The first class of the Swanton Local School District Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame is set to be inducted this week. The first two inductees will be Val Watts and Robert Mitchell.
The inductees will be introduced during a ceremony at Swanton’s varsity football game against Woodmore on Friday, as well as a luncheon at Swanton High School, sponsored by the Swanton Schools Foundation.
Although Val J. Watts was a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of his junior class, attended the American Legion’s Boys’ State, volunteered numerous hours of community service through the “Hoop Tree” organization, and was selected as SHS Homecoming King his senior year; the 1985 graduate was known to his classmates mostly for his athletic prowess, particularly on the football field and in track and field.
Dr. Val J. Watts earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from Ohio Northern University in 1990, where he also played football for the Polar Bears. He continued his studies at the University of North Carolina and in 1994 was awarded his Ph.D. in Pharmacology. He completed postdoctoral studies in molecular pharmacology from 1995-1998 at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.
Following a nationwide search for a neuropharmacologist, Watts was recruited to the the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Purdue University. Since his arrival to Purdue in July of 1998, Watts has excelled in all areas relevant to the mission of Purdue University.
He was promoted to rank of professor in August 2010 and currently serves as interim head of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. Watts has also been the recipient of numerous awards including Purdue University Faculty Scholar Award (2009-2014), and a prestigious 2009 National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Independent Investigator Award, and two Young Investigator Awards.
His research program has continued to thrive and remains continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Watts has been the recipient of more than $3.5 million in research support and he has published over 90 research articles and textbook chapters.
Research in the Watts laboratory uses a multi-disciplinary approach, combining molecular biology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. These studies have led to the development of agents actively being evaluated in patients with schizophrenia.
Val, his wife, Juila and their son, Jackson, now reside in West Lafayette, Ind.
Colonel (Retired) Robert Mitchell attributes his success to former Swanton Head Football Coach David Hansbarger. His inspiration motivated Mitchell to excel in football where, upon graduation from Swanton High School in 1976, he was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Toledo. There he played quarterback and wide receiver while earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree.
After graduating from UT, Mitchell was selected for Army flight training. Over the following 31 years he has earned two master’s degrees, and distinguished himself in a military career within the areas of the Army Medical Department, Aeromedical Evacuation, and Aerospace Science.
The highlight of his career was leading troops; this is where he excelled. He commanded a Ground and Air Evacuation Task Force, consisting of over 1,000 soldiers, 60 Blackhawk helicopters, and 72 ground ambulances in a mission to support over 140,000 U.S. and Coalition Forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His Battalion Task Force evacuated nearly 39,000 patients while flying over 15,000 combat flight hours in one of the most demanding and challenging locations in the U.S. Central Command area throughout the Iraqi Theater of Operations.
For their actions in combat, Mitchell and his battalion were awarded the prestigious Lieutenant General Ellis D. Parker Award for the Best Combat Support Aviation Battalion in the Army for 2005. His assignment at the time of his retirement, Colonel Mitchell was Director, Medical Capabilities and Integration Center, Fort Sam, Houston, Texas, where he oversaw the worldwide capability development and material acquisition processes for the entire Army Medical Department.
Mitchell has been honored numerous times throughout his military career. Awards he or those under his command received include, but are not limited to:
• Army Times Soldier of the Year;
• Medical Service Corps Award of Excellence;
• DUSTOFF Assoc. Rescue & Crewmember of the year;
• Aviation Consultant to the Army Surgeon General (2008-2012).
Mitchell and his wife, Dena, currently reside in Alabama. They have four grown sons and three grandchildren.