Pleasant Valley
Community Schools
2017 Wall of Honor Recipient

Posted April 20th, 2017

Lt. Col. Melaine J. Burja, DNP, RN, USAF, NC has been named the recipient of the 2017 Pleasant Valley Community School District Wall of Honor Award.  The Wall of Honor Program was established in 1999 to recognize distinguished alumni who have graduated from Pleasant Valley High School.

Lt. Col. Burja graduated from PVHS in 1991 and has since spent her life serving her country on the front lines, in the classroom and in hospitals.

“In the academic setting, I am Dr. Burja.  In the military setting, I’m Lt. Col. Burja.  In the operating room, I’m just Melanie,” she said.

After she received a Bachelor of Arts from Wartburg College, graduating in just three years, she continued her education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Creighton University in 1995, and entered the United States Air Force. While on active duty, she earned a Masters of Science in Nursing Anesthesia from Uniformed Services University in 2005 and a Doctor of Nursing from the University of Iowa in 2014.

Lt. Col. Burja’s career has taken her around the globe, including serving in Southern England right after 9/11.   Upon returning to the States, she served as a Multi-Service staff nurse at Scott Air Force Base and as a staff nurse anesthetist at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  In 2008, she was selected to serve in rural Japan where she coordinated anesthesia services for all operating rooms and for 240 obstetrical deliveries each year.  While in Japan, she was called on again to serve in the War on Terror in 2010, this time in Afghanistan.

“I supported a small medical facility at the front and a larger hospital with more extensive capabilities,” Lt. Col. Burja said.  “Medics were good targets for the terrorists and by chance or coincidence we were victim to quite a few rocket attacks, one of which hit my quarters while I was at the mess hall.”

When she returned from Afghanistan, she was named Air Force CRNA of the Year.  The next year tested Lt. Col. Burja again.  Still serving in Japan, she and her family were living at the base closest to the epicenter of the earthquake that caused the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor.  Her family was evacuated and she stayed to assist with recovery efforts with the distinct chance of being affected by radiation.

Next, the Burjas moved back to Iowa, where Lt. Col. Burja earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Iowa.  She now teaches the graduate program and coordinates clinical rotations for Nurse Anesthesia students on Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“The military gave me many opportunities,” she said. “It’s great to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”

Lt. Col. Burja is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. She will retire from the Air Force in July and is accepting a position at a local children’s hospital where she will continue to work with anesthesia students and residents.

“Being active duty has meant that I have often had to choose the job over my family,” she said. “I plan to sit on the sidelines every Friday night during football season watching the marching band and cheering on my boys in whatever endeavors they pursue.”

Lt. Col. Burja is the daughter of Marie and Larry Randol, wife of Radu Burja and the mother of Nic and Luke.

Thank you to those who came to the Academic Awards Ceremony and reception in her honor.

 

2016 Wall of Honor Recipient

Posted March 2nd, 2016

Mr. Doug Nicholas of Scottsdale, Arizona is the recipient of Pleasant Valley High School’s 2016 Wall of Honor Distinguished Alumni Award. Mr. Doug Nicholas, a 1979 PVHS graduate, will be honored by the Pleasant Valley Community School District at the Academic Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. He will be inducted into the Wall of Honor, which recognizes past students for their academic achievements, outstanding success in their career and contributions to society.

Doug Nicholas is a true entrepreneur. Before he graduated from Pleasant Valley High School, Doug started his own firewood company. While at UNI, he started a hotdog and bagel stand. The drive to start something from nothing, which started right here in the Quad Cities, has followed him through life. Mr. Nicholas received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations/Marketing from University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA.

During the past 20 plus years, Doug has become a recognized Entrepreneur, Executive and Investor in leading software companies. Doug was the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Opis Corporation. Opis pioneered the PC customer support and help desk category of service. After a merger in 1997, Doug served as Vice President of the new company, where he helped build it from an early stage start-up through venture financing, two acquisitions and successful IPO before being acquired by Sage Software PLC for $280 million. Opis Corporation/Interact Commerce was the highest returning investment in the history of the Iowa Seed Capital Venture Fund and home run investment for Sierra Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Adams Street, Sigma Ventures and InnoCal Venture Capital, according to Bloomberg.

After the sale, Doug served as Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Greentree Partners LLC, where he led the acquisition of the company Hard Dollar in 2004. He assumed the full time role of CEO at the beginning of 2008 and served until 2013. Under his leadership, Hard Dollar established the project cost management software category and has become one of the country’s fastest growing software companies. Hard Dollar has been an Inc. Magazine 500/5000 fastest growing company two years in a row, and has won numerous industry and growth awards.

Doug currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife and two daughters. During his free time he enjoys horse training, outdoor adventures, financial investments, general aviation as a pilot and golf.

