Four named finalists for Waldie/Shaeffer Scholarship Award
It has been nearly 16 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, and while the four finalists this year for the prestigious Waldie/Shaeffer Scholarship Award have little recollection of that day, the impact of those events have shaped their decisions to defend their country and formed the values to which they adhere to today. These scholar-athletes have committed to a life of service to the nation and they will be recognized at the 27th annual Almanac Premier Performers Banquet set for May 21 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bethel Park. Tickets to the banquet are $35 per person and can be ordered by calling 724-941-7725, ext. 8129, or 412-874-8704.
Elizabeth Farnan indeed has the supreme touch. For just like Diana Ross, this Seton-La Salle senior makes this world a better place.
According to her lacrosse coach, Brian Klisavage, Liz is an example of how to live an optimistic life and be of help to others. “I have also never seen Liz show anger toward anyone,” he added. “She is happy and optimistic everyday in virtually every situation. She is friendly to everyone she meets. Liz sees the possibilities in life and in herself, and goes confidently down the path to success. I have no doubt that she will achieve great things in service to her country.”
Liz accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. While she eventually wants to serve on a submarine, Liz said that is not her primary objective. “In a larger scope, what I hope to accomplish over the next several years and in life is to always do my duty, do my part, to help my country.”
In the past four years, Liz has helped Seton-La Salle succeed.
Waldie/Shaeffer Award history
The Almanac established the award to honor two former area athletes who were killed or wounded during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ken Waldie, formerly of Bethel Park, was a passenger on board the first airplane that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. He swam at Bethel Park High School and the United States Naval Academy.
In addition to captaining the Black Hawks to their first-ever WPIAL title under head coach Pat Campbell, Waldie was a leader outside the pool. He was voted class president each of his four years at the Naval Academy, something that had never been accomplished at the tradition-rich institution.
After fulfilling his five-year military commitment, Waldie used his mathematics degree to gain employment with Raytheon Corporation. While working, he earned a master’s degree and graduated first in his class.
Forty-six at the time of his death, Waldie left behind a wife, Carol, three sons, Andrew, Jeffrey and Jonathan, and a daughter, Meredith, along with a brother, Jack, and three sisters, Jane, Mary Louise and Grace.
Kevin Shaeffer, formerly of McMurray, was severely burned when an airplane stuck the Pentagon. He played soccer at Peters Township High School. He attended the United States Naval Academy and continued to serve his country as a lieutenant at the time of his injuries. Shaeffer was burned over 42 percent of his body. Because he inhaled aerosolized jet fuel, he severely injured his lungs. He underwent 13 surgeries, including one to remove his failing gall bladder, and numerous skin grafts. And, his heart failed. He suffered two cardiac arrests. Awarded the Purple Heart, he resides in California with his family.
In addition to The Almanac’s $500 scholarship award, the Friends of Waldie, an organization established by classmates Steve McGinnis, Frank DelPercio, Terry Crump and Tom Etzel, have contributed $1,500 to the Waldie/Shaeffer Award.
To qualify for the honor, a nominee must be committed to serving the country, excel in sports and in the classroom, and have demonstrated leadership or bravery during his or her scholastic career.
The winner of the Waldie/Shaeffer Award will be announced during The Almanac’s Premier Performers Sports Banquet. Tickets for the May 21 event are $35 and available by calling 724-941-7725 ext. 8129 or 412-874-8704.
By Eleanor Bailey, Sports Editor
Athletically, she’s played defense on the lacrosse team, qualified for the PIAA championships in cross country and lettered in swimming. She’s served as captain on each of her clubs.
Academically, she owns a 5.09 GPA. She is a National Merit Commended Scholar as well as an AP Scholar of Distinction. She belongs to the NHS and the English National Honor Society. Liz had earned the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement as well as the Challenge Program Award for Academic Excellence.
Socially, Liz is a senior class senator and a national qualifier in the Academic Games. She is active in Junior Achievement, Big Sisters, Campus Ministry, Rebels For Life and the St. Thomas More Church Youth Group. She serves as the assistant drum major of the marching band. Liz also travels on mission trips, serving in underprivileged areas.
