By Terry Dean
Three notable Oak Park and River Forest High School alums were honored last Friday at the school's 30th annual Tradition of Excellence ceremonies.
As usual, the ceremony took place at two morning assemblies to allow students to get to one or the other. The school's auditorium was packed with students, teachers and staff, as well as friends of family of the honorees.
The most memorable moment of this year's event was the speech by 1981 grad Diana Elizabeth Jordan, an actress who has appeared on stage, film and television. She talked about the OPRF teachers who inspired her. As she spoke about receiving the Tradition of Excellence Award, Jordan, who is an advocate for individuals with special needs — she has cerebral palsy — was moved to tears. After her speech, she received a standing ovation from the audience.
She also received applause from her fellow awardees, Linda Brubaker, a 1973 OPRF grad who is currently dean of Loyola University Chicago's School of Medicine, and Jeff Mauro, a 1998 alum and TV star on the cable Food Network.
Brubaker, who lives in Oak Park, encouraged the students to think about those who inspired them as a way to nurture their own talents. She hopes the students see themselves as the "next wave" of Tradition of Excellence honorees.
Mauro kept the audience in stitches during his humorous speech. The "Sandwich King" hosts his own show on the Food Network. Mauro recalled his days at OPRF, joking that he's wanted the Tradition of Excellence Award for years. He talked about being petrified as a freshman, joking that he still has the penny marks on his body to show for it.
He told the students OPRF will prepare them for whatever they want to do in life. If they want to be a race car driver, the school has driver's ed, Mauro joked.
Following the morning assemblies, the honorees, their families and friends had a morning breakfast hosted by the school and attended by the guests and school staff.