2009 Honorees

2009 Honorees



Pictured in photos from left to right: Charles Herbert Allan, Deedee O'Brien, Gilbert Campbell, Robert L. Lekites, Edward L. McMahon


Charles Herbert Allen, Lowell High School Class of 1865, was a true “Renaissance Man,” distinguishing himself in art, business, and politics.


Born in Lowell in 1848, Allen became one of the city’s foremost citizens. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1865. After graduating from Amherst College in 1869, Allen joined his father’s lumber business and helped manufacture cabinets. Later he became a trustee of Amherst College.


Allen became involved in local politics, first serving on the Lowell School Committee. As a School Committee member from 1874 to 1881, Allen was instrumental in starting the Lowell Evening Schools. He served two terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1881 and 1882, one term in the Massachusetts Senate in 1883, and two terms in the U.S. Congress in 1885 and 1889. He also served as Massachusetts Prison Commissioner from 1897 to 1898. Allen narrowly lost a bid to become Massachusetts Governor, as the Republican nominee in 1891.


In 1884, he received the title “Colonel” when Governor George Dexter Robinson appointed him to his personal staff. In 1898 President William McKinley named Allen Assistant Secretary of the Navy when Theodore Roosevelt resigned the post to enter the Spanish-American War. Allen held the post from 1898 to 1900.


Upon his return to Lowell, he became involved in several business and banking enterprises. He served as vice president of the Morton Trust Company and the Guaranty Trust Company of New York. Allen also served as president of the American Sugar Refining Company.


As a painter, Allen created twenty-seven landscape and marine paintings, which are in the Allen Collection of the Whistler Museum of Art in Lowell. As a passionate gardener, the grounds around his family home, known as “The Terraces,” flourished with gardens, fountains, a pergola, and a large gazebo. He was a member of a number of clubs, including the University Club, and he served as president of Vesper from 1892 to 1897.


His Rolfe Street home, known as Allen House, still stands today on the South Campus of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. It houses the chancellor’s office. Allen died in 1934 and is buried in a Lowell Cemetery.


Deedee O’Brien is the Executive Director of Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm, a position she has held since the organization’s incorporation in 1983. Under Deedee’s guidance, together with the Founder of Ironstone, Richard Donovan, Challenge Unlimited has grown from a small, grass roots non-profit organization to one of the largest therapeutic riding programs in the nation, serving more than 500 individuals each week with a staff of 16 licensed therapists and instructors and more than 200 volunteers. Challenge Unlimited collaborates with 26 service organizations to bring the “therapy of the horse” to people with a wide range of disabilities and backgrounds, thus making Ironstone Farm a center of rehabilitation for Greater Boston, the Merrimack Valley, the North Shore of Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire.

In 1997, Deedee started the Ironstone Therapy program to serve individuals with physical disability by providing physician prescribed physical and occupational therapy through “hippotherapy” – or “treatment with the use of the horse”. Ironstone Therapy has been a ground breaker in the industry for serving children in the “0-3’ age group through Early Intervention. Today, Ironstone Therapy contracts with 12 Early Intervention organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Ironstone Therapy was incorporated in 1998 as a separate non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

From 1999 to 2001, Deedee brought the non-profit Challenge Unlimited through a major capital campaign that raised $640,000, enabling the purchase of the 14 acre, $3,000,000 Ironstone Farm property in Andover, Massachusetts. Today, Challenge Unlimited is well known in the community and Ironstone Farm has become a center for rehabilitation, education, and recreation for more than 90 cities and towns. Since purchasing Ironstone Farm, the organization raised another
$750,000 to build a state-of-the-art heated indoor riding facility to be completed in Fall 2009. In 2008 Challenge Unlimited purchased the abutting property through MassDevelopment taxexempt bond financing to create after-school programs for children with disabilities in the arts.

Prior to her involvement with Challenge Unlimited, Deedee taught high school English and History at the Greater Lowell Regional Vocational Technical School, and at the Lowell High Night School diploma granting program. She was also involved in state, county and local 4-H Youth and Family Development programs, serving as co-leader with Richard Donovan of the 40-50 member Ironstone 4-H Club for 15 years, as assistant to the Cooperative Extension Agents for Middlesex County in 1970-73, as the Secretary for the Essex County 4-H Club Foundation in 1996, and as a Foundation Board Member from 1998 through 2002.

Deedee graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a major in Occupational Education in 1973, and completed her teaching certification requirements in English and History at Northeastern University in 1975. Other activities include starting the Therapeutic Riding Research Committee, active from 1992 to the present; maintaining memberships in the Rotary Club of Andover and the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lawrence from 2000 to the present, as well as the Pine Grove Grange of Bath, New Hampshire since 2003. Deedee also spent twenty years part time at the New England racetracks during the 1970s and 1980s as groom, exercise rider and assistant trainer working with thoroughbred race horses.


Gilbert Campbell was born in the Centralville section of Lowell where he lived until he was 21years old. He attended Lowell High School and upon graduating went to work in the real estate business. Throughout his career, he has built over 1500 houses, 3000 apartments and many commercial buildings which he currently owns and manages. In 1989, Gil built the beautiful hotel and restaurant Stonehedge Inn which was named after his farm in Tyngsboro and Florida.

