2019 Ponaganset Distinguished Alumni Award Winner Profile




Since 1962 Ponaganset High School has graduated thousands of students. Among these graduates are many outstanding, accomplished individuals who, through their works and deeds, have made major contributions to their communities, their career fields, and to society. To honor, recognize, and acknowledge these individuals, the Foster-Glocester Regional School District established the Ponaganset High School Distinguished Alumni Award. A committee of alumni, former faculty, and administrators was formed to solicit and review nominations for this award. The Committee is very pleased to announce the 2019 recipients of the Ponaganset High School Distinguished Alumni Award:

 Anne Marie Gabriele (1982)

In the field of music, Anne Marie Gabriele is a nationally recognized orchestral musician and solo performer whose career has spanned the continent and Hawaii. After graduating top in her class at Ponaganset, Anne Marie earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree from the Julliard School of Music. She was a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra from 1990-1993 and held dual positions from 1993-1999 with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Canton Symphony Orchestra. Since 2000, she has held the position of second oboist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (a Tier I orchestra) and is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music as well as a guest lecturer at The Juilliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and the Arnold Jacobs School of Music. To put her accomplishments in perspective - the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a Tier I orchestra, recently had had an opening for a clarinetist. Four hundred musicians applied; 75 were invited to audition and one was selected. Anne Marie accredits her musical inspiration to an exceptionally strong music program at Ponaganset whose wind ensemble performed and competed internationally.


Roderick MacDonald (1977)

Roderick MacDonald is an internationally recognized trumpet soloist and conductor who has performed with and led renowned orchestras and ensembles around the world. He earned a BA from URI in Mechanical Engineering and earned a Masters of Music from the New England Conservatory. As a conductor, Maestro MacDonald completed his formal conducting studies at the Leipzeig Conservatory, earning a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting. From 1989-2005 he held the position of Principal Trumpet of the Leipzig Gawandhous Orchestra. One of the world’s oldest symphony orchestras, it traces its roots back to time of J.S. Bach as early as 1743. He was named Kammermusiker by conductor Herbert Blomstedt in 2003 – an honorary title given by the music director and awarded by the Mayor of Leipzig, Germany.  Prior, he received the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Festival. After years of performing in Germany, he returned to the United States, and teaches at the State University of New York, and is the Music Director of the New England Symphony Orchestra. He can be heard on recordings with the Leipzig Baroque Soloists, solo recordings and numerous other chamber and orchestra recordings.


Brian O’ Connors (1978)

Brian O’ Connors served his country for more than thirty-five years, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and attained the rank of Command Sergeant Major (the highest rank possible for a non-commissioned officer) and received many distinguished awards.  Brian took advantage of the early enlistment program to the Army in his senior year at Ponaganset and served tours in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and Iraq as well as serving at the National Guard Bureau, Homeland Security Directorate in Washington, DC in support of Operation Noble Eagle and the Airport Security Mission after 9/11.  In 2003 Brian moved to Colorado and assisted in the start-up of United States Northern Command, a Four-Star Combatant Command charged with the defense of North America and providing the critical role of providing defense support to Civil Authority during times of natural or man-made disasters or emergencies. After returning from Iraq he transferred to the Colorado National Guard where he continued to serve the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the US Northern Command in several capacities including the Ballistic Missile Defense, the Democratic National Convention, and Vigilant Guard Exercise Program. He also served as the Senior Enlisted Leader for the NORAD and US NORTHCOM Training and Exercise Directorate, the Command Sergeant Major for the Warrior Transition Battalion, and ended his military service as the CSM for the Colorado Army National Guard Medical Command at Buckley Air Force Base. Command Sergeant Major O’ Connors awards include: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3), Army Commendation Medal (4), Army Achievement Medals (4), Rhode Island Star, Combat Action Badge, Bronze German Army Proficiency Badge and American, British and German Parachutist Badges.

 Terry (Johansen) Smythe (1975)

Terry (Johannessen) Smythe was a world-class elite rower whose passion for the sport and people led to coaching, teaching, mentoring, and developing programs in Michigan for all ages--the able-bodied as well as the entire spectrum of special needs individuals. A melanoma diagnosis galvanized Terry’s determination to promote awareness, treatment, and research funding. Terry was an Olympic rower who lost a chance to compete in the Olympics due to the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Terry coached women’s lacrosse at the college level, as well as high school tennis. In 2008 Terry started her own business, UCanRow2 teaching master rowing instruction classes and raising awareness of indoor rowing. She wanted to bring everyone: young, old, able bodied and disabled, mentally challenged and emotionally challenged. Terry made a significant impact on everyone she met, which earned her a term on the Michigan Governor’s Council of Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. She started the Michigan Tech Crew Team and served as coach for 25 years. In 2013 Terry was diagnosed with Muscosal Melanoma. Throughout her battle with cancer, Terri worked on raising funds for cancer research, raising melanoma awareness, and founded Meters for Melanoma under the auspices of the Midwest Melanoma Partnership. Terry succumbed to Muscosal Melanoma on November 27, 2018.


Applications for 2020 must be submitted by March 1, 2020.

Application forms may be found on the Foster-Glocester Regional School District  web page, or by calling the Superintendent’s office at 401-710-7568. Updated information on previously nominated candidates is encouraged and welcomed.

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