Distinguished Kearny Komets Hall of Fame Inductees
Vicki participated in track, tennis, gymnastics, field hockey, and badminton while at Kearny. She was a member of the Girls Athletic Association (President), Diana’s, Lettergirl’s Association, and the marching drill team. Vicki would receive the Outstanding Sophomore Award for three varsity sports in one year; Outstanding Track Award for holding seven school records in track and field; selected as Outstanding Senior Athlete; All-Star center halfback in field hockey city-wide and City Champion for the 100m dash, 200m dash, 400m run, 400 relay, and softball throw. She also received the Presidential Physical Fitness Award as a high school student. Vicki was a member of the 1970 graduating class. She would attend San Diego State University where she continued to excel in sports and to this day ranks as #6 in the javelin throw. She has earned both a Bachelor and Masters of Arts. Vicki has spent her adult years teaching and/or coaching at numerous schools from coast to coast. She is a member of the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, Delta Psi Kappa, and The Texas High School Coaches Association. Her current employment is at Texas State University where she lectures in Exercise Science and Sport and is the University Supervisor of Student Teachers in Health and Physical Education.
William Landay III
William graduated from Kearny in 1974. In 1978, he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Systems Engineering from the United States Naval Academy and was commissioned an Ensign. Sea duty found him aboard the USS Hepburn (FF 1055) as gunnery assistant and combat information center officer. He would also serve aboard the USS Nicholas (FFG 47) as ship control officer; the USS Aquila (PHM 4) and USS Paul Hampton (DDG 60) as commanding officer. As commanding officer of the USS Paul Hampton, the ship was awarded the Battle Efficiency E for operational performance, “two Silver Anchor Awards for retention excellence, and the Spokane Trophy for outstanding Combat Systems Readiness.” While on shore duty, Bill would serve as “Team Training Instructor and Harpoon Course Director at the Fleet Combat Training Center, Pacific and C41 Program Officer; Executive Assistant to the Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems at the United States Transportation Command.” He was also “major program manager for Fleet and Lifetime Support in the Program Executive Office for Theater Surface Combatants; and Executive Assistant and naval aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition.” Bill has a “Master of Science Degree in Systems Technology (C41) from the Naval Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School.” Bill retired from the Navy in November 2013 with the rank of Vice Admiral.
In 1995, Mike Lorch, Principal at Stephen Watts Kearny Senior High School (1990-1996) wanted to do something for the students that would instill in them the desire to apply themselves to succeed in their years at Kearny and as adults. He approached two of Kearny’s retired teachers and asked for their help in accomplishing his goal. Coach Fred Bates (1959-1965) and Coach Birt Slater (1959-1977) phoned alumni and attended class reunion committee meetings seeking interested alumni to help with this project. Our first meeting was in the Library at Kearny. Mr. Lorch presented his idea to us. His thought was to establish a Hall of Fame on campus, which would consist of those alumni who had applied themselves in school and who had become successful in their adult lives. We liked the idea, but with each consecutive meeting, we found ourselves discussing ways we could help the students and our Alma Mater in different ways. We slowly drifted away from the original Hall of Fame concept and found ourselves considering the idea of forming an alumni association. Without Mr. Lorch’s dedication to Kearny and its students, the alumni association would not exist today. His dream of a hall of fame would be realized in 2010 with the first group of Kearny Alumni to be inducted into the Distinguished Kearny Komets Hall of Fame.
Larry graduated in 1964. In 1962, he was one of two sophomore football players to don Kearny’s beloved striped jerseys for the first time. That same year he would be named to the Sentinel All League Second Team and Honorable Mention, All Western League. As quarterback, Larry and his dedicated teammates would make history at Kearny by finishing the season with a first ever CIF Championship in 1963. His college career would begin at UCLA, but after one year he would return to San Diego and receive his BA and teaching credential from San Diego State University. In 1968, the San Diego School District would implement an on campus security program. Larry would be the first to be hired for this position and assigned to Kearny’s campus, where he also accepted a volunteer position as a Kearny junior varsity football coach. The next year he was hired to teach and coach football at St. Augustine High School. As a member of the football staff in 1970, he helped lead the Saints to the CIF Championship. The following year, at the age of 25, he was hired to lead the Saints football program as its head coach. In 1975 he was hired by the Grossmont Union High School District to coach, teach English and Physical Education. In the GUHSD he taught at Santana, Monte Vista (7 years as the head football coach and 5 years as the head softball coach) and finally coaching and teaching at Grossmont High School. While teaching at Grossmont, Larry completed a MA in Education at Azusa Pacific College and worked in a program mentoring new teachers. Larry has been a member of the alumni association since its inception in 1995 and is responsible, along with Ray Brokaw for the success of the annual golf tournament. In 17 years they have raised over $50,000 for the alumni scholarship fund benefiting the current Kearny graduates.
