A renowned jazz musician, a former mayor, a sportscaster, a race car builder and two Olympic gold medalists are among the first inductees in the Mira Costa High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
This Friday, Sept. 28, the 17 Mira Costa graduates, who live throughout the country, will be recognized at various events throughout the day and during halftime at that evening’s football game.
“It’s long overdue,” said Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale about the Hall of Fame. “We have a lot of great former students who have gone on to make valuable contributions to society, and we’re honored to honor them.”
The Hall of Fame inductees will be permanently memorialized in the “Mustang Mall,” a new student gathering area that will be constructed as part of the high school’s renovation, expected to be complete by the end of 2014.
On Friday, the Hall of Famers will receive a personalized frame certificate, a gold-plated lifetime pass to all Mira Costa High School athletic, performing arts and academic events, a $50 gift certificate to spend at the kiosk at Friday’s football game and a Mustangs aluminum water bottle, all placed in a drawstring bag embroidered with the Mira Costa logo.
The 17 inaugural inductees were selected out of around 40 nominees, Dale said.
“It’s an amazing list. Certainly all of the people nominated were worthy of consideration. Those that made the inaugural group are the ones unanimously selected (by the committee) to move forward,” he said. “When you walk around our campus and get to know the current students, it’s no surprise that there are so many former students that have gone on to do great things.”
The inductees in alphabetical order are…
Cami Anderson, a 1989 graduate, was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” for her efforts to improve American education. She received a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Now the superintendent in Newark, N.J., she was previously the executive director of Teach for America and received the Sallie Mae National Teacher of the Year Award and Teach for America’s Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership.
Gil Archuletta, a 1957 graduate, was the first Mira Costa graduate to become mayor of Manhattan Beach. The prominent attorney was commended by the president of the L.A. City Council for outstanding community service. He has volunteered many hours as president of the South Bay Junior Football Association and as a Little League and Youth Basketball coach. Of all of his accomplishments, he says that he’s most proud of being the father of four — all of them Mustangs.
World-renowned jazz pianist, conductor and composer David Benoit, a 1971 graduate, has performed at the White House for three U.S. presidents: Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. Nominated for five Grammy awards, he has released more than 25 solo recordings. He is the principal conductor for the Asia America Symphony Orchestra, but has also led eminent orchestras around the world, including the L.A. Philharmonic.
Mike Dodd, a 1975 graduate, helped change the face of beach volleyball around the world. With his partner, Mike Whitmarsh, he won the silver medal in the men’s inaugural beach volleyball tournament at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Closer to home, he has won the Manhattan Beach Open title five times. Now retired from competition, Dodd is as an internationally known analyst for NBC and a coach for both men’s and women’s teams, including the American doubles team of Gibb and Rosenthal in this year’s London Olympics.
John Featherstone, a graduate of 1967, is the most successful head football coach in El Camino College history and has the highest winning percentage (69.2%) of any active coach in the Southern Section of California. Voted National Coach of the Year for the second time earlier this year, he also picked up his eighth California State Coach of the Year award. More than three dozen of his players have gone on to successful professional football careers.
Each year the Mira Costa Boys Volleyball team gives out the Eric Fonoimoana Commitment Award to recognize one player’s outstanding character, achievement and dedication to the sport. The 1987 graduate won an Olympic gold medal at the 2000 games in Sydney. A dominant and consistent force on the AVP Tour for years, Fonoimoana also continues to donate winnings and devote much of his time to his foundation “Dig 4 Kids” helping inner-city youngsters excel in volleyball, school and life.
Josh Fredricks, a 1967 graduate, started his career as a Manhattan Beach police officer, worked his way through law school, taught law and police science classes at El Camino, practiced criminal law and had a distinguished career as both a Municipal and Superior Court judge. His service on the South Bay Union High School Board of Trustees (1977-1982) came at a crucial time for local education. His legal expertise, calm demeanor and ability to find consensus helped guide the district through one of its most difficult periods.
Russ Lesser, a 1958 graduate, still lives about 100 feet from the Manhattan Beach house his grandparents purchased in 1917. After a successful CPA career, he became president of Body Glove International in 1990, which sponsors Costa’s Scholar Quiz program. A dedicated runner himself (he has run more than 50,000 miles), he established the Manhattan Beach 10K Run, which boasts one of the country’s highest local participation rates. Lesser also served eight years on the Manhattan Beach City Council, two terms as mayor.
