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Speakers set for 10th annual Top Drawer 24 celebration

NFL Umpire Bill Schuster, Federal Judge Jeffrey Schmehl
will address honorees

WATKINS GLEN, April 16 -- Preparations are under way for the 10th annual Top Drawer 24 celebration at the Watkins Glen State Park Pavilion on Monday, June 8.

Among those preparations has been confirmation of the appearance of a line of guest speakers headed by National Football League umpire Bill Schuster and Federal Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl.

Former Top Drawer 24 honorees Katelyn Warren (a graduate of Thomas A. Edison high school) and Heidi Depue (a graduate of Twin Tiers Baptist high school) will also present speeches. Both were on the 2014 squad.

Those speakers can talk from experience to this year's honorees -- the Top Drawer class of 2015 -- about life's challenges and rewards.


Andy Malnoske and Renata Stiehl

In addition, WENY-TV Sportscaster Andy Malnoske and WENY news anchor Renata Stiehl will be on hand to help run the program -- Stiehl as emcee and Malnoske as a presenter.


The Top Drawer team, chosen annually by committee and to be announced in May, is composed of outstanding high school students who come from school districts in Schuyler and Chemung counties.

This year the slate of school districts represented includes original participants Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour along with Trumansburg, Spencer-Van Etten, Bradford, Horseheads, Elmira Heights Edison, Elmira Notre Dame, Elmira City Schools, and Elmira Christian Academy.

The evening will begin at about 5 p.m. with a social gathering -- featuring various finger foods -- and there will be a group picture of the 24 honorees snapped by parents and by a photographer from this website for publication here. Awards sponsored by E.C. Cooper will also be presented to The Odessa File Athletes of the Year from the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour high schools. Another honoree will be the recipient of the Susan B. Haeffner Award sponsored by The Odessa File and given annually to a high school student who embodies sportsmanship in the face of adversity.

And new this year: a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to an adult sports figure within the Top Drawer area, chosen by committee and based on the honoree's dedication to athletics and on his or her achievements.

The Top Drawer 24 honorees will go on a brief walk with Brian O'Donnell, retired Watkins Glen High School principal and former district School Board president, at about 5:45 p.m. O'Donnell has been an integral part of the Top Drawer program since its inception, and continues in key roles.

After the walk -- in which O'Donnell imparts wisdom of a secretive nature (never yet revealed) to the honorees -- speeches will begin, all fairly brief. The lineup of speakers includes the following.


NFL Umpire Bill Schuster, right, observes the key moment in the Seattle-New England Super Bowl -- the interception by Malcolm Butler that sealed the Pats' win. (Photo provided)

National Football League Umpire Bill Schuster

Bill Schuster, a National Football League umpire since 2000, is one of the evening's key speakers.

Schuster, a native of Livonia, New York -- where he resides with his family and owns an insurance agency -- was a two-time football All-American wide receiver during his four years (1976-79) at Alfred University, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business. He once held the school record for career receptons, and was named to the school's Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.

Schuster, who umpires approximately 15 games per NFL season, was on the field (see top photo) when the New England Patriots' Malcolm Butler intercepted Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line in the closing moments of the last Super Bowl, won by the Patriots.

Other career highlights:

2003 -- officiated his first NFL playoff game, a Wild Card match between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers;

2012 -- officiated the AFC Divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos;

2012 -- served as an alternate official for Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots;

2014 -- officiated the NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Seattle;

2015 -- officiated the 2015 Super Bowl.


Federal Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl

The Honorable Jeffrey L. Schmehl, the eldest son of Louis H. Schmehl and Adeline J. (Scioli) Schmehl, is a native of Berks County, Pa., having grown up in Exeter and Shillington.

He graduated from Governor Mifflin High School, Dickinson College and the University of Toledo School of Law, receiving a Juris Doctorate in 1980. He was admitted to the Berks County Bar and the Pennsylvania Bar in 1980.

