Inducted April 21,2007
Leon Goldman
Class of 1922
Leon became a well-known surgeon and
served as department chairman at
the University of California San Francisco
Medial School from 1956-1963.
Dr.Goldman is the father of
U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein.
Gordon M. Graham
Class of 1934
Lt. General Gordon Graham, a Petroleum
Engineer with Honolulu Oil Co. In
Taft, went on to become a triple-ace
fighter pilot with 73 missions over Europe
and 146 combat missions in
South East Asia.
Trice Harvey
Class of 1955
Trice received is Bachelor of Science
Degree in Public Health at Fresno State College and
worked as a health inspection in Kern County for
ten years. He is the only Taft High graduate to be
elected to the Kern County Board of Supervisors
and also the only graduate to be elected a California
Charles Hudson
Class of 1934
Lt. Colonel Charles Hudson completed two
tours of duty aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in
Europe during WWII.  He is one of the most
highly decorated bombardiers of that war and
was known as "Combat Charlie Hudson".
Tom O'Brien
Class of 1930
Tom was a long-time shot and discus coach and
athletic trainer at TUHS.  He was an official at the
1984 Olympic Games in
Los Angeles.  Also, he was the trainer and coach for
Leon Patterson who was a national shot put record
Leon Patterson
Class of 1952
Leon was the first high school student in the United
States to throw the shot put over 60 feet setting a
national record.  He was recruited by USC and
accepted a scholarship.  As a sophomore at USC, he
threw the discus 178 ft. 8 in. - further than any
college sophomore in history.
Larry S. Pierce
Class of 1959
Sgt. Pierce was posthumously awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor in 1965.  He was killed
in Vietnam when he threw himself on an
anti-personnel mine to save his platoon.  He was the
first soldier from California to earn the medal during
the Vietnam conflict and the only recipient from Kern
William L. Putnam
Class of 1962
A distinguished naval officer for 34 years, Rear Admiral
William L. Putnam commanded the Abraham Lincoln Battle
Group during counter terrorism operations in the Persian Gulf,
a destroyer squad during Operation Desert Storm, and guided
missile destroyer USS Scott during counter terrorism
operations in the Mediterranean in 1985 & 1986. He graduated
from Stanford University and the Graduate School of Business
as a Sloan Fellow.
Lee Elton Smith
Class of 1955
Dr. Smith is a distinguished surgeon in Washinton,
D.C.  He wstablished the colon and rectal surgery
center at Bethesda Naval Medical Center and has
operated on three U.S. Presidents.
Thomas Stevens
Class of 1956
Tom Stevens was appointed to the
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra by Zubin Mehta who
named him principal trumpet player.  Before joining the
L.A Philharmonic, he served in the U.S. Army as solo
trumpet with the U.S. Military Academy Band at West
Point.  He also played with the Dallas Symphony
Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center,
and the Los Angeles Bass Quintet.
Pete Gianopulos
Class of 1942
Pete was a teacher, counselor, and Director of Guidance
during his 35 years at Taft High.  Besides serving this
community as an educator, he served on the Taft City
Council and as Mayor of Taft.  He is most well known as
the originator, host and producer of Taft Heritage in
cooperation with Taft High's TV Studio and the West
Kern Oil Museum.  He also writes the "Remember When"
column each week for the Midway Driller and also emails
it to hundreds of local and former residents who are
interested in Taft's history.
J. Dykes Johnson
Class of 1927
Dr. J. Dykes Johnson was Student Body President and a
star football, basketball, and baseball athlete while at
TUHS.  He graduated from Stanford University where he
was a star baseball player.  He received his M.D. from
the University of Louisville in Kentucky and served as a
physician in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  He served this
community as a physician to families and was the
sideline physician for TUHS football games for many
years.  Those who knew him through is medical services
will remember that he did an unbelievable amount of
work for which he accepted no pay.
Paul T. Magee
Class of 1955
Paul, known as "Pete", is Professor Emeritus of Genetics,
Cell Biology and Development at the University of
Minnesota.  He received he undergraduate degree at Yale
College in Chemistry, and his Ph.D. at the University of
California Berkeley in Biochemistry.  His research
specialty is the Genomics of Candida Albicans, a major
human pathogen.  Professor Magee was one of the
pioneers in using modern genetic techniques to study this
organism.  In 2000 he received the Horace T. Morse
-University of Minnesota Alumni Society Award for
contribution to undergraduate education.  In 2006 he was
elected a Fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
Don Zumbro
Class of 1952
Don received his B.A. Degree from the College of
Pacific and his Master's Degree in Educational
Administration from Fresno State College.  He
worked for Taft City Schools for twenty-one years
- eleven as a teacher at Roosevelt and Lincoln,
and ten years as principal at Lincoln.  He was the
Dean at Taft College for twenty years.  He has
been very active in the community serving on
boards that have assisted the needy, youth, adults
and sports programs in Taft.
