On Friday, November 8, distinguished alumni of Harvard CUSD 50 were inducted into Harvard High School’s Hall of Fame.
Harvard High School and the Harvard Community Education Foundation started the Hall of Fame to recognize Harvard High School alumni who have achieved notable success in their lives and to provide positive role models to District 50 students by demonstrating to current and future Harvard High School students the high caliber of people who have graduated from Harvard High School and the significant contributions they have made and continue to make to society.
2019 Hall of Fame Inductees
- Kristi “McConnell” Braun – Class of 1991
- Raul Meza – Class of 2005
- Andrew “Andy” Opie – Class of 1995
- Steven Perenchio – Class of 1981
Kristi “McConnell” Braun was active in cheerleading, softball, and basketball during high school. In the summer of 1988, before her sophomore year, Kristi was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain that resulted in her becoming legally blind. The tumor was completely removed and remains so to this day. Marcia Miller wrote in Kristi’s Hall of Fame nomination “that moment in her life is what made her a strong resilient student, businesswoman as well as wife and mother.”
Kristi graduated from Illinois State University in 1995 with a degree in Finance and minor in Accounting. Kristi is currently a First Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor with Merrill Lynch in Schaumburg IL. She has been awarded the Certified Financial Planner designation by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and has earned the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor SM designation from the College for Financial Planning.
Kristi donates countless hours coaching travel softball and teaching religious education classes at her church.
Raul Meza attended Rockford University and earned a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in management. He started working for First National Bank in Harvard in 2009 as a Personal Banker, was promoted to Sr. Personal Banker in 2013, and was promoted to his current position as Branch Manager in 2018.
Raul is actively involved in the Harvard community to make his hometown a better place to live. He was elected City of Harvard Alderman of the 3rd Ward serving on the City Finance Committee, Public Property, Streets & Alleys Committee, and the Zoning, Planning & Ordinance Committee. Raul has also served on the Harvard Economic Development Corporation and has been the Co-Chairman for the Harvard City Events Committee.
Raul endlessly volunteers his time and leadership to many community organizations in Harvard. This list includes the Harvard Chamber of Commerce, Healing Hearts with Hooves and Hounds, Harvard Community Partnership Coalition, Harvard Rotary, Harvard Senior Center, Stingers Jr Tackle Football, and St. Joseph Church.
Andrew “Andy” Opie graduated from Life Pacific University, San Dimas, CA in 2002 after losing his eyesight at 19 years of age. A genetic condition, Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, left him able to see only light and dark and movement if it is close.
After graduating from college, he began working for a church, met his wife, and together they began serving the church as Missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand for six years. He worked with children in slum communities helping them learn English while continuing to serve the church in various ways.
Andy worked as a religion consultant for the Amazon Original series Hand of God starring Ron Perlman after he returned to the United States. He has taught part-time at his Alma Mater, Life Pacific University, worked with an inner-city church in South Central Los Angeles and served at a church in Orange County, CA. Andy is currently a teaching pastor in Chicago, travels the mid-west as a motivational speaker, and is pursuing a Ph. D. at Trinity International University in Intercultural Studies. Andy plays hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks blind ice hockey club.
Steven Perenchio’s passion for flying began with a quick plane ride around the skies of Harvard’s own Dacy Airport when he was in 7th grade. His passion for flying led to a 20 year Air Force career as a pilot in both the T-38 Advanced Trainer and B-1B Bomber aircraft before his second career as a pilot for Southwest Airlines.
After graduating from Harvard High School, Steve enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, IL. He graduated with a BS degree in Electrical Systems Engineering and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the USAF. Steve went on to earn his Master’s degree in Aerospace Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Steve’s distinguished Air Force career includes being chosen Most Outstanding Instructor four times by students. He was also named Flight Commander of the Year and Instructor Pilot of the Year. Steve received the highest rating in B-1B Bomber instructor training and led the first B-1B deployment to Oman in the Middle East.
Steve retired from the USAF as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005. He continues his love for flying as a Captain with Southwest Airlines.
Harvard High School and the Harvard Community Education Foundation are accepting nominations for the 2020 Hall of Fame class. Please submit the completed form by June 30, 2020.
To be eligible, a candidate must have graduated from Harvard High School 10 or more years ago (2010 or earlier), must be nominated, and must meet one or more of the criteria listed on the application form.
Up to four candidates will be selected from nominations received and will be honored at a student assembly in late fall and in a permanent display at the high school. Candidates who are currently employed by District 50 or serving on the Foundation Board of Directors are discouraged. Inductees will also receive a ticket for themselves and a guest to the 2020 Black & Gold Ball in November.
Questions? Call John Hollingsworth at 815-943-6461 or email email@example.com.