Rockford Public Schools will honor a teacher, an artist, a musician, an actor and a high school theatre production at its third Fine Arts Hall of Fame Awards in March. The event recognizes RPS 205 graduates who went on to achieve tremendous success in his or her arts field, former arts productions, and educators or advocates who have made a valuable impact on the arts in Rockford Public Schools.
The 2019 inductees are: Longtime RPS 205 theatre teacher Jonathon Sleger, local artist and Auburn graduate Betsy Youngquist, professional stage and television actor and Guilford graduate Stephen Wallem, the cast and crew of the 2004 All-City Production of "Oliver," and longtime jazz musician and West graduate Valentino DeCastris – better known as Val Eddy. More about this year's Hall of Fame class:
Valentino DeCastris, well-known as professional local musician Val Eddy, was a 1944 West High School graduate. The self-taught jazz musician performed with the Val Eddy Duo for 50 years. He died in 2014.
Jonathon Sleger is a former theatre educator and set designer at Guilford High School. Sleger retired from Guilford in 2017 after working there for 31 years. In addition to sharing his talent at RPS 205 theatre productions, Sleger has contributed scenic and lighting designs at university, community and professional theaters.
Stephen Wallem is a professional stage and television actor and 1986 graduate of Guilford High School. Wallem is also a playwright, composer and director, but likely best known for portraying Thor Lundgren in the Showtime series "Nurse Jackie."
Betsy Youngquist is a local artist and a 1983 Auburn High School graduate. Youngquist's work of unusual sculptural mosaics with beads and antique doll parts has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
The 2004 All-City Production of "Oliver" is the second group/production to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The show included students from across the district. The show was directed by 2006-07 Golden Apple Award Winner Pam Short; Associate Director was 2017 Fine Arts Hall of Fame inductee Kathryn Engel-Terasaki.
The event is at 5 p.m. March 8 at the Prairie Street Brewing Company. Tickets are $40 per person and are available through rps205.com. An inaugural Hall of Fame class was celebrated in 2016, and a second class was celebrated in 2017.