Cory-Rawson Inducting Inaugural ‘Distinguished Alumni Hall Of Fame’ Class

(From Cory-Rawson Local Schools)

Cory-Rawson Local Schools will induct the inaugural class of its Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday, February 9, 2024. The purpose of the district’s Hall of Fame is to recognize graduates of Cory-Rawson, Mount Cory, or Rawson High Schools whose achievements have impacted the region, state, nation, and world. The three 2024 inductees include Melana A. Maxie (class of 1983), Jason E. Searfoss (class of 1990), and Tara C. Welch Smith (class of 1994).

The induction events include an assembly introducing the inductees to the high school students and staff and a presentation during halftime of the high school varsity basketball game that evening. The generosity of various donors made the Hall of Fame possible.

Melana A. Maxie graduated from Purdue University in 1987 with a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. Her career in the aerospace defense industry focused on structural analysis, store certification, and weapons integration on the F-16 and F-35 aircrafts. When Melana retired in 2017 she was the F-35 Weapons Integration and Certification Manager, where she ensured all required data was gathered and submitted to the U.S. Government to support certification that all weapons could be safely loaded, carried, and employed on all three variants of the F-35.

Melana also served her community by coaching volleyball at the YMCA, was a Girl Scout leader, and supported middle school theater productions in set and costume design. During her retirement Melana established a Quilt of Valor Group in Clarendon County. Melana is the Governor and Assistant General for the Society of Mayflower Descendants in South Carolina, and serves the General Society of Mayflower Descendants on several committees and was awarded the Governor General’s Commendation Award in 2023.

Jason Searfoss is a recognized leader in the financial services industry. He has held leadership positions at some of the world’s leading investment managers and banks, as well as at various startups and growth-stage companies. In these capacities, he has built and led finance and investment functions, managed portfolios of alternative assets, and been instrumental in tens of billions of dollars of capital transactions.

Mr. Searfoss co-founded a technology startup accelerator and venture capital firm with more than 200 portfolio companies. He is also an active personal investor in and advisor to dozens of startup- and growth-stage technology companies.

Jason received a MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Kenyon College, where he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society. After completing his undergraduate studies at Kenyon, Jason was one of 40 people selected worldwide to receive a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and spent 15 months in New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, and Nepal during the fellowship.

In his spare time, Jason is a competitive ultramarathon runner, having completed single-stage races of up to 122 miles and self-supported adventure runs of up to 175 miles in distance.

Dr. Tara Smith is a Professor of Epidemiology at the Kent State University College of Public Health She previously held leadership roles at the University of Iowa College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology where she directed the College’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and attained the rank of associate professor with tenure. While at Iowa, she also obtained a Certificate in Agricultural Safety and Health. She completed post-doctoral training in molecular epidemiology at the University of Michigan prior to beginning her professorship at the University of Iowa. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Toledo, investigating the pathogenesis of the Group A Streptococcus, and her B.S. in Biology from Yale University.

Tara was the first to identify livestock-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the United States, and has pioneered the investigation of this organism in the United States. Dr. Smith has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. She has received significant funding to carry out these studies. She has presented her research at numerous national and international platforms, including talks on Capitol Hill on the topic of agriculture and antibiotic resistance. Her work has been profiled in many major publications. She served as a subject matter expert during the pandemic for Kent State University and was interviewed hundreds of times by various international news organizations.

Dr. Smith is also very active in science communication and outreach. She maintained a science blog for 11 years, has written a number of books and writes for a number of online news sites.

The Cory-Rawson district marks its 75th anniversary of the consolidation of Mount Cory and Rawson school districts, making 2024 a milestone year.