Robert Barrett
Class of 1958
Robert Barrett began his hospitality and tourism career in the
United States Virgin Islands in the early 1960s. He spent the next
20 years learning all aspects of the industry and achieved
substantial success in the fields of resort management and
In the Caribbean, Barrett’s Elite Island Resorts represents quality
Caribbean resort properties as well as his own popular hotels
and island resorts. Robert purchased his first Caribbean hotel,
Pineapple Beach Club, in Antigua, in 1986. He also owns and
operates the St. James’s Club Antigua, purchased in 2001, and
the Galley Bay. In 1999 he purchased a private island in the
Grenadines called Palm Island.  Palm Island has been named as
one of the “Worlds Leading Private Islands” by many travel
Since his push to provide quality facilities for travelers to Florida
and the Caribbean, his major marketing and hotel operations
have also developed a commercial plaza and boutique hotel in
Bouquete, Panama.
Dennis Fimple
Class of 1958
While at Taft High Dennis was involved in basketball, baseball,
and Block T. He was a member of the Gusher Staff, served as
Administrative Board Senior Representative, and was a
member of Hi-Y. His love was in the area of drama, journalism,
and broadcasting. He first became interested in acting when he
portrayed Tom Sawyer in one of Lincoln Junior High’s drama
He attended San Jose State College and majored in speech,
drama, and earned a teaching credential. During his early
struggling days as an actor he worked in a Cheetos factory by
day and acted in dinner theaters at night.  He moved to
Hollywood where he worked as a teacher by day and a delivery
man at night prior to getting his first break with a two episode
guest appearance on the television show
“ Petticoat Junction.”  He is best known as the lovable dim-
witted Kyle Murty on the comedy western television program
“Alias Smith and Jones,” and subsequently popped up in T.V.
episodes including “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.”, “M*A*S*H”, “Green
Acres”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Quantum Leap”, and “ER” to name
a few. Dennis was in over 100 TV episodes and 20 movies
during his career as an actor in Hollywood.
Glenn Dolder Black
Class of 1939
During Glen's Taft College days he took flight training courses
earning his pilot’s license. Following his graduation from Taft
College, he enlisted in the Army Air Force as an aviation cadet at
Gardner Field outside of Taft. Because of the need for pilots and
his prior flight training, Glenn became an instructor. He flew B-
17s in the Pacific Theater and at the end of the W.W. II served as
part of the occupation troops in Japan. After his service in the
Army Air Force, he and his brother bought a small business that
had been in operation in Taft for nearly 20 years known as Taft
Plumbing. They expanded their new business into an all inclusive
plumbing contractor service and were subsequently involved in
the construction of many homes, schools, and commercial
buildings throughout the Central Valley, Central Coast, and
Southern California area. Glenn’s service to the community is
extensive. He was elected to the Taft City Council and served five
terms as Mayor of Taft and served as president of the Kern
County Division of League of California Cities. He devoted much of
his time to the development of athletics at Taft College and was a
founding member of the Quarterback Club. He was also a
founding member and Director of the West Kern County Water
District and is a member and past Commander of American
Legion Post 70. His affiliations with community service
organizations in Taft include Rotary Club, Elks Club, Moose Lodge,
Oildorado Association, and the Taft Pilots Club.
Jeanne Cooper
Class of 1949
Jeanne received her theatrical training at the College of the
Pacific, the Civic Light Opera Company, Revue Theatre, and
the Pasadena Playhouse.  Her first film credit was in 1953
when she appeared in "The Redhead from Wyoming: with
Maureen O'Hara.  From there it was a list of stunning
movies and television appearances.  She joined the cast of
"The Young and the Restless" in 1973 as Katherine
Chancellor and has been a thriving part of this TV soap
opera since its inception.  She is an accomplished actress
and is a resident star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She
was named the Pasadena Playhouse Alumni and
Association Woman of the Year in 1989; she received the
MVP award from the Soap Opera Update i 1990 and won an
Emmy for lead actress in a drama series.
