Newport Harbor High School Welcomes 15 into the 2017 Hall of Fame

Newport Harbor High School, Newport Beach, CA — May 25, 2017 — The Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association is thrilled to announce the 15 names being added to the Hall of Fame this year.

To celebrate the school’s legacy of excellence and inspire current students, the Alumni Association will induct ten student Alumni and five Faculty members who have excelled in their chosen fields and given back to their communities. The list includes award-winning journalists, record-setting athletes, local leaders, doctors, public servants, as well as educators and philanthropists.

The honorees will be celebrated in a special presentation on the evening of Thursday May 25, 2017 in the school’s Robert B. Wentz Theater.

A meet-and-greet reception with live music from the NHHS Midshipman Jazz band will begin at 6 pm, the Theater doors will open at 6:30 pm, and the festivities will commence at 7 pm.  The event is open to the public, with seating on a first come first served basis.

After the ceremony, there will be refreshments and time to catch up with old friends, as well as an opportunity to tour Heritage Hall, which chronicles Newport Harbor history through the decades.

The ten student Alumni are:

America Arias, Class of 2005, forward-thinking journalist, was a standout AVID student, and at CSU Fullerton, she was recognized as one of the Top 100 College Journalists in the nation. She started at KCET as a News Production Assistant, and was promoted to News Producer in Fresno with an ABC affiliate. In 2013, Arias won an Emmy for small news markets, and after moving to Sacramento, she won another Emmy for a larger market. She recently moved to LA to cover national news stories.

Dr. Ingrid Buhler Pisetsky, Class of 1963, compassionate psychiatrist, was the NHHS Zonta Girl of the Year, then attended Stanford and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. She interned at the Bronx Municipal Hospital, and then focused on Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and UNC-Duke Psychoanalysis Education Program. She has instructed medical students, been published in respected journals, and served on the boards of organizations that set the criteria for quality care in her field.

Don Cantrell, Class of 1950, insightful writer and historian, excelled on the Football field, and served in the CA National Guard and the US Army Signal Corps. As Sports Editor for the Costa Mesa Globe Herald, his work won the CA Publishers Award for Best Sports Section. He moved to the Daily Pilot as City Editor, then to The OC Register, and to Editorial positions throughout the Southwest. Also a visual artist, he has written fiction, a play Estancia Gold, and was Public Relations Administrator for Cypress College.

Chief Tom Gazsi, Class of 1979, law enforcement leader, started with the Newport Beach Police Dept as a cadet and became a full-time officer in 1985. He served in many divisions and rose through the ranks, and in 2011 moved to the Costa Mesa Police Dept as Chief. Since 2014, he has been Chief of the LA Port Authority Police. He has been acknowledged for his support of Women Leaders in Law Enforcement, as a Patriotic Employer for deployed soldiers, and mentored many young people.

Tris Imboden, Class of 1969, expert musician, cofounded the band Honk, which wrote the soundtrack to Five Summer Stories. He joined the Kenny Loggins Band, and arranged and played the drums for the soundtracks to Caddyshack and Footloose. He has recorded with Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and many more. He joined the multi-platinum band Chicago in 1990, and was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2016.

Jerome Keithley, Class of 1934, dedicated public servant, was Senior Class President, and during WW II served in the US Navy as a mine sweeper Captain, and then as Division Commander. He became Mayor of Stockton and then City Manager of Palo Alto, where he worked with Stanford to develop the industrial park that became Silicon Valley. He served on the Foreign Service Selection Board in DC, as City Manager of Oakland, then Glendale, and the CA Public Works Committee on Freeways.

Roderick MacMillian, Class of 1945, devoted youth advocate, excelled at sports at NHHS, enlisted in the US Navy during WW II, and graduated from CSU Long Beach. As Athletic Director of the Harbor Area Boys Club he mentored decades of young athletes and inspired future stars like George Yardley. He founded the Harbor Area Baseball program, and when the NMUSD formed in 1965, was elected to the School Board and served as President. When he retired in 1989, the boardroom was named in his honor.

