Five Lehighton 'Graduates of Distinction' honored
Members of the board of directors of the Lehighton Education and Athletic Foundation, who hosted the second annual Graduates of Distinction dinner for Lehighton High School alumni, are, from left, Michael Everett, Todd Serfass, Chairman Hugh Dugan, Dr. Randy Nolf, Todd Kriner, Renee Biechy and Larry Markley.
Five alumni of Lehighton High School were given Graduates of Distinction status during a dinner program on Saturday. They are Betty Mullen Brey, Tina Berger Dowd, Dr. Harold J. Frey, Capt. Robert Hofford and Dennis Seiwell. Accepting the awards are, from left, Marlin Frey, brother of Dr. Frey; Hofford; Thomas Mullen, brother of Brey; Darryl Seiwell, brother of Dennis Seiwell, and Dowd. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Five alumni of Lehighton High School were designated as "Graduates of Distinction" during a dinner program Saturday at Mahoning Valley Country Club.
This was the second annual dinner, hosted by the Lehighton Education & Athletic Foundation, honoring graduates who have achieved tremendous personal success in business, athletics and/or military endeavors.
The honorees were:
• Betty Mullen Brey, an accomplished swimmer.
• Tina Berger Dowd, co-founder of Sundance Vacations.
• Dr. Harold J. Frey, gold medalist in tumbling and a coach in gymnastics and soccer at various universities.
• Capt. Robert Hofford, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, recipient of more than five dozen medals for service during the Vietnam War and former naval attache to Pakistan and Canada.
• Dennis Seiwell, a professional musician for nearly 50 years who has performed with the legendary Paul McCartney in his band Wings.
Dowd and Hofford were present to receive their awards.
Seiwell lives in California and had other commitments. His bother, Darryl Seiwell, accepted the award on his behalf.
Brey and Frey are deceased.
Brey's brother, Thomas Mullen, accepted the award on her behalf.
Frey's award was accepted by his brother, Marlin Frey.
Brey will be honored in her hometown of Weissport on Sept. 23 when a statue honoring her accomplishments will be unveiled.
Hugh Dugan, president of the Lehighton Education and Athletic Foundation, introduced the honorees.
He said Graduates of Distinction serve as role models for Lehighton students and as symbols of the high caliber of students produced by the district.
Last year six alumni were honored in the group's initial dinner program. Two of those honorees, Maj. Gen. Marvin Jay Barry, a 1966 graduate, and James Wentz, graduate, were in attendance for this year's induction program.
Brey was nominated for the award by her brother, Thomas, who was a Lehighton High School graduate and longtime teacher in the Lehighton Area School District.
She was the world record holder in the 100-yard and 100-meter butterfly stroke in 1955 and 1956. in the 1956 Olympics in Australia, she was a member of the silver medal 400-meter freestyle relay.
Brey also won medals in the Pan American Games in Mexico and Argentina. She was a physical therapist and first lieutenant in the Women's Specialist Medical Corps at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
She was also a professor and swim team coach at George Washington University.
Dowd, who was nominated by her husband, John Dowd, is the co-founder of Sundance Vacations, which has grown from a small startup to inclusion on Inc. Magazine's 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies. In 2010, she was named Employer of the Year for Women in Business.
Over 25 years, her company has received many Stevie Business Awards such as the top Customer Service Team in 2014, Sales Department of the Year 2013, Best Use of Technology in Customer Service 2016, best places to work and a healthy workplace award.
She also gives her time and service to numerous charities.
Dr. Frey was nominated by Marlin and Betty Frey.
He was the gymnastics coach at the University of Illinois for 10 years and at the University of California for 40 years.
While at Penn State, he won the gold medal in tumbling at NAAU in 1944 as well as medaling in three additional NMU events. At the University of Illinois, he coached his teams to gold three times and to four undefeated seasons.
He also coached soccer and led his undefeated team to the Midwest Soccer championship in 1956. At the University of California, he served 27 years as head coach and was elected the NCAA Coach of the Year three times. His teams won 12 PAC-8 Conference championships.
He served as a judge for gymnastics at all levels including NCAA and NCAU Championships, Olympic trials, international meets, and also served as chair of the NCAA rules committee. Harold was named as one of 10 members of the U.S. Olympic Team in 1944 but because of World War II, no games were held.
Hofford was nominated by classmate Kathleen Tibensky.
He graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961.
Over his flying career he had five combat tours in Vietnam, where he flew a combined total of 350 combat missions and completed 950 carrier landings. He was awarded 64 medals over his career some of which were the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Device, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, and Vietnam Gallantry Cross.
In 1976, he began the first of three tours in the Pentagon working for the chief of Naval Operations as the Deputy Director Politico-Military Policy and Current Plans Division.
After his first two tours in the Pentagon, he was assigned to teach at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and created the course in congressional politics for prospective officers in congressional liaison work.
He followed that tour with an assignment under the secretary of state as the naval attache to Pakistan and then as the naval attache to Canada.
Seiwell was nominated by his brother, Darryl, who is a well-known local musician and longtime music instructor.
Dennis Seiwell has to his credit more than 200 compact discs, records, movie soundtracks, television shows and television commercials.
He was the first musician invited by Paul McCartney to become a member of his new band Wings following the breakup of the Beatles. He recorded three albums as the drummer with Wings and participated in many big singles.
His most recent endeavor was to write a drum instruction manual which is currently available for sale in the music industry.
Seiwell has devoted more than 25 years to helping wayward musicians and artists regain their lives and careers. He has won the respect of his peers as both a musician and a humanitarian. He is still recording songs and playing live with a number of jazz and rock groups in the California area.
The Graduates of Distinction selection committee consists of Chairman Dennis Serfass, Gordon Ripkey, Lamont "Mike" Ebbert, William Michalik, Steve Ohl, Gary Schoenberger and Dr. Bruce Hartman.
Directors of the Lehighton Education & Athletic Foundation include Dugan, Michael Everett, Todd Serfass, Dr. Randy Nolf, Todd Kriner, Renee Biechy and Larry Markley.