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Streator High to induct 5 to Hall of Fame

Ceremony slated for Saturday

Top row, from left: Tom Rice, Jerry Missel and Mark Panno; bottom row, from left: Michael Freehill and Aaron Mahnke
Top row, from left: Tom Rice, Jerry Missel and Mark Panno; bottom row, from left: Michael Freehill and Aaron Mahnke

Five more names will be added to the Dr. Worthy Streator Hall of Fame during its eighth induction ceremony at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Streator High School.

The ceremony is run by students in Rob Tyne’s Western Civilization class. His current class is in charge of the ceremony, with last year’s class having done the research and video preparation on the inductees. The work of the 2017 class will be displayed during the ceremony, including videos made by class members as part of the project.

The current class will begin work on its projects in January. Students, who work in groups, look at nominations taken from the public to narrow the number of candidates. They then research the nominees and create an eight-minute documentary on each person. Videos are presented to fellow classmates and representatives of the SHS Educational Foundation, which partners with the Worthy Hall to honor alumni who have made a difference in their communities and the world.

The two-hour event is free and open to the public. Appetizers, sweets and refreshments will be available. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m.

This year’s inductees include:

• Tom Rice, Class of 1954

• Dr. Jerry Missel, Class of 1959

• Mark Panno, Class of 1969

• Dr. Michael Freehill, Class of 1985

• Aaron Mahnke, Class of 1993.

Tom Rice

Rice graduated from Streator High School in 1954 as an Illinois State Scholar. Moving to Streator in fifth grade, he began playing the trombone and became the only musician in his family. While in high school, Rice played trombone in jazz band and the school’s top concert band. He also participated in the drama club and was a narrator for the girls’ swimming club.

During his senior year, Rice was drafted into the Air National Guard, where he served until 1965 before returning to school. He received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Illinois State University and a master’s degree in music education with an emphasis on trombone performance from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The U.S. military paid the full tuition for his master’s degree.

Rice took a job as the Streator Elementary School District band director in 1959 and served in the position for 36 years. As a grade school band director, his bands were Illinois State Champions three years in a row.

In 2000, Rice served as the high school interim band director. Following this, he began acting as volunteer assistant band director as well as a coach and adviser to numerous SHS band directors. Since 2000, he has mentored more than 2,160 SHS students.

Rice continues to volunteer his time and impact the lives of others. He is the assistant coach of both the Streator High girls and boys bowling teams, often traveling with them. As assistant volunteer band director, Rice has gone on dozens of trips to marching band competitions and festivals, as well as trips to Disney World. He also assists in the learning and improvement of the high school band and is involved in important decision-making due to his experience. During the annual solo and ensemble festival, he serves as coach for the ensembles who perform.

Former Streator High band director Tim Karth approached the Streator High School Board to dedicate the band room as “The Tom Rice Band Room.” A plaque outside the room bears his picture along with an inscription.

Students love his sense of humor and see Rice as not only a mentor, but a friend. They often approach him seeking his advice.

Even with all of his accomplishments and volunteering, Rice remains humble and does not ask for recognition.

“The name Tom Rice is synonymous with band," said Streator High Band Director Jamie Kotovsky. "He truly embodies the best characteristics of a director, leader and is a constant example for our students of a person you should become. He always says band is his family, and the band family could not be more appreciative of the gifts and guidance he provides us.”

Jerry Missel

Missel was born Dec. 22, 1940, in Streator. Early in life, he did not engage in academics or athletics as much as he did later.

At Streator High School, Missel thrived in both athletics and academics. Captain of the football team his senior year, he led his team to an undefeated season, earned eighth place at state out of 183 golfers and achieved the co-valedictorian title upon graduation.

A passionate and excellent golfer, he went undefeated his first two years on the team. To this day, he is still one of only three golfers from Streator High to place in the top 10 in a state competition.

After graduating in 1959, Missel attended Princeton University at no cost, having earned the Princeton National Scholarship for the Illinois-Indiana area, while still pursuing his interest in golf. Although he entered college as a classics major, he eventually switched to pre-med. He served as chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Society from 1958 to 1959 and graduated from Princeton in 1963 cum laude, before continuing his education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

Missel, a fluent German speaker, translated at the Worldwide Parkinson Information Center in New York. One year of German in college and a year of research in Germany gave Missel a well-rounded knowledge of the language. Today, Missel is fluent in both German and French, while practicing self-taught Spanish.

Following his second year of medical school, he received a $1,300 grant in student political research at the University of West Berlin Medical School at the Psychiatric and Neurological Institute. He next continued his education at Columbia University, graduating in 1968 with an M.D. in psychiatry. From 1968 until 1969, Missel took an internship at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn. From 1971 to 1974, Missel participated in the Harvard Psychiatric Residency Program and was a pre-medical adviser for the John Winthrop House at Harvard.

In 1975, his career began when he earned his board certification in psychiatry and neurology. Missel worked at a private practice in general psychology in Brookline, Mass., from 1974 to 1979. At the same time, he was an assistant director of psychiatry at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center from 1975 to 1976, a coordinator of psychiatry at Brockton VA Hospital from 1975 to 1983, and an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School from 1984 to 1994. Missel taught as a clinical instructor in health science at Northeastern University as well.

He was selected for the Leadership Veteran Affairs Program while working at the Brockton VA Hospital. During this time, he served as a consultant at Brockton Family and Community Resource in Brockton Area Multi-Service, and a consultant in the Plymouth County Probate Court. In the late 1970s and for over a decade, Missel also worked as a real estate developer.

