Six Alumni Chosen for ESM Wall of Distinction

The East Syracuse Minoa Education Foundation (ESMEF) will honor six alumni as the 2020 inductees for the ESM Wall of Distinction at a special ceremony at 6 p.m. Feb. 29 prior to the Foundation’s dinner dance at Traditions. The 2020 East Syracuse Minoa Wall of Distinction inductees are Kathleen Alaimo, Class of 1978; Lauren Barnello, Class of 1987; Nancy Edwards, Class of 1989; Kathleen Crossett Garver, Class of 1997; Lauren Kochian, Class of 1996; and Danny Liedka, Class of ’86. The ESM Education Foundation will honor the alum on Feb. 29.

The Wall of Distinction was created to recognize distinguished alumni, staff and community members of the ESM School District who serve as role models for today’s students and demonstrate the importance of making a contribution to our society, our community or their field of work. An induction ceremony is held biennially.

See related article on the dinner event. Visit for more on each honoree.

Kathleen Alaimo, ’78 is the president of Syracuse Label and Surround Printing in Syracuse. She has served in the business for 38 years and is one of the only women in a leadership role in this field.

Kathy has worked in many capacities in the company, which is 100% employee-owned. She started as a billing clerk and was promoted to bookkeeper, office manager, VP operations and in 2007, she was named President. 

She currently serves on the Manufacturer’s Association of CNY Board of Directors and is also a member of the ESM School to College and Career Advisory Board. Kathy has been active in the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute for 25 years, serving on its board of directors from 2011-14 and again 2015-17.

She has served on the Vera House Foundation Board of Trustees for seven years and volunteers for the annual Ronald McDonald House fashion show. 

“Her leadership and knowledge does not go unnoticed by her peers and others in the business,” the Wall of Distinction nomination reads. 

“As one of thousands of successful ESM alumni, I am humbled and honored to be selected for induction to the Wall of Distinction. I feel fortunate to have received the well-rounded education that ESM provided to me. Our district continues to be forward thinking to ensure the success of their students. I am excited to encourage current students to work hard, love what they do and they can achieve their dreams too.”

Lauren Barnello, ’87 is an editor for CBS Sunday Morning in New York City. She has won numerous awards in her field. 

“I am incredibly honored to be selected for the ESM Wall of Distinction. I loved my years at ESM and treasure the opportunity I was afforded – the teachers that I had and the courses that prepared me for my future. I caught the televison “bug” at ESM signing up for the first TV production class that the school offered and well, the rest is history,” Lauren said. 

She interned with “Inside Edition” in college and was hired to work with that show until 1998. A position in editing revealed that was her passion—a valuable, creative skill that is a form of storytelling. She has worked for New York Times Television, Lightworks Producing and for HDNet as an editor for "Dan Rather Reports." 

She won the 2010 News and Documentary Emmy Award. She also earned an award for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting in a Regularly Scheduled Newscast for CBS Sunday Morning "Paving the Way." 

Her other honors for CBS Sunday Morning television segments include: 2011 News and Documentary Award, 2012 James Beard Award, 2013 Daytime Emmy Award, 2014 Wilbur Award, 2015 Daytime Emmy Award, 2015 Wilbur Award, 2016 Daytime Emmy Award, 2016 Gracie Award and 2016 Wilbur Award.

Lauren also received the 2016 ESM Video Achievement Award, 2017 National Assoc. of Black Journalists Award for General Assignment News and a 2018 Gracie Award for a profile on Billie Jean King. 

Nancy (Wassel) Edwards, ’89 looked beyond her own family during the stressful times of her husband's deployments and has counseled and supported scores of other soldiers’ families through her volunteer work with the Army's Family Readiness Group (FRG). 

The Family Readiness Group provides soldiers and their families with information and emotional support during deployments and training periods.

“I am honored to be selected for the ESM Wall of Distinction; it is giving me the opportunity to thank my high school for giving me a foundation on the importance of volunteering.  It was through DECA and the Principal’s Cabinet that I learned of service to my community, building leadership skills and working with others in order to reach a goal. I have been able to apply these things in order to serve the soldiers and their family throughout different phases of their lives as well as my own,” Nancy said. 

Nancy has given well over 1,000 hours of volunteer service to the FRGs in the battalions in which her husband, Colonel Dennis C. Edwards (ESM ’86), has served. Nancy has also spent her career working as a legal assistant.

She helped establish the FRG in Arizona and assisted with the unit's deployment to Afghanistan. She received a 2-Star General's coin—an award presented by the commanding general for outstanding service. 

Nancy also received the Department of the Army Patriotic Civilian Service Award in 2008 for her volunteer work in Florida, and in 2010 received the Congress of the U.S. House of Representatives Military Spouse Award. 

