Distinguished Alumni named at Geneseo High School

Claudia Loucks
Old Geneseo High School

Distinguished Alumni from Geneseo High School have been named for 2021, but there will not be a program for the public this year because of current guidelines in place due to Covid-19.

In previous year, area residents were invited to meet the Distinguished Alumni as well as the current academic scholars at a ceremony at Geneseo High School. GHS students who are recognized at the ceremony include members of National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, Illinois State Scholars and AP Scholars.

GHS Principal Travis Mackey said due to restrictions of in-person gatherings, the officers from NHS and NTHS will record the event and post it on the district website to be viewed at a later date. The district website is geneseoschools.org.

Geneseo High School, formerly known as J.D. Darnall High School, Distinguished Alumni Named in 2021:

-Jamie Blackburn Rhee – Class of 1985. As the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, Jamie L. Rhee manages one of the largest and most complex airport systems in the world, with direct oversight of O’Hare and Midway International Airports. At the same time, Rhee maintains close ties to the community, and is a fierce advocate for children.

Over the course of 26 years with the City of Chicago, Rhee has held a number of critical positions, including the city’s chief procurement officer for nearly a decade, where she oversaw the purchasing of more than $2 billion in goods and services. Under her guidance, thousands of small and diverse-owned businesses were acetified and entered the talent pipeline, and Chicago’s procurement reform efforts received national and international recognition. Rhee has been recognized with a dozen awards from industry organizations for her contributions, and is the author of articles and industry publications on aviation safety and security, as well as increasing the accessibility of municipal contracts to minority, women disabled, and veteran-owned businesses.

With an emphasis on equity and inclusion, Rhee has broadened the reach of certified and community-based Assist Agencies, which help connect residents and businesses of all sizes to opportunities across the city. She has worked extensively with Chicago Public Schools and Chicago City Colleges to engage more young people from diverse backgrounds in aviation-related curriculum and is a sponsor of the After School Matters’ AcroStar Avion Institute, which provides direct experience and education in aviation for at-risk youth. Rhee is active with the March of Dimes SOS Children’s Villages Illinois – through which she and her husband have fostered children in need.

A small-town girl at heart, one fog the things Rhee most enjoys about Chicago is its close-knit neighborhoods. She and her husband, Mike, live in the Humboldt Park community and are parents to a five-year-old.

Rhee earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a Juris Doctor from DePaul College of Law.

-Charles G. Davis – Class of 1898. Charles G. Davis (1879-1944) achieved rank of Brigadier General, one of the highest ever attained by a resident of Henry County. Mr. Davis was a veteran of the Spanish –American War and World War I. He was a benefactor to this whole country in his brilliant military service, recognized by reception of the Distinguished Service Medal, des Anciens Combatants de Verdun, A French military order.

Davis, a graduate of Geneseo High School in 1898, was awarded his diploma in absentia while he was serving in the Spanish-American War. After returning from service in Cuba and Puerto Rico, Davis attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a law degree in 1904. He then completed a year of law work at Harvard University and was admitted to the bar in 1905. In 1911, he was appointed City Clerk for Geneseo and held that post for one year. In 1921, he was elected Mayor and served for three years.

Davis was elected county judge in 1928, re-elected in 1930, 1934, 1038 and 1942. Davis also served 28 years as a member of the Geneseo Public Library board.

Beside his immeasurable service for 16 years as Henry County Judge and his placing of historical markers and inscriptions in Henry County, he was a benefactor of the local Episcopal Church and made valuable material gifts to the Geneseo Public Library, Geneseo High School, and the Geneseo Soldiers Memorial Association. His will provided a fund for worthy soldiers and their widows and orphans.

-Edwin W. Deming – Class of 1879. Edwin Willard Deming (1860-1942) was an American painter and sculptor. He studied in New York and Paris and painted scenes from his visits with Native American groups in the Southwest and West of the U.S. His works as a painter, illustrator and sculptor, specialized in depicting Native Americans.

