Class of 2016
S. Mark Courtney- Class of 1974. Highly active is the best descriptor of both the Mercer High School life and post-secondary career of S. Mark Courtney, graduate of 1974. A heavily involved participant in a myriad of academic and athletic student organizations, Mark was renowned for his strong work ethic. Upon graduation, Mark earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, WV, earning a Medical Science degree in the Physician’s Assistant program in 1978. Mark went on to earn an additional Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science at Slippery Rock State College in 1980. Mark then worked as a Physician’s Assistant for Family Healthcare Partners, Grove City, PA, from 1981 until 2014. During that time, Mark also provided his medical services to the State Correctional Facility in Mercer and various local nursing homes. In 1979, Mark started a sole proprietorship, Runner’s High, a road race timing service. This company began by providing timing services to organizations within the Mercer County region. A family enterprise, Runner’s High developed a machine to prepare computer chips for running events. The business continued to grow and in 2000, Runner’s High became the first timer in Pennsylvania to time runners with computer chips on their shoes. By 2010, the company was providing services to over 350 races per year, sometimes 10 races at time. These encoded shoe chips, which are prepped in Grove City, PA, have been shipped to places across the world like Puerto Rico and Indonesia. Some of the most notable races that have used the services of Runner’s High include the Pittsburgh Great Race, Pittsburgh Marathon, Air Force Marathon, Baltimore Marathon, Boston Marathon, and the Gate River Run. An avid runner, Mark has not missed a single day of running since December 19, 1979 (13,000+ days), which currently ranks him 33rd on the United States streaker list of consecutive running days. He has competed in the Boston Marathon for 36 consecutive years, which currently ranks him as 18th on the active streaker list. In 2006 Mark won the 50-59 age group of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:46:44. Overall, Mark has completed 160 marathons with a personal record of 2:28:48 in the Chicago Marathon of 1990. As of 2016, Mark has a lifetime mileage of 98,000 miles and has competed in more than 1,800 races
Anna Belle (Kelso) Jones- Class of 1941. Anna Belle (Kelso) Jones graduated valedictorian of the Mercer High School class of 1941. She furthered her education at Grove City College and graduated as an honor student in 1945. After college, Anna Belle worked as a court stenographer before becoming the legal secretary at Stranahan/Sampson Law Firm. At the encouragement of these attorneys, especially James A. Stranahan Jr., she trained to become an attorney under the old “clerkship” process and passed the Pennsylvania bar exam in 1965 without the benefit of law school. Anna Belle Jones became the first woman admitted to full-time practice of law in Mercer County when she was sworn-in on November 12, 1965. She practiced with the Stranahan & Stranahan firm until 1979, when she and her neice, Mary Anne McConnell incorporated a law firm, Jones-McConnell, P.C. It was there that she practiced until July 2008, when her health suddenly declined. In addition to an outstanding law career, Anna Belle served as a public servant to the Mercer community. She and her family were active members of the Coolspring Grange and the Mercer United Methodist Church. In her adult years, she served on the boards of United Way, Children’s Aid Society, and the Regional Jail Prison Chapel. She was President of the Brandy Springs Park, Inc. for over 30 years, during which time she spearheaded fundraising for construction of an additional pool, and both sought and received land donations to enlarge the park. Anna Belle and her husband, William North Jones, had one son, James K. (Kelly) Jones, who graduated from Mercer High School in 1971. She was also the proud grandmother of two grandchildren. Anna Belle (Kelso) Jones passed on October 31, 2013.
Class of 2017
Cedric Butchy-Class of 1968. Cedric Butchy has been an integral part of Mercer Area School District since 1987, serving on the School Board of Directors continuously for the past thirty years. A lifetime resident of the community, Mr. Butchy has remained dedicated to the school district. A graduate of the Mercer High School Class of 1968, Mr. Butchy attended Theil College before beginning a thirty-year sales career in the automobile industry in the communities of Mercer, Grove City, and Hermitage. In 1987, Mr. Butchy was elected to the Mercer Area School Board and has remained since. Serving as the president of the school board for 28 of those 30 years, Mr. Butchy has been instrumental in the success of the Mercer Area School District. In addition to his local school board duties, Mr. Butchy has been a member of the Intermediate Unit IV Board of Directors, representing school districts in the counties of Lawrence, Mercer, and Butler. Beginning in 2008 and continuing to this day, Mr. Butchy serves as the President of the MIU-IV Board of Directors. Having represented the Mercer Area School District at multiple national and state conferences, Mr. Butchy has presented on behalf of the Mercer Area School District at national conferences in Nashville, San Diego, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Mr. Butchy remains active in various community organizations around the Mercer community. In recent years Mr. Butchy and his wife have established a tea shop in Volant, PA, known as Special-Teas, Etc. Mr. Butchy and his wife currently reside in the borough of Mercer.