He has held the following positions: Assistant Public Defender, Assistant District Attorney, Berks County Solicitor, and Berks County Judge. He was also in the private practice of law by himself from 1981 through 1986 and was a partner in the Reading law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt and Bradley from 1986 through 1997. Judge Schmehl’s emphasis was on both civil and criminal litigation. As an attorney, he was admitted to practice before all Pennsylvania Courts, the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

In 1997, he was elected to the position of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Pennsylvania. In 2007, he was retained for a second 10-year term. He had handled both criminal and civil trial matters. In 2008 he was elected by his fellow Judges to serve as the President Judge of the Berks County Court. He had previously served as the Administrative Head of the Berks County Court’s Civil Division. Judge Schmehl also has served as an Adjunct Professor at Alvernia University since 1998. He also served on the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges Executive Committee, the Commonwealth Partners Committee and most recently the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges Education Committee.

Judge Schmehl was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in November 2012 and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 13, 2013 and commissioned on June 27, 2013. He is currently a Commissioned Federal Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, sitting both in Reading and Philadelphia.

He is also the recipient of the Berks County Prison Society W. Richard Eshelman Award, the Berks County Bar Association Liberty Bell Award and the Cumru Township Outstanding Citizen Award.

Judge Schmehl, who has been actively involved in community activities with an emphasis on the coaching and teaching of Little League sports, is married to April Reed-Schmehl and has three children, Kristin L., Keith J. and Kurt A.


Former Top Drawer honoree Katelyn Warren

Katelyn Warren -- a member of the 2014 Top Drawer 24 -- is the daughter of Mike and Connie Warren of Elmira Heights. She has one sister, Elizabeth.

Katelyn is a 2014 graduate of Thomas A. Edison High School and now attends Keuka College in Penn Yan, NY, where she is an occupational therapy major.

While in high school, Katelyn competed in volleyball, basketball and softball. She was a member of the Class C state champion volleyball team in 2010 and the 2014 Class C state champion softball team. She was named to state teams in both volleyball and softball and was the 2014 Class C Softball Player of the Year.

During her high school career, she was involved in a variety of clubs and activities and also maintained a High Honor Roll average, all while taking AP courses.

In keeping with a growing trend in which Top Drawer honorees go on to compete in two college sports, Katelyn in her first year at Keuka College has played volleyball (as a middle hitter, earning Rookie of the Year accolades) and softball (as catcher), becoming part of the first sister pitcher/catcher duo in Keuka College history.


Former Top Drawer honoree Heidi Depue

Heidi Depue -- a member of the 2014 Top Drawer 24 -- graduated from Twin Tiers Christian Academy in Breesport, NY in 2014 with a grade average of 98, third in her class. She was the Student Body President, a Worship Team Leader, a member of the National Honor Society, the Class Treasurer, the school's 2013 Student of the Year, and sang in the church choir. She was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, soccer and volleyball, earning All-Star honors in basketball and soccer, and a League Most Outstanding Player designation in soccer.

She has just finished her second semester at Corning Community College and is transferring to Summit University, previously known as Baptist Bible College, in Clarks Summit, PA to complete her Associates in Business Administration. She is looking forward to playing on the women’s soccer team at Summit, and as a career goal wants to be part of "a large organization that changes lives for the glory of God."


After the speeches, O'Donnell will introduce each of the evening's 24 honorees, describing their achievements and presenting each with a medallion. Plans also call for presentation of Certificates of Achievement from the offices of Congressman Tom Reed, State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Ralph Diliberto, a teaching assistant and volunteer strength trainer in the Watkins Glen School District, will present the invocation and benediction.

The honorees are being encouraged to invite as many people as they wish: friends and family who can share in the celebration. The event is also open to the public. There is no charge.

Photos in text: From the top: Andy Malnoske and Renata Stiehl of WENY-TV; NFL Umpire Bill Schuster at the Super Bowl, Federal Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, Katelyn Warren and Heidi Depue.




© The Odessa File 2015
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869