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Distinguished Alumni to be Honored
Cheyanne Gonzales
Thursday, September 27, 2018

On Monday, Oct. 1, Alliance High School will be inducting four new members into the ranks of Distinguished Alumni.

The four inductees, Robert L. Benjamin; John Blebea MD; the late Dr. Wilton Eckley and the late Ernest S. Prince will bring the total number of inductees to 100 since the Distinguished Alumni Committee was created in 1966.

Benjamin, a 1969 graduate of Alliance High School, is a renowned artist specializing in oil paintings of landscapes. Following graduation, he attended the the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh.

Benjamin moved to New Mexico to pursue his passion for art as an illustrator, art director, lithographer and art bronze foundry owner. It took him a while before he discovered his true artistic passion was painting landscapes.

His lithographs have been displayed in galleries and museums including the Smithsonian Institution National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington D.C., The Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque and a number of other private collections.

A few years after deciding to paint full time, “New Mexico Magazine” chose Benjamin as the 2001 Distinguished Calendar Artist for the millenium issue. A dozen of his pastels were published.

Blebea graduated from Alliance High School in 1974. He was heavily involved during his time as a student. He took part in National Honor Society, Academic Challenge, Science Seminar, National Forensic League, Creative Writing Club, Orchestra, Club Blue Dom and Thespians.

Following graduation, Blebea attended Brown University where he was the class valedictorian. He chose to attend Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for medical school following which he completed his internship and general surgery residency training at Georgetown University Hospital.

Blebea specialized in vascular surgery and began teaching medicine. While at Penn State University College of Medicine, he was awarded tenure. He moved to Philadelphia where he was named the chief of the division of the vascular surgery at Temple University as well as the direct of the Vascular Fellowship program.

His teaching career has been a long one, including his time at University Hospital’s Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve. Currently, Blebea is a professor of surgery in the division of vascular and endovascular surgery at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

His research and experience has been published in more that 180 scientific publications and hundreds of presentations at medical conferences. Blebea is also the current president of the American Venous Forum, the prestigious society for the area of venous disorders.

Eckley graduated from the High School in 1947. During his years at Alliance, he was a talented trumpet player in the marching band which sparked a lifelong passion for music. He taught himself how to play many instruments.

Eckley was stationed in Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, Virginia following graduation. He later attended Mount Union College, graduating in 1952. He pursued a Master Degree from Pennsylvania State University and received his Ph.D. from Case Western University.

He began his education career at Ravenna Township High School as an English and French teacher. His career continued in Euclid, Ohio after which he became an assistant professor at Hollins College and then a professor at Drake University. Eckley retired from teaching in 1999 from Colorado School of Mines in Colorado.

His profession led him to teach a number of subjects including military history. He travelled throughout his career, lecturing in many European Countries. He had more than 50 articles published and two books of literary criticism.

Eckley passed away last August, leaving behind his wife, Grace, of 63 years and their three children.

Prince graduated from AHS in 1960 where he was a skilled basketball and football player and senior class president. He attended Baldwin Wallace College following graduation where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and continued to play football. He even set a record for the most touchdowns in a single game and received the Outstanding Freshman Player award.

He began his career with the Urban League, a National Civil Rights organization which advocated on behalf of African Americans. His career led him to establish a Canton Urban League and serve as the president of the Shenango Valley Urban League in Sharon, Pennsylvania.

Eventually, Prince moved to Westchester County, New York where he served as the president of the Urban League for 37 years.

Prince was married to his wife, Cheryl, for 45 years. They had two daughters and three grandsons.

Since his passing in 2011, Prince has been honored with numerous awards and recognitions including the Westchester County African American Advisory Board Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award, the Criminal Justice Advisory Board Service Award, the U.S. House of Representatives Achievement in Community Service Certificate, the Westchester County Board of Legislators declared “Ernest Prince Day”, and he has been recognized as the first CEO of the Shenango Valley Urban League.

The inductees will be honored on Friday night at the Alliance Aviators’ football game. The ceremony will be held on Monday at 10 a.m. at Alliance High School. The public is welcome.