Arts Hall of Fame Inductees 2019
Robert “Robbie” Bennett (SHS Class of 1996)
Robert “Robbie” Bennett, keyboardist in the band, The War on Drugs, brought home the Grammy for Springfield when his band was awarded the Best Album of the Year award in 2018.
The War on Drugs is an American six-member rock band formed in 2005, with members originating from the Philadelphia area.
After releasing three albums, the band released their fourth album, A Deeper Understanding, in 2017. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018. A Deeper Understanding received worldwide critical acclaim and further increased the band’s notoriety among many audiences. Their 2017 tour began in September in Philadelphia and ended in Sweden. The War on Drugs has planned future world tours to highlight their musical accomplishments.
Using much of his music training he received at Springfield, Bennett has become a professional pianist, a multi-instrumentalist, and a songwriter. He has been a member of The War on Drugs since 2010. Bennett grew up in Springfield as the eldest of three siblings, and during his freshman year at SHS was encouraged by fellow classmate Pete Lewis to join his band on keyboard. He is a graduate of Philadelphia University and lives in Philadelphia with his wife, photojournalist Kait Privitera.
Kirstin Carey (SHS Class of 1991)
Kirstin Carey graduated from West Chester University with a Speech Communications Degree in 1996, and started her own consulting company (Orange Tree Consulting) working with businesses such as Verizon, UPS, and Aramark to communicate, market, and sell more effectively.
In 2008, Kirstin earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association, and her consulting company was thriving.
That same year, Kirstin was diagnosed with the Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the lining of the gut, and later Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid.
Refusing to believe she had to live a life with disease and on medication, Kirstin closed her consulting company and opened a series of gluten free healthy restaurants in Arizona called “Nourish”. She went back to school for nutrition and launched a wellness program called Autoimmune Freedom program, with her husband and partner Anthony DiNobile, for people who were also interested in stopping symptoms of autoimmune disease and heal naturally.
Since freeing herself from Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s, Kirstin has become a leading expert in helping others stop symptoms, reverse disease progression, and heal from autoimmune conditions.
Her work with hundreds of autoimmune clients, and her own personal healing journey has helped her cohesively tie together the three crucial components (Nutrition, Science, and Soul) needed to heal and reach autoimmune freedom.
Her goal is to help turn healthcare around and help people learn that they too can live amazing lives without medications, and without disease.
Joe Fordyce (SHS Class of 1998)
Joe Fordyce is a Senior Producer at NBC Sports Philadelphia (formerly Comcast SportsNet). He currently produces the Flyers pre and post-game shows as well as other sports programming for the network. Joe is a 1998 graduate of Springfield High School, where he studied TV production under Dr. Jeff Benton. He attended Penn State and graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting and Mass Media.
Joe began his career with NBC Sports Philadelphia as an intern in 2001 and has held progressive positions over the years. He has covered all the major sports with the local teams and has produced shows and features both on and off the field.
During his career, Joe honed his skills under the mentorship and guidance of Ron Burke, John Clark and Rob Ellis. He is particularly proud of his work covering the Kentucky Derby in 2006, the Phillies World Series win in 2008, the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, and the Eagles Super Bowl win in 2018. In addition, Joe has interviewed some of the biggest names in sports both locally and nationally over the past two decades including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins, and Allen Iverson. In 2014, Joe received an Emmy Award for Station Excellence.
Chris Hastings (SHS Class of 1992)
Chris Hastings’ passion for television started at age 10 working on a daily news show at Scenic Hills Elementary School in Springfield, PA. His love of making television content continued all the way through grade school and on into college in 1992, where he attended Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and graduated with BS in Telecommunication.
After college, as a result of a summer internship, he landed his first job at Black Entertainment Television in Washington—a position that had him work on national television shows and specials for the network. During this time, he also earned a master’s degree in film from American University in Washington.
In 2002, Hastings joined PBS’s flagship station, WGBH in Boston, MA to fulfill a lifelong dream to work in children’s television. His job at WGBH was on the award-winning show ZOOM and eventually evolved into his New England Emmy award-winning work at the WGBH Lab, an innovative incubator for up-and-coming filmmakers. He joined the WORLD Channel in 2011 as interim managing producer.
