Group photo of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2016.

Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Albany High School Class of 1966

Robert Brown was the first African-American elected to serve as mayor of the city of Orange, N.J. An accomplished lawyer and politician, he also served as legal counsel to the government committee that recommended President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment.

Brown was born in Alabama but raised in Albany. He was a stellar student and athlete, graduating from Albany High School in 1966. He attended Central Connecticut State College on a football scholarship and went on Rutgers University, where he received a law degree in 1973.

After graduating, Brown moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as counsel on the Judiciary Committee for the House of Representatives. In 1974, the committee investigated the Watergate tape scandal and recommended President Richard Nixon’s impeachment before his resignation.

In 1976, Brown moved to East Orange and served as a municipal prosecutor and as an Essex County public defender before opening a private practice. In the late 1980s, he defended James Fede, one of 20 defendants accused of being in New Jersey’s Lucchese crime family. All of the defendants were acquitted after a 21-month federal trial, according to New York Times reports at the time.

During the trial, Brown moved to Orange and was elected as mayor there in 1988. He was the first African-American mayor to represent the city’s new black majority, which had shifted from Italian-Americans in the 1970s.

Brown was elected as a state assemblyman in 1992, and served jointly as Orange’s mayor until 1996.

Brown was an assemblyman in the state legislature, representing the 27th District, and on the zoning board of adjustment in East Orange until he died from diabetes complications in October 2009.

Albany High School Class of 1977

Fred Daniels occupies a high rung on the corporate ladder and has travelled the world over a 30-year career with several Fortune 500 companies.

But get stuck behind him in traffic, and you’ll know his heart has never gone very far. The license plate on one of his cars reads 220GREEN – the address of his childhood home in Albany’s South End.

“I’ll never forget where I came from,” the 1977 Albany High School graduate said.

Daniels is an executive at Dollar General – vice president of distribution at Dollar General at their headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. Before that, he was an executive at Ralph Lauren.

“I was fortunate to be in a lot of the right places at the right time,” Daniels said.

Working hard and having a knack for solving problems certainly helped. Daniels credits his teachers and coaches at Albany High for instilling those ethics in him.

“I really take it back to the guidance I got there,” he said. “They took an interest in me as a person and saw something in me I didn’t know I had myself. I was determined not to let them down.”

Daniels was a standout basketball player at Albany High, brought up from middle school to play JV.

“I used to run to practice through the park in the snow. I really wanted to play basketball,” he said.

And play he did.

He made varsity as a freshman and as a sophomore started as the varsity point guard. Over four years he led the team in assists and steals and regularly stuffed the stat sheet with triple-doubles – reaching double figures in three statistical categories in a game.

He made local and state All-Star teams as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Daniels played four years at Siena College and is still in the Saints’ record books for his career assists and steals average. After his 1981 Siena graduation, he played two seasons for the CBA’s Albany Patroons before he took a job as a driver for Federal Express in Albany.

Within six months he was promoted to management and transferred to a Fed Ex branch in Virginia, thus beginning his trajectory as a business executive.

At Fed Ex, he managed and rebuilt a South Florida facility devastated by Hurricane Andrew and earned a reputation for turning around facilities. In subsequent companies he also helped start up and run numerous manufacturing plants.

“My life has been about fixing problems,” he said. “It’s one of the attitudes my teachers instilled in me. I’m also very big on order and process-driven. It’s paying off now.”

Although Daniels is based in North Carolina, his family still lives in Albany. He cherishes his roots here and his years in Albany public schools.

“My time there was very, very special,” he said.

Albany High School Class of 1988

As an Albany High School student, Gough took a full load of honors and college-level classes. He also was captain of the track team and one of the top Section II competitors in the 400. After his 1988 graduation, he went on to earn a bachelor’s in meteorology, with a double minor in physics and math, from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Gough’s TV career began in 1999 at WJLA in Washington, D.C.  He was a weather forecaster and producer, positions created for him after a two-and-a-half month internship at the station. He moved two years later to become an on-air meteorologist at KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Texas, rapidly making the move from weekend weather and daily reporter to forecasting and producing all morning and noon weather at the TV station and on three radio stations.  

In December 2004, Gough traded in the long, hot summers of Corpus Christi for the long, cold winters of upstate New York. Since then he’s been an on-air meteorologist at WNYT/Ch. 13, the local NBC affiliate.

