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Spotlight on JT East

Kathryn Koesling Bennett ’74 – Wardrobe supervisor for nationally touring musicals such as Broadway’s smash hits of Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, Showboat, Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables and Cats, as well as for motion pictures such as Rudy, Only the Lonely, and Home Alone. Her resume also includes costume design having created the costumes for the Chicago City Ballet and later Ballet Chicago. In 1994, she was offered the opportunity of wardrobe designer for the television show, “The Untouchables.” Kathryn is a card-carrying member of Theatrical Wardrobe Union, Local 769.

Keith White ’73 – Keith was frequently seen on the East stage in many of the musical productions as well as for his participation in East’s premiere singing group known throughout the Chicagoland area as Kolage. His interest in the performing arts and, in particular, his love of theater soon established Keith in a very successful career as a vocalist, dancer, and actor. Today, Keith is Chair and Director of the Theater Department at Lewis University.

Jeff Boyle ’83 – While at East, Jeff starred in several musicals and also found time to play with the “Middle Earth Band.” Growing up, Jeff listened to a wide range of musical styles. He is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who began his professional career as a club drummer/singer in the 1980s playing with Chicago’s All Night Newsboys. With a partner, Jeff has launched a successful career writing commercial jingles for clients such as McDonald’s, Sears, Coors, Miller Lite, Disney, Six Flags. United Airlines, American Airlines, Toyota, and Boeing, to name just a few. To date, they have written over 1,000 commercial music tracks. As a songwriter, Jeff’s albums are filled with fiery performances and melodies from a great cast of musicians. Jeff has an extensive discography and his latest offering recorded in 2008 on Tweak Records is titled “Downtown.”

Lionel Ritchie ’67 – A star tennis player at East, Lionel accepted a tennis scholarship at Tuskegee Institute and later graduated from Tuskegee with a major in Economics. In 1968, while a student at Tuskegee, he joined the singing group, The Commodores, as lead singer and saxophonist. While with the Commodores, he penned the ballads “Easy,” “Sail On,” and “Three Times A Lady.” After spending a decade with the band, Lionel left and became an even greater success as a solo artist hitting the #1 on pop charts with “Hello,” “All Night Long,” and “Say You, Say Me.” Lionel is an Academy Award and Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, record producer and occasional actor who has sold more than 100 million records. Lionel returned to JT East in 1981 to perform for students during two special assemblies.

DeBorah Sharpe ’70 – DeBorah’s first vocal music training came from Mount Olive Baptist Church where she participated in the church choir. Music was part of her life throughout her school career. Following her graduation from East, she joined the Christian singing group, The Sparrows, touring with them for a year. In the mid-1970s, she toured with the Supremes. In 1978, she was the lead understudy of Dorothy in “The Wiz,” for the national touring company. She toured with Harry Belafonte in 1983 and again in 1989. These two tours took her all over the world. In addition, DeBorah is an accomplished actress and has played guest roles on the television shows, “The Bill Cosby Show and Beverly Hills 90210

Susan Pierson Sonderby ’65 – Susan was active in high school participating in student council, modern dance and Red Cross and was a member of the homecoming court. She knew early on that she wanted to go to law school following graduation. Susan accomplished her goal of becoming an attorney. Today she has a very successful career as the Chief Bankruptcy Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern Illinois District.

Lawrence (Larry) M. Walsh ’66 – Larry is in his second term as Will County Executive. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of all county departments and also presides over the Will County Board meetings. Besides serving as the County Executive, Larry has a long and distinguished career in public service. In 1970, he served as a member of the Elwood School Board and three years later was elected as Jackson Township Supervisor, a position he held until 2004. Concurrently, he also served as Illinois State Senator for the 43rd District from April of 1997 until January of 2005 at which time he was sworn in as the Will County Executive.

JT East athletes included in the naming of the “100 Athletes of the Century” as part of the centennial activities celebrated by District 204 in 2001 are the following:
        Pam Gant    ‘81                     Pam led the East girls’ basketball team to a 3rd place
       finish at the state tournament in 1980. She scored 75 points and holds state records for field goals in a season with 443, and in a career with 1431. Pam posted 3,205 points for her high school career to become the number one scorer in the state and the third leading scorer in the nation. She was named All-state three times. She went on to LSU on a full scholarship where she received All-American honors playing basketball.    
        Tim Graf    ’76                        An outstanding track and field athlete. He was State
       Champion 100 yard dash at East and Big Ten 100 yard dash Champion at Indiana University. Tim qualified for the 1980 Olympics.
Larry Gura ’65                     A Kingsman standout left-handed pitcher who went on to play baseball for Arizona State. His major league career included playing for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. In 1980, Larry was named an American League All-Star.
John Gurka ’75                      In 1974 and 1975, John was the State Heavyweight
        Wrestling Champion. In addition, he was an All-State football player in 1974. John was the 1974-75 Wrestler USA Magazine High School All-American.
NOTE: In addition to the above athletes, many East athletes were also named to the roster of “Distinguished Athletes of the Century” in 2001.
JT East athletes inducted into the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame:

                          2003    Larry Gura 

                             2004    Pam Gant


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