Group photo of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017.

Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Albany High School Class of 1969

After graduating from Albany High School in 1969, Kenneth D. Ackerman went on to become not only an influential legal presence in Washington D.C., but a prominent author on various aspects of American history as well.

Ackerman has published six works chronicling important events and figures in our nation’s history, including his biography of infamous New York City politician Boss Tweed. His book, “Boss Tweed: The Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York,” was listed as one the 100 notable books of 2005 by The New York Times.

Other topics in his literary canon include the election and assassination of President James A. Garfield, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s time with the political left in New York City, the beginning of J. Edgar Hoover’s career as one of America’s most controversial figures of law enforcement and Abraham Lincoln’s nomination at the 1860 Chicago Convention.

When not recounting historical narratives, Ackerman can be found engaged in the contemporary political scene of our nation’s capital, where he practices law, specializing in agriculture risk management.

Prior to joining his current practice, Ackerman served as administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency and manager of its Federal Crop Insurance Corp., during the Clinton administration. He also served as Counsel to two U.S. Senate committees: the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry (1988-1993), and the Committee on Governmental Affairs (1975-1981). In addition, he held senior legal positions at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (1981-1988).

Ackerman has appeared numerous times before Congress, the media and the general public as a respected authority in his field. He shares his writing and legal talents with others through workshops and seminars, continuing to demonstrate to the world the caliber of leader Albany High School produces.

Philip Schuyler High School Class of 1969

An Albany native and lifelong Albany resident, Linda Jackson-Chalmers served the City School District of Albany in a variety of capacities over 38 years before her retirement in 2012.

She began her career as an art teacher at Arbor Hill Elementary School and as a counselor at the CETA Summer Youth Employment Program. She served as chair of the district’s elementary and middle school art programs from 1977-86, when she was named principal at Arbor Hill Elementary.

Jackson-Chalmers served tirelessly in that capacity until 1998, when she assumed the role of assistant superintendent for human resources. She added community relations to her duties in 2005 and served in that dual capacity until her retirement.

Throughout her career, Jackson-Chalmers has received numerous honors recognizing her outstanding commitment to our students, families and community. This includes her 2008 Alumni Award for Volunteerism from Skidmore College, her alma mater.

Retirement from the district has in no way slowed Jackson-Chalmers down. She continues to be an active leader in Albany and the Capital Region, serving the community in leadership roles with The Albany Promise and The African-American Cultural Center of the Capital Region.

A truly accomplished graduate of Albany’s public schools, Jackson-Chalmers touched the lives of thousands of children and families over her nearly 40-year career in education, and during a lifetime of service that continues to this day.

former teacher, principal at William S. Hackett Middle School

Given the fact that Albany native and long-time educator Kevin C. Justice spent the entirety of his career at William S. Hackett Middle School, it should come as no surprise that he became a pillar of the community who helped shape the lives of a generation of students.

Justice graduated from Albany’s Vincentian Institute in 1957 before heading to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, to earn his bachelor’s degree in 1961. Following that, he returned to his home of Albany and began teaching science at Hackett.

For years, Justice helped enrich the lives of students as a teacher before being asked to assume the role of assistant principal in 1969, a position in which he would continue to serve students and families for nearly two decades.

In 1987, after 18 years as assistant principal, Justice’s colleague and supervisor David McGuire moved to Albany High School. At that time, Justice became the principal of Hackett, the role he held and treasured until his retirement in 1995.

During his more than three decades at Hackett, Justice took the time to know every student and every family. He encouraged all of them to achieve their highest potential. His approach towards his colleagues and staff was no different. To Justice, Hackett was far more than just his place of employment; it was his family.

His passion for learning left a lasting impact on generations of students and educators alike, including Justice’s three children, all of whom currently work for the City School District of Albany

Albany High School Class of 1999

After graduating from Albany High School in 1999, Holly Fernandez Lynch continued on to the University of Pennsylvania where she earned her bachelor’s degree in health and societies. She then attended University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she earned a law degree along with a master’s degree in bioethics in 2006.

Fernandez Lynch then began her professional career as an associate in the Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology Group of the Washington, D.C., law firm Hogan and Hartson LLP, before becoming a bioethicist for a branch of the National Institutes of Health, Division of AIDS, in 2009.

Rapidly becoming a renowned expert in her field, one year later she accepted the position of senior policy and research analyst for the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics. Fernandez Lynch’s authority and reputation in the field continued to grow. In 2012 she assumed the role of executive director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

For five years she was directly responsible for the institution’s research portfolio, event programming, fellowships, student engagement, development and a host of other projects before accepting a new position this fall.

Currently her expertise in the field of bioethics is applied in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where she is an assistant professor and assistant faculty director of online education.

In the 18 years since walking across the stage as an Albany High graduate, Fernandez Lynch has gone on to serve as a proud example of the great things happening in our schools each and every day, and the heights to which our Falcons can soar.

