Distinguished Alumni Award Inductees

Please click on the link below to watch the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

2015 Inductees

Bob Hill--Class of 1960

Bob Hill was a strapping young man who grew up in Sycamore to a blue collar family with five kids!  While attending Sycamore High School he won ten varsity letters in four sports; football, basketball, baseball, and track; was class president his sophomore year and vicepresident his senior year and spent his summers working on a dairy farm!  He was a busy young man!!  After graduating from SHS in 1960, Bob went on to attend Rice University in Houston, TX on a basketball scholarship.  He graduated from Rice with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.  
Bob came back to Sycamore and married his high school sweetheart, Janet (also a SHS graduate.)  In 1967, a job opportunity arose here in Sycamore at our hometown newspaper and without any journalistic training, Bob took the job; life has been an adventure ever since!  He’s been an editor of the bi-weekly Sycamore Sun Tribune and the True Republican newspapers; then worked for the Rockford Morning Star and the Register Republic.  In
1975 he moved to Louisville, KY to work at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times newspapers.  Since moving to Kentucky, Bob has written more than 4,000 columns and hundreds of feature stories for the Louisville newspapers over a 33 year career.
Bob has received numerous awards throughout the years including the Best Writer and Best Columnist in Louisville award multiple times, Best Kentucky Writer Award and received awards from the Kentucky Society of Professional Journalists.  He’s been the winner of Columnist from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was awarded an Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and received a plaque from the Kentucky Press Association.

Branching out even further, Bob authored ten books on various subjects such as:  gardening, the history of the Louisville Slugger Bat, a history of basketball and a true crime book - "Double Jeopardy" - that sold very well nationwide and resulted in stories on National Public Radio, MSNBC, Dateline NBC and an appearance on the Geraldo Show! He’s also written two books on his column collections, “Old Friends,” and “Stone Walls and River Music.”  
Bob and Janet are also owners of the eight-acre Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in southern Indiana. Bob has won gardening awards from the Garden Club of America for horticultural achievement and volunteer work in gardening.  Evidently writing is not his only talent!  
Even in retirement, Bob is not one to stay still for long.  He’s now on the board of Botanica, a non-profit organization creating a 23-acre arboretum in downtown Louisville and has been named historian for an organization called The Parklands of Floyds Fork which is building a 20-mile-long, $125 million park along Floyds Fork on the east side of Louisville from scratch!    
This blue collar, small town boy has come a long way since his days in Sycamore.  He has made, and continues to make, a huge difference to his communities and to their quality of life.

Carol Ovitz Hancock--Class of 1960

Born at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois to Dr. J.W. Ovitz, Jr. and his wife, Virginia, Carol Ovitz grew up in Sycamore and graduated from SHS in 1960.  She went on to attend Smith College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Cum Laude.  
Carol started her career in 1965 as a commodity broker with Mitchell, Hutchins & Co., Inc., becoming an Assistant Vice President and later becoming the first woman member of the Chicago Board of Trade in 1969!  At that time the Chicago Board of Trade was the oldest and largest commodity exchange in the world.  Carol became a full-time, independent trader at the CBOT in 1973.
In 1974 Carol married Gustavus (Gus) Hancock and they lived in Old Town in Chicago until 2002. During this time, with her family of Gus and two daughters, Virginia (Ginger) and Katherine, Carol became a member of the Old Town Triangle Board of Directors, the Near North Juniors Infant Welfare Society of Chicago and became a member of the Board of Trustees of The Latin School of Chicago and President of its Parents Council.  She and Gus owned Paragon Die Casting Company of Chicago, a leading manufacturer of precision aluminum and zinc die castings serving mostly the automotive industry, both domestic and international.  They managed the company as partners until 2002.
Following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, Carol and Gus decided to retire earlier than planned; they wanted to retire on their terms and not someone else’s.  They sold their manufacturing company and moved aboard their 52 foot ocean sailing yacht INDIGO full-time in 2002.  They sailed east out of the Great Lakes and across New York State via the Erie Barge Canal to Albany, down the Hudson River to New York City and then to Norfolk, Virginia, to then make a nine day 1,500 mile passage from Norfolk to the British Virgin Islands!