Hastings is now the executive producer and editorial manager of content for WORLDChannel.org. He oversees content development, acquisition, and production, as well as executing the day-to-day operations of the channel. Hastings’ work has been recognized through numerous awards, including the Columbia DuPont and the Peabody Award, along with a number of national news and documentary Emmy nominations. He has also served as adjunct professor at Emerson College in the MFA program. In 2016, Hastings became a Rockwood JustFilms Leadership Fellow and was awarded with WGBH’s prestigious Margaret and Hans Rey Curious George in-house producer fellowship. Hastings is also an alumnus of The Partnership Inc., a Boston-based leadership program for executives of color from across the country.
Matt Nesbitt (SHS Class of 1998)
Matt Nesbitt is a proud graduate of the class of 1998. He played lacrosse, was co-captain of the soccer team, and Best in Show winner at the Celebration of the Arts at SHS in his senior year. He went on to graduate from Drexel University with a magna cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design in 2002.
His career started with holding several positions in design and marketing, his work ranging from international packaging for Disney and K’NEX to website designs for brands like Mitchell & Ness and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Matt is currently a Senior Multimedia Designer for eMoney Advisor where projects include conference branding and online campaigns that drive leads for sales in the financial industry. He also co-owned a website design business for over 10 years and continues to enjoy freelance design and consulting in his free time. Matt and his wife Jillian live in East Falls with their lovable pooch, Oliver.
Karen Onorato (SHS Class of 1999)
Karen Onorato is a 1999 graduate of Springfield High School. She first entered the graphic design world at the age of 16 while working with Robert Preston in the SHS Graphic Arts Department. She spent two summers learning the inner workings of a full-service print shop and acquiring hands-on knowledge of the commercial printing process. After graduation, Karen attended Drexel University, where she studied for her Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design while gaining publishing experience at Philadelphia Magazine and Quirk Books through the university’s prestigious co-op program. After graduating, she continued to distinguish herself at Quirk Books for 5 years, designing several successful books, including the The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook, the Field Guide series, and Creepy Cute Crochet.
Karen next dove into the world of healthcare marketing, where she quickly rose through the ranks of two award-winning agencies. While employed at MediMedia Managed Markets, she advanced from Senior Designer to Creative Director in only 2 1/2 years, and in June of 2018 she was named Vice President, Creative Services at Ambler-based healthcare advertising agency DiD. There, Karen has blossomed in her role as a manager and mentor to young designers entering the field.
Karen has received numerous honors for her individual design work, including two MarCom awards—Gold and Platinum—from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), a Neographics Franklin Award of Excellence, a PM360 Gold Award for Professional Website, and an American Graphic Design Award from Graphic Design USA, among others.
Throughout her career, Karen has attributed her success to the love for design SHS’s outstanding Graphic Arts Department instilled in her. She is grateful to Robert Preston for his mentorship and is humbled to receive this honor.
Jennifer Sokira (SHS Class of 1997)
While at Springfield High School, Jennifer (Young) Sokira was a member of the SHS choir, Springfield Singers and Dance Line, and she appeared in several STW musicals and plays. She is particularly grateful to Sue Descano whose kindness and encouragement were pivotal in her decision to pursue a career in music therapy.
Jen attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA majoring in Music Therapy with a concentration in voice, and a minor in psychology, graduating in 2001, Magna Cum Laude. After her clinical internship and earning her board certification in music therapy, she relocated to Fairfield County, Connecticut where she began working with children on the autism spectrum and other special needs. Concurrently with the establishment of her clinical practice, Jennifer completed a Master of Music Therapy degree from Temple University. She focused on the areas of music and medicine and music psychotherapy and she was recognized with the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Therapy. She opened her private practice agency, Connecticut Music Therapy Services, LLC in 2005, which has subsequently grown to a statewide therapy agency. She has served in multiple leadership roles in her regional and national associations and successfully advocated the CT state government for music therapy title protection.
Jennifer lives in Monroe, CT with her husband Michael and sons Ryan and Zachary, only a few miles from Sandy Hook School. When the tragedy occurred on 12/14/12, Jennifer was called upon as a clinician and community member. This resulted in Jen’s establishment as a full-time clinician at the Resiliency Center of Newtown, providing individual and group trauma-informed music therapy services. She is committed to expanding knowledge in the field of trauma-informed music therapy, serving as an educator, supervisor and consultant to music therapists in communities around the country and world who are responding to mass casualty events.
In her personal time, she has become a regular performer in Connecticut’s community theater scene, as well as serving a term on her local theater’s Board of Directors. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, traveling, and enjoying New England.