Lawrence High Hall of Honor inductees recognized for careers in public relations, international public health and computer graphics

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Amber Denker, wife of Lawrence High Hall of Honor inductee Lance Williams, inductee Wendy Taylor and inductee Z. James Czupor are pictured outside Lawrence High School on Sept. 30, 2018.

Leaders in the fields of public relations, international public health and computer graphics have joined the ranks of other distinguished graduates from Lawrence High School.

At a ceremony Sunday, the Lawrence Lions Alumni Association inducted the three graduates — Z. James Czupor, Wendy Taylor and Lance Williams — into the association’s Hall of Honor. Each year, the association recognizes graduates of Lawrence High School and the former Liberty Memorial High School who have distinguished themselves in their professions or who have made significant contributions to society on a state, national or international level.

After graduating from LHS in 1966, Czupor went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Denver, according to a news release from the association. Czupor, who would go on to co-found his own company, told ceremony attendees Sunday that it was his English teachers at LHS who first encouraged him to write and led him to work on the school newspaper.

“It opened my eyes to journalism, marketing and public relations,” Czupor said. “That led to my career.”

Czupor founded the InterPro Group public relations firm in 1990 with his wife, Marta Sipeki. He is also an author of short stories and novels and is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

After graduating from LHS in 1986, Taylor studied public policy at Duke University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Taylor’s work has focused on using innovative means to improve access to health care and prevent pandemic diseases internationally. She said she refuses to accept that people’s locations should predetermine their health.

“No one should die simply because they don’t have access to quality care,” Taylor said.

Taylor told attendees that her education in Lawrence, in particular her biology and anatomy classes with science teacher Ken Highfill, profoundly shaped her choices and path. She said Highfill was the most influential and inspirational teacher she had, including all her years at Duke and Harvard.

Taylor is currently a Rockefeller Foundation fellow working to use data analytics to identify pandemic disease threats before outbreaks occur and data technology to improve community health, according to the release. In 2010, she founded the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact for USAID, which focuses on fighting the Ebola and Zika viruses. She served as the organization’s director until 2017.

After graduating from LHS in 1967, Williams received his bachelor’s degree at KU before enrolling at the University of Utah, then a hub for pioneering work in computer graphics, according to the release. Williams died in 2017, and his brothers Sean and Todd Williams spoke on his behalf. Sean Williams told of how his brother combined his interests and talents in science and art, with his days at LHS no exception.

Sean Williams said his brother worked for the school newspaper, participated in the science fair, drew posters and studied chess, and had many teachers, neighbors and family friends who influenced him.

“He was born and raised in a town whose No. 1 product is education,” said Sean Williams, adding that his brother had been surrounded by people who had a passion for their endeavors.

Williams was a pioneer in computer graphics, and invented the texture-filtering techniques used in computer graphic hardware and video games, according to the release. During his career, he consulted with Jim Henson Associates, worked for six years in Apple’s Advanced Computer Technology Group and was chief scientist at Walt Disney Animation.

Photographs of Czupor, Taylor and Williams will be added to those of 91 other Hall of Honor inductees, which are on display in the rotunda of Lawrence High School.


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