Bob J. Hampton
Class of 1956
After graduating from Taft High, Bob went to Taft College for one
year and then was given a full-ride basketball scholarship to the
University of Southern California. While at USC he received the
“Most Improved Player” award. He played basketball at USC for
three years and stayed at USC after receiving his degree to earn a
Masters Degree in Education. He returned to Kern County to take a
teaching and coaching job for the Kern High School District at
South High and worked there for two years. He then moved to
Shafter and taught and coached at Shafter High School for four
years; then, Chula Vista where he was the assistant basketball
coach at Southwestern College. He later accepted the basketball
head coaching position at West Hills College in Coalinga.
Bob retired from teaching in 1979 and went into the garbage and
portable restroom business in the Coalinga area until 1983. In May
of that year, he purchased Westside Waste Management in Taft.
His community and business involvements include Delegate
Region 12B to the California School Boards Association, Kern High
School District Trustee, Kern County Assessment Appeals Board,
Chairman of the Taft College Foundation, President of Kern County
USC Club, Chairman of the Westside Economic Development Co.
LLC, Director of the Taft District Chamber of Commerce, and
member of the Taft Rotary Club.
Duane E. Townsend
Class of 1952
Duane received his B.A. from the University of California at Davis in 1955 and entered the
School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in the fall of
1955. In 1957 he became a Student Fellow in the Department of Pathology at UCLA and
received his Doctor of Medicine from UCLA in 1960. He was appointed Assistant
Professor, OB/GYN at the UCLA School of Medicine in 1965, and while there he wrote the
premier paper on the use of cryosurgery for the treatment of pre-malignant disease of
the uterine cervix. He was the first to train nurses in the extended role of women’s
health care, which led to the development of the first nurse practitioner training
program. He was a Clinical Professor, OB/GYN at USC School of Medicine from 1979
through 1982, and at the same time served as Clinical Professor, OB/GYN at UCLA from
1980 through 1982. In 1985 he moved to the Sacramento area to become the Clinical
Professor, OB/GYN at the UC Davis School of Medicine. In 1987 he became Professor
and Vice Chairman, OB/GYN at UC Davis, School of Medicine. There he developed training
protocols for physicians in the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques, e.g.,
laparoscopy and endometrial ablation. From 1992 through 1999 he was the Director of
Oncology and Gynecologic Endoscopy at LDS Hospital at the University of Utah School of
Medicine. Since 1999 he has been in private practice.
Jane Bush Kinsey
Class of 1936
Jane was accepted at U.C. Berkeley at the age of 16 and
graduated in 1940 with degrees in Drama and English.
After graduation she became a teacher for the Taft City
School District. She taught in every grade, but primarily
in grades 6, 7 and 8 at Lincoln Junior High School. She
took classes at UCLA and Fresno State College and
received her Master or Arts degree in Guidance and
Counseling from Fresno State College. She was the girls’
counselor and the drama teacher at Lincoln in the mid
1960’s until her retirement from Taft City School District
in 1978.  Jane was a founding member of the West Kern
Oil Museum and the museum curator for over 25 years.
Her mission was to turn the museum from just a
showcase of oilfield memorabilia into a living history
museum where people could personally experience the
businesses, communities and people who lived and
worked in the camps.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors recognized Jane
on two different occasions. Within the community of
Taft, the Taft Rotary Club, Taft Kiwanis Club, and Taft
Chamber of Commerce recognized her.  Jane received a
Regional Award of Merit from the Kern Council of
Governments. The California State Assembly recognized
Jane for her work at the West Kern Oil Museum, and on
January 10, 2005, the California State Senate adjourned
with prayer and remembrance in her memory
George Gianopulos
Class of 1945
George was Group Supervisor for the first successful
project to acquire close-up photos of the surface of the
moon; this was a precursor to the Apollo Manned Space
Missions. He was later Director of Mission Control, Viking
Project, for which his team developed software used to
deploy Viking Landers which first sat down on the surface
of Mars and gathered data and images. He concluded his
career directing the efforts of 3,000 engineers to develop
real-time army battlefield information.
Mountford "Monty" Reedy
Class of 1931
Monty was quarterback and captain in 1930 when Taft High
first beat Bakersfield High and won the Valley Football
Championship; he continued his athletic career at
UC-Berkeley. After service in WW II, he returned to teach in
Taft, and for the next 25 years, he and his wife, Mary Ann,
promoted a wide ranging positive working relationship
between the high school and the larger Taft community.