Nancy later took on the role of Senior Spouse assisting families in Newport, RI during training and deployment to Africa. More recently, she served on the Board of the Association of Bragg Spouses at Fort Bragg, NC, and was the membership co-chair.

Kathleen Crossett Garver, ’97 graduated from West Point with Dean's List honors and a class that was only about 10% female. She served five years in the Army in several leadership roles. After caring for her children, Kathy re-entered the workforce by training for and earning a position as a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She interviews witnesses, gathers information, completes research, testifies in court and brings criminals to justice.

“Through her case work, she holds elected and appointed officials accountable, which upholds the public's trust in our institutions,” said Gary Loeffert, Special Agent in Charge in Buffalo.

Her highest profile case to date was the "Buffalo Billion" which involved a multi-million dollar bid-rigging scheme by developers. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY honored Kathy's efforts, expertise and successful leadership on this case. 

A three-sport athlete at ESM, Kathy is currently a volunteer youth soccer coach. She also coaches an elementary "Girls on the Run" team.

 “I am extremely honored and humbled to be selected for the ESM Wall of Distinction.  The dedicated staff, faculty, and coaches of ESM served as the foundation for whatever successes I have had, and I am proud to be able to give back to the community. Without the support of my family and the ESM community, in particular Tess McKenney, this would not have happened,” Kathleen Crossett Garver said. 

Lauren Kochian, ’96 serves as President of the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST) in Syracuse.

Currently, Lauren serves on the Board of Directors for GiGi's Playhouse, a local organization that provides support and resources for individuals with Down's Syndrome and their families. She volunteers with Arc of Onondaga, including participating as a runner for the Athletes in Tandem event that she created. Lauren also serves on the advisory council of Golisano Children’s Hospital, Syracuse Stage Board and the Armory Square Association Board.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by my alma mater. ESM is where I grew and learned and chose the path that I am on today. My success is attributed to the incredible teachers I had at the high school—they not only gave me robust knowledge in various subjects and helped me select my college and major—but they taught me about my humanity and the importance of giving back to the community that has given me and my family so much,” Lauren said.

Her previous roles include executive vice president of the MOST, marketing and development for Arc of Onondaga and Syracuse Stage, and public relations for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. 

“Lauren's career is directly linked to improving the local Syracuse community by raising funds to maintain, build, and strengthen the lives of those in the arts, disabled community, STEM education, and children,” said David Brandon in his nomination. He added that she is a “role model for young women balancing career, family and a dedication to public service.” 

Kay Gallery said in her nomination, “Lauren's commitment and passion drive her to help not just her friends or family, but the greater community at large. Investment in community is in her blood.”

Meghan Thomas echoed the praises, in her nomination, “She is an advocate for STEM education and programming, as well increasing opportunities of acceptance for people with disabilities.”

She is also a 2016 CNY "40 Under 40" award winner. Lauren is raising her family in the ESM district. 

Danny Liedka, ’86 has worked for several television and radio stations as a commentator for baseball, softball, football, hockey and more. He entered local politics and then served at the county level before moving to his current position as President and CEO of Visit Syracuse, which is Onondaga County’s official tourism promotion agency.

“It is an absolute honor and privilege to receive this recognition from my alma mater. I would not be in this position if I wasn’t part of a great community that motivated me to do my very best every day. The foundation that ESM provided me shaped my entire future. I am extremely grateful,” Danny said of the honor. 

An accomplished sports broadcaster, Danny has called games for ESPN, Yankees Entertainment Network, The Big East Network, the NHL Network, and Time Warner. In 2003, he received the Cable TV Ace Award (cable’s “Emmy”) for excellence in broadcasting Syracuse Basketball.

After serving as a Trustee in the Village of East Syracuse, residents elected him as Mayor. He passed six budgets without a single tax increase and reduced crime. Next, Danny served as an Onondaga County Legislator for three terms where his legislation included raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and vaping products and created an animal abuse registry. 

Danny has volunteered for ESM Little League for over 8 years.  He is currently oversees baseball operations as Vice President on the ESM Little League board and runs weekly youth clinics. He coaches baseball and is responsible for maintaining the fields.

Danny is a member of the Arthur Butler Post of the American Legion. He helped his son create a charity that renovated the Veterans Park in East Syracuse.

“He has a work ethic like no other. He believes that hard work is the key to success and has proven this true in all his endeavors, successes and defeats,” his nomination reads. 

2020 Inductees for the ESMEF Wall of Distinction

  • Kathleen Alaimo

    Kathleen Alaimo

  • Lauren Barnello

    Lauren Barnello

  • Nancy Edwards

    Nancy Edwards

  • Kathleen A. Garver

    Kathleen A. Garver

  • Lauren Kochian

    Lauren Kochian

  • Danny Liedka

    Danny Liedka

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