Wall of Fame Class of 2005
Betty Knieser MacDonald
Class of 1955
Betty MacDonald graduated from Olean High in 1955 and later received her Bachelor of Music Education Degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia. Ms. MacDonald was head of the Elementary String Program in Ossining, N.Y.
In addition to her teaching position, Ms. MacDonald is a professional violinist, vocalist, performer and recording artist. She produced two jazz CDs of her music, “Soulful” and “Dream Come True,” and has a lengthy discography of other recordings on which she has performed.
Along with her professional music career in the United States, Ms. MacDonald was featured in jazz festivals in Russia, India and Turkey. She earned the title of “Jazz Connection for the Hudson Valley” for her many years as a radio personality on WDST in Woodstock, N.Y., and WAMC in Albany, N.Y.
Ms. MacDonald continues to teach string music, conducts jazz and improvisation workshops, and performs in schools and nursing homes encouraging audience participation and spreading the love of music instilled by her parents and her hometown of Olean.
Class of 1952
George Pancio was born in Olean in a family of five brothers and five sisters from parents of Austrian descent. After graduating from Olean High in 1952, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Master’s Degree in School Administration from the State University of New York at Brockport.
Mr. Pancio served as principal in several Olean Schools, and later was named assistant superintendent of schools. He was also very active in the community, serving on several different boards and many youth oriented activities, including Boy Scouts of America, YMCA, United Way, American Red Cross, Hospital Hall of Roses, Miss America Pageant, Soap Box Derby and the Jaycees, who recognized him as an outstanding educator. The Exchange Club of Olean also recognized Mr. Pancio with the Golden Deeds Award.
Mr. Pancio and his wife, Marcia Ives Pancio, have six children: Paul, Steven, George II, Dawn, Marce Lynn and Paula. Together, Mr. Pancio and his wife have 14 grandchildren. The entire Pancio family played a significant role in bringing joyful experiences to children by playing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. Mr. Pancio spent 50 nights on his Main St. roof with a sleigh and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer each winter. His Santa experience took him to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 11 years, and Mr. Pancio also appeared on Good Morning America, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Gene Rayburn’s “Hell of a Town.”
In 1990, the Pancios were recognized as “Family of the Year.”
Josephine Marra Wehmeyer
Josephine Wehmeyer is a graduate of St. Elizabeth’s Academy and later earned her Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees from St. Bonaventure University. Mrs. Wehmeyer was a teacher at Olean High from 1962 until her retirement in 2002.
Mrs. Wehmeyer was an innovative and resourceful teacher who inaugurated the first film study course at Olean. She led the English department for many years, taught several AP courses, and was generally the tutor of choice for students at risk of not meeting their English requirement.
Mrs. Wehmeyer passed away following her retirement, and is survived by her mother, older sister, husband, daughter and son. Josephine was a dutiful and loving daughter, an adored wife, a doting mother and an absolutely dedicated teacher. She is keenly missed by all whom she touched in her 67 years.
Louis A. Magnano
Class of 1950
Louis Magnano dedicated his life to building a better Olean and surrounding area. He graduated from Olean High in 1950 and later earned degrees from Bryant & Stratton Business Institute and St. Bonaventure University.
Mr. Magnano was noted not only for his business prowess, but for his love of – and generosity to – the community proudly called home for the duration of his life. From intense childhood interest in his father’s transportation business, Mr. Magnano built Blue Bird Coach Lines into the largest privately-owned motorcoach company in New York State, and one of the Top-100 private companies in Western New York. He later sold the company in 1998 to Coach USA.
As president and chief executive officer of Park Centre Development, a real estate and development company, Mr. Magnano sought to beautify the community by utilizing the latest architectural concepts to introduce innovative plazas, industrial parks and corporate buildings to Western New York.
A well-known philanthropist in the Olean area, Mr. Magnano was the recipient of Olean’s most prestigious honor, the LOUIE (Love of Olean United in Enterprise), and also earned a number of business and civic awards. His community support is legendary and includes landmark contributions to Olean General Hospital, Olean Skateboard Park, the William O. Smith Recreation Center, St. Bonaventure University, Jamestown Community College, the Rehabilitation Center, and more.
Mr. Magnano’s name, generosity and impact permeate the greater Olean area. His life work was highlighted by his relentless drive to make the community he calls home a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Class of 1978
Larry Sorokes graduated from Olean High in 1978 and later earned a Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Master’s in Educational Administration from St. Bonaventure University.
Sorokes has substantial experience in the field of education as a teacher, trainer, grant writer, program director and administrator, including several years at Olean Business Institute and Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES. He served as dean of the Cattaraugus County Campus of Jamestown Community College and was the college’s chief strategic planning and institutional development officer, and later served as an administrator at St. Bonaventure University.
Sorokes is proud to be an Olean native and volunteers his time toward the betterment of the community through participation with numerous local boards, community service projects and cultural endeavors.