Distinguished Alumni Awards
Family and friends gathered Sept. 30 to recognize the 2021 recipients of the Oakwood Schools Distinguished Alumni Awards presented by the Oakwood Alumni Association.
Nicholas Conard, Ph. D., Class of 1979: Conard continued his education at the University of Rochester, earning a bachelors degree in Anthropology and Chemistry. While at the University of Rochester, he also earned a masters in Physics, Geology and Anthropology. He then went on to Yale University where he received a second masters and PhD in Anthropology. He is the Founding Director of the Institute for Archeological Sciences at the University of Tubingen and co-founded the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment of the University of Tubingen. He is currently the Dean of Studies of Archeological Sciences and the director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Baden-Württemberg. He is responsible for many excavations and findings that support and shape the understanding of prehistoric art and music as well as provided much outreach and organizing exhibits on topics related to archaeology, human evolution and environmental dynamics.
Chris Epley, Class of 1987: Epley is a Judge in the Ohio Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District. After graduating from OHS, he attended Denison University and the University of Dayton School of Law where he serves as an Adjunct Professor in Appellate Law, an Alumni Board Trustee and an externship supervisor. Prior to his election as judge, he practiced law for 21 years and volunteered as a guardian ad litem. He is a Leadership Dayton graduate, a member of the Oakwood Rotary Club and previously served as an elected member of Oakwood Board of Education and Oakwood City Council. Judge Epley is a Life Fellow of the Ohio and Dayton Bar Associations and has received awards from the Dayton Business Journal (40 under 40), Catholic Social Services (Spirit of Adoption), Juvenile Court (Law Day), the University of Dayton (Yuhas Special Service Award), and Oakwood Schools (Asset Builder).
Barbara O’Hara, Class of 1959: O’Hara is known throughout the community for her philanthropic and leadership roles. She has been a leader in the Oakwood community, devoting time and energy to help many organizations including: Clothes That Work, Dayton History, The Humane Society, Greater Dayton Rowing Association, Dayton Area Sports History at Dayton History, Levitt Pavilion Dayton, The Contemporary, Montgomery County Ohio College Promise, Human Race and the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. O’Hara also has established an endowed scholarship fund supporting Oakwood female athletes. “Barbara is well-known in the community as a passionate advocate and fundraising guru for numerous Greater Dayton not-for profits,” Michael Parks, The Dayton Foundation, said.
Kris Smith, Class of 1960: Smith’s artistic talents can be traced back to the halls of Oakwood High School when she would paint murals, design and help create decorations for school events. Since then, she has painted or sculpted more than 4,000 works of art . The range of her talent spans all forms of media from oil portraits for individuals, families, and their pets to a 12-foot wooden sculpture for the Women in Distress Center in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Two commissioned portraits hung in the White House during both the Carter and Ford Administrations. Her sculpted portrait marionettes were chosen as one of Neiman Marcus’ “10 Most Unusual Gifts in the World,” resulting in appearances on Oprah, Good Morning America, MSNBC and a four-page feature in People Magazine. For the past 10 years, she has been all around the world as an Artist in Residence on Oceania Cruise Lines and teaching an occasional workshop at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. www.krissmithart.com
James “Rocky” Whalen, Class of 1941: Whalen is remembered most notably for his passion and commitment to the sports world. He helped establish and is featured in the OHS Athletic Hall of Fame. Throughout his lifetime, he collected more than 1,000 college football programs and 700 sports books dating back to 1885, all which are now preserved in the Rocky Whalen Sports Library at the University of Dayton. Whalen was nationally recognized as a college football historian and appeared on ESPN. The UD Health and Sport Science programs, as well as the Oakwood Athletic Hall of Fame, cite his sports research. He authored many sports articles and books including The Blue and Gold Gridiron, featuring 75 years of Oakwood Football. Whalen was a WWII Army Veteran and well loved by his wife of 59 years, Jean, and their four children and nine grandchildren.
Every two years the OHS Alumni Association selects some of OHS’s finest and celebrates their accomplishments and contributions at the Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Recognition as a distinguished alumnus shall be limited to those individuals, living or deceased, who have attended and/or graduated from Oakwood High School no fewer than 15 years previous to the nomination and have made significant accomplishments in one or both of the following areas while maintaining high standards in personal integrity and character:
- Outstanding leader in his/her field
- Service to his/her community through local, state, national, or international organizations