Plymouth Whitemarsh High School inducted three new members to its Distinguished Graduates Organization (DGO) on March 31 - Salvatore Giannone, owner of multiple barber shops and community service leader; Al Lepore Jr., a thermal design engineer who has worked on missions to Mars and Saturn; and Lawrence “Larry” Williamson Jr., former director of The Ohio State University’s Frank W. Hale Cultural Center, which boasts one of the country’s highest-value African-American art collections.
Mr. Giannone, Mr. Lepore, and Mr. Williamson were honored with a luncheon and ceremony where each spoke about their life experiences. High school student Seve Spruill introduced Mr. Lepore, student Olivia Wellman introduced Mr. Giannone, and student Sanaa Power introduced Mr. Williamson to those assembled in the auditorium, and a video was shown about each inductee. After remarks from each of the inductees, students had the opportunity to ask questions of each person.
The inductees had many words of wisdom for the students, with Mr. Williamson emphasizing the importance of opportunities and having people in your life who can help you succeed, Mr. Lepore talking about the future of space travel and what it may take to help humans survive on the moon or even Mars, and Mr. Giannone discussing the hustle it takes to run a business.
One student asked Mr. Giannone what he would share with students who might struggle in high school with anxiety or depression.
"There's so much potential in this building," he said, noting that students should take advantage of the teachers, counselors, and mentors at Plymouth Whitemarsh. "This is where you should seek knowledge. If you're having a hard time, speak out."
Here is a look at this year’s inductees and their accomplishments:
Salvatore Giannone, Class of 2003
Salvatore Giannone graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in 2003 and has gone on to open 10 barber shops throughout the suburban Philadelphia area, receiving a number of awards in his profession and for his charity work.
Mr. Giannone, who studied both at the high school and at Central Montco Technical Career Center, attended the Savannah College of Art and Design following graduation. Substance abuse issues led to him dropping out of college, becoming homeless, and being arrested multiple times for drug-related crimes. But after becoming sober in 2006, Mr. Giannone was offered a job by a local barber and eventually mended his relationships with his family so that he could learn how to cut hair from his grandfather, also named Sal.
He opened his first barber shop in Plymouth Meeting and has gone on to open many others throughout the Philadelphia area. He has taught over 30 barber apprentices at his own shop and through the Premier Barber Institute of Norristown, and has won more than 30 awards in various barber competitions, including the Zane Skerry Award for “Most Sanitary Barber.” He was also named “Entrepreneur of the Year” in the 2022 Barber Grammys.
Along with recognitions for his professional work, Mr. Giannone has received accolades for his charity work. He won a charity award from the Norris Square Community Alliance for organizing a fundraiser in 2017 to benefit hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. In addition to supporting hurricane relief efforts, Mr. Giannone has mentored many in the community who suffer from substance abuse. He has also organized food and toy drives for Laurel House, a domestic violence shelter in Norristown, and regularly pitches in to raise money to support local people going through hard times.
Mr. Giannone is married to Kristen and has three children – Lilly, Grace, and Penny. They live in Plymouth Meeting.
(Information was compiled from the inductee’s nomination form and articles written about Mr. Giannone in The Reporter and Times Herald.)
Albert Lepore Jr., Class of 1971
Albert Lepore Jr. graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in 1971 and believes the teachers, friends, and coaches he had at PW were important to helping him become a thermal design engineer who has sent satellites to Mars and Saturn.
Mr. Lepore attended Bloomsburg University and graduated in 1975, later earning a master’s degree from the Keller School of Management in Phoenix, Arizona. He started his professional career as a design engineer for the Philadelphia Gear Corporation and went on to serve as a thermal design engineer for Lockheed Martin and Swales Aerospace. As an engineer, he has worked on the Mars Pathfinder and Cassini missions, working alongside engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Later, he became a program manager for Spectrum Astro/Inc. and worked on the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the FERMI program alongside scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center.
He served as a senior product manager for Comtech AeroAstro, Inc., of Littleton, CO, and then worked for a Swiss company as a business development director for the US. In 2017, he became product development manager for Vector Launch, where he designed and tested rockets for the space industry. He now works for Redwire Space, Inc., as the Director of Programs. Redwire is heavily involved in “Digital Twin” technology, developing software representations of actual space flight hardware.
Mr. Lepore holds two patents, and in his spare time he enjoys hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. He hiked to the Mount Everest Base Camp in 2012. He is a widower (husband of the late Maija Lepore) who lives in Colorado and has two children, Alexander and Nicholas.
(Information was compiled from the inductee’s nomination form)
Lawrence “Larry” Williamson Jr., Class of 1973
Lawrence “Larry” Williamson Jr. graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in 1973 and has received numerous awards and accolades for his work as the leader of The Ohio State University’s Frank W. Hale Cultural Center, which boasts one of the country’s highest-value African-American art collections and is one of the largest employers of African American students in the country.
Following his graduation from high school, Mr. Williamson received an associate’s degree from Montgomery County Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University. He taught art and photography at Chester High School and then went on to pursue a one-year minority fellowship to study art education at The Ohio State University. When that ended, he became a Graduate Administrative Associate in the Office of Minority Affairs and worked under Dr. Frank W. Hale to curate and promote art exhibits.
Since 1989, Mr. Williamson has served in leadership positions at the Frank W. Hale Cultural Center until he retired as the Director in 2022. During his tenure, the center grew in terms of its collection, its prominence in the university and art community, and its positive impact on students. His bio on The Ohio State University Black Alumni website states:
“Under Mr. Williamson, the Hale Center’s art collection is ranked within the top 3 in the country (as it relates to Black Cultural Centers) and the Hale Center is the largest employer of African American Students (over 100) on OSU’s campus and in the entire country (as it relates to BCC). Under his administration the Hale Black Cultural Center is the only Black Cultural Center that has had 2 major renovations (2000 and 2006) that have exceeded over 1.3 million dollars.”
In 2015, Mr. Williamson received the University Staff Award at The Ohio State University, and has served on numerous boards for organizations supporting the arts. A priceless collection of Black art collected over the past 40 years was named after him at the Frank W. Hale Cultural Center.
He is married to Dr. Pamela Burdette-Williams, and they have one child, Lawrence Williamson III. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
(Information was compiled from nomination form, The Ohio State University website articles and The Ohio State University’s Black Alumni website)
This is the 36th year for the DGO celebration. The DGO Board of Directors meets annually to select candidates who may be nominated through an online form or suggested to DGO members. Candidates must be Plymouth Whitemarsh High School graduates who demonstrate achievements in the areas of academics, arts, athletics, business, humanities, or public service.
For a look at past DGO members, click here to visit the website: https://www.colonialsd.org/alumni/distinguished-graduates-organization/whos-in-dgo