Washington Roots Award

2022 Award Recipients

Gene McCoskey

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2022

The Washington Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2022 Roots recipient: Gene McCoskey. As a Roots recipient, Gene gave a presentation to the community and rode in the homecoming parade.

Gene’s family moved frequently during his early childhood.  When they relocated to Washington, he attended local schools from 6th – 12th grades. Gene says Washington was the first community where he felt he had a hometown. Gene’s family relocated again to the St. Louis area after his high school graduation. Gene enrolled at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and began working full time for Monsanto Company. He married his wife Pam in 1976 and they have two grown sons. While working a fulltime job, Gene continued attending evening college classes until graduation several years later. He worked at Monsanto for 20 years and then joined Ralston Purina Company in 1994. He continued moving upward in his career at Purina, reporting directly to two CEOs for 20 years, and retiring in 2018 as, Vice President Facilities and Services, for North America. During his busy work career, Gene also served on business, professional, charitable, and civic boards, and served as Chairman for 9 of them. His Board leadership in the St. Louis area included: Chairman, Nestle Purina Child Development Center; Chairman, Purina Credit Union; Chairman, Purina Supplier Diversity Board; Board Member of the St. Louis Downtown Partnership; United Way of Greater St. Louis Allocation Board; and served 7 years on the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club Board.

Perhaps outweighing his successful business career and his charitable accomplishments, Gene has a 23-year record of service leadership in his home community of O’Fallon, Illinois. Through a chance meeting with a person running for mayor of O’Fallon and his successful election, Gene was appointed chairman of the O’Fallon Urban Forestry Commission. The commission created a tree nursery, memorial tree program and received certification as a Tree City USA community in 2 years. Gene then served as co-chair, and later as chair, of the O’Fallon Park Board and wrote the O’Fallon Strategic Park Plan. O’Fallon upgraded the two existing city parks, and planned and built 3 additional parks, and opened a bike trail and a skate park. Gene also chaired the O’Fallon Family Sports Park Master Plan and was part of the dedication for this 200-acre recreational complex that is recognized as the best recreational sports complex in Southwest Illinois. 

 Gene served as chairman for the O’Fallon Planning and Zoning Commission during the very busy, golden era of city growth. He served for seven years and was instrumental in developing plans and processes to improve planned growth, including dozens of new residential neighborhoods, businesses, two future hospitals, hotels, and a regional conference center. 

In 2008, Gene was asked to run for Alderman in Ward 1 and served 2 terms (8 years) on the O’Fallon City Council. He was a committed champion for smart growth, parks and green space and for improving public safety.   

In 2016, Gene was appointed to the O’Fallon Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.  He was elected secretary for the board and through his efforts and leadership O’Fallon improved record keeping, marketing materials and increased both gender and ethnic diversity in hiring. 

Gene’s commitment to his community is manifested through three of his favorite projects: the opening of Rock Springs Park in 2001, a 70-acre native prairie with walking trails and a cabin for rental and use; the idea and development for the O’Fallon Family Sports Park, a 200-acre park which is an economic driver and cultural jewel in his community; and the fruition of Gene’s original idea and sketch for an event destination in downtown O’Fallon: O’Fallon Station and Vine Street Market which opened in 2018.

Gene also served our state with his early participation and continued influence with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. He is an ardent historian, Lincoln admirer, and a member of six historical societies in Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee.   

The Washington Historical Society is proud to call Gene McCoskey one of Washington’s own and are pleased to honor him with this well-deserved recognition.  

Award Recipients

Christian Vercler

Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient, 2021

Award Recipients

Dr. Marcus Jarboe

Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient, 2021

The Washington Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2021 Roots recipients. That’s right, this year, for the first time ever, there are TWO
recipients: Dr. Christian Vercler and Dr. Marcus Jarboe were nominated as a pair by multiple nominees this year for their tremendous medical
accomplishments. Most publicly, Dr. Vercler and Dr. Jarboe were widely covered in the media in November 2020 for their work to separate conjoined twins at Ann Arbor’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Media coverage at the time highlighted the spectacular coincidence that two physicians, both of whom grew up in Washington and attended Washington High School together, would be reunited because of their medical specialties to perform such a rare surgery. But their accomplishments extend far beyond this one surgery. Dr. Jarboe and Dr. Vercler are each highly respected, extremely successful and accomplished physicians whose contributions in the field of medicine are significant.

The public is invited to hear their presentation at a program on January 22, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. at the Historical Society office at 128 Washington Square.

