2018 Distinguished Alumni

Earlier this year, the district circulated nomination forms asking residents of East Deer, Frazer, and West Deer townships to nominate a graduate from the former East Deer/Frazer, West Deer and Deer Lakes School Districts who had graduated at least a decade ago and whom they felt deserved to be recognized.  A panel of judges, composed of administrators, individuals from the community at-large, former inductees, school board members, and current students selected the honorees from more than a dozen nominations. The honorees were selected on the basis of outstanding contributions made in their chosen professions.

The purpose of the Distinguished Alumni Award is to identify, recognize, celebrate, and honor those alumni who have distinguished themselves in academics, the arts, public service, professional contributions, or athletics at the collegiate or professional level and who, in so doing, have contributed to the pride and prestige of the Deer Lakes School District.

Family, friends and members of the school community gathered together for the induction ceremony and banquet that recognized the 2018 Deer Lakes School District Distinguished Alumni honorees on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at Deer Lakes High School. Recipients of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards are (from left to right front) Dr. Robert F. Pacek, East Deer High School Class of 1953; Dr. Bruce Kelly, East Deer – Frazer High School Class of 1969; representing Mr. Vincent Taliani, West Deer High School Class of 1947 are his sons Craig Taliani and Mark Taliani; Mr. Dennis Martinez, Deer Lakes High School Class of 1970; and representing Mr. Leo Mierzejek, West Deer High School Class of 1947 are his daughters Jan M. Roth and Marcia Macdonald. Photo by Lori Nilson Photographs


Dr. Bruce R. Kelly has spent his life in service to others and has always been willing to give back to his students and his community. A former president of the Deer Lakes board of school directors, Kelly spent much of his professional career as a hospitalist at HealthSouth Harmarville rehabilitation Hospital where he filled a number of roles including helping patients recovering from spinal cord injuries and other neurologic disorders.  Notably, Kelly worked with Medtronic on the FDA approval of an implantable pump that continuously administers an anti-spasmodic agent into the spinal cord to relieve spasticity. He continued to work with these pumps throughout his career helping countless people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, head injuries and cerebral palsy.  Kelly joins his brother Robert (Distinguished Alumni Award, 16) as the only siblings to be recognized as Distinguished Alumni.



Dennis G Martinez was a member of the first graduating class of Deer Lakes High School in 1970. The West Deer native, who has enjoyed a very successful career in law-enforcement, actually wanted to be a fireman growing up and didn’t begin thinking about his eventual career path until he was in high school. Martinez was part of a special detail for former president Richard Nixon when he stayed in Florida.  Martinez was also a member of the Office of Special Investigations when he served in the United States Air Force and he served on the Vice unit as a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, where he was based out of Franklin, Pa. Martinez move back to West deer in 1997 and has long been involved with the American Legion and just help spearhead their efforts in veterans outreach and memorials to the fallen.



Leo R. Mierzejek is one of two members of this class of Distinguished Alumni to be recognized from the West Deer High School Class of 1947. Vincent Taliani is the other. Also, like Taliani, Mierzejek is being recognized posthumously.  Mierzejek played professional baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics before giving up his dream to serve his country in Korea. An avid outdoorsman, Mierzejek loved to fish and was very involved in the community, especially with Transfiguration Catholic Church and with the local volunteer fire department, West Deer No. 1, where he held all of the line officer positions except chief and all of the executive board positions. Mierzejek was also an active member of the American Legion Post 593, West Deer.



Dr. Robert F. Pacek graduated from East Deer High School in 1953 and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh 1957 and from Pitt’s renowned medical school in 1963.  Dr. Pacek, whose older brother was also a physician, would go on to a remarkable journey they would take him from the Allegheny Valley to Texas and eventually halfway across the world to Vietnam, where he helped American soldiers and the people of Que Nhon. Even after Dr. Pacek returned to Tarentum, where he worked at Valley Family Medicine and as a staff member at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights, he and his wife of 53 years, Joyce continued to conduct a Christmas toy drive in which locals would generously donate toys, cash and medicines to the Vietnamese children living in rural areas of Que Nhon, Vietnam. Dr. Pacek was formerly the president of the Armstrong County Medical Society as well as the Tri-County Medical Society. He is currently a member of the Allegheny Medical Society and he was a fellow in the American Society of Family Practice.



The late Vincent Taliani was officially a 1947 graduate of West Deer High School. However, that’s really because he dropped out of school in the spring of 1945 to enlist in the United States Navy to fight in World War II.  When the war ended, Taliani went back to West Deer High School to complete his formal education.  Taliani had an extensive military career, serving in the US Navy and Air Force and fighting in WWII and the Korean War. He then joined the Army Reserves and retired after 35 years having attained the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4.  Taliani briefly played minor league baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics in the Virginia-Carolina League and spent a lifetime involved in local athletics as a player, coach, and official.  He was a founding member of the Upper A-K Valley and Northern Allegheny Baseball & Softball Chapter, and was a PIAA official in softball, baseball, volleyball and swimming for more than 50 years.