Highland High celebrates Hall of Fame alumni | Entertainment

The Highland High School APS Hall of Fame Association will induct seven alumni members at its annual Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony on April 9 at Bakersfield Country Club.

The nonprofit group provides scholarships to graduating Highland students in addition to recognizing and celebrating alumni for their life accomplishments and community contributions.

The 1974 boys basketball team will be honored as well as, posthumously, its coach Pat Wennihan.

The 2022 inductees include:

Blaise Simqu, CEO of Sage Publishing,

Dr. Mark Schamplin of Southern California Orthopedic Institute,

Bakersfield Fire Captain Tim Ortiz,

Michael PrinceGaslight Melodrama co-owner and artistic director,

Kerry Ryanowner of Action Sports,

Pat Ryanfounder of Bakersfield Kawasaki, will also be recognized posthumously.

Highland High School first opened its doors to students in 1970. At that time, the sprawling campus was considered the eastern edge of town, as nothing extended to the east of the campus. Mesa Marin Raceway wasn’t built yet.

There were no housing developments around the school. Students without a car walked on dirt trails to get to and from their school.

Set in the foothills, a trek in the winter fog meant following the trail to the campus gate in blind faith. The foothills to the east of the campus were completely barren in the ’70s all the way to the mouth of the canyon.

Since opening, Highland has produced a bumper crop of famous people, near-famous people and infamous people who have made a difference in our community and beyond.

The association is always accepting nominations for induction into the Hall of Fame (email hhsapshof@gmail.com to nominate someone). The HOF association bestows medals upon those selected for recognition.

Scholarships issued to current Highland students are coordinated with Highland’s Principal Debra Vigstrom (also a Highland grad) to select the most desserving recipients.

The school has always had a robust music program that produced some famous musicians, including Grammy-winning jazz musician Gregory Porter, Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis, and musicians Kris Kohls (Adema), Reggie Arvizu and Brian Welch (Korn). While guitarist Michael Lockwood earned fame strumming his guitar, he made even bigger headlines when he married Lisa Marie Presley.

Advanced Placement and honors classes are offered to juniors and seniors in English, calculus, government, chemistry and physics to name a few. These classes undoubtedly helped develop many of our local politicians, including former Assemblymember Nicole Parra, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

The progressive high school offers programs in engineering and biomedicine and has produced several prominent health care professionals, including orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schamplin; neurosurgeon, Dr. Ian Armstrong; and physicians Dr. Bradford Anderson, Dr. James Custer, Dr. Jim Shuler and Dr. Nathan Allen. Dr. Chip Casteen and Dr. Curt Sturz went on to become dentists after graduating from Highland, while Willa Crosby went on to become a geneticist.

Highland has always encouraged its students to be involved in the community and has more than 30 clubs on campus that regularly lend a hand to the community.

That has likely been a contributing factor to those Highland graduates that are frequently seen organizing local events. Cynthia Pollard took the reins as CEO of our Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves as the director of public affairs for Aera Energy. Bakersfield firefighter Tim Ortiz serves on the Bakersfield Fire Department’s bag pipe team and is involved in many fire department committees that include community outreach.

CHP Motorcycle Officer Erik Manny was a Highland grad. He was killed in the line of duty. He wasn’t the only one to ride a police motorcycle after high school.

Mary DeGeare was one of the first female police officers in America to ride a motorcycle. Today, she works as a fraud investigator for the Kern County District Attorney’s Office after retiring as a sergeant with the Bakersfield Police Department after nearly 29 years of service.

When you look at the footprint of Bakersfield business establishments, there are plenty that are operated by Highland alumni including the Gaslight Melodrama, Stinson’s Office Supplies, J&M’s Cafe, Sierra International Machinery, The Saba Agency, Cone’s Health Foods, Action Sports, Holloway Painting and World Records.

With so many former Highland students achieving success, the HOF Association is seeking alumni who have achieved fame, success or simply made a difference in life.

The annual Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony will take place April 9 at Bakersfield Country Club, 4200 Country Club Drive.

Tables and sponsorships are still available for the 2022 Hall of Fame Dinner. For sponsorship or ticket information, contact David Monsibais at 661-733-3482.

Jim Luff is graduate of Highland High and Hall of Fame board member. He serves as president of League of Dreams and CARE.


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