Dr. Christian Vercler

Dr. Vercler is a 1993 graduate of Washington High School, the oldest of Rudy and Kaye Vercler’s five children. He grew up on the family farm east of Washington. He is currently the program director of the University of Michigan Craniofacial Surgery fellowship, Director of the Craniofacial Anomalies Program, which takes care of children from across the state of Michigan who are born with facial differences and will soon become the Chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. He is one of the few surgeons in Michigan who do complex craniofacial reconstruction in children and adults.

Dr. Vercler also has a significant background in ethics. He became interested in ethics at Wheaton College and after graduating with his degree in biology, decided to complete a master’s degree in Theological Studies, also at Wheaton College, in order to better understand theology and ethics so he could make it a part of his medical practice. After Wheaton College, he attended the University of Illinois for medical school, then spent six years at Emory University in Atlanta for his general surgery training. At Emory, he did a Clinical Ethics Fellowship at the Emory Center for Ethics and completed another master’s degree in Bioethics. While in Atlanta, he also met his wife, Kate, who was there training in Urology. After Emory, Dr. Vercler went to Harvard to train in plastic surgery for three years, and while there, was part of a team that conducted a number of pioneering face transplants. Upon leaving Harvard, Dr. Vercler followed his wife to Michigan where she had been recruited to the University of Michigan, and he did another year of specialized training in taking care of children with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other complex craniofacial deformities. He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 2013 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018. He serves as Co-Chief of the Clinical Ethics Service of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan, serves as Chair of the Pediatric Ethics Committee of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, is Co-Chair of the Adult Ethics Committee at Michigan Medicine, is Chair of the Michigan State Medical Society Bioethics Committee, and is Chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr. Vercler’s parents and siblings Aaron, Amy, Katy, and Natalie all currently live in Washington. Dr. Vercler is married to Dr. Kate Kraft, a pediatric urologist whom  he describes as a “pretty big deal” in pediatric urology, and they have three daughters: Jacqueline (8), Alice (6), and Elizabeth (4).

Dr. Marcus Jarboe

Dr. Jarboe is the son of Jerry and Marla Jarboe of Washington and is a 1991 graduate of Washington High School. He is the Director of Pediatric Minimally Invasive Surgery at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He also has a dual faculty appointment with the Department of Radiology as an interventional radiologist. 

Dr. Jarboe’s areas of clinical interest and expertise focus on minimally invasive surgical techniques in treating congenital and acquired abnormalities of the pulmonary, gastrointestinal and biliary systems, neoplasms and general pediatric surgical conditions. He is also engaged in minimally invasive fetoscopic interventions. In addition, he has expertise in thoracic / chest surgery dealing with a wide range of complex problems in the lung and mediastinum (i.e. CPAM, sequestrations, tumors, etc.). He also has particular expertise with complex biliary and liver surgery such as tumors and biliary and portal vein obstruction. After 20 years, has has completed more than 10,000 surgeries.

As part of the vascular interventional radiology faculty, Dr. Jarboe is trained in vascular, urological, gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary interventions. He has had further training in pediatric interventional radiology which is where his clinical focus lies within the interventional radiology division.

Dr. Jarboe earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois where he also ran on the track and cross country teams. Dr. Jarboe earned his degree in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He completed his surgical residency at the University of Cincinnati before going to the University of Michigan where he completed fellowships in both pediatric surgery and interventional radiology. He is board certified in pediatric surgery and general surgery.

Dr. Jarboe’s parents, Marla and Jerry, continue to live in Washington. He and his wife Sarah have three children, ages 11, 9, and 7.

 To re-read the original article from the Washington Courier about Dr. Vercler and Dr. Jarboe and their collaboration on the surgery to separate conjoined twins, please click here.

2020 Roots Award Recipient

Dr. Pamela Kreeger

The Washington Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2020 Roots Award recipient: Dr. Pamela Kreeger.

Dr. Kreeger grew up in Washington and attended Washington schools, the daughter of Bill and Judy Kreeger of Washington. She was valedictorian of the WCHS class of 1996. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with affiliations in the Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Kreeger earned a BS in Chemistry from Valparaiso University, a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Northwestern University, and was a post-doctoral fellow in Biological Engineering at MIT. Her lab utilizes tools from systems biology and tissue engineering to determine how the interactions between multiple components of the disease microenvironment influence cellular phenotypic decisions. She was the recipient of an NSF CAREER, American Cancer Society Research Scholar, and NIH New Innovator, and was inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Her lab website is www.kreegerlab.org.

