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Three join OPRF's Tradition of Excellence

Nia I. Wordlaw, Maci Philitas and Howard P. Willens are 2019 honorees

November 12th, 2019 2:27 PM

Nia I. Wordlaw, Maci Philitas and Howard P. Willens are 2019 honorees. Photo provided

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

On Nov. 8, Oak Park and River Forest High School officials presented the 2019 Tradition of Excellence awards to three alumni. 

The annual designation was established by OPRF's class of 1982 honoring "alumni or former students who have distinguished themselves professionally and who, through their accomplishments, have brought great credit to their alma mater," according to a statement OPRF released earlier this month. 

The awards this year went to Maci Peterson Philitas, a 2005 OPRF graduate who is the co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought, "the definitive delay-recall app that allows users to retract a text after hitting 'send,'" according to the high school's statement. 

Since launching in 2014, Philitas' company has generated more than $1 million in revenue and is used in 190 countries. She's been profiled by Forbes, NPR, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Black Enterprise, Fox, and WGN, among other media outlets. Philitas lives in Casablanca, Morocco. 

Nia I. Wordlaw, a 1993 OPRF graduate, is among the 1 percent of African-American women in the United States who pilot commercial airplanes. Wordlaw, who has wanted to fly since she was 10 years old, is also the co-founder of Sisters of the Skies, a nonprofit designed to "provide encouragement, professional development, and support" to its members, according to the organization's website. 

Wordlaw was featured in American Masters: The Women's List, a 2015 PBS documentary that featured 15 pioneers, including attorney Gloria Allred, writer/producer Shonda Rhimes, and talk show host Wendy Williams. Wordlaw lives in Houston, Texas. 

Howard P. Willens, who graduated from OPRF in 1949, wrote the 2013 book History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy — the "only book ever written on the subject by a senior member of the commission staff," according to OPRF's statement on the honorees. 

Willens, who lives in Washington D.C., was an assistant counsel to J. Lee Rankin, the 31st Solicitor General of the United States who chaired the Warren Commission. As an assistant counsel, "Willens was involved in every aspect of the commission's efforts," the OPRF statement notes. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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