Hall of Fame Class of 2011
Albany High School '83
Track star and former Olympian
Tracy Baskin began track as an Albany High School junior and won the New York State track championship in 1983 with only a year of running experience. He went on to earn a full track scholarship at Seton Hall University, where he exploded onto the national and international scene.
As a Seton Hall freshman, he ran the anchor leg on the school’s freshman world-record relay team. He went on to be an eight-time New Jersey college state champion, nine-time Metropolitan Intercollegiate champion, five-time Big East Conference champion, three-time IC4A regional champion and three-time NCAA Division I All-American. In addition, he was NCAA Division I champion in 1987 and the No. 1-ranked U.S. collegiate athlete in the 800 meters. Additionally, he was selected as the New York State Collegiate Athlete of the Year in 1987 and the New Jersey Sports Writers Association's Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s.
After graduating from Seton Hall with a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism, he earned a spot on the 1988 United States Olympic Team and a No. 4 world ranking. He also is a member of the Seton Hall University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Today, Baskin is an associate pastor at the Freedom Center Church in Missouri City, Texas. There, he oversees the New Generation Youth Ministry, Community Affairs and Outreach Programs that are based on biblical principles.
Albany High School '36
Pro football player, Brooklyn Dodgers
Dick Cassiano’s climb to stardom started at Albany High School where, at 135 pounds, he played end then left halfback. An honor student and the senior class president, he played in one losing game at Albany while posting undefeated seasons in his junior and senior years. Cassiano earned a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh and gained All-American status after being hailed as the hero of the 1939 Rose Bowl. After college he was a sixth-round draft pick for the Green Bay Packers and went on to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a short stint in the pros, his playing days ended with injury in World War II, where he served in the Navy. He became a teacher after the war and went on to work for the Gulf Oil Co. He was stricken with ALS in his mid-50s and died in 1980 at the age of 62. He was inducted into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Albany High School '59
Founder, chairman and CEO, Trans World Entertainment
A leader and pioneer in the music and video retailing industry, Robert J. Higgins leads Trans World Entertainment Corporation, one of the largest specialty music and video retailers in the United States. He founded Trans World in 1972 in Albany under the original name "Trans World Music Corp." The company went public in 1986, and currently operates nearly 1,000 stores under the names FYE, Coconuts, Strawberries Music, Specs, and Planet Music. In recognition of his achievements in a very competitive industry, Mr. Higgins received Billboard magazine's 1997 Video Person of the Year Award. He also was inducted into the Capital Region Business Hall of Fame in 1999 and earned an honorary doctorate from Siena College in 2003.
Street Academy of Albany '81
Author, freelance writer and photographer
While at Street Academy, Chuck Miller was valedictorian, student body president and editor of the school paper. He also was captain of a team of Street Academy students that in 1981 competed on the television show Answers Please, trouncing Albany Academy for Boys and two other private schools.
After graduating from Street Academy, he attended Hamilton College on a full scholarship and graduated from there in 1985 with a bachelor’s in creative writing.
Today Miller is an accomplished and prolific writer and photographer. Besides writing two technical guides on collecting music and authoring numerous magazine articles, he wrote The Robins of Iverhill: A Minor League Fairy Tale. In addition, he currently writes a blog for the Times Union.
He also is a successful photographer with national and international awards and credentials.
Philip Schuyler High School '40
Hy Rosen started his career with the Albany Times Union in 1945 as an artist and editorial cartoonist. He began political cartooning in the mid-1950s and his work was syndicated nationally. He was a Professional Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 1966, served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in 1972. He won numerous national awards for his work, which is represented in the presidential libraries of Presidents Truman, Johnson, Kennedy and Nixon. He retired from full-time editorial cartooning in 1989 and concentrated on outdoor sculpture. His work included commissions for the Gray Rider statue at the New York State Police headquarters and the bronze rendering of the Seal of Albany located at Tricentennial Park on Broadway. He died in February at the age of 88.
Albany High School '58
Albany High teacher, coach and football standout
At Albany High, Alex Sokaris was standout in football, basketball and baseball. Football was his forte, though, and in 1957 he was awarded the Thom McAn Award for making the best area contribution to the game. He graduated from George Washington University in 1962 with a physical education teaching degree and returned to his Albany alma mater immediately after as an assistant football coach. In 1973 he was named head coach of the Falcon football program, which hadn’t seen success in more than eight years. His coaching turned around the program and by the end of the 1985 season he compiled an overall record of 80-32-4, winning titles in the Class A and Big 10 leagues. He stepped down as coach in 1986 but remained involved in Albany High sports until his 1996 retirement. He died in 2007 at the age of 67.
Albany High School '96
Johns Hopkins University offered Jennifer Tanzman a job in the Space Department of its Applied Physics Lab after she earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering there.
She spent seven years working exclusively on NASA projects primarily designing and testing space satellite structures and components. One such project was STEREO, or Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, which captured three-dimensional images of the sun with solar panels, one ahead of the earth in its orbit around the sun and the other trailing behind. One of her key roles was to design, analyze and test solar panels that fuel the satellites. During her time at the lab, she authored numerous papers, one of which was published in a scientific journal Acta Astronautica.
Today Tanzman works from home for the Design Knowledge Corporation providing systems engineering for complex space systems. Occasionally she also consults for a company in New York City that specializes in satellite components and needs solar array expertise.
She takes off Mondays to spend time with her son Cody, who will be two this month.
Albany High School '65
Albany High teacher, coach and football standout
After his 1969 graduation from SUNY Albany, Salvatore Villa returned to Albany High School as a teacher. While at Albany High, he taught world history and American history, was an advisor to the ski club, a coach of the school’s “Answers Please” team and a student activities coordinator. He became assistant South House principal in 1979 and South House principal the next year. In 1989 he was tapped to guide the planning and development of what later became Albany’s first two magnet schools. After he returned to Albany High, he went on to develop programs to improve academic achievement at Albany High School and implemented a senior internship program into the school curriculum. He retired from the district in 2002 but came back for a stint as interim principal of School 20, now North Albany Academy. He was appointed as Albany’s deputy commissioner of youth and workforce services in 2004 and has overseen the city’s Truancy Abatement Project since then.