In August 2020, Dr. Kreeger was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for her work researching the spread of ovarian cancer. Dr. Kreeger’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will use the grant to study the process of metastasis in high-grade, serious ovarian cancer, the most aggressive and common form of the disease. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells from the original tumor to secondary sites. Dr. Kreeger will work with UW-Madison collaborators to examine the differences between single-cell or aggregate-based metastasis, with the goal being to better understand ovarian cancer metastasis and uncover ways to slow the spread of the disease and improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Kreeger has been married for 13 years and is the mother of two boys, Nathan (9) and Micah (5).

Due to Covid-19 distancing restrictions, Dr. Kreeger will not give a presentation in Washington this fall as Roots award winners typically do. Instead, she has created a video presentation where she talks about her time in Washington and her ongoing research as well as offering some bits of wisdom to today’s students. 

Past Award Recipients

Phil Bremen

Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient, 2019

Phil Bremen is an associate professor emeritus at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he taught for 17 years. He chaired the news concentration in the Department of Telecommunications before retiring in 2018. Bremen came to Ball State in 2001 after serving Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon as his press secretary throughout O’Bannon’s first term. Previously Bremen was a network television correspondent for NBC News, covering parts of five continents from bureaus in Miami, Frankfurt (Germany) and London. During the civil war in El Salvador, Bremen was the first television correspondent to report the murder of four Roman Catholic missionaries from the United States. He was also first to substantiate a massacre by a Salvadoran government death squad. In the Middle East he covered the Iran-Iraq war and the Lebanese civil war. During part of the Cold War, he served as NBC’s acting bureau chief in Moscow. He has also been an anchor and reporter in Indianapolis and Minneapolis-St. Paul as well as the public television network in New Jersey. At the age of 14 he got his start as a newspaper reporter and photographer at The Tazewell County Reporter in Washington, Illinois. Then, while still attending Washington Community High School, he became a reporter and photographer at WMBD-TV and a newscaster on WMBD radio, both in Peoria.

Bremen earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a master’s in communication studies from Ball State. He also has studied at the University of Durham, England, and at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary, both in Indianapolis.

At Ball State, he helped build the consensus and the curriculum for one of the country’s first interdepartmental journalism programs, exposing students to the broad range of skills they will need in today’s multi-platform news environment.

Professor Bremen was co-principal investigator under a $2.5 million federal cooperative agreement, creating training courses in crisis communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He has led instructional sessions for the groups including the National Governors Association and the national Broadcast Education AssociationHe achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He has been honored as a Sagamore of the Wabash, conferred by Gov. O’Bannon (2000), and as a Kentucky Colonel (2003).He and his wife Susie, also a retired educator, live in Indianapolis.

Past Award Recipients

Tom Gross

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2018

Dr. Tom Gross retired in 2016 after thirty-nine years of medical practice and receiving multiple honors for his leadership and research in his field of high-risk obstetrics. Tom married his high school sweetheart, Judy Ogborn. Tom decided to specialize in obstetrics, which involved a three-year residency in Akron, Ohio. In 2003 Tom and Judy returned to live in their hometown and contributed to making historical Washington even more historical be restoring two buildings on the square.

Dr. Gross is Washington Historical Society Roots Award Recipient 2018,

Past Award Recipients

Kate Gorman

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2017

The Washington Historical Society is pleased to announce that the Honorable Kate Gorman is the 2017 Roots Award recipient. 10th Circuit Judge Gorman is a life-long resident of Washington and an active community member. She is a graduate of Central School District, Washington Community High School, a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Illinois, and Southern Illinois University Law School.

She practiced law with the firm of Prusak and Winnie for fourteen years before becoming a partner in 1999. She was also a hearing officer for the Peoria Housing Authority and is a certified mediator.

She practiced law with the firm of Prusak and Winnie for fourteen years before becoming a partner in 1999. She was also a hearing officer for the Peoria Housing Authority and is a certified mediator.

By appointment to fill a vacancy, Judge Gorman became an Associate Circuit Judge in November 2007, where she presided over felony and misdemeanor jury and bench trials in criminal court, traffic court, domestic violence court, as well as diverse civil disputes. She was elected Judge of the 10th Circuit Court in 2012.

Judge Gorman is known as a hard-working judge with impeccable scholarly credentials who decides cases in a fair-minded and even- tempered manner. She holds memberships in the Washington Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Judges Association, Peoria County Bar Association, and the Illinois Bar Association as well as being active in judicial education through the Administrative Office of Courts. In 2011, Peoria Magazine named her as a Woman of Influence ,and when asked to describe herself in three words she replied, “Hometown, diplomatic, and careful.”

