Hall of Fame Class of 2023
Paul Collins-Hackett may be his given name, but the Albany High School Class of 2003 graduate is best known, professionally and personally, as “Batman” for his exhaustive efforts as an advocate and fighter for the disenfranchised, youth and residents in the City of Albany.
He points to the programs and mentors that he benefitted from growing up in Albany that led him to a life of service in the city he loves.
After graduating from Siena College, while peers left for careers in Boston or New York City, Batman remained in his hometown to launch the non-profits Tru Heart Inc. and PULSE. He also worked at a local homeless shelter.
After serving as director of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides opportunity and income to local families, he took a job at Rehabilitation Support Services and is now the executive director of the RED Bookshelf, an amazing community partner to the City School District of Albany that inspires young readers and supports students in college and career readiness.
Additionally, Batman sits on the Albany Fund for Education board, the 518 ElevatED board and supports the work of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (L.E.A.D) program and Community Police Review Board with the goals of equity and oversight. His motto is “what I do defines me,” and he truly lives that ideal as a leader devoted to being on the frontline of impactful organizations, movements and businesses.
Since her graduation from Albany High School in 1999, Daquetta Jones has worked as a change agent and activist for racial equity, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and reproductive rights.
Undergraduate degrees from Hudson Valley Community College and The Sage Colleges, and a master’s from The Sage Colleges Graduate School of Management, have kept her on the front lines of social justice in Albany and the greater Capital Region throughout her 20-plus year career.
Jones’ resume includes a high-ranking position with the New York State Department of Civil Service and founder/chief consultant for Noble Consulting, but public service is her passion. She has impacted our community in a meaningful way in her jobs at The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center, Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, Unity House of Troy, Equinox Inc. and, currently, as CEO at Vera House – an organization that’s mission is to prevent, respond to and partner to end domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Jones has received more than 15 awards that recognize her professional expertise and community engagement. She is incredibly proud of her ability to lead, build, empower and elevate organizations that serve the disenfranchised.
Ronald MacKay (1941-1993) went on from his formative musical experiences at Albany High School to become one of the preeminent pianists of his generation.
MacKay, who changed his name to that of his Russian grandfather Yvar Mikhashoff in 1968, graduated from Albany High in 1958. He continued his studies at the Eastman School of Music, The Julliard School, University of Houston (earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in music) and the University of Texas, where he earned a doctorate in musical arts in 1973.
During that time, the internationally acclaimed composer received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in France, followed by two additional Fulbright awards for Denmark and Argentina.
Mikhashoff joined the faculty of the University of Buffalo in 1973, where he taught until his death. He founded the Cambiata Soloists and moved the ensemble to Albany, where it presented an annual series of concerts at the Albany Institute of History and Art.
He is considered one of the foremost performers of contemporary piano music, appearing at international music festivals and performing as a soloist with orchestras around the world. Mikhashoff recorded a four-CD collection, “Panorama of American Piano Music,” that chronicled 20th-century American pianists and, as a composer, wrote music in a wide range of genres.
He was awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Performance Award in 1983, and the Arbeiterkammerpreis from the Austrian government in 1989.
His support of contemporary music continues through the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music, which supports composers and performers.
Tom McGurn was among Albany High School’s most respected teachers and athletic coaches over a distinguished 30-year career.
A social studies teacher, McGurn started his career at Albany High in 1979 and became instrumental in building the foundation for Albany High’s prestigious Advanced Placement program.
From the European History AP course he first offered as an after-school option for students in his first year of teaching, McGurn worked with his colleagues to expand the high school’s AP offerings into the largest selection in the Capital Region, providing rigorous academic opportunities in a wide range of content areas to hundreds of Albany High students each year. He helped organize district-wide vertical integration and standardized essay writing criteria to encourage the development of high academic standards for all students.
McGurn also served as school’s first International Baccalaureate coordinator, taking a leading role in bringing one of the world’s most academically prestigious programs to Albany High.
An Albany native, McGurn also had strong connections with the students he served in the classroom. He was a three-time recipient of the Times Union’s Best Educator award, including back-to-back recognition in 2009 and 2010.
In athletics, McGurn also cites his 15 years as an assistant wrestling coach among his career highlights. He was a member of a coaching staff that helped turn the Albany High wrestling program into a force to be reckoned with in Section 2 during the 1980s and ‘90s. His relationships with fellow coaches and student-athletes helped frame his entire teaching career.
“I believe that Albany High wrestling made me a better teacher and person,” McGurn said.
Dr. Alexander Aiello Paley (1986-2019) accomplished more in 33 years than many do in their entire lives.
During his time at Albany High School, Dr. Paley was named to the National Honor Society and played the saxophone but also discovered his passion – running. He was on the cross country and track teams before his graduation in 2004. In his senior year, Dr. Paley was awarded a college scholarship from the City School District of Albany Board of Education that he used to study at the University of Miami, where he majored in aerospace engineering and also a member of the cross country and track teams.
Dr. Paley loved Albany, so after his college graduation in 2008 he returned to work at Fleet Feet and became a professional runner, competing in many races and winning the 2013 USATF Grand Prix title. He also helped to create a summer running program for district students.
In 2014, Dr. Paley was accepted at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse to study family medicine. While there, he volunteered as a reading buddy with third-graders, volunteered with homeless organizations, supported a food pantry and tutored fellow medical students.