April Ross, Class of 2000, exceptional Volleyball champion, was CIF Volleyball Player of the Year twice, on the US Junior National Team, and the Gatorade National Player of the Year. She led USC Women’s Volleyball to back-to-back NCAA Championships, and was named a Honda Award Winner and the Pac-10 Player of the Year. She was the 2006 AVP Rookie of the Year, 2017 FIVB Rookie of the Year, and USAV Female Beach Athlete of the Year 6 times. She won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, and a bronze medallion 2016.

Dr. John Shirley, Class of 1942, heroic community leader, demonstrated uncommon valor in the US Army’s 3rd Division in WW II at the Anzio Landing in Italy. He rose from Private First Class to a field commissioned Second Lieutenant, and received a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. He attended UC Davis and opened an animal hospital. He served as Mayor of Livermore, on the City Council and Planning Commission, and with other professional and charitable organizations. Dr. Shirley was a keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary of the Anzio Landing alongside President Clinton.

Dr. Tod White, Class of 1955, multi-talented philanthropist, set the National High School Record in the mile. At Occidental College, he led the Track team to two NAIA National Champion titles. His relay team set the World Record for the two mile and the American record for the four mile. He earned graduate degrees in Psychology, and then co-founded an employee training and publishing company. He has served as a Trustee for South Coast Rep and Occidental, and advocates for many charitable causes.

The five honored Faculty include:

Arthur M. Worden, 1st Vocational Arts teacher at NHHS 1931-52, was the first NHHS Wood and Metal Shop teacher. His students were well known for making beautifully crafted wooden surfboards. During WW II, Worden served as an Air Raid Warden, and many former students worked in local shipyards for the war effort and then as homebuilders during the CA boom. He was an accomplished photographer, fly-fisherman, gardener, jewelry designer, and always ready to help someone in need.

Margot Cunningham, meticulous and animated English teacher at NHHS 1963-98, was a top student at Long Beach Poly and UC Berkeley. She was as the freshman instructor in NHHS’s renowned four-year college prep English program, and encouraged her students and colleagues to rise to her high standards. NHHS presented her with the National Exchange Club Award for Teacher Excellence, and the Town & Gown Society of UC Irvine created a scholarship in her name.

Bob Hailey, passionate Biology teacher & coach at NHHS 1960-96, led NHHS Track & Field to six League titles, 2nd place at the CIF State Championships, and dual-meet winning streaks of 26 and 29. He was known for his engaging classes, humor, and hands-on projects, like his famous bug collection. In 1979, he was rear-ended by a drunk driver which gave him a debilitating leg injury. Despite this, he remained positive and continued teaching, and was inducted into the CIF Southern Section Hall of Fame in 2013.

Betty Orbach, accomplished English instructor at NHHS 1963-88, was a performance swimmer with the Crosby Brothers and Esther Williams’ Synchronized Swim Troupe alongside stars like Frank Sinatra. She became the NHHS Junior curriculum coordinator, taught college prep classes, mentored as a Master teacher, and received the Bill Boyer Award for Teaching Excellence. She taught ESL with Berlitz and at the Newport Beach Public Library, and volunteered with the Newport Bay Conservancy and SPON.

Dudley Gene Smith, kindhearted Chemistry teacher at NHHS 1956-92, served in the US Air Force during the Korean War and came to NHHS to teach and coach Basketball. He was known for entertaining classes that illuminated complex ideas to students of all abilities. He received many awards, including Teacher of the Year, the United Way Golden Touch Award, and the Adams Elementary PTA’s Honorary Service Award. After retiring, Smith remained active with Indian Guides, the Scouts, and his church.

Since its founding in 1930, Newport Harbor High School has proudly served its community as a California Distinguished School, National Blue Ribbon School, and International Baccalaureate School. The NHHS Alumni Association (a charitable 501(c) 3 with a Tax ID #27-2913091) is committed to honoring this legacy, by preserving the school’s rich heritage, involving students past and present and supporting school programs.


For more information about the event and honorees, please contact:

Corinne Heiser

(949) 515-6376


Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association

PO Box 2675

Newport Beach, CA 92663