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Dukes of Distinction share keys to success with York students

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 8:31 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 8:40 a.m. CDT
(Sarah Minor - sminor@shawmedia.com)
Six of the this year's eight Dukes of Distinction – including Dr. John Baumrucker (left), Dr. Claudia Lucchinetti, Ken Paulson, Dr. Sidney Carne Wolff, Dr. Peter Holbrook, and Ron Guenther – spoke to York students during school Nov. 1. (Sarah Minor - sminor@shawmedia.com)
Dukes of Distinction

• Sidney Carne Wolff: director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories

• Dr. John Baumrucker: works with medical students from three leading U.S. universities to provide clean drinking water to Bolivia

• Ron Guenther: former athletic director at the University of Illinois

• John Hagstrom: Chicago Symphony Orchestra member

• Dr. Peter Holbrook: former chief medical officer of Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C.

• Dr. Claudia Lucchinetti: Chair of the National Institute of Health's Clinical Neuroimmunology and Brain Tumors Study Section

• Ken Paulson: USA Today founding editor

• Charles Tilly: work led to the development of seven subfields in sociology (honored posthumously)

ELMHURST – Dr. John Baumrucker and his wife, Joanna, volunteered in Bolivia for 15 years, working in the prisons and building schools, clinics and homes, but he still recognizes exactly where his high school locker used to be.

During a visit to his high school alma mater last week, Baumrucker gave credit to his public education for his continued success as a doctor.

“The most valuable lesson I learned at York was how to learn,” Baumrucker said.

York High School honored a group of eight alumni, including Baumrucker, last week for their post-graduate accomplishments by naming them the first-ever Dukes of Distinction.

While Baumrucker works with medical students from three leading U.S. universities to provide clean drinking water to Bolivia as part of the Living Water project, he still thinks his ability to learn keeps him up to date in the medical field.

“Medicine’s changed so much,” Baumrucker told York students last week, explaining that his education hasn’t ended.

Sidney Carne Wolff, director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, also related the need to continue studying and learning to York students.

A 1962 graduate of York High School, Wolff, remembered learning that the universe was about 3 billion years old as a student. Today she said astronomers believe the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.

While Wolff acknowledged how her success as a woman in a science field could inspire other young women, she also appreciated the varied careers of her fellow Dukes of Distinction.

“There were a lot of different professions represented among the Dukes of Distinction, and I like showing the students that there are many different ways to succeed,” Wolff said.

York junior Alvarado, 16, an aspiring veterinarian, listened to Wolff speak during her physics class, and thought about what it meant to have such successful alumni graduate from her high school.

“I think it means that there is an endless amount of possibilities for York students,” Alvarado said. “Our futures hold a lot of great things.”

No matter what career field students chose to pursue, Wolff offered some universal advice.

“Keep studying math because it keeps your options open for science, but also it helps in business, medicine, being a lawyer,” Wolff said.

She also told students that when given multiple opportunities to pick the one where they could make a difference as opposed to the most prestigious choice or the option their parents would pick.

“If you have multiple opportunities, pick the harder one or you’ll never know what you can accomplish,” Wolff said.

Freshman Ellie Chiu, 14, hasn’t decided on a career path yet, but she’s considering pursuing music or criminal justice. Either way, Chiu feels confident that she can excel like the Dukes before her.

“The school has a lot of talent and a lot of people who are willing to accomplish such things,” said Chiu after listening to Baumrucker speak.

Baumrucker agreed that current York students have just as much potential as their accomplished alumni did at their age.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” said Baumrucker. “I don’t think I’m extraordinary, you just have to want to do it.”

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