Downey High enshrines 4 into Hall of Fame

DOWNEY - Four distinguished Downey High School alumni, including a posthumous honoree, were inducted last Friday (May 22) into the school's Hall of Fame, joining such well-known previous inductees as Robert Ballard ('60), Richard and Karen Carpenter ('64 and '67), and Jack Kyser ('51).This year's crop: Ginger Allen-Schager ('89), morning anchor and special projects reporter for CBS Dallas/Fort Worth; Harry Gifford ('45), a retired civic/community leader after whom a Boy Scout camp in Holcomb Valley was named; Richard Trank ('72), Academy Award winning Hollywood producer and director; and Francois Dion (Bud) Uzes ('51), a noted land surveyor, consultant, speaker and author who died last year. Admitting to periodic twinges of nostalgia for Downey, the inductees said they were awed by the changes they saw at the school, beginning with the just-completed state-of-the-art 235-seat auditorium where the ceremony took place and attended by family and friends as well as a sprinkling of former inductees. In terms of time between graduation years, 44 years separate the youngest (Allen-Schager) from the oldest (Gifford), but the emotions they felt were the same: each of them said they were glad to be back in the city that evoked many fond memories and that they wouldn't have missed the ceremony for all the world. They literally came from all over, the blonde and vivacious Allen-Schager flying in from Dallas with her smiling husband and their two kids, the stylishly-maned Trank motoring from Santa Monica, Gifford leaning on close friend and former classmate Monty Montgomery to drive him over from Sun City (another close friend, Dick Thompson, arrived later to cheer him), and Uzes's widow (Judy) and son (Ron) coming all the way from Northern California. Each received resounding applause, a commemorative plaque and a distinctive quilt with the DHS emblem. Honorees are chosen for their contributions or achievements in one or more of six specific or related categories: arts, athletics, business, education, civic/community/government and professional. According to his bio, Uzes, honored for his work in the business/professional areas, entered Caltech after his graduation from DHS in 1951 but had to leave during his freshman year when his dad died. He worked to help the family and attended Pasadena City College, taking drafting and surveying courses. In 1954 he was hired to do field surveying and mapping for the California State Lands Commission, rising after 20 years or so later to head its Boundary Determination Section while directing a staff of up to 63. He was to spend 33 years with the State Lands Commission after which he opened his consulting firm, Boundaries Unlimited, and wrote three books on surveying. He meanwhile made "exciting discoveries in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and New Mexico, Arizona and the Sierra Nevada Mountains" during his many trips. His collections of historical survey instruments and books have been shown in museums throughout California. Presenter was 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Kirk Cartozian ('91), a Berkeley alum. Gifford, recognized for his "many hours of work and commitment to kids and the civic/community" area, counts among his many honors and awards the following: the Kiwanis International George F. Hixson Award (the highest honor Kiwanis bestows), the Outstanding Man of the Year/Distinguished Service Award of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, the Outstanding Service Award presented by Cerebral Palsy, and the aforementioned Boy Scout camp named in his honor. He acknowledged that his stint as DHS Student Body president was good preparation for his later taking the helm of Little League, Old Baldy Boy Scout Council, Claremont Kiwanis, the Sun City West Kiwanis Foundation, Fallbrook Presbyterian Church, many GTE clubs, the Independent Pioneers Association, and countless others. Trank, chosen for his award-winning ways in the arts, won Academy Awards in 1997 for his feature documentary, "The Long Way Home," narrated by Morgan Freeman; and "Echoes That Remain," "Liberation", and "Search of Peace, Part I: 1948 to 1967," in other years. He also directed "I Have Never Forgotten You," which took a comprehensive look at the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, narrated by Academy Award-winning Nicole Kidman; produced and directed "Ever Again," narrated by Kevin Costner, another Academy Award winner; wrote and directed "Unlikely Heroes," narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley-all dealing with Jewish themes. First coming to the Wiesenthal Center in 1981 to create and produce its weekly news radio magazine Page One, he produced radio news and public affairs programming throughout the '80s. Apprised of the "vibrant" arts environment in the community and witnessing first-hand proven artistic talent at DHS (the overachieving Viking Jazz Choir performed at the ceremony), Trank said: "The arts are very important to our lives. Keep up the great work you're doing here." Allen-Schager, her distinction occurring in the professional category, began her career at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles as a researcher and also worked at KMIR-TV in Palm Springs. She has covered news in North Texas as a general assignment reporter, investigator and anchor since 1999. She worked previously in Cincinnati, Bakersfield, and traveled all over the country while with former employer NBC News Channel covering major stories for NBC affiliates.¬?¬?

********** Published: May 29, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 6