When he’s not telling us if it’s going to snow or rain, Gough donates his time to several charities and causes including the Spina Bifida Association of Northeastern New York and the American Cancer Society. He visits area schools and classrooms and talks about the weather. And from 2009 until this year, he volunteered his time as the host of the district’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Albany High School Class of 1965

Norman McConney Jr. was the chief of staff for New York State Assembly Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve of Buffalo from 1979-2002. In that capacity, McConney became one of the most highly respected public policy strategists in the state and fought tirelessly for poor, African-American and Latino communities.

McConney overcame many challenges in his life. When he was 6, a fall on a picket fence damaged his left lung. He required a two-year hospital stay and was one of the first pediatric patients to undergo surgery to remove the injured lung.

Losing a lung didn’t slow down McConney.  The son of a tap dancer, he spent his summers at the Peg Leg Bates Country Club in the Catskills, the largest black-owned and operated resort in the country in the 1950s. As a child his babysitters included actress Dorothy Dandridge and singer Pearl Bailey. McConney later played trumpet in the resort’s nightclub and developed a lifelong love of music there.

Living and working at the nightclub, he met summer resort workers from black colleges who were organizing under activist Stokely Carmichael. Being privy to discussions about civil rights and social justice ignited McConney’s desire to become an agent for change.

McConney attended Hackett Junior High School and graduated from Albany High School in 1965. At Albany High he played intramural basketball and was involved in student government. He went on to graduate from SUNY Albany in 1971 and served as assistant dean for special programs for the State University of New York.

He became a staffer in the New York State Legislature in 1974 and by 1979 he was chief of staff for Arthur Eve, the second-in-command in the state Assembly. McConney and Eve were a formidable team: Eve was a brilliant politician and McConney a sage strategist and power-broker. Together they advanced several programs to benefit students of color; among the most influential are the New York State Science and Technology Entry Program, which prepares high school students for careers in science and medicine; and the SUNY-wide Educational Opportunities Program, which has helped thousands of students since it began in 1968.

McConney also was a driving force behind the creation of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which later became the State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. In addition, McConney was one of the main authors of the People’s Budget, which described social justice investment.

Not surprisingly, McConney received numerous awards for his extraordinary life of public service.  They include legislative proclamations honoring his work; the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Man of the Year award; the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Lifetime Achievement Award; a SUNY Albany Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award; the Whitney Young Jr. Health Services Founders Award; the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Legislative Leadership Award; and the Liberty Partnership Program Public Service Award for Excellence.

McConney died of congestive heart failure this past New Year’s Day. He was 69. He is survived by his wife, Cathleen Coleman McConney, a son, Omar Shabaaz McConney of San Diego and a daughter, Sana McConney of Troy.

Longtime Albany booster

Although his youngest graduated from Albany High a dozen years ago, Bernie Mulligan continues to be a staunch advocate for the City School District of Albany and its children.

In 1989, Mulligan helped found Citizens of Albany for Responsible Education (CARE), where he worked to elect school board members committed to the best interests of Albany students.

Mulligan also was a founder of PASS – People Advocating for Small Schools, a grassroots advocacy group that formed in 2001 to promote rebuilding Albany’s public schools. Mulligan played a critical role in outreach and publicity that helped pass three bond votes in Albany. As a result, the district was able to renovate or rebuild all its elementary and middle schools in a decade. Over the years he also spearheaded several successful get-out-the-vote efforts for the annual school district budgets.

In addition, Mulligan has worked with Albany student-athletes since the 1980s to help them get to college. He takes the student-athletes on college visits, helps them get into summer camps and clinics and connects them to his strong network of coaches and admissions officers from schools across New England.

More recently, he has worked to create a visit program to SUNY College at Oneonta for female basketball players in grades 9-12. Students meet coaches, tour the campus and talk to admissions counselors. He also continues to work with Albany High’s student-athletes who are seniors, ensuring that they take their SAT exams, apply to college and complete the proper paperwork that will allow them to play college athletics if they so choose.

He also was a driving force behind Lobster Fest, an annual fundraiser for Albany public schools that was held in Washington Park from 2000 to 2008.

In 2005, Mulligan led the effort to create the former CDPHP Invitational Basketball Tournament and Scholar-Athlete Award Ceremony. The two-day tournament over Thanksgiving weekend kicked off with an awards ceremony recognizing outstanding student-athletes who graduated from Albany High and college and had successful careers. Funds raised by the tournament went back into supporting athletic programs.