2015 Wall of Honor Recipient

Posted February 9th, 2016

Dr. Azeemuddin Ahmed of Iowa City, Iowa is the recipient of Pleasant Valley High School’s 2015 Wall of Honor Distinguished Alumni Award. Dr. Ahmed, a 1992 PVHS graduate, will be honored by the Pleasant Valley Community School District at the Academic Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. He will be inducted into the Wall of Honor, which recognizes past students for their academic achievements and contributions to society.

Dr. Ahmed, the son of Dr. Fareeduddin and Sameena Ahmed, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. After his time at Augustana he attended medical school at the University of Iowa, graduating in 2000. He completed post graduate training in emergency medicine from 2000-2003 from Michigan State University. In 2010, he completed his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Iowa.

Dr. Ahmed was appointed to the medical staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in 2005. Dr. Ahmed has held numerous positions in his career which include the following: Medical Director and Flight Physician, University of Iowa AirCare, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa, 2005-present; Medical Director, EMS Learning Resources Center, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Hospitals, 2007-present; Medical Director, First Aid Services, Kinnick Stadium, Carver Hawkeye Arena, University of Iowa, 2007-present; Medical Director, Iowa Medical Emergency Services Association, Des Moines, Iowa 2008-2009.

Dr. Ahmed also is a professor at the University of Iowa. He is an important part of the University teaching staff in both Medicine and Business. His teaching appointments include: Clinical Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa, 2008-present and Adjunct Associate Professor, Management and Organizations, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, 2012-present. Dr. Ahmed is currently the Executive Vice Chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Dr. Ahmed’s response to receiving the Wall of Honor recognition: “I’ve been a lifelong learner whether it’s been formal education (college, medical school, residency, graduate business school) or informal education (reading and learning about people, history, politics). It’s something that kept me rejuvenated and grounded. There is so much to learn out there and it keeps us growing. I am a big fan of the credo; it’s good to know things.

“I serve others. I serve my patients as I meet them and their family often on one of the worst days of their life and I do my best to care for them physically and emotionally. I cannot fix every physical ailment but I try to treat EVERYONE with respect and dignity. No matter how far up the ladder I move and acquire fancy sounding titles, my role is to help people. Rich, poor, young, old, white, black, brown, yellow. It doesn’t matter. I do the best I can for every person I care for.”

Dr. Ahmed graduated with top honors from PVHS, where he participated in basketball and track & field. He was President of Spartan Assembly, Sports Co-Editor for the Spartan Shield and contributor to the Valenian. He was chosen by his class to give the graduation commencement speech and an honoree in the Quad City Times, Salute to Academics and Achievement.

A reception for Dr. Ahmed will be held in the PVHS library at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Faculty, staff, students and the public are invited to attend. The Academic Awards program will begin at 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

2014 Wall of Honor Recipient

Posted April 25th, 2014

Jason Nielsen of Santa Cruz, California has been named the recipient of Pleasant Valley High School’s 2014 Wall of Honor Distinguished Alumni Award. Mr. Nielsen, a 1990 PVHS graduate, will be honored by the Pleasant Valley Community School District at the Academic Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 16. He will be inducted into the Wall of Honor, which recognizes past students for their academic achievements and contributions to society.

Mr. Nielsen, the son of Charles and Diane Nielsen, received a double Bachelor of Science degree in both physics and mathematics with distinction from Iowa State University in 1994. While at Iowa State, he was awarded a national Goldwater Scholarship for research and inducted into Phi Betta Kappa for academic achievement.

Following graduation, Mr. Nielsen pursued his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned his Ph.D. in 2001. As part of his studies, Mr. Nielsen joined an experimental particle physics group and worked on the world’s largest particle accelerator at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva. The main focus of this group was the search for the Higgs boson, a new particle whose interactions with other fundamental particles explains their masses. He also hosted tours and educational programs at CERN for American, French, and Italian visitors, all of whom were captivated by the size and scope of their physics experiments.

With his freshly-minted Ph.D., Mr. Nielsen moved to join Fermilab near Chicago to work on the more powerful Tevatron particle accelerator. As a postdoctoral scholar associated with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he focused on precise measurements of the top quark and on more advanced searches for the Higgs boson. During this time, Mr. Nielsen continued his physics outreach to local schools and mentored Chicago high school students on career choices and college applications. His search for the Higgs boson was the most sensitive at that time, but they could not provide firm evidence for the elusive particle.

In 2006, Mr. Nielsen accepted a faculty position in the Physics Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. UCSC is a world-class research university with an exceptionally strong focus on undergraduate education and community service. He teaches all levels of physics, from first year introductory physics to graduate-level particle physics.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Nielsen collaborates on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. The ATLAS experiment, perhaps the world’s largest scientific instrument, measures proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider. Besides serving as the current U.S. Physics Support Manager for ATLAS, he also works with graduate and undergraduate students in the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics on measurements of the newly-discovered Higgs boson and on measurements of quantum chromodynamics. His ATLAS collaboration received the European Physical Society High-Energy Physics prize in 2013 for the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Mr. Nielsen has given many public lectures on particle physics to community organizations and high school groups. He also helps organize an annual BalloonFest high school science event based on experiments with low-altitude weather balloons. Many of his students go on to graduate studies in science or the tech industry in nearby Silicon Valley. He is a member of the American Physical Society as well as a collaborating author of 70 papers published in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Mr. Nielsen lives in Santa Cruz with his wife, Stephanie, who is a proud alumna of Bettendorf HS and the University of Iowa.

