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Meet the Class of 2009

Dennis K. Allen

Dennis K. Allen, Raytown High School, Class of 1956

Following his 1956 graduation from Raytown High, Dennis K. Allen attended Harvard College and Kansas University, graduating in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. As a senior executive at Atlanta-based BellSouth Corporation (now AT&T) Dennis headed the corporate human resources organization and was the corporation’s Chief Labor Negotiator, dealing with a nine state and 80,000 employee union.

He also retired from the United States Navy Reserve as a captain after 26 years, with four different commanding responsibilities. Prior to his Navy retirement, he was the U.S. Navy’s representative to the Georgia National Guard. 

Dennis and his wife, Judy, have set foot on all seven continents, visiting 96 countries. He is proud that his leisure travel has allowed him to understand and appreciate other cultures. He is passionate about the need for students and teachers to study and to visit foreign countries.As a Raytown Education benefactor, Dennis has been a principal contributor to his 1956 class’ annual scholarship, which for 15 years has awarded $1,000 to the senior who finishes 56th in the class. Since 2000 he and his brother Nelson have endowed the Lois T. Allen Missouri Teacher of the Year DAR Award, presented annually.

In 2000-2001 Dennis conceived and spearheaded the Chittwood Tribute in recognition of Coach Ted and Bessie Chittwood, former Raytown educators. The project raised $125,000 from 450 contributors and was presented to Missouri Valley College, the Chittwoods’ alma mater.

Dennis has a son, Mark, a daughter, Meredith, and four grandchildren.

Mary Phyl Dwight

Mary Phyl Dwight, Raytown South High School, Class of 1970

After graduating from Raytown South High School in 1970, Mary Phyl Dwightearned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Southwest Missouri State University and a Masters from Kansas State University. She is currently the physical education coordinator for the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Mary Phyl was a college varsity athlete in five sports, and a member of the U.S. Olympic National Handball team from 1975 – 1984, competing in over 100 international games on five continents, and in 28 countries. In 1984 her Olympic team finished in fourth place.

While at SWMSU, Dwight created the Athletic Skills Program curriculum, based on her desire to teach athletic skills, which were emphasized by her physical education role models in the Raytown School District. Throughout her career, she has promoted team handball, giving presentations and authoring articles and a book.

Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver acknowledged Mary Phyl’s work as the Director of Team Handball Competition for Special Olympics International. Dwight has traveled to Africa, Europe, and the Far East. In India, Dwight discussed the sport with Humanitarian Mother Teresa.

Mary Phyl Dwight received the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival Gold Medal in 1978, was inducted into the SWMSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985, and received the USA Team Handball Development Award in 1995.

Mary Phyl continues to live in Raytown and her brother, Wayne lives in the Kansas City area.

April Pottorff

April Pottorff, Raytown High School, Class of 1986

April Pottorff graduated from Raytown High School in 1986, and spending summers on scholarship at the Kansas City Art Institute, she received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Urban Planning in Urban Design degree from City College of New York. April is one of a small number of women architects specializing in designing and building courthouses, youth detention centers and jails.

At the University of Kansas she was an Outstanding College Student of America and was awarded a Fifth Year Studio Urban Design Award. From 1989 to 1993 April had internships with architectural firms, parks and recreation departments, university and civil engineers and surveyors.

In 1993 she joined Ricci Greene Associates in New York City. When her husband took a position with the University of Kentucky, Ricci Greene established a new office in Lexington which April now directs.

Pottorff has affiliations with the American Institute of Architects, the Academy of Architecture for Justice, and the American Jail Assoc.iation. She was featured at an exhibition, “Toward the New Millenium – Women in Architecture”, held in New York City.

She has chaired and lectured at numerous conferences in her field, published many articles, and taught and mentored in her specialty. She has designed twelve courthouses, seven juvenile facilities and six jails.

April lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband, Greg Luhan, who is an Associate Dean for Research at the University of Kentucky, and with their daughter, Miller. April enjoys biking, and often rides as much as 100 miles per week.

Richard L. Simpson , PhD

Richard L. Simpson, PhD, Raytown High School, Class of 1963

Dr. Richard Simpson is an internationally recognized pioneer in the study, diagnosis, and education of children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. He is an author and the founder and long time editor of the professional journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilites.

After receiving a Bachelor and aMasters degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Special Education with an emphasis in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Richard joined the faculty of the University of Kansas Special Education department just as the KU Medical School was initiating a program to work with such children. Intrigued that one-third of the children in the program were autistic, but undiagnosed, he received a federally funded grant to begin a pilot autism research program.

Today Richard and KU are recognized as experts in the study, diagnosis, and practical education of autistic children, as well as leaders in the training of professionals who work with them.

Dr. Simpson helped pioneer the study, diagnosis, and design of educational programs for students with Asperger’s Syndrome and is internationally recognized as an expert. Richard has been invited to make presentations and evaluate programs for students with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome throughout the world. His honors from the University of Kansas include Outstanding Research, Achievement and Service Awards. He has also received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Fort Hays State and Baker Universities, and the Outstanding Research Award from the International Council for Exceptional Children.

Jason White, PhD

Jason White, PhD, Raytown High School, Class of 1987

Jason T. White received a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University, a Masters of Business Administration from Rockhurst University and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. At present, he is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Northwest. He is also a chief financial officer, portfolio manager, and financial consultant.

Dr. White has been a private financial consultant since 1992, directing the Family Investment Center since 2006. He has been chief financial controller with the Williams Lawn Seed, Inc., engineering financial restructuring and bank management, and has been a financial restructuring manager for the city of Kansas City, Missouri. As an entrepreneur he has been involved in business mergers, acquisitions, valuations, budget development and operational management.

Jason’s awards include the Sam Walton Free Enterprise Fellow, NWMSU Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award, Mortor Board Teaching Excellence Award and the Melvin and Valerie Booth College of Business Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award. In addition he is a Kauffman Foundation Global Entrepreneurship Week Partner and is a speaker for the Goldman Sachs Foundation. He sits on many boards of directors and is widely published.

Jason is a dedicated teacher, receiving the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2007. At NWMSU, he is active in supporting many student activities and committees.

Jason and his wife, Suzi, have been married for eighteen years. They have a daughter, Sierra and a son, Jason, who both attend Maryville schools.

Ronnie E. Williams

Ronnie E. Williams, Raytown South High School, Class of 1988

Ronnie E. Williams graduated from Raytown South High in 1988, and then attended Howard University in Washington D.C., majoring in Communication Arts. He later attended UCLA studying Post-Production, Television, and Film.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, Ron began work in the entertainment industry as a communication coordinator for KTTV FOX 11. Soon after, he took over the responsibilities for national commercial scheduling as a Production Coordinator, working closely with Master Control to make sure the commercial ran on air.He landed a position with Cinesite, a division of Kodak, working as a data operator, accessing and managing all online data files for staff Digital Artists. From data operations, he moved into the entry-level artist position, and his first project was restoration of Disney’s Fantasia. This was the beginning of his success as a Digital Compositor, working on projects such as Space Jam, Air Force One and Armageddon.

Mr. Williams is currently a Digital Compositor for Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco. He is responsible for the final stage of a shot before submitting it for approval by the movie’s director. He supervises a team of compositors working on shot sequences. It is his job to keep the quality of the sequence consistent to the director’s vision. Projects include the Star Wars Prequel, Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, and 3, Indiana Jones Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Terminator Salvation. Several projects that Ron has worked on have been nominated for BAFTA and Academy Awards, including Pirates of the Caribbean II, and Perfect Storm.

Ron lives in Cordelia, California, outside of San Francisco with his wife, Michele, and their sons, Miles and Roman.