John Ratesic, President

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2009 Inductees

Top: Paul Palamara, Geoff Brown, Dave McDowell, Randy Cosgrove 
Bottom: Bill Jackson, Karen Van Tassel, John Hicks


Geoff Brown, class of 1966
Geoff Brown was a starter and letterman in basketball, football and track & field during each of his three years at Plum Senior High School.  In track & field, he threw the shot put and the discus, and won the AIC Conference in both events during his senior year. His discus throw set the AIC record in 1966.  On the gridiron, he started at quarterback as a sophomore, tailback as a junior and fullback as a senior.   He was named to the ALL-WPIAL first team as a senior.  Geoff attended the University of Pittsburgh on a full football scholarship.  In his senior year, he played in the East West Shrine All Star Game in San Francisco as well as the Hula Bowl Football Classic in Honolulu.  He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as an outside linebacker, went through the exhibition season with them, was offered a place on the team as a member of the taxi squad, but opted for the seminary instead.   He eventually earned a Ph. D and worked extensively in the field of biomedical ethics.  Geoff lives in the Pittsburgh area with his wife Jan and is currently the Senior Pastor of Bellefield Presbyterian Church on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.

Randy Cosgrove, class of 1969   
Randy Cosgrove was one of the best all-around Plum athletes of his era.  He remarkably earned 10 varsity letters at a time when freshman were excluded from varsity sports. His passion for sports continued at Ashland College where he played basketball and earned four letters in baseball.  Upon graduation, Cosgrove began a career tied to interscholastic athletics.  After coaching a variety of sports for several years, he progressed to the role of athletic director.  In addition, Randy serves on the WPIAL Executive Committee and the WPIAL Baseball Committee.  He has represented the WPIAL at the state level and was a past president of the MAC Athletic Director’s Association.  Cosgrove has also found success as a talk show host on WTAE and EPSN Radio.  His voice is recognized by many Pittsburgh Steelers fans as the longtime public address announcer at Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field.

John Hicks, class of 1954  
John Hicks was a high school standout in both baseball and football.  His play attracted several college scholarships and an invitation to the Big 33 football game.  Hicks played varsity football at both Brandeis University and Slippery Rock University .  He also competed as a player-coach for the Army regimental football team at Ft. Jackson , SC.    In Addition, Hicks was well known throughout the competitive sandlot baseball leagues in the region.  He spent nearly 30 years in the education field.  He began as a public school classroom teacher and progressed to the upper levels of higher education as a Dean and Professor Emeritus at Slippery Rock University .   Along the way, Hicks coached baseball at nearly every level including American Legion, high school and college.   His 1968 Shaw High School team won the Ohio State Baseball Championship.  Hicks has received various awards throughout his career including SRU’s President’s award for Outstanding Service.  He and his wife Judith reside in the Slippery Rock area.

Bill Jackson, class of 1952  
Bill Jackson is one of the few Plum High School graduates to win a PIAA gold medal.  In the spring of 1952, Jackson won the WPIAL Championship in the discus and then went on the win the state championship.  Bill also had success in the javelin, shot put and high jump.  His efforts helped the Mustangs win the track & field district championship that year.  Jackson also broke the school record in the discus with a throw of 149’4’’.   Bill also was a captain of the basketball team and played center on Plum ’s Allegheny Valley Championship football team.   He attended the University of Pittsburgh on a full scholarship where he won the AAU District College Championship in the discus as a freshman before transferring to Westminster College to pursue his academic interests.  There, he won three straight NAIA District Tri-State Championships and held their record for 18 years.   After college, Bill entered the seminary and served as a Presbyterian Pastor for 48 years. He has also received two honorary doctorate degrees and has served as team chaplain for many teams including the University of Pittsburgh football team.  Jackson has been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for 27 years and has twice been their main speaker at national conventions.   Bill and his wife Vail reside in Shaler Township and Chautauqua, New York.


Dave McDowell, class of 1981

Dave McDowell left his mark at Plum as three-sport athlete.  Dave lettered in football, basketball and track & field each of his three years.  On the track, he broke Plum High School records in the 800m and the 3200m relay.  Both records remain intact.  McDowell’s football talents earned him All Conference status for offense and defense as a junior and a senior.   He accepted a scholarship to William & Mary College where he had an outstanding career as a wide receiver.  Dave has worked full-time for more than 20 years for Athletes in Action.  As their Director of Global Media, he has produced sports media in conjunction with FIFA World Cup Soccer, the Olympics and the NBA.   He has worked side-by-side with John Wooden, Tony Dungy and David Robinson and many other elite athletes from around the world.  His work has been viewed by 500 million people in 36 languages.  Dave has won six Angel Awards and three Telly Awards for his excellence in sports media.   He and his wife, Jenn, have five children and live in Mason, Ohio.

Paul Palamara, class of 1984  

Paul Palamara is recognized as one of Plum football’s all-time greats.   He was team captain of the WPIAL AAAA Division II Championship team in 1983.   During that season, he rushed for 1522 yards and 17 touchdowns.  Along with numerous other awards and honors, Palamara was named All-East Player of the Year, Quad A Most Valuable Back, and played in the prestigious Big 33 game.   Paul continued his career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he was the PSAC Rookie of the Year with 14 touchdowns.  In 1986, his team won the PSAC Conference Championship.  IUP acknowledged Palamara’s contributions by naming him to the first team on their All-80’s team.   Paul has enjoyed a successful career in medical device sales.  He recently started his own medical products sales company.  He lives in Bay Village , Ohio with his wife Beth and two children.

Karen Van Tassel-Ferguson,  1993

As a versatile swimmer, Karen Van Tassel was one of the most accomplished female athletes in Plum High School ’s history.  She set six school records and won three WPIAL gold medals.  At the PIAA level, Karen was a four-year qualifier and a state finalist in three events.  She was also a team captain of the 1992 and 1993 teams that were both WPIAL runners-up.  After graduating co-valedictorian, Van Tassel took her talents to Penn State University where she continued her record setting ways.  As a team captain, Karen set the Penn State record in the 200m relay.  She was a three time Big Ten finalists and a two time NCAA All-American Honorable Mention.  Van Tassel’s remarkable impact as a student-athlete led Penn State to establish an award for excellence in academics in her name.  She was selected to the Big Ten All-Academic team each of her four years and was a two time NCAA Academic All-American.   Van Tassel continued her education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and in Duke University’s residency program.  She is currently a practicing anesthesiologist in Yuma, Arizona where she lives with her husband, John Ferguson, and two children.

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