PHOTO BY ANNA MAVROMATI Seventeen honorees were inducted into the new Mira Costa High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame last Friday. From left to right: Chris Warshaw (accepting on behalf of brother surf writer Matt Warshaw, who was in New York), author Mark Sundeen, composer David Benoit, philanthropist Richard Parker, Body Glove International owner Russ Lesser, U.S. National Park Ranger Nancy Muleady-Mecham, Wilma Tafoya (accepting on behalf of daughter NBC sportscaster Michele, who had to be in Philadelphia to cover an Eagles game), former Manhattan Beach mayor Gil Archuletta, race car builder Don Long, El Camino College Football Coach John Featherstone, former school superintendent Beverly Rohrer and former South Bay Union High School board of trustees member Josh Fredricks. Not pictured: former executive director for Teach America Cami Anderson, Olympic silver medalist pro beach volleyball player Mike Dodd, Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Eric Fonoimoana, Olympic gold medalist beach volleyball player Holly McPeak and Shea Weber who accepted on behalf of his late father, pioneer surfer Dewey Weber.
Last Friday students gathered in the Mira Costa High School auditorium to see an Olympic gold medalist, two former mayors, a critically acclaimed author and many more notable alumni from the high school.
The wide variety of speakers in the auditorium made up the seventeen inductees in the newly-created Mira Costa High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Council member Amy Howorth said the Hall of Fame emphasizes the importance of the high school in the community.
“Mira Costa isn’t just the shining jewel of our school system,” Howorth said at Friday’s event. “It’s also the heart of our community.”
She said she hopes the Hall of Fame will inspire students long after graduation.
“You don’t stop being mentored and inspired by people just because you left school,” she said.
The new Hall of Fame alumni took turns at the podium Friday to address current Mira Costa students and faculty. Not everyone inducted was available to accept the honor personally, but those who did often recalled their experience in high school and the faculty members who inspired them.
David Benoit, class of 1971, is a world-renowned jazz pianist, conductor and composer who has performed at the White House for former presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.
He jokingly said he recalled a math teacher once telling him, “I don’t think algebra is your thing. You should go into music.”
NBC sportscaster Michele Tafoya, class of 1983, who made history on CBS in 1996 as the first woman to call the television play-by-play of an NCAA tournament game, could not attend the event but addressed the auditorium through a video recording.
“What I didn’t understand in high school is that life is a lot simpler than you think it is right now,” she said.
She also said she wanted to advise students to keep in mind that the kid they know as the high school nerd could grow up to become the next Lady Gaga someday.
In order of their honor or appearance at the event, the other inductees included:
Professional volleyball player Eric Fonoimoana, a 1987 graduate who won an Olympic gold medal in 2000.
Russ Lesser, class of 1958, president of Body Glove International and former Manhattan Beach city council member and mayor for two terms.
Don Long, class of 1957, whose work building racecars has earned him a place in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Hot Rod Association.
John Fredricks, a 1967 graduate who served on the South Bay Union High School Board of Trustees and worked as a Municipal and Superior Court judge.
Matt Warshaw, class of 1978, historian and author of eight books on surfing.
Mark Sundeen, class of 1988, a New York Times Bestselling author.
Cami Anderson, a 1989 graduate who went on to become one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” for her work in education, currently is a school district superintendent in Newark, N.J., and formerly acted as executive director of Teach for America.
A second assembly in the auditorium honored beach volleyball player and Olympic gold medalist and 2009 Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee Holly McPeak, class of 1987.
Gil Archuletta, 1957 graduate, the first Mira Costa graduate to become a Manhattan Beach mayor.
Beverly Rohrer, class of 1955, who has taught at Mira Costa and served as school superintendent for Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach over the years.
John Featherstone, class of 1967, an El Camino College football coach who has won California State Coach of the Year eight times.
Richard Parker, a 1964 graduate, philanthropist and entrepreneur who went on to become a co-founder of Mother Jones magazine.
Nancy Muleady-Mecham, class of 1973, a U.S. National Park Ranger, biology professor, Natural Park Service consultant and author of four books and numerous articles.
The late Dewey Weber, class of 1956, a pioneer surfer and the star of numerous surf films throughout the ’50s and ’60s.
Mike Dodd, a 1975 graduate who won the silver medal in the 1996 men’s inaugural beach volleyball tournament at the Summer Olympics as well as winning the Manhattan Beach Open five times. He is currently coaching volleyball teams and working as a sports analyst for NBC.
The Hall of Fame will be part of a new student gathering area on campus called “The Mustang Mall,” which will be completed by the end of 2014. Each inductee was also awarded a gold-plated lifetime pass to campus events (such as sports games and theater performances), a Mustangs water bottle and a $50 gift certificate for the kiosk at last week’s football game.
Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale said he hopes that the Hall of Fame will be a link that “bridges” the school’s current students with successful alumni.