At the time of this writing, Carol and Gus have lived on INDIGO full-time for 13 years, sailing thousands of miles, crossing oceans and living withing the cultures and religions of different nations on five of the seven continents!  They've sailed to all of the Middle Eastern countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and into the Suez Canal, with extensive inland travel into some countries that are now war zones and may never again be safe for Americans to travel into.  No matter how much they experienced and learned by living within these different cultures and religions, Carol says they realized more and more how little they knew, as Americans, of these different cultures and religions.  While the differences sometimes seem big, the similarities and human and family values are largely the same.  Everyone wants peace not war, life, liberty, happiness, and better opportunities for their children.  To see hordes of families fleeing their homelands to avoid bombs and assassinations is a soul searing experience according to Carol.  She says we, as Americans, are very wealthy people in this regard and viewing these events have emphasized that we need to work hard to protect our country from within.
Carol and Gus plan to return to the United States in the fall of 2015.  They plan to cruise the east coast of the US, possibly looking for a community in which to establish a land home.  Carol still has family and friends in the Sycamore community and says it’s always a thrill to come “home” to Sycamore to visit them.

Jan Johnson Benson-Class of 1970

Jan Johnson Benson has been a member of the Sycamore community since she was in 2nd grade after moving here from Dixon, Illinois with her parents and her little brother, Rick.  She was enrolled in St. Mary’s School and has been a faithful, contributing member ever since.  Jan was very active in school activities and grew up to become the SHS Homecoming Queen her senior year!  She graduated from SHS in 1970 and went on to attend Western Illinois University obtaining her BS in Special Education.  Jan returned to Sycamore after graduating from WIU and was quickly hired as an elementary teacher at Southeast Elementary School!  Always the person to be thankful for the blessings in her life, she wanted to give back to the community that she loved and helping to educate students with special needs was the perfect way to do so!  
During this time, Jan married Don Benson, also a life-long resident of Sycamore, and they had three sons – Peter, Joseph and Timothy, all of whom graduated from SHS.  This is a true Spartan Family!
Jan continued her education at Northern Illinois  University to obtain her Masters in Special Education and her Director of Special Education Certificate.  In 2012 Jan was named the Director of Special Education at Sycamore School District and remained in that position until her retirement in June 2015.  This position enabled Jan to continue to serve the children of Sycamore.  Her colleagues have said, “Jan Benson is a true example of excellence in education, putting children first, and guiding her colleagues with wisdom and compassion to serve the students as they plan together and make a difference.”  Another colleague stated, “Jan’s enthusiasm is very studentcentered.  She maintains a focus on students that prompts those around her to ‘go the extra mile’ for a student’s benefit.  She sets the standard for us all.” 
Jan loved teaching but she wanted to do more.  She went back to school and obtained a Nursing degree with Advanced Pediatric Life Support (PALS) certification from Kishwaukee Community College in 1989 and received their Outstanding Nurse Graduate Award!  She worked as a pediatric nurse at Kishwaukee Community Hospital for several years, all while still teaching in the Sycamore School District, volunteering at St. Mary’s Church and raising her family!  

Jan has a strong commitment to the Church of St. Mary in Sycamore.  She’s been an instructor for Adult Catechism, serves as an extraordinary Minister of Communion (often times serving communion to patients at Kindred Hospital who cannot attend mass due to medical complications), serves on the Hope for Haitians Committee and many more committees too numerous to mention.  Her strong faith has helped develop her into the kind-hearted, giving person that she is today.
She’s a volunteer at the Pay-It-Forward House in Sycamore, serves on several scholarship committees at Sycamore High School, has served as a Deputy Registrar for DeKalb County Voter Registration, supports the work of the Feed Em Soup organization and the Sycamore Music Boosters organization, volunteers for the Relay for Life group and provides free blood pressure checks to seniors at the Church of St. Mary.
Jan is a perfect example of what Sycamore Schools strives to achieve in the education of our students.  She was educated in the Sycamore school system and chose to remain in Sycamore to give back to our children, many of whom have grown to become valuable citizens in the Sycamore community. She will probably never know how many lives she has touched and what a difference she has made to so many.  Our community has been truly blessed by the commitment and service of this woman.

2014 Inductees

John Holtz--Class of 1970

Marilyn Frank Stromborg--Class of 1960

Pete Johnson--Class of 1940

2013 Inductees

Yvonne Johnson--Class of 1947

Dave Juday--Class of 1962

Gary Seegers--Class of 1968




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