Monty has been inducted into the Bob Elias Hall of Fame.
John H. Silcox
Class of 1944
John received his BA (geology) from UC-Berkeley
in1951, and joined Standard Oil Company (Chevron).
In 1984, He was named President of Chevron
Overseas Petroleum Inc. (COPI), directing
operations in 30 countries and all continents except
North America. Later, as Chevron's representative
on the multi-industry American Trade Consortium,
he led negotiations with the Soviets and Republic of
Kazakhstan over exploration and development of oil
rights. The giant Tengiz oil field, in Kazakhstan,
doubled Chevron’s proven reserves.
Dr. Francis Sooy
Class of 1932
Dr. Sooy became Chancellor of UC-SF in 1972
and held that post until 1982. His decade of
duty was a contentious one as civil rights and
protest movements roiled the social
environment in San Francisco.
Dr. Sooy was particularly skillful in working
with these dynamics and led a major
expansion and modernization of Moffitt
Hospital, built a new home for the School of
Dentistry, and added a major new hospital
wing. Through it all, he maintained a regular
schedule of clinical appointments and
otolaryngology surgery.
Gilbert G. Weigand
Class of 1968
Gilbert's work for the Department of Energy (1996-
1998) highlighted his creative brilliance. During that
period, he was able to develop and build high-
performance ultra-computers that operate at more
than 1.8 trillion calculations per second. He also
developed technologies to monitor the nation’s aging
nuclear stockpile. A major component of this
program uses large computer simulations to
examine weapons physics. This allowed the United
States to abide safely to the terms of the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Mary Simon Wilson
Class of 1952
Born without arms, but with a pair of talented
feet, Mary Simon Wilson played xylophone and
later marimba, winning a talent contest in
Hollywood and appearing on live television in
Bakersfield for several years. A mother of two,
she opened and successfully managed a child
care center, and working with families in
Europe, Japan and Australia, she inspired and
instructed them on ways to raise their
“thalidomide” babies. Throughout her life, she
embraced new ways of living helping to
redefine what it means to be normal.
Churchill James Campbell
Class of ’34,
Churchill graduated from the University of California
(1938) with a degree in Electrical Engineering and a
career interest in submarine service. When WW II began,
he entered officer’s training school in New London,
Connecticut and was assigned to the USS Parche.  He
received two Silver Stars during the war. After the war,
Churchill became an engineer with Chevron and later
ARCO. In February 1974 he was appointed ARCO’s
Superintendant of Production Services in Prudhoe Bay,
Alaska. On June 17, 1977 the first of 1.7 million barrels of
oil per day was put into Pump Station Number One and oil
flowed from Prudhoe Bay. Churchill Campbell’s values,
expertise and commitment to task reflected both his
character and his training and are exemplary features of
his entire professional life.
Louise Lowe Chiu
Class of 1951
Assisted by a Bank of America scholarship, Louise entered UC
Berkeley after graduating from high school. (Pharmacy B.S.
1955). She married Thomas Chiu, a medical student at USC,
and began her pharmacy career at the UCLA Medical Center.
When Tom graduated in 1958, Louise started medical school
at UCLA, and received her MD in 1962. Her interest in surgery
led her to pursue specialty training in Obstetrics and
Gynecology. During these training years, she and Tom had
three daughters, Elaine, Linda, and Teresa. Louise started her
Obstetrics and Gynecology career with Kaiser Permanente,
Los Angeles, and later transferred to Sacramento, where Tom
continued his Orthopedic Surgery practice. Pursuing an
interest in Legal Medicine, she enrolled in the McGeorge
School of Law and received her JD in 1977 while continuing
her full-time clinical practice. After ten years as the Chief of
Medical-Legal Affairs at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento, Dr.
Chiu was promoted to the regional office of Northern California
Kaiser Permanente where she became Medical-Legal
Director. As Director, she and her staff developed Kaiser's
Risk Management program, promoting the program with the
medical and hospital staffs across northern California.
Bob Colston
Class of 1949
Bob graduated from Taft College in 1951.
In his early years he worked at the Taft College Student Union and
Ricards Shoe Store. He opened Bob and Vic's Shoe Store in the
late 50's and started his first building project under Colston
Construction in 1963. That project was the Imperial Gardens and
The Tradewinds apartments, which are located where the old
Saint Mary's School and Convent used to stand between Fifth and
Fourth Streets on Woodrow. He has been responsible for building
hundreds of high quality homes in the Taft area.