Judge Gorman will attend and speak at a reception in her honor on September 28, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and ride in the homecoming parade on September 29.

Marching to a beat of his own, we are pleased to announce our 2016 Washington Roots Award recipient, Gene Thrailkill! Famed for his half-time shows in Oklahoma, Thrailkill is an award-winning marching band director, enjoying a full career with The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. He is a 1956 graduate of Washington Community Highschool and will be returning to his beloved home town in September for a reception in his name on Thursday, Sept 22nd, at 6:30pm at St. Marks Church in Washington. Touting 30-year tenure with The Pride of Oklahoma, Thrailkill half-time shows were regularly featured on national television during college football games because of the skill and intricacy seen within the shows. His hard work and dedication to the program is often cited as the reason for such success. And while under the direction of Thrailkill, the University of Oklahoma marching band were the recipients of the prestigious Sudler Trophy for most outstanding marching band in the nation in 1987. This is just one of the many honors bestowed upon Thrailkill in his career. An all-round musical guy, Thrailkill’s career history consists of a 5-year tenure at Ohio State University, recruitment by Oklahoma with a 30-year tenure, and prestigious titles of Director of Bands Emertis, Regent’s Professor Emeritus, Professor of Music Emeritus, and Gene A. Braught Chair Emertius. As a professor of music, he taught instrumental music education and served on numerous education committees nationally and in Oklahoma. He is also a decorated director, being the recipient of the Prestigious Alumni “Medal of Merit for Achievement in Music” (Ohio University), the Associates Distinguished Lectureship (University of Oklahoma Board of Regents), Administrator of the Year, and the Walter Neustadt Award, given by the University Student Council for his outstanding service to the students of Oklahoma.  And now he’s adding Washington Roots Award recipient to that list!
We are so thrilled to be naming Thrailkill as our 2016 Washington Roots Award recipient, and honor him for his grand accomplishments in the music field. Please join us on at 6:30pm on Thursday, Sept. 22, for a reception and presentation at St. Mark’s Church in Washington. You won’t want to miss this!

Past Award Recipients

Tejas Shastry

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2015

A scientist, entrepreneur, and a CEO, former Washingtonian Tejas Shastry can soon add a new title to his grand list of accomplishments —- youngest Washington Roots Award recipient. Just 25 years old, Shastry was recently named as the 2015 recipient of the honor by the Washington Historical Society, which annually recognizes current and former Washingtonians who are contributing to society around them. Shastry, presently residing in the Chicago area, is the youngest ever to be named and will return to Washington in October for a presentation and open-house reception in his name.

Chosen for his innovations and entrepreneurial spirit, Shastry is on the radar of many in the field of Science and Engineering today with his invention, AMPY MOVE – a wearable device that converts kinetic energy into usable energy which can power electronics such as smart phones and MP3 players. For this, he was recently named to Forbes Magazine’s “30 under 30” list in the Energy category and has been seen across nationwide news networks, being featured on CBS, CNN, CNBC,  as well as local news including Fox News Chicago and WMBD in Peoria.

Shastry got his start in science and engineering through the budding childhood his parents gave him in small-town Washington. Moving to the historic town as a mere tot, Shastry went through the typical upbringing of a Washington Panther, attending Lincoln Grade School, Washington Middle School, and graduating from Washington Community High School in 2007. An above-average youngster, he was a bright student throughout his school days, graduating in the top 10% of his class, receiving a Congressional Art Award, and later being accepted to Northwestern University in Materials Science & Engineering. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Shastry returned to Northwestern where he was accepted into the PhD program with a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, of which only 12% of qualifying candidates nation-wide receive. He has also participated in research projects with institutions across the nation, including the University of California (Riverside) and John Hopkins University. He plans to graduate from NU with his PhD later this year.

His revolutionary product, AMPY MOVE, was born out of a class project at NU with two classmates. From NU to the big stage in the engineering world, the three are presently in the final production stage of the product. The device is ideal for active people, collecting energy from activities such running, walking, or cycling, which is then stored up in a battery for future use. It can even track calories burned and energy generated through the newly developed smart phone app, AMPY+. And the whole thing has caused quite the stir. In less than seventy-two hours, the team met their Kickstarter fundraising goal of $100,000, and followed that up with $300,000 total to cover initial production costs.

Tejas Shastry, the Washington Historical Society’s youngest Washington Roots Award recipient will be returning to Washington in early October, where he will give a presentation and be honored with an open-house reception. He is the third to receive this award, with former honorees including Dr. David R. Hunt, anthropologist for the Smithsonian, and Dave van Dyck, famed Chicago sportswriter.

