The Manheim Township Alumni Association is proud to announce the recipients of its Distinguished Alumni Award for 2023: Michael J. Novak, class of 1983, and Dr. Benjamin R. Stabler, class of 2008.

Since 1997, Manheim Township has honored graduates who have outstanding professional accomplishments and who have positively impacted their community.  The annual recognition is meant to spotlight the noteworthy achievements of alumni and inspire current students.  

Michael J. Novak ‘83 is a Senior Vice President at J.S. Held, LLC with a 35-year career in environmental consulting and remediation. 

At Manheim Township, Novak was a member of the track, cross-country and wrestling teams. He won the Lancaster-Lebanon League title in the 3,200 meter and received the Blue Streak Award in 1983.  He earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University in 1987. 

Before being acquired by J.S. Held in 2021, Novak was founder and owner of Atlantic Environmental Solutions, Inc. (AESI) for 24 years. One of New Jersey’s first Licensed Site Remediation Professionals, he has directed over $100 million in environmental projects at more than 6,000 client locations across 47 states and serves as an expert witness on environmental and regulatory compliance issues.  

Novak received the Executive of the Year Award in 2018 by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), a 20,000-member business organization.  In 2005, one of his remediation projects was honored with an Excellence Award by NJBIA. He has served on the boards of several professional organizations, including the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, Hoboken Rotary, 200 Club of Hudson County, and Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment. He was President of the National Realty Club (a 70-year-old NYC-based commercial real estate organization) in 2019 and President of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce. Novak is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Rutgers School of Business, Center for Real Estate and serves on the Advisory Board of Citizens Bank and the Ambassador’s Board of Connect One Bank. 

Dr. Benjamin R. Stabler ’08 is a family physician with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.

At Manheim Township, Stabler was a member of the National Honor Society and played first chair bass in orchestra.  He was a 3-year varsity football player, earning all-league honors as an offensive and defensive tackle, as well as a track and field athlete, winning the league shot put title his senior year.  Stabler attended Harvard University, where he played varsity football and was a member of two Ivy League championship teams.  During college, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy during his senior year.

Following a gap year working for Lancaster General Health and completing his treatment, Stabler attended the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. As a family medicine resident, he was recognized for excellence in pediatric, emergency medical, and internal medicine care. Throughout undergraduate and medical school, he volunteered with various service organizations, including programs addressing hunger and raising funds for cancer research.

Stabler graduated from residency in June 2022 and returned to Lancaster to begin his career as a family physician.

Congratulations to music teacher Mrs. Rachel Swank, art teacher Mrs. Lauren Michaud, artist-in-residence Melinda Steffy and all our Manheim Township Middle School students on the completion of the “Who We Are” mural, unveiled and dedicated on Saturday, May 13! 

Steffy’s artistic process translates the musical principles of rhythm and pitch into color and shape. Mrs. Swank and  Mrs. Michaud saw Steffy’s unique approach to artmaking as the perfect opportunity for cross-curricular collaboration and applied for grant funding from Manheim Township Educational Foundation to bring Steffy to the school as artist-in-residence.

During her visits each marking period, Steffy guided students in 7th grade music and 8th grade art classes as they planned, prepared and created a visual representation of the school song, “Who We Are,” composed by now-retired Manheim Township orchestra director Francis Caravella with lyrics written by former MTMS students.

This project engaged every Middle School student as they explored the elements of music and the principles of design, interacted with a working artist, and contributed to an installation that will be a lasting part of the Manheim Township student experience. 

Manheim Township School District and Manheim Township Educational Foundation staff recently joined librarian Karen Leisey and instructional technology specialist Brandi Swavely for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of new media production studios in the high school library. Each of the two studios houses a complete set of podcasting equipment for four students, including a Rodecaster Pro soundboard, four headphones and four microphones, a computer for editing and a television monitor for show notes.

These unique spaces were funded by a grant from MTEF, made possible by a generous contribution from APR Supply Co. A gift from the MTHS class of 2001 also supported this project.

Leisey and Swavely applied for the MTEF grant to support their vision for this project, which emerged from a desire to provide students with a versatile platform for creating videos and recording podcasts. Dedicated areas in the library minimize distractions and maximize sound quality and allow students access to tools regardless of course enrollment.