He has made donations to civic groups, foundations, The Fort, and
recently donated the A Street Park to the Westside Recreation
District. He has served the community of Taft through his
long-time membership in Rotary Club, Westside Children's Camp
Inc, as a Taft City Council member, a member of the Taft Chamber
of Commerce Board, a member of Taft National Bank Board of
Directors, a Trustee for the Westside Mosquito & VC District, and
a Little League sponsor. As a long-time member of the Westside
Children's Camp Inc., Bob has donated his time, money, and
equipment to improve the camping experience for children using
Camp Condor. He was also a member of the Oilworker Monument
Committee for the 100th anniversary of Taft, giving time, money,
and equipment to develop this centennial masterpiece. He is
co-founder of The West Side Development Co. LLC.
Richard "Michael" Garratt
Cass of 1966
Mike played football, basketball, and track & field, and two
sports came to the forefront. In football, Mike was All League
in 1964 and 1965 and the League MVP in 1965. He is a
co-holder for most touchdowns scored in one game, and he
holds the records for most rushing yards in a game, most
rushing yards in a season and most carries in a game, the
latter a record which he held for 41 years. In track & field, Mike
is the Taft High School record holder in the shot put with a
throw of 62' 6 3/4", set in 1966, and he has held this record for
the past 44 years. He is a three-time state track meet qualifier
(sophomore, junior and senior years) and a National Decathlon
participant in 1965 through 1967. After graduating from Taft
High, he received a full athletic scholarship to UCLA and played
football lettering in 1967 through 1969.  In 1967 Mike lettered in
the shot put, the discus and the javelin. He also played rugby
while at UCLA and lettered in 1969 through 1970. He was a
member of the All UC Rugby Traveling Squad which competed
in New Zealand and Australia in 1970. Mike Garratt was a
player and a co-founder of the Kern County Rugby Club, and
they were State Champions in 1974.
His professional experiences have included being a teacher,
coach, athletic director, assistant principal, and principal in
California communities such as Taft, Fort Bragg, and Bishop
from 1973 through 2008.
Charles Hanna
Class of '52
Charlie earned his medical degree at Creighton Medical
School in 1961 and  was awarded the Mosby Scholarship
Award for his class. While serving in the U.S. Navy for six
years, he was one of 10 out of a pool of 300 applicants
selected for training as a Flight Surgeon. He accumulated
750 hours flight time (250 in jets), and in 1964 was chosen
North Island Naval Station Flight Surgeon of the Year. He
also flew with the Coast Guard on many of its airborne
rescue missions and ultimately received eight
commendation awards in recognition of his noteworthy
rescues both on land and sea. Few of us are fortunate
enough to discover the special work that taps our abilities,
challenges our leadership potential, and gives us
opportunity to serve others. After his discharge from the
Navy, Charlie spent the next forty years as a family doctor in
San Diego, during which time, due to his athletic abilities, he
was twice the national doubles champion in Racquetball,
and the California state singles champion. He ran six
marathons including the 1980 Boston Marathon. Charlie
was team physician to the NBA San Diego Rockets, and the
sports physician to the University of San Diego. He was
selected by notable public figures as their personal
physician and in his practice Charlie often served three
generations of the same family. His commitment to them,
his family, and the men who served their country was
expansive, outstanding and notably memorable.
Stephen "Steve" Hall,
Class of 1969
Steve earned his B.A. at CSU-Fresno.
He became manager of the Tulare Lake Drainage District in 1976
and started developing water policies that would carry him to the
position as Executive Director of the Land Preservation Association
in 1985. Four years later, he took a similar responsibility with the
California Farm Water Coalition, a high-profile job where he quickly
made a name for himself as a dynamic and powerful public
speaker. In 1990, Steve emerged as a principal player in the so-
called "three-way" negotiations among urban, agricultural and
environmental interests. The endeavor yielded historic progress
toward resolving a long-running conflict among the three groups
and helped usher in a new era of collaboration on water. In 1993, his
water industry knowledge, negotiating skills, and his remarkable
reputation as a public speaker landed him the job as Executive
Director of the Association of California Water Agencies. It was
from this position that he was able to accomplish so much toward
achieving a safe, clean, and reliable water supply for California.
Under Hall’s direction, the Association of California Water Agencies
developed a joint powers authority which allowed members to
purchase electricity at a discounted price. He also guided the
association’s work on special district issues, gaining
representation for districts on Local Agency Formation
Commissions, defending local property tax revenues and securing
meaningful local government reforms.
