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 four individuals who make up the Class of 2022 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 September 30, 2022 at Veterans’ Memorial Stadium.

2022 Distinguished Alumni

Scott Altman:

A 1977 graduate, Scott Altman received his BS from the University of Illinois in Aeronautical Engineering. As a Naval officer he attended Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California before attending the Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station receiving his Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

Mr. Altman was an F14 pilot during the Afghan War, receiving commendation for saving a F-14A as it caught fire in flight 200 miles offshore. He also is well known for his aerial flight work during the filming of the original Top Gun movie. However, his four missions on NASA Space Shuttles may top even those experiences. Three of these flights he served as the shuttle commander between 1998 and 2009.

Altman is now retired from NASA and is President of the ARC Federal Space Operating Group, which provides engineering and IT talent to assist NASA, NOAA and the US Space Force. He still flies planes recreationally when not working or serving as a Board Member for the Tudor Place and the Board of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Inducted to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2018, he has been married to his wife Jill for 38 years, lives in the DC area, and has three grown sons, and one granddaughter. 

Altman credits his studies at PCHS specifically in English and mathematics for preparing him for the rigorous coursework at the U of I. He also believes that being a member of the basketball team taught him the value of teamwork and working hard to produce results. 

Unfortunately, due to a conflict with work, Mr. Altman could not be with us to celebrate but is very proud to be a PCHS graduate.

Brandon Dewitt:

Brandon graduated from PCHS in 2001 after being very involved in both marching and concert  band as a drummer and the Noteables show choir. Attending Illinois State University as a music major, even writing and publishing a CD of his music, but eventually shifted his focus to major in Computer Science, graduating in 2005. 

After graduation, Brandon became a Software Engineer at BakerHill and Experian where he worked in multiple roles as his career saw him building and managing complex web=based software applications for banks and credit unions. Brandon then co-founded and sold MyJibe, a personal finance software company, to MoneyDesktop in 2011 where Brandon was Vice President before co-founding MX a company in Provo, Utah where he worked as the CTO. This company now employs more than 750 people with a client base of over 2000 financial institutions and a valuation of $1.9 billion.

Brandon was passionate about distributed system architecture, programming languages, music, golf and his family. He became even more passionate about finding a cure for cancer when at just 31 years of age, he was diagnosed with Stage IV Salivary Acinic Cell Carcinoma. After his diagnosis, Brandon lived and worked with more purpose stating, “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I realized pretty quickly that life is not infinite”. 

Ultimately losing this battle in November of 2021, he is survived by his mother Phillis Dewitt and step-father Craig Nelson as well as his fiancee, Kara Parkey. 

Dr. Roger Freidinger

Roger Freidinger attended Pekin Community High School graduating with the Class of 1965. As a student his favorite subject was chemistry, which piqued his interest in pursuing a scientific career. Dr. Freidinger went on to receive a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1969. After serving two years in  the U. S. Army, Roger received a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry under the direction of  Professor George Buchi at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975.  

Dr. Freidinger was employed at the Merck Research Laboratories in West Point,  Pennsylvania from 1975 – 2005, where he was most recently Executive Director of  Medicinal Chemistry. During his career, he worked on drug discovery projects in a  number of therapeutic areas including gastrointestinal, central nervous system,  cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, and pain/inflammation. His projects at Merck produced  development candidates, and he was involved with many aspects of basic and preclinical  research and early development. His research activities have focused on the chemistry  and medicinal chemistry of peptides, peptidomimetics, small molecule ligands for  receptors, and enzyme inhibitors. He has been an author of 174 scientific publications,  an inventor on 69 patents, and presenter of 92 invited lectures.

Dr. Freidinger was active in the American Peptide Society as President from 2003 - 2005. He also  served on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Organic Chemistry and as a  Pharmacology and Drug Discovery faculty member identifying outstanding current  scientific literature for F1000 Biology. After retiring from Merck, Roger became an  independent medicinal chemistry consultant advising a variety of companies, universities and research institutes regarding phases of drug discovery.

Roger and his wife, Carol, have two daughters, Katy Wellen and Liz Mellers, and three grandchildren. They enjoy traveling and are active in church  ministries, like to garden and attend concerts and plays.

Dick Stolley 

In 1944, Richard "Dick" Stolley was a 15-year-old sophomore at Pekin Community High School, and editor of the school's newspaper when The Pekin Daily Times was in need of a sports editor. The Times publisher, F. F. McNaughton hired him for $25/week. After graduating from PCHS in 1946,, Dick and his twin brother James, enlisted in the U.S.. Navy. Following his tour of military duty, Dick enrolled in the Northwestern School of Journalism in Chicago, and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in 1952, before obtaining a Master's Degree the following year. 

Stolley briefly worked as a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times before being offered a job with LIFE magazine. He soon gained recognition as "one of the magazine's best editorial managers," covering a host of top stories and reporting on the civil rights movement and the space race throughout the 1960's. 

Stolley was serving as the bureau chief for Time/LIFE in Los Angeles when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. He received a call from his boss in New York, instructing him and two photographers to immediately fly to Dallas, Texas, to see if there might have been any photos/video taken at the assassination site. Stolley was the first reporter to contact Abraham Zapruder, the individual who captured the actual 6-second shooting on his 8mm film camera. Zapruder agreed to meet with Stolley the next morning at 9 a.m. in Zapruder's small office. 

After reviewing Zapruder's film, Stolley, on behalf of LIFE magazine, offered to pay $50,000 for print publication rights, and raised the amount to $150,000 for all rights a week later. Stolley later recounted that the Zapruder film was the "single most dramatic moment” in his career as a journalist." 

In 1974, Stolley was the founder of People magazine and its first managing editor. During his eight-year tenure at the magazine it became the most profitable magazine in the U.S. with a readership of 2.35 million per issue. Stolley was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame as well as the Medill Hall of Achievement for journalists. 

Dick Stolley passed away in 2021 at the age of 92 but is survived by four daughters, Lisa, Hope, Melinda, and Martha and seven grandchildren.