Mr. Cedric A. Butchy
General Alexander Hays- Class of 1836. One cannot study the American Civil War without reading about United States General, Alexander Hays. Born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Alexander Hays graduated from what was then known as Mercer Academy in 1836. Prior to enlisting with the United States Military Academy at West Point, Hayes was a college graduate of Allegheny College. As an active serviceman, Second Lieutenant Hayes fought in the Mexican War of 1848. Following the war with Mexico, Hays temporarily resigned from military life, working as an iron trader out of Franklin, Pennsylvania, a California gold prospector in 1849, as well as a civil engineering entrepreneur. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Hays reentered the military as a Captain in the 63rd Pennsylvania Infantry. As a result of his gallantry in action at the Seven Days Battle, Hays was promoted to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. After shattering his leg at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862, Hays was appointed Brigadier General and placed in command of the XXII Corps, then in charge of defending Washington D.C. from confederate attack. In July 1863, glory found Hays again at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he is credited for leading the defense of Cemetery Ridge, and having two horses shot out from under him during the battle. After the battle, Hays received his final promotion, Brevet Major General. On May 5, 1864, Hays was killed in action at the Battle of the Wilderness. Respects were given to honor the befallen general by the major of Pittsburgh, who ordered all businesses in the city be closed down for four hours in order to give the public a chance to pay respects. In life, Hays had become a close, personal friend of General Ulysses S. Grant, who said this about his friend, “He was a noble man and gallant officer. I am not surprised that he met his death at the head of his troops. He was a man that would never follow, but would always lead in battle.”
General Alexander Hayes
Class of 2018
Michael Thorn- Class of 1961. Following his graduation from Mercer High School in 1961, Michael Thorn led a successful professional career in both the military and the private sector. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Statistics from The Pennsylvania State University, Michael earned his MS in Systems Management from the University of Southern California and an MBA in Management and Quantitative Analysis from The Pennsylvania State University. Additional postsecondary diplomas were earned from Air University Staff College and Professional Military Comptroller School. Michael Thorn served his country for twenty years as a Command Pilot and Senior Staff Officer in the United States Air Force. Accumulating 239 combat missions in Vietnam and more than 3,500 career flight hours as a Command Pilot, Michael earned three Meritorious Service Medals, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, and twenty-four Air Medals. In 1986, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Thorn retired from military service. Working in the areas of project management and information systems, he has directly supported clients in the federal government and private sectors, both domestically and internationally. In addition, Michael has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels for six different universities, including: Central Michigan University, Bowie State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, University of Phoenix, University of Maryland, and Boston University. He is currently working as a senior program/project manager and consultant in the areas of Strategic Management, Project/Quality Management, Technology and Innovation, Business Analysis, and Development. A frequent speaker at national congresses, Michael is certified as a Project Management Professional. Remaining active in his community, he is a Distinguished Toastmaster for Toastmasters International. Michael currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Class of 2019
Nicole Renee Ryan (Suhrie) – Class of 2003. Nicole Renee Ryan (Suhrie) graduated from Mercer Area High School in 2003. She graduated from Washington and Jefferson College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Professional Writing. Since graduation, Nicole has become a successful watercolorist, oil painter, and muralist. While a resident of Mercer, Nicole’s professional artistic creations can be seen across the community, region, and country. Nicole’s artwork has been on display in the Chautauqua Institute of Art in Lake Chautauqua, New York. In the city of Pittsburgh, Nicole’s creations have been displayed at the Heinz History Museum and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. In addition, artworks have been displayed in the cities of Cleveland, Chicago, and New York City. On display at Gate 27B of the Pittsburgh International Airport, Nicole’s artwork is visible to travelers from around the world. Nicole has two (2) mural creations in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. Locally, her mural, “Mercer Railroad Station” has been featured in the town center of Mercer since 2015. In 2016, she was nominated for Pittsburgh’s Emerging Artist of the Year Award. Other accolades include a Flight School Fellowship through the Heinz Foundation, fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and residency at the New York Student’s League at Vytacil.