Edwin Willard Deming was born Aug. 26, 1860, in Ashland, Ohio. At a young age he went to live in Geneseo, Illinois, an area which had formerly been part of the Fox and Sac reservation. As a child, Deming knew natives of the Winnebago tribe and this early exposure shaped his later career. Deming had a life-long close association with various native tribes. In 1883, Deming went to New York for a year of study at the Art Students League. In 1884, he went to Paris and studied at Julien’s Academy under Boulenger and Le Febvre and took a course of lectures at the Beaux Arts.

After returning to America, Deming spent nearly two years painting cycloramas (curved theater backdrops). In 1887, Deming went to the Southwest and studied Yuma Apache and the Pueblos, and to Oregon where he concentrated on the Umatilla. Deming spent the summer of 1889 at Little Big Horn among the Crow. He then spent the autumn of 1889 and part of 1890 among the Sioux. He was present at Standing Rock when Sitting Bull was killed during the “Ghost Dance Outbreak.”

Deming married in 18892. He and his wife spent a year of study in the Southwest with the Zuni, Hopi, Apache and Navajo. In 1893, Deming went to Mexico and studied the native tribes there. He spent the summer of 1898 among the Piegan and Blackfoot. In 1914, Deming returned to the same area with his family and they were all adopted into the Blackfoot tribe. In 1918, at the age of 58, Deming was commissioned as a Captain in the Army and served at Camp Benning, Georgia, and the Springfield Armory. He was responsible for a major change in the Springfield ’03 Army Rifle – adding a pistol grip to the stock. IN 1920, Deming was a member of an expedition to Colombia, where he studied with the Matolone. Edwin Deming died in 1942.

-David Kolb – Class of 1957.  David Kolb was born in 1939. He graduated from Geneseo High School in 1957 and earned his undergraduate degree in 1961 from Knox College. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University.

David Kolb is a psychologist and educational theorist who is perhaps best known for his theory of experiential learning. In addition to developing a theory that outlined how experiential learning takes place, Kolb is also known for his learning style inventory that remains quite popular among educators today. His main contributions to the field of psychology include: Experiential Learning Theory, Kolb’s Learning Styles, and Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory.

According to Kolb, Experiential Learning can be defined as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience.”

“Experiential learning theory differs from cognitive and behavioral theories in that cognitive theories emphasize the role of mental processes, while behavioral theories ignore the possible role of subjective experience in the learning process.”

He believed, according to Kolb’s Learning Styles, that our individual learning styles emerge due to our genetics, life experiences, and the demands of our current environment. In addition to describing four different learning styles, Kolb also developed a theory of experiential learning and a learning style inventory.

Today, he is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weather head School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

-Lisa Nanni-Messegee – Class of 1987.  Lisa Nanni-Messegee was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in the small town of Geneseo, Illinois. She discovered her passion for acting in high school and majored in theater at Western Illinois University, performing over twenty roles in four years.

She continued her acting studies at Kansas State University, receiving a Master’s Degree with honors. From there, Lisa acted, directed, and wrote plays for various theater companies throughout the country. Wanting to learn more about directing, Lisa went back to school, completing her MFA in Directing at Minnesota State University and earring a Fellowship in directing at the Kennedy Center.

With three college degrees, Lisa made the move to Los Angeles. She worked in casting for Heidi Levitt Casting then shifted to television producing. She was a segment and field producer on daytime television for five years and became a member of the PGA, working on such shows as “Smart Solutions” (HGTV); “Great Day in America” (PAX); and the Emmy-nominated “Good Day Live” (syndicated). All the while, Lisa made time to continue her acting, writing and directing projects. Her directing work on the play “Tainted Blood” with The Road Theater Company garnered her an LA Weekly Award.

Lisa met Todd Messegee in 2000 and the couple married a year later, but it wasn’t until 2012 when Todd and Lisa began writing together. Since then, Lisa and Todd are a co-writing team, best known for their Hallmark TV movies, “Holiday for Heroes” (2019); “Christmas Homecoming” (2017); and “Romantically Speaking” (2015)