1957 graduate Don Long has been called “the Michelangelo of race car builders.” After beginning his drag racing career with a Fiat altered coupe in the early 1960s, he built other altered, gasser chassis and later, Funny Cars. But his fame and recognition principally rest on the more than 130 superbly designed and fabricated dragsters turned out by his Southern California shop in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2001 he was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and in 2010 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Hot Rod Association, the largest of all motorsport organizations.
Holly McPeak, a 1987 graduate, helped revolutionize women’s volleyball. Recent Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor said, “As a beach volleyball player, it doesn’t get much better than having played with Holly. I want to thank her for laying the foundation not only for me but for all the young women that will come after.” One of just five women worldwide to compete in the first three Olympics in beach volleyball and having won multiple tournament titles, McPeak was inducted into Volleyball’s Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2002, she became the first woman to surpass $1 million in career earnings.
Few people are more curious about the world than Nancy Muleady-Mecham. The 1973 graduate achieved distinction as a U.S. National Park Ranger, professional naturalist, National Park Service consultant, biology professor, author of four books and numerous articles, emergency room registered nurse, paramedic, astronomy lecturer, medical trainer, Civil Air Patrol instructor, national emergency response team member, researcher and explorer. A Fulbright Scholar at the Gorno-Altaisk State University in the Russian Federation, she credits her Mira Costa biology teacher, Betty Estill, for encouraging her far-ranging interests and sparking a lifelong passion for her subject.
An Oxford-trained economist, 1964 graduate Richard Parker is a lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University. Earlier, he was a journalist and co-founder of Mother Jones magazine. A philanthropist, he has directed various foundations to donate more than $40 million to social change groups. He is also a social entrepreneur who grew Greenpeace from 2,000 to 600,000 supporters and a political consultant advising, among others, Senators Kennedy, Glenn, Cranston, McGovern and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. His book on economist John Kenneth Galbraith was described by William F Buckley as “the best biography of the century.”
An early graduate of a then new high school, Beverly Rohrer, a 1955 graduate, went on to have an immense impact on education in the South Bay. Beginning as a teacher at Mira Costa, she rose in administrative ranks until she had served as school superintendent not just in Manhattan Beach, but also in Redondo and Hermosa. Under her leadership, fine arts programs flourished, technology expanded and test scores continued to rise. More than instrumental in making Mira Costa the outstanding school that it is today, she earned local, state and national recognition for educational innovation and inspiring leadership.
Seeing life from a different angle distinguishes Mark Sundeen, a 1988 graduate. His books, Car Camping (2000) and The Making of Toro (2003), drew critical attention. In 2010, he co-authored North by Northwestern, a New York Times bestseller. His latest book, The Man Who Quit Money, established him as one of America’s most innovative writers of literary non-fiction. Recently receiving the Innovative Artist’s Award for his genre-bending approach, his works have appeared in the New York Times magazine, Outsider, National Geographic, and other publications. He has taught in creative writing programs at the University of New Mexico and Western Connecticut State University.
Michele Tafoya, a 1983 graduate, is a nationally known sportscaster for NBC and made history at CBS in 1996 when she became the first woman to ever call the television play-by-play of an NCAA tournament game. She is a highly visible sideline reporter for a number of sports including Monday Night Football. In 2006, The Davie-Brown index ranked Tafoya among the most likeable TV sports personalities, including Biggest Trend-Setter. She recently won the first-ever Emmy for Sports Personality—Sports Reporter. She just finished covering her third Olympics in London.
Matt Warshaw, a 1978 graduate, is a surfing writer and historian who has published eight books on surfing. A former editor of Surfer Magazine, Matt’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Outside and Surfer. His Encyclopedia of Surfing was described as "a living, breathing masterpiece" on Salon.com. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin wrote "Warshaw has written more cogent words about surfing than any other human."
One of the most familiar names in surfing, Dewey Weber, a 1956 graduate, was a California surfing pioneer who became legend at his untimely death in 1993 at age 55. In the 1950s, Weber surfed Hawaii and features prominently in surfing films of the period. By the 1960s he had returned to California where he took over a surfboard company and turned it into an international success. A new biography, Little Man On Wheels, details Weber’s life story from his childhood through his rise to surfing stardom, the creation of Dewey Weber Surfboards, his impact on the sport and his enduring legacy.
The inductees will be honored around 8:00 p.m. (during halftime) in Waller Stadium on Friday, Sept. 28, as the Mustangs play Newport Harbor. For more information on the Hall of Fame, visit www.miracostahigh.org.