Most Successful Alumni of Madison Heights High School

I take pen in hand (how I did it when I was at Madison Heights or computer keyboard in hand in the modern era) and nominate 5 alumni as the most successful alumni of Madison Heights High School.  These are the individuals that I know or know of and they have significant accomplishments that have reflected very positively on  Madison Heights.  At Madison Heights, we not only learned academic subjects but also learned about life values and leadership.  These individuals have taken all these factors and achieved very successful careers in their chosen field but they also showed great leadership and have set high standards for the next generation to follow.

1.   Bishop Michael Coyner, Class of 1967

Michael Coyner graduated Madison Heights High Schools in 1967.  At Madison Heights  Mike participated in Thespians, Honor Society, Academic Bowl, Student Council, Senior Executive Council,  and was Senior Class President.

Michael Coyner went to Purdue University where he received a B. A.  He then obtained his M. Div degree from Duke Divinity School and then his Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew Theological School.  Mike first served churches in the North Indiana Conference and then  served as a District Superintendent of the Lafayette District.  He was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church in 1996 and was assigned to the Dakotas Area where he served two terms as resident bishop.  In 2004 he was assigned to serve the Indiana Area, and in 2008 he was assigned to a second term.  Michael Coyner is the author of four books:  Making a Good Move (1999), Prairie Wisdom(2000), The Race to Reach Out (2004) and A Year With John Wesley and Our Methodist Values (2008).  Bishop Michael Coyner also has received honorary doctorates from Dakota Wesleyan University, the University of Evansville and the University of Indianapolis.

Mike lived about two blocks from our house and I played basketball in his driveway on several occasions.  Mike was only an average basketball player but it was clear that he was special and had more leadership qualities than most of our fellow students.

We salute Michael Coyner for his achievements.  He exemplifies the best of Madison Heights graduates with service to God, his profession and service to his fellow man.

2.   Dr. David Walter Pershing, Class of 1966

David Walter Pershing attended Madison Heights High School for four years with the graduating  Class of 1966.  He participated in the Honor Society, Annual Staff, Quill and Scroll and Student Council.  He was also a member of one of the first five year math programs and graduated number 4 in the class of 376 graduates.

David Pershing went to Purdue University where he majored in Chemical Engineering, considered by many to be the second hardest major in the University after Physics.  He graduated first in his Chemical Engineering class of about 110 student with a GPA of 3.97 and received a B. S. Ch. E. with Highest Distinction (given to the top 3% of the graduating class).  He then served three years in the United States Public Health Service to fulfill his military obligation.  He worked as a line officer for what became the Environmental Protection Agency, working in air pollution research.  He returned to graduate school at the University of Arizona where he earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1976 doing his thesis on air pollution research.

David W. Pershing joined the University of Utah as an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering in 1977. He was named a Presidential Young Investigator by the National Science Foundation in 1984 and became Dean of the College of Engineering in 1987. He has had a brilliant career in academia, government, industry and consulting.  He has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, more than 20 research grants, and five patents to his credit.

At The University of Utah, Dr. Pershing has won the Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Research Awards and is the 1997 recipient of the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence.  He is the director of the University of Utah’s Center for Simulation of Accidental Fires and Explosions, fueled by a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  In 1998, Dr. Pershing was named Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Utah and has held that position since then.

In 1999, Purdue University named Dr. David Walter Pershing as one of its Distinguished Engineering Alumnus.

David Pershing is very modest about his accomplishments but his accomplishments are most impressive.  To this day he has retained his respect and friendship to all he meets.  Dr. Pershing is most deserving of his many awards.

Recent Note:  On January 21, 2012, Dr. David Walter Pershing was named the 15th President of the University of Utah.

3.   Dr. Philip M. Faris, Class of 1966

Philip Mason  Faris attended Madison Heights High School from 1962-1966 graduating with the Class of 1966.  Phil must have been the natural athlete since he participated in multiple sports earning letters in football, basketball, track and baseball.  Phil was one of the starting running backs and defensive backs on the undefeated Madison Heights football team of 1965.  Unfortunately in his senior year, he suffered a major knee injury during the football season which many of us still remember.  Phil was not only an excellent athlete but also an excellent student.  He went through the five year math program and graduated 16th in a class of 376.  I don’t know how he found time to study given all the sports he played.

Phil recovered from the knee injury and accepted a sports scholarship to Ball State University.   He played receiver and some defensive back and still holds the Ball State record for the longest interception return for a touchdown  (95 yards).  Upon graduation in 1970, the NFL Miami Dolphins showed some interest in drafting Phil but he elected to go to Medical School instead.

Philip Faris graduated from Ball State University in 1970 and then went to Indiana University Medical School where he graduated with his M.D. in 1974.   Phil elected to specialize as an Orthopedic Surgeon and did his post graduate work at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.   Phil has conducted research on knee, elbow and hip replacement as well as prosthesis design and development.  He has also be an assistant professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Indiana School of Medicine.  He is a charter member of the  Association for Arthritic  Hip and Knee Surgery.  Dr. Faris is also a member of the very prestigious Knee Society.  Dr. Faris published at this counting 119 technical and scientific articles in professional medical journals and been the recipient of several awards from professional organization.

Phillip Faris was inducted into the Ball State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.  Ball State University also honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Award for his contributions to the medical field in 2004.

Phil Faris exemplifies the very best qualities of human compassion, professionalism, friendship to all, humility and class.  I am honored to call him my classmate and friend.  He is an outstanding example of the education and values we learned at Madison Heights.