Albany High School Class of 1969

In early 2017, Catherine McCabe had one of the toughest jobs in government: leading the United States Environmental Protection Agency during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations. In that delicate role, McCabe, a 1969 Albany High School alum, kept the government’s top environmental agency running from Jan. 20 through Feb. 17.

McCabe’s interest in the environment began as a child during family camping and hiking trips to Lake George and the Adirondacks. After graduating from Albany High, she studied environmental science at Barnard College and Columbia University and went on to earn a law degree from Columbia in 1977. 

After a stint in private practice, she worked as an assistant attorney general for the state. She joined the environmental arm of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1983, moved to Washington, D.C., and spent 22 years prosecuting polluters and defending government laws and regulations.

She made the jump to EPA in 2005, where her work included serving as a judge on the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and as the deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance. She worked with Republican and Democratic administrations.

McCabe returned to New York in 2014 to become deputy regional administrator of EPA’s Region 2, an area that includes New York, New Jersey, eight tribal nations, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. She was there when President Barack Obama tapped her for the transition job in January.

McCabe is now back in New York City and serving as acting director of EPA Region 2, where she and her colleagues help to balance the intersection between law and the environment. Although she may no longer live in Albany, she still helps care for our city, as it falls within her jurisdiction, along with the public school district where her academic career began.

former City School District of Albany teacher, Board of Education member

Melanie Pores’ tenure in the City School District of Albany includes a stint on the Board of Education, a teaching career that spans multiple buildings and her instrumental work in the founding of the Dual Language Program.

Pores served as a Board of Education member from 1991-95 before working as a reading and English as a New Language teacher in the district from 1997-2008. She began her career at Giffen Memorial Elementary School, and made it clear early on that bilingual education was an area she would champion within the district.

During her time at Giffen, she helped the school receive a grant to purchase books and materials that allowed her to run a bilingual after-school program with the help of parents and community members.

Her work did not stop there. She organized a monthly community support group with representatives of community organizations to assist Spanish-speaking students and their families.

After being reassigned to Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST) and the former School 26 (now Montessori Magnet School) as an English as New Language teacher, Pores continued her work to expand bilingual programming with the district. Coordinating with community, parents, district staff and higher education representatives, she helped secure funding for the Dual Language Program, which today is based at Delaware Community School.

Her list of accomplishments for the bilingual community continued to grow throughout her time with the district. She organized everything from potluck dinners to Spanish curriculum, outreach services, translation services and more.

Far more than a teacher, Pores was the liaison who helped strengthen the district’s relationship with the Spanish-speaking community. Her passion to improve the lives of others helped make a lasting impression not only on students and families, but on the city as a whole.

former City School District of Albany teacher, coach

During his time in the City School District of Albany, James P. Sano was a role model for students, and his passion and enthusiasm helped push them to achieve success.

Sano served as a physical education teacher in the district from 1979 until his retirement in 2011, first at the former Philip Livingston Magnet Academy (1979-2005) and then at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School.

Sano’s dedication extended beyond the regular school day as well. He was active in coaching for many years, serving on the staff of the modified, JV and varsity football teams, and on the staff of the indoor and outdoor track and field teams. Sano served as head coach of Albany High’s wrestling program from 1979-86, and as head coach of the Falcons’ bowling program from 2000-10.

Along with his work with students and families, Sano also has been active in engaging the community. He served three terms on the Albany Common Council (2001-13), during which time he served as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee (2002-13) and vice chair of the Department of General Services Committee (2005-09). His work during this time helped move the City of Albany forward in terms of both fiscal transparency and advocating for environmental responsibility.

Whether through his exemplary career as an educator and coach, or his time as a public servant, Sano has been and remains an individual who is truly dedicated to the success of the City of Albany and all of its residents.

Albany High School Class of 1986

A third-generation firefighter, Maria McGarry Walker has served the Albany community as a firefighter for 27 years. Being one of the first women to join the Albany Fire Department, she has exemplified on a daily basis that hard work, dedication and strength of character can be used to overcome any obstacle.

Her career in the field of saving lives has seen her move through the ranks as an EMT, firefighter, instructor to new recruits and more. In 2011, she became the first woman to serve as a captain in the Albany Fire Department, after receiving a promotion in recognition of her dedication and leadership.

Walker continued to thrive in her leadership role, which was expanded to an unprecedented level in 2016 when she was promoted to the role of deputy fire chief – the first woman in the history of the department to earn this distinction.

The Times Union profiled Walker when she was promoted to deputy chief. The interview touched on the dynamic of being a woman in a profession overwhelmingly occupied by men.

"I was the fourth female hired. The three girls hired ahead of me paved a huge path," Walker said. "They put up with a lot more stuff than I think I had to put up with. If they're not teasing you, you don't fit in. That's part of the deal."

She went on to add, "I realized that I can bench press forever and never be able to bench press as much as the guys, but I can do my job, get it done, I just have to do it differently."

And get the job done she does; Walker helps keep the residents of Albany – including the students and families of her alma mater – safe each and every day.