Much of Steve’s work rarely caught public attention, but his
reputation was widespread and highly respected by those who
struggled over water distribution rights, and his work laid the
foundation for the legislative remedies and funding that safeguard
our water supply today.
Laverne Johnson
Class of 1943
After graduation, Laverne enlisted in the armed services and
navigated B29s in the Pacific with the 20th Air Force. After the
war, he attended Stanford and completed his PhD in Psychology
(1954). He helped establish a research unit in San Diego, now
called the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) (1960). His
focus on sleep research began in 1962 when he was awarded
a National Science Foundation grant to study the
psychophysiology of sleep. He joined eleven colleagues in
establishing the scientific basis for the study of sleep by defining
physiologically the stages of sleep: Stages 1 and 2, Slow Wave
Sleep and Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) (1967). These
classifications are still used by sleep researchers and by
clinicians treating sleep disorders. From 1980 to 1986 he
served as Scientific Director of NHRC. During his career,
Johnson received Superior Civilian Service Awards from the
Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (1974 and 1986),
the Distinguished Civilian Service award from the Secretary of
the Navy (1977), and became a Charter Member of the Senior
Executive Service (1979).
Johnson and his work were known internationally. He
collaborated with international colleagues on research projects,
presented papers and lectured at international congresses
organized by scientific societies and NATO. Also an educator,
Johnson was Adjunct Professor in Psychiatry and
Neurosciences at University of California San Diego (1971-
1991) and Lecturer in Psychology (1961-1986) and Full
Professor (1986-1990) at San Diego State University. He was
widely recognized within his profession, being selected (1993)
for the Sleep Research Society’s highest accolade, the
Distinguished Scientist Award.
Dick Henning
Class of 1953

Dick went to San Jose State on a boxing scholarship and
was also a member of its swimming team. For seven years,
he taught high school English and public speaking, then
moved on to Foothill College where he served as a professor,
dean, and vice-president while earning a doctorate at U.S.C.
In 1968, he created the Foothill College Celebrity Forum, a
speaker’s series cited as “Best in the Nation.” Now retired,
he continues to run the Forum, which is in its 43rd year. Its
format, which has three audiences totaling 7,200 people for
each speaker, has hosted every U.S. President since
Richard Nixon, famous actors, scientists, historians, CEOs,
politicians and hundreds of national and world leaders.
Henning’s five college degrees, including a doctorate from
USC, carried him through life. He brings humor, insight,
knowledge, competitive drive and organizational ability to
each personal and professional challenge. He has visited 58
countries, several for Rotary projects ranging from solar
cooking in Rwanda to an AIDS Clinic in South Africa. In 2010,
he won Rotary International’s prestigious Service Above Self
Award, the highest award an individual Rotarian can receive.
He has won numerous awards and recognition for his
volunteerism and contributions to his community of Los
Altos, California and to Silicon Valley.
Kenneth Kidd
Class of 1959
Kenneth earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin (1969).
He is now Professor of Genetics, Psychiatry, and Ecology &
Evolutionary Biology at Yale University School of Medicine. One
of the pioneers of human population genetics, he has
contributed extensively to the construction of the human
genetic map. His laboratory studies the genetic variation among
almost fifty groups of humans from around the world and has
made important discoveries about how human evolutionary
divergence has led geographically separate populations to
differ at the level of genome detail. His work has demonstrated
that those differences can be used to determine a person’s
ancestral group. Yet, to his great credit, Professor Kidd has
been a leader in proving that the concept of race has no
scientific or genetic basis. He has also examined the
involvement of genes in important diseases, like Tourette’s
syndrome, schizophrenia, and particular cancers, and has
made a detailed study of the association of specific genes with
alcoholism. After serving on the DNA identification advisory
groups for the World Trade Center Attack and Katrina, he began
forensic research in his lab on panels of SNP markers for use in
forensics. His laboratory has developed advanced techniques
for forensics so that by examining a DNA sequence one is able
to identify an individual’s ancestral origination, to identify
relatives, and to predict what color hair, eyes, and skin an
individual is likely to have. He has authored or co-authored over
five hundred scientific papers and has trained seventeen Ph.D.
