUSE and the dedication of its founder have been honored by a vast number of awards and recognitions. These include: Nonprofit Community Service of the Year by the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce; Sertoma Service to Mankind Award for Significant and Meritorious Service; Council for Exceptional Children Outstanding Advocate of the Year; Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service; SAGE Todd Kaminski Community Service Award; Hallmark Hero Award (including an interview with Regis Philbin); Country Living Comfort Contest Honoree; Bert Curry Healthy Community Award; Autism Society of Indiana Excellence in Supporting Others Award; Parent Leadership Award by the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center; Martha Beckenholdt Community Service Award; Parent Leadership Award–by the IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association at the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) National Early Childhood Conference in Washington DC; Purdue Inspiring Families Award; and the Arc of Hancock County’s Lisa Smith Community Service Award
Denise reflects, “It is amazing to look back today and remember the influence of specific teachers and activities that impacted my life. I have fond and funny memories of so many teachers I had during my days at G-CHS — Kathy Dowling, Tom Elsworth, Rita Bertsch, Bob Bishop, and Don Rickett just to name a few. I learned so many skills that I still use today from Helene Andrews, both in class and through my participation in the Office Education Association.” She adds, “The biggest influence in my life from high school was the time spent with Nancy Herndon and Jerry Bell in band and guard. Guard and band holds my fondest and most vivid memories of high school. Nancy Herndon taught me so much about life. She made me a co-captain of the guard for three years, and that experience taught me great lessons in responsibility, commitment, leadership, and self-discipline. She was my director, but also a mentor and a friend, and to this day I owe her so much for her guidance and advice throughout my high school years.”
Denise’s advice to kids today is, “pay attention to and nurture your relationships, with your friends as well as your teachers, coaches, club sponsors and administrators. You cannot imagine now what paths your life might take. Even if you have a plan, things change, and unexpected events take you down new paths, where you will make new plans, and then adjust when things change again. The one thing that can be a constant in your life is relationships. Surround yourself with positive influences, good decision makers, and people who have good hearts. Be kind to one another, and expect the people in your life to be kind too. Lift each other up, and those around you will lift you up when you need it, too.”
The Arlands are the parents of five sons, Zachary, Matthew, Jacob, Luke, 2012 G-CHS graduates and Nick, a 2016 G-CHS graduate. Thank you Denise!
Class of 1984 | Greenfield-Central High School
Dawndy Mercer Plank
Dawndy Mercer Plank anchors NBC affiliate WIS News 10 evening news in Columbia, South Carolina. She specializes in health and medical stories — a perfect fit since she is a marathoner and triathlete. She has been recognized numerous times for her news coverage, her exemplary professionalism, and her willingness to encourage and advise the next generation of journalists.Graduating with a Telecommunications degree from Ball State University,
Graduating with a Telecommunications degree from Ball State University, Dawndy then completed an internship in Washington, D.C. She began as a reporter in Wisconsin, later moved to South Carolina, Texas and then returned to South Carolina.In an
In an interview Dawndy shared what sparked her career, “I was fascinated with the fact that I could turn on the TV and find out what was happening in the state next door or the state clear across the nation, or a country half a world away.” She began by writing for the G-CHS yearbook, but knew that she wanted to be in television.
Dawndy spends significant time in the community as a speaker and representative for her TV station, as well as for her own personal passions and interests. It is impossible to know how many people she has been able to influence and motivate, making their lives better through her professional reporting, community involvement and personal interaction. It is, however, quite clear that she serves and impacts her community and world in a significantly exemplary way both professionally and personally. Her peers and community have honored her accordingly.
Dawndy has been named a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of South Carolina, and received a Best Newscast Southeast Regional Emmy award and an Associated Press Second Place award for her extensive coverage of a young boy’s cochlear implant and its life-changing impact. She has been recognized by the Palmetto Center for Women, named a Verizon HopeLine Hero, and honored as the Best TV Personality by two South Carolina magazines for eight consecutive years.
Dawndy serves on the Oliver Gospel Mission’s Board specifically working to establish a new Women’s Growth Center as well as other non-profit organizations reaching out to build healthy spirits, minds and bodies.
Dawndy has leveraged her “well-known” status to advocate for numerous issues. Her primary focuses have been with battered and homeless women and children, cancer research and prevention, plant-based nutrition, and stray animal adoption. Because of her passion to advocate for spay/neuter and adoption she has been instrumental in having hundreds of animals successfully placed. Dawndy frequently participates in marathons to raise money for cancer research and is a longtime participant of the Sister Study on Breast Cancer through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Her career has offered her the opportunity to do a great service to the public through her health and medical anchor position. She says, “I really enjoy being able to find out important information and pass it on to my viewers. This is especially vital in the area of health.”
When asked about her years at G-CHS, Dawndy reminisced, “I feel my education at Greenfield-Central High School helped open doors to the amazing opportunities I’ve had to meet interesting newsmakers to everyday people who are special. I’ve traveled behind the scenes, as well as enjoyed opportunities not afforded to the general public like flying in an F18 Blue Angels fighter jet.
“We must have had some really great English teachers as I’ve become known as the Grammar Guru in my newsroom. It’s an honor I proudly wear. I’m so grateful for the teachers who taught the proper use of the English language as knowing how to write and speak well is paramount in my industry.
“I’m so thankful for each of my teachers, but a few remain prominent in my mind. Joe Settlemire believed in me as a cross country runner perhaps more than I believed in myself. And he was always so willing to try to help me before class with geometry and all those goofy shapes. Charles Wright made other students and me feel like being in chorus automatically made us the cool kids. Terri Simmermon was full of hugs and smiles and always happy for me to stop by her class though she wasn’t actually my teacher. She entrusted me with choreographing a dance for the cheerleading squad to be performed in front of the entire school. Kathy Dowling helped teach me how to expand my creative vision for what I could contribute to the school’s yearbook. That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout my career. Tillman Smith made chemistry understandable and fun. I loved that he seemed to bounce with excitement throughout the class lab as we made new discoveries. And outside of teachers, an office secretary made me feel so loved and treasured. Nancy (Reason) Dezelan had a way of so welcoming students, we’d find excuses to have to go to the main office just so we could have a few minutes with her.
“My career, like most, is one where every lesson learned in high school benefits me today. I got into the crazy business of television news because I love researching and writing. I relish learning and that’s what you get to do every day in this field. I enjoy having access to people which provides the opportunity to ask questions most people aren’t afforded. Being a reporter and anchor keeps me constantly at the forefront of what is happening in our world – locally and nationally. There’s a rush you get trying to make deadlines every day. It’s stressful, but it’s also very rewarding. Being a journalist means you are the eyes and ears of current events and it’s a serious responsibility to convey that accurately and creatively to my viewers. Interviewing astronaut Charles Bolden, standing over a patient during open heart surgery, being a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympics, flying with the Blue Angels and countless other events I experience through news coverage has taken my mere dreams in high school to my realities of today. I thank God for these blessings and those at Greenfield-Central who invested in me.”
Dawndy and her husband, Craig, have three teenage children, two dogs, two cats and one gerbil and live in Columbia, South Carolina. Well done Dawndy!