To learn more about AMPY MOVE, please visit  www.getampy.com

Past Award Recipients

Dave van Dyck

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2014

It’s a homerun! The Washington Historical Society is pleased to name Dave van Dyck, a long-time Chicago sports reporter and specialist, as its 2014 Washington Roots Award recipient. In being named, van Dyck becomes the second to receive this award which honors current and former Washingtonians who are contributing to society around them. The son of Cuy & Marguerite, van Dyck has written for prestigious sports magazines such as The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, and Baseball Digest, and is a retired reporter/specialist from the Chicago Tribune. In September, van Dyck will be traveling to his beloved hometown to partake in the WCHS Homecoming Parade, followed by a reception at the Dement-Zinser Home on September 27.

“I believe Dave van Dyck has made a significant contribution to society in the combined areas of sports and journalism,” said WHS Board President, Bev Riggins, of the announcement. The Washington Roots Award is presented annually to a person who spent at least part of their youth in Washington and has made a significant contribution to the areas of business, arts, science, government, sports or charitable work. Last year saw Dr. David R. Hunt of the Smithsonian Museum named and now van Dyck is being added to the ranks.

As a student of Washington Community High School, van Dyck got his start in sports writing through Washington’s legendary basketball coach, Dick Van Scyoc. A member of Van Scyoc’s team, van Dyck was encouraged by his coach to pursue writing sports articles for the local newspaper, telling him “I think you could be good at it”. And he was!

As a high school student, van Dyck got his writing career going as a sports reporter for the Tazewell Reporter. After graduating from WCHS, van Dyck went on to get his Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Illinois and by the young age of 22, he was working as the Sports Editor for the Champaign News-Gazette. Throughout his career, he’d work for the Rockford Register and the Peoria Journal Star before beginning a thirty-year sports writing career in Chicago working for both the Chicago Sun-Times and later the Chicago Tribune, where he later retired. While in the windy city, van Dyck covered such teams as the White Sox, Cubs, and the Chicago Bulls.

All that work paid off for van Dyck who was twice nominated by the Baseball Writers Association of America for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the top award in the nation for a sportswriter as recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was named Sports Writer of the Year by the Pitch and Hit Club, an organization that honors achievement in the baseball. Aside from his honors, he also served ten years as the president of the Chicago Branch of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Dave van Dyck, the 2014 Washington Roots Award recipient, will be honored in September by the Washington Historical Society and can be seen riding in the WCHS Homecoming Parade followed by a reception at the Dement Zinser Home on September 27. The reception is free and open to the general public.

Content by Elyse Nicholson

Past Award Recipients

David R. Hunt, Ph.D.

Washington Roots Award Recipient, 2013

The Washington Historical Society Board of Directors recently honored its inaugural recipient of the Washington Roots award, David R. Hunt, Ph.D. Hunt was honored Saturday, September 26th, at an open-house in his name at the Dement Zinser home. Just days before that, he spoke to a packed house at the Washington Library on his career as the Physical Anthropology Collections Manager for the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, Thursday, September 24th. He also rode in the 2013 Washington Community High School Homecoming Parade.

The inaugural award was established to honor someone with “roots” in Washington who has made a significant contribution to society in the area of business, arts, science, government, sports, and charitable work, regardless of where they currently reside. Nominations were accepted during the early part of 2013 and a committee recently selected a recipient from the nominations received.

Earning his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Hunt currently holds the position of Physical Anthropology Collections Manager for the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.  He is also a Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist, of which there is less than 100 currently in the United States.

“The Washington Historical Society is proud that our first recipient of the Washington Roots Award is a person of such high caliber, who has achieved so much in a very interesting field,” said WHS Board President, Bev Riggins. Hunt is the son of Jim & Arlys Hunt and grew up in the City of Washington, being an alumnus of Washington Community High School. He began his college studies at the University of Illinois, receiving two degrees, and from there attended the University of Tennessee, where he graduated with both his M.A. and Ph.D. in physical anthropology. “Hunt also spends his time in volunteer efforts, which we, as a non-profit organization, commend,” Riggins added.

Working in Washington D.C., Hunt also holds the title of “on call” forensic anthropologist for the medical examiner’s office and the metropolitan police, and does some work as a consultant to the Historic Preservation Office. In addition, he is the forensic anthropology consultant for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Through his diligent work, he has helped the organization successfully identify the remains of many missing children. On the side, Hunt also gives lectures and has authored many books on the important issues to the field of anthropology.