Distinguished Alumni Class of 2006
Seated from left are members and family members of the Oxford Area Hgh School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2006: Paul Ware, representing Marilyn Ware; Viscount Berkey Nelson, Ray Stata, Carl Fretz and Maryanne and Catherine Surla, representing Elizabeth Shortlidge Surla. Standing from left are Principal David Madden and former principal Ken Woodward, both of the nominating committee; students Kyara Gray, Gordon Atkisson and Nina Soto; social studies department chair John Bradley of the nominating committee; students Megan Ibrahim and Amanda Hendrickson; nominating committee member Larry Edwards, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Jane Gales, English teacher Maureen Holmes of the nominating committee and Board of School Directors President Chauncey W. Boyd. Inductees were presented with handmade wooden bowls created by former teacher Scott Gold.
Elizabeth Shortlidge Surla, Class of 1935
America’s Great Depression was a very present reality for American high school students of the 1930s. A crippled economy put millions out of work, left many homeless, and cast doubts on the bright promise of the American Dream. Then, as the decade ended, violent wars broke out in Asia and in Europe, presenting new challenges for young Americans like Elizabeth Shortlidge.
By 1942, not long after Mrs. Surla graduated from college, the United States entered World War II, and our military was expanding at a dramatic rate. Women were accepted into separate, volunteer branches of the Army and Navy, and before long Elizabeth was wearing the uniform of a Lieutenant in the Navy’s WAVES: “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.” She may not have realized it at the time, but for the rest of her life those key words “Volunteer” and “Service” would come to define Mrs. Surla’s philosophy and describe the active role she would play in her community, nation and world.
Because she believed so strongly in the importance of education, Mrs. Surla was a generous supporter of public and private schools and of public television in Durham, North Carolina. At her alma mater, Duke University, she contributed to the Women’s Studies Program, served on the Women’s Studies Council, and sponsored a lecture in honor of her mother, Florence Shortlidge, who was also an Oxford graduate.
Mrs. Surla supported the American Friends Service Committee in its struggle to support social justice, to oppose violence and war, and to encourage development in Third World countries. She also contributed to UNICEF and to UNHCR, the United Nations branch that helps refugees such as those in war-torn Afghanistan. Her remarkable life ended with her passing in 2005. - John Bradley
Carl Fretz, Class of 1948
Imagine taking your Oxford diploma, in the month after you graduate, to a beginning job in a local bank. As the years pass you work hard, take courses in banking, demonstrate your skills, and assume more responsibilities as promotions come your way.
Finally you reach the top: you’re President of the bank that’s at the financial center of the Oxford community, the source of mortgages for young families, loans for enterprising business people, and a host of other services. And throughout the 50-plus years you’re with the Peoples Bank, you never lose the humility, sincerity, integrity, and compassion that characterized you as a young man.
The preceding words give a mere outline of the working career of Carl Fretz (1930-2015). They cite his abundant leadership skills, which were quickly recognized by his own bank and by the Chester County Bankers Association, to which Mr. Fretz gave distinguished service as President.
But it was in the Oxford community that Mr. Fretz displayed the most of his dedication and involvement, and here are some examples:
- President of the Lions Club, a major service organization
- Vice President of the Union Fire Company and of its ambulance association
- Founding member of the Oxford Athletic Association
- School board member
- Board member of the Oxford Area Historical Association
- Board Chairman of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc.
It was in recognition of this lifetime of service to the Oxford community that Oxford Area High School was honored to include Carl Fretz in its first group of Distinguished Alumni. —John Bradley
Ray Stata, Class of 1953
How many of you have a Sony digital TV at home? What about a Yamaha home entertainment center, a portable media player, a Panasonic digital camera or a Canon digital camcorder? For musicians, there’s the SHARC processor that lets your digital synthesizer sound like the classic Hammond B3 organ used by many jazz and rock greats. And are you looking forward to getting a new Nintendo Wii video game console with a one hand, 3-axis, ADXL 330 iMEMS accelerometer controller?
All of these devices, and many more, are available to us today because 40 years ago an Oxford graduate named Ray Stata, working in the basement of his apartment house near Boston, began a company known as Analog Devices, Incorporated. Today ADI has over 8,000 employees, ranks among the largest 1,000 American corporations, and sells its products in more than 20 countries.
Under Mr. Stata’s leadership, ADI has developed products that are used in communications, computers, consumer electronic products, automobiles, and space systems, and by the military. The company has established factories in places as far away as Ireland, and supports technological growth in developing regions such as India, the Middle East and Africa.
Mr. Stata is more than an engineering genius, who discovered how to convert light, sound and motion into electronic signals, and he’s more than a daring entrepreneur, who knew how to build a major manufacturing corporation. A good phrase to describe him comes from a university in Ireland which gave Mr. Stata an honorary doctor’s degree; that term was “industrial philosopher,” and it came from a study of his leadership, his writings, and the example of his own life. Central to that philosophy is an education that encourages and frees people to grow, to develop, to be curious, and to come up with new ideas.
Mr. Stata has received many awards and honors for his contributions to science, industry, and society. Oxford Area High School was extremely pleased to acknowledge his achievements by welcoming him into membership in its first Distinguished Alumni class. —John Bradley
Horatio Viscount "Berky" Nelson, Class of 1957
Berky Nelson was a state champion in track during his school days in Oxford, and never stopped chasing excellence throughout his life. After graduating from West Chester University, he went on to earn a master's and a Ph.D. in history at the University of Pennsylvania, and specialized in studying the development of Philadelphia’s black communities.
Dr. Nelson had a long and distinguished career at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he directed the Center for Student Programming. This job drew upon his skills as a tactician and a diplomat, requiring him to monitor student demonstrations against recruiting by the CIA, moderate panel discussions on lynching during Black History Month, and advise Muslim student groups in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
In 2003, Dr. Nelson published The Rise and Fall of Modern Black Leadership: Chronicle of a Twentieth Century Tragedy, which presented his analysis of the shortcomings of Black American leaders in the 1900s. Always an educator as well as a historian, Dr. Nelson saw his writing as a tool for personal and social improvement.
As he told UCLA’s Daily Bruin, “as a historian, my job is to talk about the past, and I am a firm believer that if people are enlightened, they can make steps to engage in some kind of constructive action.” —John Bradley
Dr. Nelson passed away at age 76 on October 5, 2015
Marilyn Ware, Class of 1961
Marilyn Ware’s distinguished career took her seven time zones to the east as she presented her credentials as United States Ambassador to the President of the Republic of Finland on March 9, 2006. As Ambassador, Ms. Ware led an embassy staff representing the views of the United States government on political, social and economic issues. She also promoted American interests in Finland in areas including business, education and agriculture.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ambassador Ware had a successful career in the water utility business, ultimately serving as Chairman of American Water Works Company, a major firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange. When this company was sold to a German concern, she joined the Economic Advisory Board of the combined businesses.
Ms. Ware used her technical expertise as Honorary President of WaterAid America, which provides pure drinking water, systems of sanitation, and health education in 15 countries around the world. She has also served on the Boards of Directors of the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Eisenhower Fellowships Foundation.
Working from her home in Strasburg, not far from Oxford, Ambassador Ware was a co-founder of the Lancaster Farmland Trust, the nation’s most successful farmland preservation organization. She has also been deeply interested in early childhood education, and in 2002 she was the chair of a statewide study of services available to the very young throughout Pennsylvania.
Oxford Area High School was honored to place a person of Ambassador Ware’s abilities and accomplishments in its first class of Distinguished Alumni. - John Bradley