Beginning in 1992, he served as the medical director of the Boston Healthcare Review. In this role, he provided services to many different organizations, some of which he is still involved with today.

Despite Missel’s busy work-life, he still makes time for the things he loves today. He has continued his interest in golf as co-captain of the American Seniors Golf Association International Team. He also continues to stay passionate about traveling and giving back to young people. He sponsors two scholarships at Streator High School every year.

Mark Panno

Panno was born Sept. 20, 1951. The riverside of Streator was not only his home, but a place where he learned all of his life lessons.

The son of Joseph and Ann-Marie Panno, he was an active member while a student at Streator High, involved in many pursuits. The interests about which he was the most passionate were Streator High baseball and Key Club.

When Panno graduated from Streator High in 1969, he wished to serve his community and the students of his hometown high school. He continued his education at St. Ambrose University, where he majored in sociology and minored in philosophy and education. After graduating St. Ambrose, Panno decided to continue his education to earn a master’s degree in education at Illinois State University.

While attending Illinois State University, he was employed at Streator High School as a part-time social studies teacher and a guidance counselor. In 1978, he became a full-time guidance counselor and served in this position for the next five years. Panno returned to ISU to earn his CAS degree in educational administration. Panno then became an administrator for Streator High School. His position included many duties including: hiring of certified personnel, seeking guidance counselors, developing the master schedule and evaluating certified teachers while overseeing all testing programs administered by the school district.

Panno served Streator High School for 32 years. Most notably, his last year at Streator High School was spent as a consultant to help finalize the $30.5 million school building project.  

As of 2018, Panno is an active Kiwanis member, a coach for Streator Youth Baseball and a member of SYB’s board of directors. Panno also serves the community as an SHS Educational Foundation board member and has served as president of the Educational Foundation for the past eight years.

Michael Freehill

Freehill was born Jan. 31, 1967 in Streator. As a student at Streator High School, he participated in football, basketball and baseball. Freehill received high honors all four years of high school and served as vice president of his class council and participated in National Honor Society. He graduated with the Class of 1985.  

Freehill is a certified orthopaedic surgeon, specializing in shoulder and elbow repairs in sports medicine. He graduated with high honors in kinesiology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and later earned his Doctor of Medicine at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. He received specialized training in shoulder and elbow reconstruction at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

While residing in New York, he worked for Division I and III collegiate teams as well as the New York Yankees. Academic medicine is a vital part of Freehill's orthopaedic practice, and he continues to teach and mentor medical students, residents, Fellows and visiting physicians.

He is currently on faculty with the Minnesota Sports Medicine Fellowship. He is also a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Arthroscopy Association of North America and American College of Sports Medicine.

Freehill has lectured on an international and national basis, presenting research on shoulder reconstructive techniques. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed papers and book chapters focusing on the areas of arthroscopic reconstruction, open reconstruction and specialized treatment of overhead athletes, with specialized focus on baseball pitchers. Freehill is on a design team of top shoulder surgeons working on a reverse shoulder implant with the company Tornier.

Now residing in Minnesota with his wife and daughters, Freehill loves embracing the great outdoors as well as traveling with his family. They have been all over the United States as well as several countries overseas. He is an avid Chicago Cubs fan and enjoys watching football. Freehill runs a mentorship for the local high school where students shadow him at work in the operating room as well as his research hours. Additionally, Freehill manages his own garage brewery called “Tripel Nipple Brewing.”

Aaron Mahnke

Mahnke was born on Aug. 5, 1975, in Morris and grew up in Streator. From a young age, it was evident he had a creative imagination. Mahnke attended Streator High School, where he was involved in National Honor Society, Yearbook Committee and tennis.

After being inspired by a series of short stories, Mahnke wrote his own short story for a school essay. He continued his fascination with writing during his high school career, and he began writing his first novel. He graduated in 1993. Following high school, Mahnke continued his education at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

While attending Eastern Illinois, he majored in psychology. Throughout his college years, he continued to work on his writing. After graduating from college in 1997, Mahnke began work as a graphic designer.

On July 14, 2011, Mahnke published his first book, "Destiny: A Fairy Tale." Mahnke began to explore speaking as a narrarator for his writing and published his first podcast, "Lore," in 2015. After Apple put "Lore" on the front page of its Noteworthy section, Mahnke was awarded iTunes’ Best of 2015” and Best of 2016 Awards for his podcast. He also was awarded Best History Podcast 2016 by the Academy of Podcasters.

This success led Mahnke to become a full-time writer and podcaster, releasing a new "Lore" podcast every two weeks. However, his success didn’t stop there. Mahnke next signed with the companies Propagate and Valhalla Entertainment and other film producers who brought "The Walking Dead" and "The X-Files" to television. These producers helped Mahnke's work to secure an Amazon Prime "Lore" TV series based on his podcasts. The show combines documentary footage and cinematic scenes to tell horror stories and their origins, and features Robert Patrick, Holland Roden and Colm Feore. The series premiered Oct. 13, 2017.

In October 2017, Mahnke continued his career by publishing the book "The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures" based on his podcasts. Mahnke released his next book, "The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals," in May 2018 and the third installment, "The World of Lore: Dreadful Places," in October 2018.

Mahnke enjoys writing about historical events reported by people, whether they’re ancient or modern.

To make a nomination or for more information about hall of fame, contact Rob Tyne at rtyne@streatorhs.org or call 815-672-0545.

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