“What will you do on Day 1 that will have students running back on Day 2?” This was the challenge posed to Manheim Township educators on Opening Day by speaker and author Thomas C. Murray. The author of Personal & Authentic: Designing Learning Experiences That Impact a Lifetime, Murray gave the day’s keynote address, thanks to a professional development grant funded by Manheim Township Educational Foundation.

In his writing and speaking, Murray encourages educators to create awe-inspiring experiences grounded in relationships. Technology integration coaches Megan Smith, Jackie Druck, and Brandi Swavely applied for the grant that put Murray’s book in the hands of every Manheim Township teacher, and brought Murray in for the district’s 2022-2023 kick-off day, a project aimed at ensuring teachers of their importance in lives of students, providing teachers with tangible ways to connect, and building a culture of learning.

Throughout the school year, technology integration coaches plan to build on the positive feedback and momentum of this event by keeping text and its ideas at forefront at their weekly newsletter and helping teachers create personal and authentic learning experiences through coaching.

The Manheim Township Educational Foundation (Board of Directors recently approved the creation of a Student Impact Fund, allocating up to $5,000 annually to fund grants submitted by Manheim Township High School students.

While students have always been eligible and encouraged to apply for MTEF grants, few of these applications have come from this group.  The Student Impact Fund aims to change that, by making the process more accessible to students. Whereas MTEF reviews general grants twice annually, student impact grants may be submitted at any time during the school year, with notification of approval provided within two months.

“To better engage students, we worked to streamline and simplify the application itself as well as the timeline for approval and award. We know that students have innovative ideas that can benefit the broader school community. With the unique aspects of the Student Impact Fund, we hope to empower them to turn those thoughts into reality,” Executive Director Jenny Germann explains.

Student Impact Representatives, MTHS students who serve as non-voting board members of Manheim Township Educational Foundation, will play a key role in managing the program. Current Student Impact Representatives, senior Noel Shabu and junior Michael Vogt, in collaboration with Germann and Chris Flores, Vice President of the MTEF Board and Chair of the Board’s Grant Disbursement Committee, developed the application guidelines and review process for the new fund and presented the program to the Board for approval.

The Student Impact Fund is reserved for requests under $1,000.  A student grant application requires the signature of the school principal as well as a faculty member, who will manage grant funds if awarded. Grant requests must benefit more than one student and should highlight innovation, in keeping with MTEF’s stated mission to provide resources for innovative educational programs for all Manheim Township School District students.

“I want students to know that this is their chance.  I hear so much passion and see so much drive for change, for ways to make things better.  The Student Impact Fund is a great opportunity to do that,” says Shabu.  “We’ve made the process easy.  The door is wide open.”

Completed in the summer of 2021 and funded Manheim Township Educational Foundation, the SkyLab Observatory includes an outdoor science classroom equipped for students grades K-12 to learn, conduct research and connect to planetariums and observatories across the globe. 

A permanent structure with a retractable roof, the SkyLab provides a home for the district’s observational astronomy equipment, including a professional refractor telescope. Fixed mounting improves the precision of instruments and reduces variables in experiments, while protection from the elements and decreased handling extends the longevity of equipment. Now, instructors spend less time training students on equipment and more time teaching; students spend significantly less time setting up and breaking down and more time collecting data and conducting scientific research of the sky.

“In this observatory, students quite literally have the universe at their fingertips. The ability to have such experiences in grades K-12 is unparalleled at the local or state level. Very few examples exist on a national level that rival this level of commitment to STEAM learning,” says Dave Farina, high school science teacher and planetarium and observatory director.

First presented to MTEF by Farina during the 2017-2018 school year, the $125,000 project was funded over three years, in four phases, including an initial fact-finding and engineering phase. Special thanks to MTEF donors Clark Associates Charitable Foundation; APR Supply; Brightbill Transportation; Ephrata National Bank; Fulton Bank; Gibbel, Kraybill and Hess; High Industries; Mid Penn Bank; Orrstown Bank; Pediatric Therapeutic Services; Peoples Bank; S&T Bank; Sharp Shopper; Traditions Bank; Univest; Waste Management; and Weis for providing key contributions to bring this project to fruition.