Gil is a founding member and Past President of the Lowell Home Builders Association and is Past President of the Massachusetts Home Builders Association. He has also served as Vice President of the National Home Builders Association and is a lifetime Director. In the early 60’s, he was named New England Builder of The Year and during this same period the United States State Department chose one of his houses to be exhibited in Moscow for an exposition on American
technology. In 2002 , he was elected to the Northeast Builder’s Hall Of Fame and this past February Gil was honored by The National Home Builder’s Association for his services as a lifetime voting member of its Board of Directors.


Over the years Gil has been actively involved in the community including:
• Founding member of the Lowell Plan, serving on the Board of Directors for many years.
• Served as a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees for Saint’s Memorial Medical Center and
Saint John’s Hospital, and was Chair of the Board of St. John’s from 1987-88
• Board of Directors for several local banks
• Chairman of the Board of the Northern Middlesex Chamber of Commerce for several years and a recipient of the
Doctor An Wang Award
• Recipient of the Red Cross Donna and Elkin McCallum Humanitarian Award
• Honorary Degree of Doctor of Commercial Science form Merrimack College
• Past President of Vesper Country Club and co owner of the Lowell Lock Monsters.

Presently, Gil and his wife Marilyn are very involved in the thoroughbred horse industry. They both raise and race thoroughbred horses and have a farm in Williston, Florida. They have had many successful thoroughbreds competing in prestigious races around the country and are one of the most accomplished breeders in the state of Florida. Gil has served on the Board of Directors for the Florida Breeders and Owners Association for several years and is currently the President and
Chairman of the Board. Most recently, he was inducted into The New England Turf Writers Hall of Fame.


Robert L. Lekites, As president of UPS Airlines, Bob Lekites oversees the world’s ninth largest airline as well as Worldport, the company’s cutting-edge package processing facility and all-points international air hub. Under Lekites’ direction, UPS’s air and international operations have expanded and evolved to take on an
increasingly critical role in synchronizing global commerce and in 2009, the airline was named Cargo Airline of the Year by Air Transport World. Lekites was
named 2006 Business Leader of the Year by Business First of Louisville for his role in positioning Louisville as an international logistics center.


A native of Lowell, Mass., Lekites started with UPS in 1974 as a package car driver in Massachusetts. In 1979, he was promoted into management as an
industrial engineer. For the next decade, Lekites worked throughout New England in package and hub operations. As project coordinator for the opening
of the Chelmsford hub in 1987, he was responsible for sort operations that processed packages for delivery to the entire New England region.

Lekites spent a year working in corporate customer service in Greenwich, Conn., before relocating to West Los Angeles to serve as hub division manager. A year later, he became the operations manager for the metro Los Angeles area, with responsibility for five major hubs and feeder operations in the L.A. basin. After two years, Lekites returned to the East Coast to serve as South Carolina district manager. After that, he was named Metro Philadelphia district manager. In 1996, he accepted the position of UPS Flight Operations director in Louisville, Ky. He has headed airline and international operations since October 1997.

Lekites attended Northern Essex Community College and Lowell Technological Institute in Massachusetts. He graduated from Columbia Business School’s Executive Leadership Program in 1995.

In addition to his corporate responsibilities, Lekites serves on numerous committees including the Air Transport Association’s Senior Advisory Committee, the National Defense Transportation Association’s Military Airlift Executive Committee, the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and Greater Louisville Inc.’s
board of directors and executive board. He also serves on the Transportation Steering Committee for the Federal Reserve Eighth District.

Among his community activities, Lekites acted as 2000 general chair for the Metro United Way, and served as a member of Leadership Louisville’s board of directors and the University of Louisville’s board of overseers.


Edward Leo McMahon, beloved television personality, Lowell High School Class of 1940, kept his feet planted firmly on the ground while reaching for
the stars.
Born in Detroit in 1923 but raised by his grandparents in Lowell, McMahon always considered Lowell his hometown. McMahon attended Lowell High School, where he cowrote an advice column for the high school’s newspaper, The Review. He also belonged to the Boy Officers Brigade, before graduating from LHS in 1940.
McMahon landed his first broadcasting job at WLLH in Lowell. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines during World War II, earned his wings at the Pensacola Naval Base, and served as a combat pilot. He later trained other fighter pilots. After the war, he returned to school as a speech and drama major at Catholic University.

After graduating from college, McMahon settled in Philadelphia and landed jobs as a writer, producer, and host of several local programs, including a cooking show and early morning show. In 1950, he made his national television debut as a clown on CBS’ “The Big Top.”

Then duty called again. McMahon re-enlisted in the military during the Korean War, flying some 85 combat missions and eventually achieving the rank of colonel.

His big television break came in 1958, when producers tabbed McMahon to be the announcer and sidekick to host Johnny Carson on the ABC show “Who Do You Trust?” The pair honed their chemistry over the next three years, with McMahon playing the straight man to Carson’s quips. When NBC hired Carson to host “The Tonight Show,” he teamed once again with his “right-hand man” McMahon. During his 30-year run on “The Tonight Show,” McMahon’s booming voice, hearty laugh, and nightly trademark introduction “Heeeere’s Johnny!” made him an American institution.

McMahon added to his notoriety, hosting a variety of game shows, television specials, and commercials. He introduced America to new talent as the genial host of “Ed McMahon’s Star Search.” In addition to his numerous television appearances, McMahon appeared on Broadway and in several films.

Over the years, he worked for many charitable organizations, including the St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nevada, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the United Negro College Fund, and the Michael McMahon Memorial Sports Complex at St. Jude’s.

McMahon died in the summer of 2009 after an extended illness.