The Pleasant Valley School District played a large role in Mr. Nielsen’s early life. “I will always be grateful to Mrs. Spaete and the Pleasant Valley faculty for their encouragement and willingness to answer extra questions from a curious student.”

He graduated with top honors from PVHS, where he participated in chorus, basketball, Thespians, Academic Decathlon and Quiz Bowl. He was a member of the National Honor Society and a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship. He was part of the Research Science Institute and a Tandy Technology Scholar. In addition, he was honored for being part of the Des Moines Register All-State Academic Team, First Team and the USA Today All-USA Academic Team, Honorable Mention.

A reception for Mr. Nielsen will be held in the PVHS library at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Faculty, staff, students and the public are invited to attend. The Academic Awards program will begin at 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

2013 Wall of Honor Recipient

Posted April 23rd, 2014

Paul Parry of Bettendorf is the recipient of Pleasant Valley High School’s 2013 Wall of Honor Distinguished Alumni Award. Mr. Parry, a 1984 PVHS graduate, will be honored by the Pleasant Valley Community School District at the Academic Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 17. He will be inducted into the Wall of Honor, which recognizes current and past students for their academic achievements and contributions to society.

Mr. Parry, the son of Ralph and Rosie Parry of Bettendorf, received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa in 1989. He graduated with honors and was inducted into Pi Tau Sigma, the International Mechanical Engineering Honors Society.

Following graduation, Mr. Parry joined KJWW Engineering Consultants, a Quad-Cities-based firm that at the time had one office and about 40 employees. Today Mr. Parry is a principal with the firm and has been very instrumental in helping the company grow to 14 offices with over 500 employees in the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. Parry, a licensed professional engineer in 15 states and a LEED Accredited Professional, is the Office Director for KJWW’s corporate headquarters here in the Quad Cities. He also is the National Director for the firm’s higher education and sports and recreation markets, in which he leads project development, system concept designs, document quality control reviews and client development. His expertise is in high-performance building design, including innovative technologies such as geothermal, chilled beams and photovoltaics – energy- and resource-saving systems which have helped many facillities attain LEED certification for sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council. He has worked on advanced technology classroom facilities, laboratories, auditoriums, performing arts centers, student unions, residence halls, academic libraries, dining halls, stadiums, arenas, indoor practice facilities, indoor aquatic centers, student and community recreation centers, civic centers and outdoor sports complexes.

Mr. Parry is well known throughout the engineering profession and speaks at many national events and judges several regional and national engineering competitions. He is the recipient of several community and professional awards, including Q-C Leaders Under 40, Quad City Business Journal’s Quad City Movers and Shakers and the American Council of Engineering Companies’ Engineering Excellence Eminent Conceptor Award, the highest engineering award in the state of Illinois.
He serves or has served on the board of directors of several Quad City based organizations including KJWW Engineering PSP, Pleasant Valley Schools Educational Foundation, Development Association of Rock Island (DARI), Deerbrook Estates and the Quad Cities Health Initiative.

Mr. Parry graduated with top honors from PVHS, where he also played football, baseball, tennis and track. He continues to be athletically competitive as a runner and has completed 32 Bix 7 road races and over 50 marathons, including the Boston Marathon. He has also completed all 15 Quad Cities Marathons which puts him in an elite group called the Interstate Road Warriors.
His biggest source of pride, however, is his family. He and his wife, Janelle, have lived their entire lives in the Quad-Cities and have two daughters – Kayla, a PVHS graduate and current freshman at the University of Iowa, and Ashley, a PVHS junior. He coached his daughters’ sports teams in their younger years and makes family a priority, supporting his wife and children in all their activities and spending as much time with them as possible, including cherished family vacations.

The Pleasant Valley School District has played a large role in his family for many years.
“One thing about getting this award is that it has really made me reflect on how long Pleasant Valley schools have been in my life,” said Mr. Parry. He attended PV schools from kindergarten through high school; has been involved with the district professionally on engineering projects, and continues to be connected to the district today because of his daughters. He is impressed with how the district has evolved over the years and prepares students for higher education.
“Our decision to raise our kids in the PV school district was a very good decision,” he said. “They do a very good job of preparing their students for the future – not only in the classroom but also all of the extra-curricular programs as well.”

A reception for Mr. Parry will be held in the PVHS library at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Faculty, staff, students and the public are invited to attend. The Academic Awards program will begin at 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

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