For Farnan, service to her country is just a way of life. Her grandfather was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps and her older brother is in the Marines.
While she noted that her commitment really arose from her family’s involvement in the military, Liz said that the Sept. 11, 2001, events “shaped” what she wants to do.
“Growing up, post 9/11, our country went through a lot that day and we really had to come together,” she said. “The atmosphere after that was one of selfless devotion to the greater cause.
“Realizing that our way of life was in jeopardy,” she continued, “that there are people out there who didn’t like us simply because of our American freedoms and those ideals that we place such an emphasis on really led me to prize those and to realize that freedom doesn’t come free. That what is important here is important because people are willing to dedicate their lives and even give up those same lives to earn it for us.”
Daniel McGeough knows the Ugly Duckling story well. He was that awkward, tall, clumsy kid that couldn’t do a push-up. Now he does sets of 25 at the end of wrestling practice. He doesn’t trip over his feet doing sprints either. Instead he leads his teams, today.
“He’s an everyman success story,” said his wrestling coach Williams Evans. “Daniel literally worked himself into what he is today. There was no magic wand, no quick fix. He is everything coaches preach to kids about hard work, dedication and making good choices and how all those things pay off in the end.”
For Daniel, they have paid off in a big way. He earned an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He will play football for the Black Knights.
“Daniel has forged success on a slow, steady, honest, blue-collar grind. He does exactly what he sets out to do and when he gives a person his word, he keeps it. As a result, he is a role model in the truest sense of the world,” Evans said. “His peers, and quite frankly myself, see the kind of young man he has become and are inspired. The ripple effect from his time at Chartiers Valley has and will influence others in a positive manner for a long time to come.”
Here is how Daniel has influenced the sports scene at CV:
A two-way lineman, he lettered and started three years for the football team. He was a two-year WPIAL qualifier in wrestling. This season, he was the runner-up at the St. Mary’s Tournament and bronze medalist at the Section IV and CV Classic. In track, he is a four-time WPIAL qualifier in the shot put and discus with personal record throws of 46 feet, 2 inches and 132 feet, 10 inches respectively. He earned All-Almanac acclaim in wrestling as well as All-Conference honors in football. He was the Big South Invitational Field MVP.
Daniel has also made a big impact scholastically and socially. Academically, he owns a 4.45 GPA. He belongs to National Honor Society. Daniel is a WPIAL Scholar/Athlete of the Year Award nominee as well as an Outstanding Young Citizen Scholarship nominee. He has won Tri-Athlete and Scholar-Athlete awards at CV. Additionally, he has volunteered at functions sponsored by his church and community fire department.
Daniel’s family influenced his decision to pursue a military career. Both his grandfathers enlisted in the Army. Dave McCrea served in Vietnam and Allen McGeough served in the Korean Conflict.
“Through them and my father I have had a strong sense of nationalism and servitude toward my country,” said the son of Patrick and Janet McGeough. “I feel the freedoms we enjoy are worth preserving and that is why I would like to serve my country.”
Though too young to remember details from Sept. 11, 2001, McGeough said the events of that day impacted his decision.
“It made me realize that there are foreign and domestic threats and people who are able to strike us and I feel if I act now I can prevent other loved ones from getting hurt from other acts of terrorism,” he said. “For as big a country that we are, we have a lot of responsibility. We are like a big brother to the world and we need to protect it.”
The Army picked no finer a candidate, says Evans.
“As a former army officer, I could not be more proud of the young man that is preparing to again sacrifice himself for the betterment of the world around him by beginning the next chapter of his journey as a cadet at the United States Military Academy. He will not only be a fine addition to this Fraternity of what has historically been recognized as the birthplace of America’s finest leaders and champions, but he will, as he has every other place that he has visited, make it a better place through his presence.”
Tough and resilient. Nathaniel Taylor possesses those qualities.
