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Three graduates make O-A Hall of Fame | Top Story | thedailynewsonline.com – The Daily News Online

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Cloudy skies this morning will become partly cloudy this afternoon. High 72F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph..
Mainly clear skies. Low 56F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: September 20, 2022 @ 6:54 am
Daniel Gilbert
Dr. Cory Merkel
Gary Nanni

Daniel Gilbert
Dr. Cory Merkel
Gary Nanni
OAKFIELD — Three graduates will take their place in the Oakfield-Alabama Central School Hall of Fame Oct. 15 when the Alumni Hall of Fame Committee honors Daniel Gilbert, Dr. Cory Merkel and Gary Nanni.
The honorees will be Daniel Gilbert, Class of 1987; Dr. Cory Merkel, Class of ‘05; and Gary Nanni, Class of ‘73.
Tickets for Hall of Fame Weekend are on sale through Oct. 1. On Oct. 15, there will be a community dinner and induction ceremony in the Oakfield-Alabama High School Cafeteria. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The event will begin at 6 p.m. They may be bought at Oakfield-Alabama Elementary School and O-A Middle and High School, 7001 Lewiston Road; Oakfield Family Pharmacy, (40 Main St.; by contacting committee member Liz Conway at [email protected]; or by mailing a check, made payable to “Dollars for Scholars”), to OA Hall of Fame, PO Box 35, Oakfield NY 14125 Note: Add “HOF Tickets” in the memo line of your check and include your email address so confirmation of your order can be sent.
Tickets are $30 for adults (ages 11 and up) and $15 for children (ages 4-10). There is no charge for ages 3 and under. The cafeteria seats up to 200 people.
The Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding OACS alumni who have achieved distinction in their lives and chosen field after high school through significant contributions to their career, community or through personal achievements; providing incentive for current and future students.
Nanni and Merkel say they’ll be able to attend, committee Co-chair Erika Sollie said Monday. Gilbert passed away in 2017 at age 47.
“There’s an event that’s for the inductees on Friday (Oct. 14) at the High School. They’re going to be giving the inductees a tour of the school, to show them updates and things of that nature,” Sollie said. “They’re going to have an assembly with the students.”
She said the assembly will include a question-and-answer session with the inductees and students, so the students can learn how the inductees’ educations helped them. The inductees will be served lunch on the 14th as well.
“in the past, when people from out of town have been selected, there would have been a whole weekend out of it,” Sollie said.
There was no Hall of Fame event in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“They did pick it back up last year. Normally we can induct up to four people each year. The initial class inducted 11 people,” she said.
The committee co-chair said that at the beginning of the year, the committee solicits for nominations.
“When people are nominated, they can be considered for three years. We considered the people not chosen who were in the nominating process the last two years,” Sollie said. “There are categories that we have for the selection. Those folks certainly ad a lot to offer in the categories we had.”
More about the three inductees for 2022:
Daniel Gilbert
Gilbert joined the Oakfield-Alabama faculty in 1998, according to his biographical information.
Dan was a leader, coach, and teacher, on the playing fields, in the classroom, and in the community,” the committee said. “He preached ‘confidence, not cockiness” in making the Hornets a dynastic force on the baseball diamond. His teams won 12 Genesee Region League baseball titles, and Section V championships in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2009. In each of those sectional title years, he was also honored as Section V Coach of the Year. When Hornet softball needed a coach in 2011, Dan stepped up and led that team to a sectional title, and was honored as Genesee Region Coach of the Year.”
As a baseball, softball, junior varsity and varsity football, and modified basketball coach, Gilbert amassed a 284-58 record. He taught health and physical education, creating and shaping the district’s Adaptive PE program for students with special needs. In the community he coached Little League baseball and youth football.
“Dan’s memory lives on in his players, students, wife and children, and in Dan Gilbert Field, the OACS baseball diamond,” the committee said in Daniel Gilbert’s biography.
Dr. Cory Merkel
Merkel is an internationally-recognized figure in brain-inspired computing research, the committee said. After earning his doctorate in microsystems engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, where he also earned his master’s and bachelor’s, he spent three years at the Air Force Research Lab before joining the RIT faculty in a research and teaching position.
His RIT research lab focuses on “brain applications” — artificial intelligence security, improved accessibility for “smart assistants” like Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, etc. for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals; and designing integrated circuits that replicate the functionality and behavior of the human brain. Merkel chairs the Computer Engineering Department’s Social and Awards Committee, which recognizes promising students for their above-and-beyond academic excellence and teaching and other support for the department. He also teaches courses in the areas of digital integrated circuit design and brain-inspired computing. He has been involved in a number of outreach programs such as the Project Fibonacci STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) conference, which engages students from middle school through college, in intensive workshops to foster and cultivate interest in STEAM disciplines.
At the time of his induction, Merkel held three US patents, published over 50 peer-reviewed research articles, and advised dozens of students on their MS or doctorate research.
Merkel met his future wife while he was at OACS; they married in 2012. In his spare time he continues his passion for percussion. He has been in musical groups since he was 12 – and sports, including rank achievement in kung fu and karate.
Gary Nanni
Nanni started his working career mowing and doing grounds at Carl Petronio Construction in Albion, where his father worked. By the time of his retirement, he was president of Allied Builders, the $35 million company Petronio had grown into, with Nanni playing a major role in its successes and expansion, the committee said.
“The capping project of his career was the $21 million Richard C. Call Athletic Facility and Student Success Center at Genesee Community College,” his biography read. It said Allied Builders’ accomplishments, in Western New York alone include the tennis courts and other renovations at Oakfield-Alabama, the Oakfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, several projects for US Gypsum; plus Batavia Downs casino and Labatt Blue Zone at 34 Rush in Batavia Downs, Roberts Wesleyan College’s Life Fitness Center, RIT’s Imaging Science Center, and at least 14 school districts in Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Monroe counties.
Under Nanni’s leadership, in 2002, Allied was ranked -2 in the Rochester Business Alliance/Democrat and Chronicle list of fastest growing companies, and Buffalo Business First’s list of Top 10 private companies.
Following his retirement from Allied, Nanni joined Iskalo Development Corporation in Buffalo, overseeing such projects as the 110,000-square-foot Big Ditch Brewery North on Transit Road near the Thruway and shopping center and post office renovations in Hamburg and Lockport, respectively.
Among his community involvement, Nanni donated funds to purchase and install batting cages for Oakfield-Alabama Little League. He provided engineering, design and construction services to build the Brockport Fire Department 9/11 Memorial. He also had leadership roles or involvement with the St. Cecilia Church and its men’s group, the Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education, and the Oakfield Historical Society.
Nanni has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Syracuse University, and is a licensed professional engineer in New York. A father of five and grandfather, he and his wife have lived in Oakfield their entire lives.
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