Amid the soothing sounds of a string quartet and the stirring beat of a jazz band, the Sweetwater District Alumni Hall of Fame recently honored 13 distinguished graduates who have gone on to successful careers in the arts, athletics, law and business.
“These outstanding alumni are an inspiration to all our students and adult learners,” said Sweetwater Board President Greg Sandoval. “In many cases, they overcame tremendous hurdles in their personal lives. They demonstrated what hard work, an education and strong desire can accomplish.”
The honorees were inducted at an awards gala at Loews Coronado Bay Resort on Dec. 6. Student musicians from the Chula Vista String Quartet and Sweetwater Jazz Band provided entertainment. Hall of Fame honorees noted their drive to succeed was shaped and nurtured during their formative years at Sweetwater schools.
Chula Vista High graduate Donnie Edwards of the San Diego Chargers thanked his former coaches and mentors George Ohnesorgen and Gary Chapman. Edwards, one of nine children, was raised without a father. But he found father figures in his coaches, he said.
“No one gave me a chance growing up,” said Edwards, choking back tears. “Everyone told me I couldn’t do iteveryone. There were major players in my family who said I couldn’t do it. ...I wanted to show them. My whole drive in life was to prove people wrong.”
That drive led him to graduate from UCLA with a degree in political science in just 3½ years.
Other honorees found motivation in serving others. Dr. Susan C. Galvin, an Air Force captain and Hilltop High graduate, was one of the first emergency responders at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. She received the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism for her effortsand Alumni Hall of Fame recognition in the Military Service category.
“Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of thousands of people running for their lives, some jumping out of windows and screaming for their children,” Galvin recalled. “A number of them were bleeding, burned or gasping for air. Nothing could prepare me for the long, restless hours of helplessness in the center courtyard of the Pentagon as our efforts to rescue and treat more wounded slowly evolved into attempts to recover their remains.”
From such tragedy, Galvin gained a new perspective about her priorities. She encouraged Sweetwater District students to “see the world beyond the borders of your school and find a way to better it.” She also noted that her strongest role model while at Hilltop High was English teacher Erelene Christ-ensen.
Since opening its doors in 1922, the Sweetwater Union High School Districtserving Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and South San Diegohas grown to become California’s largest secondary school system. Generations of South Bay youth have attended the district’s 22 middle, junior and senior high schools, and the Alumni Hall of Fame celebrates and showcases the positive difference its graduates have made.
June D. Moeser, a 1940 Sweetwater High graduate and the first policewoman in the city of Chula Vista, was modest about being a pioneer for women in local law enforcement.
“I think I just happened along in history when a job needed to be filled,” Moeser said. “It could have been anybody else.”
Over the district’s 80-year history, graduates have led scientific advances, served in local, state and national government, come back to teach in Sweetwater schools, built prosperous businesses and even brought home Olympic gold.
Norma A. Diaz, a Montgomery High graduate who now heads Community Health Group, got her first job through the district’s work experience program when she was just 14.
“I walked in as a file clerk and today I am the chief executive officer of a $100 million corporation,” Diaz said.
The 2002 Alumni Hall of Fame honorees are:
A nuclear, mechanical and environmental engineer with the U.S. Department of Energy, Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico.
A nationally renowned scholar in multicultural and minority education and a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.Athletics
Star linebacker for the San Diego Chargers (#59) who also played six years with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Spent 12 years in the NFL, anchoring the defensive line with the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. Earned San Diego County Defensive Player of the Year honors while at Sweetwater.
Quarterback for Don Coryell at SDSU, special teams coach with the San Diego Chargers and quarterback coach with the Washington Redskins.
Chairman of the National Media Literacy Program who also produced special programs in radio and television, including Bozo’s Circus for 28 years.
Chief Executive Officer of the Community Health Group, San Diego County’s largest locally based HMO. Has worked in this field since the age of 14.
Television newscaster for Channel 10, weekend anchor, general assignment reporter, hosts Channel 10 Leadership Award.
Air Force Captain received the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism for efforts at the Pentagon on 9/11.
Retired Superior Court Judge; After earning his high school equivalency diploma through adult school, he went on to graduate from SDSU and Harvard Law School.
First policewoman in Chula Vista and Imperial Beach, first female Marshal in the South Bay, and the first woman foreperson of the Grand Jury.
Visual & Performing Arts
Co-anchor of The Other Half, an NBC daytime talk show; leading role in television series Saved by the Bell.
National radio producer of the year 2001, 2000, producer of San Diego’s top-rated radio morning show, Jeff & Jer, for past 15 years.