At age seven, Phil would discover his love of drawing, sculpting, and animation. Graduating from Kearny in 1974, Phil would continue his education at the University of California, Irvine, where he received his bachelor’s degree in art. In 1975, he and friend, Jon Berg were approached by George Lucas and asked to “create a stop motion miniature chess scene for Star Wars: A New Hope.” Phil also assisted with the design and casting of alien heads and limbs for the cantina scene in the first film. In 1978, Phil would head up the animation team at Industrial Light and Magic and “bring to life the sinister Imperial Walkers and the alien hybrid Tauntaun for the Empire Strikes Back.” He co-developed an animation technique for this film called go motion. He would earn a nomination for an academy award for the beast in Dragonslayer. In 1983, Phil received an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in Return of the Jedi. He designed Jabba the Hutt and the Rancor Pit Monster and animated “the two legged Walker.” Located in Phil’s garage, Tippett Studio came into existence in 1984. He and Tippett Studio would create stop motion animations for several television and film projects, Dinosaur!, Willow, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and the Robocop trilogy. Working with Steven Spielberg, Phil would supervise the animation of dinosaur shots for Jurassic Park and would receive his second Oscar. The arachnids in Starship Troopers were created by Phil and Tippett Studio with Phil “co-directing the battle sequences for the film.” Phil’s efforts would result in his sixth nomination for an Academy Award. His expertise in the field would find him “overseeing the design and creation of the wolf pack in the second and third film installments” of the Twilight series, New Moon and Eclipse. Phil has received many awards besides the Oscar. Among them are the BAFTA Award for Best Special Effects; Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects; Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and the Annie Award.
A member of the R.O.T.C., Bi-Chem-Phy Club, Prom Committee, Brigade Officer’s Club, rifle team, Cadet Club, and CSF, James graduated from Kearny in 1960. He would further his education at USC majoring in Physics and would graduate in 1966 from San Diego Diego State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics. In 1984, Jim would start Infrasonics, a medical device manufacturing company. Infrasonics “developed seven major ventilator products from inception to FDA approval.” Jim would remain Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the company until its sale in 1997. Jim’s next acquisition would be Spectra Science, Inc., a medical device company in Chapter 11. He would move the company from Minnesota to San Diego, setting up an “engineering production facility and replacing 10 year old components with state of the art.” One of the many accomplishments of this company would be “change the market direction toward detection of dysplasia in the esophagus.” Jim is currently chairman and CEO of Device Consulting in San Diego, a high technology medical firm.
Mike graduated from Kearny in 1964. In an industry that thrives on advertising, Michael Byers attracts audiences by word of mouth. His fans are loyal. They do the advertising, buy his CD’s and write letters about how listening to his inspirational voice has literally changed their lives. From commanding the stage for 90 minutes in his one-man show, “Some Stuff That Happened” to sharing a brief scene with Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep in the film “Postcards From The Edge” Michael’s performances are memorable as well as life- changing.
Letters describing how an autistic 4-year-old boy spoke for the first time in therapy while listening to Michael’s first album “That Kid Can Fly”, or a woman attributing her early recovery after surgery to listening to Michael sing “I Set Myself Free”, are typical of the type of responses Michael receives.
Michael’s career began on stage in 1970, and then expanded to concerts, television and film. His Broadway credits include “Perfectly Frank,” “Chaplin” with Anthony Newley and “Wind in the Willows.”He has appeared on stage with Richard Chamberlain in “The Fantasticks” and an off-Broadway production of “Gypsy.”
He has starred in numerous productions at the renowned Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, including the premiere of his one-man-musical. “Some Stuff That Happened” was also a part of the play discovery series at the Pasadena Playhouse. He starred in “My One and Only” and the world premiere of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” with Donna McKechnie.
Over the last several years, Michael has performed around the country at seminars, conventions, expos and events benefiting child-abuse, drug-abuse, AIDS, and self- esteem for teachers and students. He has appeared with Wayne Dyer, Dr. Bernie Siegal, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Dr.Terry Cole-Whittaker, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul books), Dennis Weaver, Deepak Chopra and many others.
He continues to commit his time and talent to people in life-threatening situations by performing at medical facility benefits for Multiple Sclerosis, and performed for the San Diego Jerry’s Kids telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.
His first album, “That Kid Can Fly” was followed by “You Are My Friend” and “Angels On Your Pillow,” all featuring music that has been described as “touching the soul.” A fourth CD, “A Place Called Home” is currently in the planning phase.
1974 Girls’ Track Team
Linda Buttles, Greta Larson, Zivia Wilson, Debbie Kirkpatrick, Sharon Wenger, Anita Zugates, Joyce Bell, Renee Bransford, Lorna Buchanan, Ester Sotoa, Sharon Torpay, Cathy Chacon, June Mathews, Dana Bronson, Teresea Anderson, Sandra See, Doris Gee, Joanne Pasanelli, were members of the 1974 Girls’ Track Team. Under the guidance of Coach Withrow they would bring honor to Kearny by winning the CIF Championship in 1974.
Honorable Mention goes to Jennifer Ogo (93) and Virginia Mashin (Retired Faculty). Jennifer was voted Science Teacher of the Year in 2013. Ms. Mashin established an annual scholarship award for Mathematics and Science.