For though the Canon-McMillan senior did not receive his appointment to the United States Military Academy, he persisted. He still plans to serve his country. Upon graduation, he will enroll in the Army ROTC program at West Virginia University. As an officer, he will pursue a career in special forces. After that he plans to go into the FBI or CIA.
“Yes it was a disappointment not getting the appointment but I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s all in God’s plan and He will take me where I need to be,” Taylor said. “Even though my first plan did not come through I decided to go this route because I still will end up an officer like at West Point. That was my main goal.”
Since sitting on his mother’s lap and remembering her crying while she watched the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy unfold, Taylor has been committed to his country. “Years later,” he said, “I finally understood what happened and I felt sorry for the people that it affected. I felt a little bit of anger and frustration so I wanted to take terrorists out to prevent anything like that from ever happening again.
Taylor continued, “I also think my generation is a little selfish and I believe they take a lot of things for granted. The opportunities that this country gives each and every person are unbelievable compared to other countries. So I wanted to pay back my country by serving it. I don’t think there would be any greater job than that.”
In high school, Canon-McMillan afforded Taylor several opportunities, particularly in sports. Taylor was up to the task. He served as captain of all his football teams, except his junior year. He wrestled four years and he has competed in track.
In the classroom, Taylor was both an attendee and graduate of the Boys State as well as the State Police Youth Camp. An honor-roll student, maintaining a 3.75 GPA, he won the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists Award. Taylor belongs to the SEC and SKI clubs at school. He serves as a special needs class helper. Additionally, he volunteers with the Salvation Army.
Taylor also performs community service during the Town Park Clean Up projects. He works at Primanti Brothers.
Taylor knows the next steps he takes toward his career goals promise to be dangerous but he is prepared for the consequences because he cherishes his freedoms, particularly his right to speak his mind.
“There is no fear because I know what I’m fighting for is much greater than myself,” Taylor said. “The many freedoms,” he added. “Freedom of speech means the most. It’s the main one because there are a lot of countries, like North Korea, where you can’t say things specifically about the government and people having that opinion and the way it shaped our country is very important.”
It comes as no surprise that Olivia Yocca wants to join the Navy. After all, the Peters Township senior is a swimmer.
“That’s partially it,” she said.
The main reason, however, is her patriotism. Her brother, Sebastian, currently attends the Naval Academy.
He invited Olivia to Annapolis for the Navy-Army football game back in December.
The visit touched Olivia deeply. She saw all the midshipmen and how they were serving their country.
“Honorably,” she said. “I knew instantaneously that that was something I wanted to do.”
Olivia has decided on the ROTC route. She will study at Villanova University.
“I have the power. I am physically and mentally capable,” she said. “I want to serve my country honorably, too.”
Because she has many friends that live in New York, who were directly “affected” by the Sept. 11, 2001 incidents, and because she has seen the aftermath of those attacks on America, Olivia wants to make a difference.
The incidents continue to have a huge impact on people’s lives still today, she says. “It makes me want to make sure it never happens again. That’s why I want to serve and protect our country.”
During her scholastic days, Olivia served Peters Township well.
She is a four-year letterwinner in swimming, having qualified each year for the WPIAL championships. She is a two-year PIAA qualifier. A team captain, Olivia is part of the school’s record-breaking medley relay team. She also owns a pool record.
Academically, Olivia is a four-year scholar athlete, maintaining a 4.6 GPA. She is a member of NHS and the Math Honors Society. She attended the Westinghouse Science Honors Institute. Additionally, Olivia served as a Peters Township Ambassador Leader and secretary of the Washington Hospital Junior Volunteer Executive Board. She volunteers at the food pantry and nursing homes. She even earned her Wilderness First Responder certification through Broadreach, a world-wide organization.
A natural leader, Olivia should do well in college and in the world because her coach, Mike Meyers says she possesses an enthusiastic can-do attitude.
“She displayed this with her lead by example style, effective and timely communication skills and hard work in training,” he said. “She was open and honest in her counseling of younger swimmers as they navigated their way through the program. She gave constructive criticism, direction, feedback and follow-up. She performed as the conduit between the swimmers and coaching staff,” Meyers added.