4.   Ray Tolbert, Class of 1977 

Ray Tolbert is probably Madison Heights’ best known athlete.  In his senior year he was the leading scorer senior year 25.1 ppg; leading rebounder with 13.0 rpg; most blocked shots with 6 bpg.  He was a star that everyone looked up to because of his talent, his size and his heart. In 1977 he was selected as a High School All American and Mr. Basketball of Indiana. He took his talent to Indiana University where he was the MVP of the NIT championship in 1979.  He was also Big 10 Player of Year in 1981.

Raymond (Ray) Lee Tolbert (born September 10, 1958 in Anderson, Indiana) was selected by the New Jersey Nets in the 1st round (18th overall) of the 1981 NBA Draft. A 6’9″ power forward from the Indiana University, Tolbert played in five NBA seasons for six different teams. He played for the Nets, Seattle SuperSonics, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks. Later he was the coach of the ABA’s Anderson Champions.

Ray Tolbert has expanded beyond sports and is an ordained minister.  Ray has used his skills to mentor and motivate others.  He currently gives motivational speeches and works with youth in mentoring them to make better decisions about their lives.

Ray Tolbert is a credit to Madison heights and its ability to inspire its graduates to serve others.

5.  James Rebhorn, Class of 1966

 James Rebhorn attended Madison Heights High School from 1962-1966 graduating with the Class of 1966.  He participated in the Thespians (for 3 years) and acted in all the Thespians and Class plays.  He participated in the Junior Class Play, The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere, the Senior Play, My Sister Eileen and the Senior Thespian Play, A Murder has been Committed.

I always heard him called Jim Rebhorn and never in high ever remember him called James.  I guess James is a better professional name.  Jim was just like the other guys in the class, smart, probably better looking than the average and little did we know we was that interested in acting.  He did participate in all the school plays but so did several other classmates.  In our senior yearbook I was standing besides Jim in the Thespians and Debate Club group photos so at I have some physical evidence that I once know James Rebhorn before he  became famous.

James Rebhorn attended Wittenberg University in Springfield,Ohio graduating in 1970 with a degree in theatre and political science.  He later moved to New York City where he graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Fine Arts.  In 2004, Wittenburg University awards James Reborn its Wittenberg Fellows program to recognize notable accomplishments by its graduates.

One bio lists him as a tall slim man with a bony face, hawk-like nose, sandy receding hair and steely eyes, he has appeared in films, TV and Broadway.  He has played varying degrees of villainy, a nasty domineering father, a crooked politician, a dishonest military officer, a deceitful, manipulative family member and so on.  Early in his career he appeared on two soap operas “Search for Tomorrow”  and   “The Guiding Light”.

Some of his most famous roles are: Silkwood” (1983), “North and South” (1985), “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (1991),  “My Cousin Vinny” (1992), “Basic Instinct” (1992),  “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992), “Scent of a Woman” (1992), “Carlito’s Way” (1993), “Blank Check” (1994), “I Love Trouble” (1994),  “Guarding Tess” (1994),  “Independence Day” (1996),  “My Fellow Americans” (1996) ,  “Seinfeld: The Finale” (1998), “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999),  Cold Mountain (2003),  Baby Mama (2008),  and  Comanche Moon (2008).  James Rebhorn has a long list of accomplished actors with which he has appeared.

Recent Note:  James Rebhorn died on 21 March 2014 in South Orange, New Jersey.


These are my nominations for most successful alumni ofMadison HeightsHigh School.

Footnote:  I will admit a small amount of basis on my nominations. I knew four of these individuals while at Madison Heights.

I had equal billing with Jim Rebhorn (I never remember hearing him called James at Madison Heights) in the senior class play “My Sister Eileen” when we were 2 of 6 Brazilian sailors (or future admirals).  I was also Student Director for the Thespians Play “A Murder has been Arranged” in our senior year when Jim had a major role.  I don’t remember ever hearing that Jim was planning an acting career but we all wish him well.  He was and is a great guy.  I enjoy seeing him each time he appears in a new role.  There is already a controversy brewing in our class when one my fellow Brazilian sailors (Dr. Bob Morris) is also claiming that he taught James Rebhorn everything he knows about acting.  I ask you Bob, who is standing beside Jim in the 1966 Treasure Chest Debate Club and Thespians Group photos.

Mike Coyner lived two blocks from our house and for 2 years I walked down to our bus stop which was at the corner of his house.  I remember several pick up basketball games which we played in his driveway.  I am not too surprised that Mike has done so well.  He shows early signs of character and leadership ability.

I also knew Phil Faris and Dave Pershing quite well.  The three of us were lab partners in Mr. Sloane’s chemistry class.  Our little group of three ended up with one M.D. (orthopedic surgeon)  and two PhDs (both in Chemical Engineering) so maybe there was a reason that we had little trouble answering Mr. Sloane’s questions on chemistry.  We had a lot of fun with the lab groups next to our which consisted of Cindy Nottingham (1966 Valedictorian and Phil’s wife), Vicky McQueary (D. Ed) and I have forgotten who else was in their group.  Phil was amazing.  Amazing that he could do all those sports and still do end up number 16 academically in our class, be in so many leadership roles and still be just a really nice guy.

Dave Pershing (#4 in our graduating class of 1966) and I were best friend through college (he was best man at my wedding) and have remained close friends even though we have gone our separate ways.  Dave Pershing continues to amaze me every time we talk, with his growth, his wisdom and leadership skills.  His humility, respect and friendship to all he meet is extraordinary.

I am honored to have gone to high school with these fine classmates.  That’s my nominations for outstanding graduates of Madison Heights High School.  Let’s hear from other MHHS alumni and their nominations for our most successful graduates.

Dr. David Vern Addington

MHHS Class of 1966


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