The Pekin Community High School District No. 303 Board of Education has established the Distinguished Alumni Award to recognize individuals who were educated and inspired by our school system. Those selected for this honor have distinguished themselves by virtue of their outstanding contributions to the school, community, or society in general. They serve as role models to inspire current and future generations of students.
This year we are honored to recognize six different individuals who make up the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 Distinguished Alumni. These individuals will be honored during the PCHS Homecoming Festivities and will be present in the Homecoming Parade and recognized prior to the start of the varsity football game at 7pm on October 1, 2021 at Veterans’ Memorial Stadium.
2020 Distinguished Alumni
Don Chapman, Master Sergeant, USAF - Class of 1994
Master Sergeant Chapman enlisted in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation from PCHS in 1994, achieving the rank of Master Sergeant in 2011 and retiring after 24 years of dedicated service to his country in 2018. He served six active duty deployments where he has trained multinational forces on medevac and CASEVAC missions and was a Flight Evaluator as well as an Aeromedical Evacuation Medic.
In 2005, during the 1st Iraqi elections, Master Sergeant Chapman evaded gunfire to ensure injured troops could be successfully evacuated. He served as Superintendent of all Special Operations Medics in Afghanistan in 2013-2014 where he earned the Distinguished Meritorious Service Medal for providing medical treatment to the critically injured and successfully evacuating several after a mortar attack. He currently lives in Navarre, Florida.
Anna Freidinger Palmer - Class of 2003
A member of the class of 2003, Anna holds a B.A. from Eureka College, where she serves on the Board of Trustees, and has earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is currently General Partner at Flybridge Capital, where she leads early stage investments in companies leveraging the power of community. Prior to joining Flybridge in 2020, Anna co-founded XFactor Ventures, now one of the most active seed stage funds that backs women & diverse teams, with 70+ investments to date across the US, Europe, and Latin America.
Alongside her investing roles, Anna serves as Chairman of Dough, a values-based shopping destination. Prior to Dough, Anna was co-founder and CEO of Fashion Project, the industry leader in online designer clothing donation, where she led the company to process over 350,000 items and power national giving programs for Zappos, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, New York Fashion Week and more. The company distributed funds to over 2000 organizations in 36 countries and was acquired by U5 in 2016.
Anna has been featured in Forbes, The Financial Times, InStyle Magazine, CNBC SquawkBox, eTail East, and profiled in the books Counter Mentor Leadership & Launching While Female. She currently lives in Boston with her husband, Jeff and their five-month old son Lawton.
Joe Stoner - Class of 1977
After being a member of the Pekin Basketball Team in high school, Joe went on to have a career serving students and athletes as a teacher, coach, and administrator. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree from Western Illinois University in 1986, Joe eventually settled in his hometown. He worked in District 108 before coming home to PCHS as an assistant track and basketball coach while teaching Biology and working in the Alternative School before becoming the head basketball coach, following his father’s footsteps in a storied program. He worked with the Dragons Basketball program for 20 years, becoming the 3rd all-time winningest head basketball coach.
Joe went on to be a school administrator after earning his Master’s in Educational Administration from Illinois State University. After serving as a Principal and Activities Director in the Illini Bluffs School District, he became the Principal of Peoria Heights High School where he then ended his career in education as the Assistant Superintendent.
Joe is most proud of his family: his wife Linda, a 1978 Pekin graduate; three sons Nicholas, Cole, and Luke, all Pekin graduates; and grandson, Jameson. His son, Cole, is the third generation of the Stoner family to coach at PCHS. Joe encourages all students to get involved and take risks while challenging yourself.
2021 Distinguished Alumni
Dr. Steven Clark - Class of 1965
Upon graduation in 1965, Steven attended and graduated from the University of Illinois for both his undergraduate and medical degrees. After his medical internship at the University of Iowa, he returned to Pekin to practice medicine as an orthopedic surgeon. If someone broke a bone or needed orthopedic surgery in the Pekin area, Dr. Clark was probably your doctor, as he served the community for 37 years, owning the Pekin Orthopedic Office before eventually selling the practice to Pekin Hospital.
Steve married his wife, Diane, a 1977 Pekin graduate, and together they raised Jeremy, Ben, and Danielle who all graduated from PCHS and have blessed them with 4 grandchildren.
When Steven was in high school he was a member of the band, Dance Band Club, Student Council, and National Honor Society in addition to playing on the golf team. He encourages current students to participate in school activities and not to take shortcuts as he feels PCHS prepared him for college and the future through challenging coursework and learning how to balance a busy schedule.
Dara Swoik Johnson - Class of 1995
A graduate of Pekin in 1995, Dara furthered her education at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale majoring in Mass Communications, Cinema and Photography. After time in several big cities, Dara has settled in Denver, Colorado with her husband, Rich, and two children, Bodie and Brooklyn.
Dara founded her company, The Premier Group, in 2008 starting with one office in Denver. This company has grown to include eight regional offices serving clients in 47 states. She has over 800 full time employees and in 2012 her company was recognized on the INC500 list as one of the fastest growing privately owned companies in the U.S., and has been on this list for five years running.
One of the goals of opening her own business was to be able to grow a company that could also give her the ability to support various charities and give back to those in need. She has supported a variety of charities over the years ranging from The Fallen Hero Foundation to Juvenile Diabetes. She has been heavily involved in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation that raises money for pediatric cancer research. She has organized and participated in a head shaving charity event that has raised over $535,000 over the years for this foundation as a part of her team's contributions of over $1 million for pediatric cancer.
Jack Rosenberg - Class of 1944
Jack was an active student at PCHS involved in tennis, debate, Student Council, choir and National Honor Society, to name a few. He started his newspaper career at age 16 as a sportswriter for the Pekin Times where he worked until graduation in 1944 when he enlisted in the Navy to serve during World War II. After his service, he attended the University of Illinois and Bradley University, becoming a sportswriter for the Peoria Journal-Star, winning top NCAA awards for college baseball reporting.
In 1954, Jack was hired by WGN to work with Jack Brickhouse. Rosenberg was credited with helping develop the modern sports broadcast as Sports Editor and Producer at WGN for more than 40 years. He is most widely associated with the Cubs as he was the man behind the scenes for Brickhouse’s on-air telecasts working with the likes of Harry Caray and Ron Santo.
Jack was inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and has a honorary street, Jack Rosenberg Way, named for him within sight of the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago. After his passing in 2020, the Swedish Hospital rededicated the renamed Jack and Mayora Rosenberg Women’s Health Center, which provides services to a diverse community of women.
Born and raised in Pekin, Jack was married to his wife, Mayora, for 51 years, having two children, David and Beth, and six grandchildren.