Mulligan also has been active on the Albany Fund for Education since it began in 1989, serving on various committees through years and as a board member from 2011-2013.

All of Mulligan’s efforts have been as a volunteer. His induction into the Hall of Fame is a tribute to the contributions he has made to our schools and the hundreds of young people whose lives he has touched.

Philip Schuyler High School Class of 1967

At Philip Schuyler High School, Frank Owens was a three-letter athlete in football, baseball and track and field, and in 1967 he was named to the first-team quarterback for All-Albany football. He attended Hudson Valley Community College and went on to get a bachelor’s at SUNY College at Cortland and a master’s at the University of Albany (then known as Albany State).

Owens played semi-pro football and was a quarterback, receiver and punter for the Albany Wolverines and Metro-Mallers.

He began teaching physical education in 1971 at Giffen Memorial Elementary School, where he also coached modified basketball. In 1977, he moved to Albany High School, where he taught physical education and was chair of physical education and athletics for the school. He also coached JV and varsity and football at Albany High.

In 1986, Owens became the City School District of Albany’s director of health and physical education, a position he held until his 2006 retirement. There, he oversaw AIDS education curriculum, health education curriculum and the Health Services Procedure and Protocol Handbook. He also implemented the D.A.R.E. program with the Albany Police Department.

As district director of health and phys ed, he also initiated programs including the Corning Cup Classic Basketball Tournament, Get Smart Fast, College-Bound Athletic Program, Athlete Issues and Expectations and the Study Skills Program offered to all athletes.

He was an officer in the Big Ten Athletic Conference, serving as vice president and eventually president between 1985 and 1987. He also served on many Section II committees before becoming vice president and then president of Section II between 1988 and 1991.

Owens also served on the Executive Committee of the fledgling Albany Booster Club. In addition, he was director of the New Scotland Teen Center, co-chair of the Athletic Committee of the Albany Tri-centennial Commission, a coach and president of Whitehall Babe Ruth and served on the Albany Police Athletic League Board of Directors.

He received a Physical Education Director of the Year Award in 2003 for the Capital Region zone of the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance. He also received a Section II Chapter Director’s Award from the New York State Athletic Administrators Association and a service award from P.A.L.

Retired principal of Street Academy

Lillian G. (nee Garland) Tillman-DeWitt began her educational career in the City School District of Albany as a first-grade teacher at the former School One. The year was 1955, just 10 years after she had been completely paralyzed by polio.

During her two-year stay in Albany, she taught first and third grades at School One and sixth grade at the former School 6. After her marriage in 1957 she returned to her hometown of Jamaica, N.Y., where her two children – Kay Tillman and James Tillman II – were born. While on Long Island, she continued her teaching career as a teacher of four- and five-year-olds at Carousel Nursery School in Jamaica Estates and a first-grade teacher in Copiague Public Schools.

In September 1966 she returned to the City School District of Albany as an elementary school teacher at the former School 6, and in 1973 she became a reading specialist for the school district. In 1979, she was appointed principal of Street Academy, an alternative high school that later became Harriet Gibbons High School.

Under her tutelage, a team of students from Street Academy made history in 1981 when they won the championship on Answers Please, a televised high-school quiz program. Street Academy students trounced Albany Academy for Boys, St. Mary’s Academy and Keveny Academy.  Later, Street Academy was recognized as the first alternative high school to be recognized by an honor society.

Said former Street Academy student Chuck Miller (Hall of Fame Class of 2011 and a member of the winning Answers Please team), “From the start, Mrs. Tillman-DeWitt was a different type of principal. She wasn’t the stereotypical image of a disciplinarian administrator. She cared deeply about every student in school, and in many cases she was as much a parent to those of us who needed a parent and an emotional support system for those of us who needed emotional support. She cheered for us when we achieved our goals, and she encouraged us to stay strong when temptation lurked around every corner.”

Tillman-DeWitt retired from Street Academy in 1991.

Tillman-DeWitt and her now deceased first husband also hosted a radio program called Talking with the Tillmans from 1972-1975. It was a talk show designed to raise community awareness among Albany residents.

Now 82, Tillman-DeWitt lives in Loudonville with her husband of 28 years, Kenneth DeWitt.