Dr. William Crawford – Class of 1949. William H. Crawford graduated from Mercer Area High School in 1949. Growing up on the family dairy farm, he delivered eggs and milk every morning from 5:00 a.m. until school started. Upon his graduation, William received his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1953. From the years 1953-1955, William was stationed in Germany as he served as a Lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the United States Army. Upon returning from military service, William earned his Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Crawford moved back to the community of Mercer and began his veterinarian's practice in 1959. For the next forty-eight years, until his retirement in 2007, Dr. Crawford continued treating both large and small animals in the community. Available at any time of any day of the week, Dr. Crawford loved working with the Mercer community to care for their animals. Upon Dr. Crawford’s retirement, he continued to serve Mercer by supporting the Mercer County Animal Response Team (CART). Outside of the community, Dr. Crawford even traveled to Mexico to vaccinate dogs and cats for a local community. At the time of his induction to the Mercer Area School District Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, Dr. Crawford continues to be an active member of the community at the young age of 89.
Class of 2020
David Minarik – Class of 1984. As a resident of the Mercer community, David Minarik now joins the ranks of distinction in the Mercer Area School District Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. A graduate of the Mercer Area High School Class of 1984, Mr. Minarik completed his collegiate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1988. During his studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1986, Dave Minarik joined Scott Blasey, Greg Joseph, and Rob James in the creation of The Clarks. For more than thirty years, The Clarks have created music and have amassed a substantial following. Although regionally based in the Pittsburgh area, the reach of The Clarks can be seen and heard throughout the country. The band has appeared live on the NHL Network, The Late Show with David Letterman, ESPN Cold Pizza, the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, and Mitch Albom's National Syndicated Radio Show. Their songs can be heard in numerous television and radio placements such as: The Simpsons, Toyota commercials, ESPN First Take, ESPN X Games, MTV Road Rules, and the Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-2009 season theme song. Collectively, the band has sold more than 500,000 albums and has more than 10 million Spotify plays, according to a 2019 Forbes article. For ten years, starting in December 2010, Mr. Minarik owned and operated Mercer Junction Train Shoppe on the corner of North Diamond Street in Mercer, PA. This hometown specialty store attracted patrons from outside of Mercer, often bringing positive attention and visitors to the Mercer community from distant places. Dave and his wife, Marsha, are still residents of the Mercer community. Their son, Noah, graduated as the valedictorian of the Mercer Area High School Class of 2017.
Richard Blatt – Class of 1927. When Richard Blatt graduated from Mercer High School in 1927, he turned down an appointment to the United States Naval Academy because it had always been his dream to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. While he waited for this appointment, he attended Grove City College for a year before he was accepted into West Point in 1928. Upon his graduation in 1933, Dick was a commissioned officer stationed at Fort Niagara. After marrying Virginia Burrows at St. Peters Church in Niagara Falls, New York in 1936, he was stationed in Panama, Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, and Fort Custer in Michigan. His experiences continued with stints at Camp Pickett and Camp A.P. Hill in Virginia and Camp Blanding in Florida. In October 1942, while the unit was making preparations to travel to England in preparation for engagement with the European theater in World War II, Richard Blatt became Executive Officer, 1st Battalion, 115th Infantry, 29th Division. During Operation Overlord, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Blatt was the first person from his unit to disembark from the landing craft onto Omaha Red Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. Throughout the day, the company experienced intense machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire, but the 115th Infantry met their objective before nightfall. While conducting reconnaissance work with his intelligence officer on the evening of June 6, 1944, Lt. Col. Richard Blatt was struck with an artillery fragment in the temple. According to PFC E.J. Hamill in Joseph Balkoski’s book Omaha Beach D-Day, “Col. Blatt wanted his men treated first, which is what a good West Point Officer would say.” He succumbed to his wounds in the early morning hours of June 7, 1944, at a field hospital on Omaha Red Beach. Lt. Col. Blatt was interred at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Blatt received a number of medals and commendations. Posthumously, he received the Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in connection with military operations against the enemy as Commanding Officer.” He was also awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Marksmanship Badge, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, the Army Presidential Unit Citation, and Army Good Conduct Medal. In Blatt’s West Point yearbook, the 1933 “Howitzer”, this biographical inscription can be found: “A West Pointer is more than a college graduate-more than an officer and a gentleman, if such is possible. Of the many molding influences, the Academic Department reigns supreme. It is in this predominant phase of cadet life that Dick Blatt stands foremost. Not as a scholar and not as one to whom academics come easily, but as one who has traveled an unusually rocky road to the end with far more success than those who can exhibit a pair of stars on their collars. This is a statement that only a West Pointer understands, by a West Pointer, and of a West Pointer.”