Despite a 2017 Glioblastoma diagnosis that included aggressive surgery and treatment, he graduated in May 2019 with his M.D. and was on the path to begin his residency at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady when his brain cancer returned. He passed in October 2019.
However, Dr. Paley’s legacy continues. He donated is brain to cancer research, Upstate Medical dedicated a food pantry in his name, Paley’s Pantry, and the Albany Fund for Education created a scholarship for Albany High seniors who run track or cross country.
Dr. Paley’s parents are retired district employees who remain active keeping his memory alive by continuing to work with, and for, the young people of the community their son loved.
Miriam Koblenz Scott’s (1940-2020) professional and personal life matched the diverse and enriching education she received at Albany High School.
After graduating in 1958, she continued her education at Russell Sage College in Troy, earning a degree in education. She later earned two master’s degrees, in arts and social work, and a doctorate in psychology.
Koblenz Scott returned to the City School District of Albany for her first job, teaching English at William S. Hackett Junior High School (now middle school). She then became a practicing psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, maintaining a private practice in Albany County that provided individual and group counseling.
But ‘Mimi’ is likely best remembered in the community as an actress, playwright and director, both locally as a fixture at Albany Civic Theater and The Four Seasons Dinner Theater – which she founded in 1978 – and in New York City. She also appeared in television commercials, a movie and worked as a co-host on WNYT’s (then WAST) Coffee Break.
She was instrumental in establishing Albany’s Park Playhouse, an organization that thrives to this day and would not exist without her talent and dedication, serving as its original executive producer.
Charity work was another passion for Koblenz Scott, who organized what has been described as the nation’s first AIDS gala in 1986. It was held at the Palace Theatre and then-Gov. Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker. Koblenz Scott made it a point to attend as many class reunions as possible, and her Class of 1958 peers believe she greatly valued her high school relationships, no matter where her exciting life took her.
After graduating from Albany High School in 1958, Dr. Melvin Silverstein, F.A.C.S., attended Johns Hopkins University and Albany Medical College before developing a career in which he established himself as a world-renowned expert in surgical science and breast cancer.
Following a five-year surgical residence at Boston City Hospital, he served for two years as a surgeon in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of major. Dr. Silverstein then completed a three-year fellowship in surgical oncology and served as assistant professor of surgery and oncology at the University of California Los Angeles’s School of Medicine.
He then went on to found The Van Nuys Breast Center, the nation’s first free-standing breast care center, in Van Nuys, Calif., serving as its medical director and senior surgical oncologist.
During the 1980s, Dr. Silverstein developed a specialty in a little-known breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a pre-invasive early form of breast cancer. He studied it intensively, publishing numerous papers, lecturing around the world and writing the first textbook devoted solely to DCIS.
In the mid-80s, Dr. Silverstein began combining oncologic breast surgery with plastic surgical techniques, developing the new field of oncoplastic breast surgery. His techniques and breast-saving philosophy revolutionized breast cancer treatment.
Later, while a professor of surgery at the University of Southern California, Dr. Silverstein began the first fellowship devoted to oncoplastic breast surgery, which has trained countless physicians in a technique that combines oncologic breast surgery with plastic surgery.
Dr. Silverstein has authored more than 450 scientific papers, books, book chapters and abstracts, and led a study that shortens post-operative breast radiation doses to a single intraoperative dose.
Currently, Dr. Silverstein continues to treat patients, perform surgeries, lecture nationally and internationally and train young surgeons. He serves as director of the Breast Program at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif.
A 1982 graduate of Albany High School, the Hon. Margaret T. Walsh went on to a legal and judicial career in which she has made it her life’s work to improve outcomes for families and children in her hometown.
Following a 14-year career as an Albany County Family Court judge, Judge Walsh was elected in 2018 as a New York State Supreme Court judge in the Third Judicial District, a seven-county region that includes Albany County. She remained in that position until her retirement in March 2023.
She continues to co-chair the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, and also serves on the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission of the New York Courts. Previously, she served as a member of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, and the New York State Commission on Parental Legal Representation.
Throughout her career, Judge Walsh has made it a personal and professional priority to be a part of or lead programs and committees that aim to increase safety and equity for youth involved in child endangerment and Family Court cases, both locally and statewide.
While serving In Family Court, Judge Walsh was the lead judge in Albany County for the New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project, a cross-systems collaboration designed to shorten the time children spend in foster care. She was a member of the Statewide Multidisciplinary Child Welfare Collaborative, the steering committee that provides guidance to local court improvement projects.
She also served as vice president of the National Association of Women Judges in New York, and vice president of the New York State Family Court Judges’ Association.
In 2017, the Capital District Women’s Bar Association recognized Judge Walsh with the Hon. Judith S. Kaye Distinguished Attorney Member Award. In 2016, Albany Law School presented her with the Kate Stoneman Day Award, given annually to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to seeking change and expanding opportunities for women in the legal profession.
She is an alumna of Manhattan College and Brooklyn Law School. She returned to Albany after law school to work in private practice, in the Albany County Public Defender’s Office, as assistant corporation counsel for the City of Albany and as assistant commissioner of the city’s Department of Assessment and Taxation prior to her tenure in Albany County Family Court.