students as well as many undergraduates and post-doctoral
fellows. His achievements aren’t limited to human genetics; he
is the author of Genetics for Iris Breeders: Introduction to the
Basics and has developed several cultivars of that popular
flower. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
Russell Letlow
Class of ’31
Russell was one of the great football players to come out of
Taft Union High School. He teamed with Monty Reedy, Carl
Stone and Walter Tedrow in 1930 when the Wildcats defeated
the Bakersfield Drillers for the first time. Two years later,
Letlow enrolled at the University of San Francisco, one of the
football powerhouses in the nation.  After his senior year at
USF, Letlow was selected to play in the East-West Shrine
Game, the first Taft High graduate to be so honored, and in
1936, he became the first person ever drafted by the Green
Bay Packers and the No. 7 pick in the first round of the first
NFL draft. He was an instant starter in Green Bay, played on
two NFL Championship Teams (1936 and 1939) and earned All-
Pro recognition four times (1937-40). He is a member of the
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and a part of one of the big
football news stories in the late 1930's, when New York’s
“Tarzan” White, bit Letlow on the leg during a bitterly fought
game between the Packers and the Giants. The fight which
followed made big news in the big city. Letlow is cited in The
First Fifty Years, a NFL compilation of the league’s first half
century, served in the Navy during WW II and played for the
Great Lakes Naval Station, a team that defeated Notre Dame
and broke Frank Leahy’s winning streak. After the war, Letlow
returned to the Green Bay Packers for the 1946 season, then
retired from the NFL. His career was characterized by the
highest level of skill, dedication and recognition.
Following the 1946 season, he returned to Delano. There he
established a successful wholesale gasoline business, raised
his family and lived quietly until his death in 1987.
Velma Ritter
Class of 1922
After graduation, Velma worked for various offices in San
Francisco. She saved her money, and in 1930 sailed to
Hawaii and worked for an insurance company. In the mid
1930s, she worked for Douglas Aircraft in Shanghai, China
and traveled extensively in Europe. By 1938 she was a disc
jockey, news announcer and newspaper columnist in
Manila, Philippines. When WWII broke out and the
Philippines fell to Japan in 1941, she was imprisoned with
other Americans in the St. Tomas prison in Manila. She
was liberated on February 3, 1945 by the 1st Cavalry
Division. After a time of recuperation on the Westside, she
enrolled at the University of Iowa, majoring in orthoptics, a
branch of ophthalmology dealing with the problem of the
eye muscle imbalance. After graduation she opened an
office in Fresno in the mid-50s and later moved to Palo
Alto, California, where she developed her private practice
and became a lecturer on ocular motility at Stanford
University. In the late 1980s she became a lecturer on the
same subject at the University of California Medical Center
in San Francisco. While teaching at UC San Francisco, she
became reacquainted with Dr. Leon Goldman, her Taft High
classmate, and Dr. Francis Sooy, Chancellor of the UC San
Francisco Medical School, another graduate of Taft High.
In a life-long sense, Velma Ritter followed a great circle of
exploration from Taft’s oilfields to the complicated life of a
foreign journalist, passing through specialist training in
and teaching of opthoics before returning home to Taft.
Her life was unusually expressive of inquiry, adventure,
education and accomplishment.
Melanie Parrent
Class of ’84
Melanie was a member of the 1983-84 Volleyball team that
went undefeated and won the Valley Championship. She is
also the best softball pitcher in Taft High history, once
throwing three no-hitters and a perfect game in a single
week. Heavily recruited by numerous Division I colleges, she
chose Fresno State, a school that to this date has competed
in all 29 NCAA softball tournaments. Melanie brought a new
level of skill to the Bulldog’s softball accomplishments.
There are many numbers that can attest to her dominance
on the mound, but take note of these three: seven collegiate
no-hitters; two perfect games and 59 shut-outs. In 1986 and
1988, she was selected as an N.C.A.A. Division I All American.
This is a remarkable, unique accomplishment in that Melanie
remains the only Taft High graduate ever to be recognized as
a Division I, All-American athlete. Fresno State chose
Melanie as its Female Athlete of the Year in 1986 and 1988.
After a year of professional competition in Italy, Melanie
returned to Fresno where she taught physical education and
served as Athletic Director for Washington Academic Middle
School; she also coached softball at Sanger High School
where four of her players won scholarships to Division I
schools. As a pitching coach, many of her players became
All American pitchers, and coaches. In 2000-2001, she was
recognized by the California Interscholastic Association for
enhancing girl’s athletics in California.
