RHS Distinguished Alumni
RHS Distinguished Alumni
Posted on 03/24/2022
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Distinguished Alumni Honored

The Ridgewood High School Alumni Association celebrated two classes of Distinguished Alumni on March 23, 2022 at Park West Tavern Loft in Ridgewood. The inductees included Tony Award winning actor, Ali Stroker (2005), Congressional Gold Medal winner, Thomas Hawkins (1942), lifetime educator, Dr. Deborah Thomas (1971), World-Renowned Cardiologist, Dr. Ajay Kirtane (1990) & tech pioneer and entrepreneur, Dave Duffield (1958). Below showcases more details about these five extraordinary individuals who have made significant contributions to society through their personal lives, individual passions, talents, professional accomplishments and/or community service.

Class of 2020
Ali Stroker (2005)

Groundbreaking performer Ali Stroker won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Ado Annie in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! She made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway when she originated the role of Anna in Deaf West's acclaimed 2015 revival of Spring Awakening. Ms. Stroker is also the first actress in a wheelchair to graduate from NYU's Tisch drama program. She starred in 12 episodes of the talent competition The Glee Project, which led to a guest role on Fox's Glee. In addition to her work on and off-Broadway, she has soloed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., New York's Town Hall, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.Ms. Stroker has been a co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. She co-founded Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign that tours the country connecting with thousands of students each year. In addition, she has led theater workshops for South African women and children affected by HIV and AIDS with the group ARTS Inside Out. Ms. Stroker's dedication to improving lives through the arts, disabled or not, is captured in her motto: “Making Your Limitations Your Opportunities.”

Thomas Hawkins (1942)
In November 1944, Flight Officer Hawkins was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. By January, he had 28 missions and three kills to his credit. He was awarded the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Cluster in early 1945 for bombing missions against German trains carrying supplies. In March of 1945, Flight Officer Hawkins was killed in Italy during takeoff on the runway. He was 21 years old. In 2007, Hawkins was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the most prestigious medal Congress can bestow, to the Tuskegee Airmen for their contributions and sacrifices made decades earlier.

Deborah Thomas, Ph.D. (1971)
Dr. Deborah Thomas has worked in the field of higher education for over 30 years. Among her many roles and contributions, she left her greatest mark at Yale University, first as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Lecturer in America Studies and African American Studies and later as the Associate Secretary of the University and Assistant to the President. She is the recipient of a number of honors, including the Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellowship from Brown University, the Women's Campaign School at Yale, and, most recently, she was inducted into the National Edward Alexander Boucher Graduate Honor Society.

Class of 2022
Ajay Kirtane (1990)

Ajay J. Kirtane, MD, SM, is Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at New York-Presbyterian (NYP) Hospital/CUMC. Dr. Kirtane is an internationally-renowned leader in Interventional Cardiology, specializing in the care of patients with complex coronary and peripheral vascular disease. In addition to his clinical commitments, Dr. Kirtane has a strong interest in clinical education and research, serving as Chief Academic Officer of Columbia Interventional Cardiovascular Care, and as director of several international, national, and regional educational conferences in Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine. Dr. Kirtane's research interests are in clinical trials and outcomes of device-based and pharmacologic interventions. He is Principal Investigator and serves on the steering committees of numerous clinical trials in interventional cardiovascular medicine.

Dave Duffield (1958)
Dave Duffield is an enterprise software entrepreneur who founded six companies, including two that grew to be publicly traded global business leaders, PeopleSoft and Workday. He is currently the founder and CEO of Ridgeline, a startup building a software platform for the investment management industry. Dave is known for making employees and customer service a top priority, and his companies are known for their focus on core values and strong people-based cultures. He also has a special interest in giving back to the educational institutions that provided him with an exceptional experience. Ridgewood High School was one of those beneficiaries through the Duffield STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Initiative, which encompasses three state-of-the-art renovations and enhancements to support the growing needs of this robust curricular program.