KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Duane Soper listened to the introduction and considered the recommendation process. Standing at the lectern on Monday, Jan. 26, the Platte City businessman and current second district commissioner for Platte County humbly accepted Park Hill’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
“I want to thank the folks that wrote letters of nomination,” Soper said during his speech. “Obviously, you’ve taken a creative writing class at some point.”
The induction ceremony at the KCI Hilton added six new members to class.
Leif Lisec, Jill Ratzlaff, Chad Schieber, Susan Van Hooser and Dr. Ralph von Frese were also honored during a two-hour program that also honored Dr. James Sparks and Eagle Animal Hospital in Riverside, Mo. as Park Hill’s business partner of the year. The years of graduation for the honorees ranged from 1962 to 1992.
Presented in alphabetical order, the honorees were a diverse group including a television personality, a geophysics professor and even a current employee chosen for induction in a secret vote.
Lisec (Class of 1981) — a fixture in Kansas City television sports news for three decades — has emceed the event multiple times in previous years but accepted his induction after a distinguished broadcast career. He worked at KCTV5 from 1985 to 2004 before accepting his current role at Time Warner Cable’s Metro Sports in addition to numerous other side projects on radio and TV.
In addition to humorous anecdotes, Lisec offered up advice to current students in attendance and honored at the banquet.
“Just know, go bust your butt and go get your dream because it’s possible,” he said. “I hope that when you see me on TV or this plaque, wherever they hang this thing, you walk by that and you go, ‘They put that guy on TV for 30 years; I can do whatever I want.”
Ratzlaff’s parents Jill and Ron Henderson opened Diane’s School of Dance in Platte Woods in 1974. She participated in cheerleading and pom-pons in high school and choreographed the fight song dance still performed today.
After graduating from Park Hill, Ratzlaff (Class of 1987) eventually came back and taught in the district before leaving to go back and teach full time alongside her family at Diane’s School of Dance in 2003. The business has served an estimated 20,000 students, and Ratzlaff has been a part of all 40 of the yearly recitals at the non-competition dance studio.
“It’s a family, and we like it that way,” Ratzlaff said.
A native of Germany, von Frese (Class of 1962) only spent his final year and a half at Park Hill High School after transferring from Raytown but went on to a distinguished career in higher education after graduating from Park University in Parkville, Mo. and performing a tour of duty in the United States armed forces.
At Purdue University, he earned master’s degrees in physics and geophysics and a doctorate in geophysics, von Frese currently teaches at Ohio State in addition to his research work that includes more than 120 published scientific articles.
After a well-traveled education in the Park Hill system, Von Hooser (Class of 1978) worked multiple public relations and marketing jobs while raising a family in the same district. She eventually returned to Park Hill and currently serves as the executive director of the Park Hill Education Foundation — a position that required her induction vote to be taken without her knowledge.
Schieber (Class of 1992) ran cross country and track and played tennis before going on to a successful engineering career. He currently lives in Dallas and works for The Beck Group — a highly successful commercial-design build firm.
Soper became the third inductee from the Class of 1974.
An Eagle Scout who came to Park Hill from Liberty prior to high school, Soper went into business building houses with his father, and he currently co-owns Golden Key, Inc. and builds high-end homes. He’s also enjoyed a diverse public-service career that includes his current term on the Platte County Commission.
Soper closed with a statement that seemed to sum up the general tenor of all the speeches.
“I do thank you for this honor, and I’m very proud to be a Trojan,” he said.