Patricia (Tricia) McLeod Robin
Class of '55,
Patricia earned her B.A. in Theatre Arts from UCLA (1961) and
entered the entertainment business with Capitol Records. She
was subsequently hired by agent, Jerry Perenchio, to work at
MCA Artists, Ltd. a talent agency which would later become
Universal Studios. After a ten year sabbatical to focus on raising
her children, she went back to work in 1972 becoming Executive
Director at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where she
reported to a Board of Governors composed of two people from
each peer group of the television world: actors, directors, writers,
producers, etc. As Executive Director for eleven years, she
oversaw production of the annual prime-time Emmy Awards
shows and was also the first publisher of Emmy magazine. In
1983, she moved to New York to take a position as Vice President,
Special Projects at the CBS Television Network, reporting directly
to the President. In this role she produced all CBS affiliate
conferences throughout the United States.
Her career turned toward non-profits in 1986, when the head of
marketing at the ABC Television Network, and the President of
Time introduced her to Teresa Heinz. Heinz selected her to move
the headquarters of the National Council for Families and
Television from Princeton, NJ to Los Angeles, CA. and to serve as
its President. There, she focused on educating prime-time
television's creative community on the different perspectives of
their product and on the culture of families in the US. Tricia
McLeod Robin was the first female graduate of Taft High to
become an executive in the entertainment industry, opening
doors to other talented women. She did this while raising two
sons, Michael Robin and Steven Robin, both of whom are
award-winning television producer/directors. Her distinctive
successes have left her mark on the entertainment industry.
Doug Smith
Class of ’57
Doug is Taft High’s fastest recorded sprinter (9.7) in the 100
yard dash. Chuck Coker coached him at Occidental College,
and on May 14, 1960, Smith defeated Ray Norton winner of
his previous 33 races, in a new world record time, 9.2 for
100 yards. Smith’s record lasted only as long as it took
timing officials to doubt their own watches and change the
winning time to 9.4. After college, Smith ran for the
Southern California Striders. In the 1962 season, he ran a
then world best time of 20.3 in the 220. His desire to
compete and to share his competitive knowledge with
others led him into coaching, a career that has never
ceased and has touched both the personal and athletic
lives of dozens of young people who have passed through
the field of his expertise. His students have ranged from 10
years to 50 years of age, as he himself has passed through
decades of competition, sharing his knowledge, his vision
of success, and his training commitments with others who
would sometimes become his competitors. In Master’s
Track, he set national and world records, as he progressed
through his age groups. At the age of 60, he ran times of
12.1 in the 100 meters and 25.4 in the 200 meters. A
founder and CEO of “Youth On Track Foundation”, he
provided free track clinics for youngsters, and as Girl’s
Head Track and Field Coach at Edison High School in
Huntington Beach, he won nine league titles in 10 seasons
and had a dual meet record of 47-3. He is a member of the
Bob Elias Hall of Fame.
Hazel Hitson Weidman
Class of 1941
Hazel pursued a life remarkable in its diversity and enduring contributions to American society.
Soon after graduation she joined the WAVES, where she trained Navy pilots to fly by
instruments and radio navigation in flight simulators, later in actual air-flight. NAS pilots taught
her to fly their airplanes by “the seat of her pants”. Further educated in celestial navigation, she
served at Alameda Naval Air Station; then at Livermore NAS until the end of WWII. Drawing
support from the G.I. Bill, she enrolled at Northwestern University, majored in anthropology and
chose further study in an emerging field: medical anthropology. Admitted to Harvard/Radcliffe,
she pursued family research in Boston; then traveled to Southeast Asia (Burma) to produce a
doctoral dissertation on a topic related to both settings.
Her experiences, published as a chapter, “On Ambivalence and the Field”, in Peggy Golde’s (ed)
Women in the Field, is a remarkable exploration of Burmese traditional culture. It is, equally, a
fascinating account of her personal challenges in moving through this extremely complicated
social dynamic as it worked its effects upon both her research techniques and her
interpersonal relationships. Her paper, “Family Patterns and Paranoidal Personality Structure
in Boston and Burma”, presented to the American Psychiatric Association, led Hazel into a
national and international career, including consultations with cities, public agencies, states,
and scholars abroad on issues of culture and health. She taught at the University of Miami
School of Medicine, and her organizational efforts in her chosen field led to the creation of the
Society for Medical Anthropology, now an international organization.
Her professional papers are in Harvard’s Peabody Museum archives. Her personal and family
history papers are in the Radcliffe Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.
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