MRH Alumni Hall of Fame
The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District Hall of Fame highlights notable alumni who have made exceptional strides in their career fields upon graduating MRH. This can include authors, doctors, athletes, educators, artists, entrepreneurs and much more! As a school district, it is vital to engage our community and past alumni into the current culture of our district and honor those who have helped pave the way for the younger generation of professionals who are continuing their education and entering the workforce. These alumni give a small glimpse into what the future can hold for an MRH Blue Devil. These nominees embody MRH’s mission, goals and cornerstones of scholarship, leadership, stewardship and citizenship. Each new class of nominees will be recognized every year during homecoming celebrations.
Four MRH Grads Selected for 2019 Alumni Hall of Fame
The four new members of the Maplewood Richmond Heights Alumni Hall of Fame have devoted their lives to the performing arts and to the wellbeing of children.
In a ceremony on the evening of October 18, the Hall of Fame will welcome Lynne Fiddmont, Linda Robinson, Dr. Bonnie Paulsmeyer, and Linda Kennedy (posthumously).
Lynne Fiddmont, Class of 1978, grew up in Maplewood, part of a musical family. At MRH, she sang in the choir, was a member of the student executive committee, was on the cheerleading squad, and was selected for the homecoming court. After earning a college degree in public relations, Lynne decided that her singing talent would direct her future. After many years of singing in clubs, she got a call during a pre-show sound check from a man who was looking for backup vocalists. That was the beginning of her partnership with Stevie Wonder, and the first major step on a path that would include performances alongside Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Phil Collins, Seal, Babyface, Rod Stewart, Kenny Loggins, Lou Rawls, Burt Bacharach and Chaka Khan. She has performed on American Idol and sung for Barack Obama at the White House. Lynne has won critical acclaim for her 2010 tribute to Billie Holiday called "Lady," and her 2006 release "Flow." Late last year, she released "Power of Love," a departure from her usual jazzy style into more rootsy songs. She lives in Los Angeles.
After graduating from Maplewood Richmond Heights High School in 1987, Linda Robinson got busy piling up degrees in business administration, communications, public relations, human resources and non-profit leadership. At that time, the world of high finance was a powerful lure. At A. G. Edwards and Sons, she worked her way up to management. She survived two mergers involving Wachovia and Wells Fargo Advisors. Robinson believed that money management and investing were ways to help families get on firm footing. But she was especially drawn to those who worked for non-profits. Robinson realized that what she loved about her job was leading and developing people, not the corporate culture and the trading floor. Today, her passion lies with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri as the Director of Volunteer Recruitment. Her task: recruit adults who want to be matched with kids who need an extra dose of friendship in their lives. The adults, called "Bigs," spend a few hours a month with the "Littles" going to carnivals, a movie, a picnic, the playground or just hanging around the house and enjoying one another's company. Robinson organizes and promotes community events which give potential Bigs an opportunity to see how the matching process works.
2019 marked the passing of a true giant in the local live theatre scene. Linda Kennedy, Class of 1970, died Friday, August 16 after a battle with cancer. Kennedy was a driving force behind the Black Rep for more than 30 years. She held the title of "Artistic Associate," which placed her in charge of community programs and performing arts workshops for youth. The Summer Performing Arts program teaches youngsters everything from the business side of acting to how to effectively promote a production. On the acting side, Kennedy wowed audiences with her nuanced performances in shows such as "Chef," the story of an inmate who recounts her life's painful memories while working in the prison kitchen, and "Windmill Baby," in which Kennedy played a dozen separate characters -- including a dog -- in a one-woman show. The Riverfront Times in 2014 called it a "tour de force performance." Shortly before her passing, Kennedy fondly recalled a few "firsts" from her time at MRH. Her first school play was a production of "Finian's Rainbow," a musical which opened to raves when it debuted in 1947. She was the first black MRH cheerleader. Her graduating class in 1970 featured the first black student council president and first black homecoming queen. She is survived by a granddaughter who will graduate from MRH in 2020, and a grandson who works backstage at the Black Rep.
Dr. Bonnie G. Baranyai Paulsmeyer, Class of 1964, left the education field in 2006, but education did not leave her. The former Early Childhood Center principal and teacher spent 30 years in school houses, all of those with MRH except for a brief stint in the Ritenour district in 1967. She served in a diverse set of roles: summer school organizer, elementary teacher, principal, and even private preschool director after retiring from MRH. In all, she spent 12 years as a principal, 18 years as a teacher, and 9 years as a director. The Maplewood Chamber of Commerce named her Educator of the Year in 1993. She is a member of countless professional organizations for educators. Her passion today lies with the Kiwanis Club of Maplewood, an international service organization dedicated to helping children. A member since 1988, Dr. Paulsmeyer organizes annual fundraisers such as a charity golf tournament and the famous Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, all raising money for MRH programs and scholarships. Privately, she is the founder of other scholarships in the name of her late brother Gary Baranyai and the late MRH educator Howdy Sanders. She has served on the Class of '64 reunion committee for 55 years. But most importantly, she is a past president of the St. Louis Morthers of Twins Club.
The MRH Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Friday, Oct. 18, at 6:00 p.m. in the MRH High School Theatre, 7539 Manchester Road in Maplewood, MO., 63143. Attendees are urged to arrive as early as 5:30 p.m. to mingle and enjoy light snacks and beverages in the theatre lobby. Use the theatre entrance off of Martini Drive on the east side of the High School building. Also during that ceremony, a bronze plaque honoring 1960s graduates who served during the Vietnam era will be dedicated. The plaque was made possible via a fundraising effort spearheaded by Dr. Paulsmeyer and other members of the classes of the 1960s.
Inductees Selected for 2018 MRH Alumni Hall of Fame
Homecoming 2018 will be the setting for the inductions of new members to the Maplewood Richmond Heights Hall of Fame, four distinguished individuals who continue to display citizenship, stewardship, leadership, and scholarship.
Ralph McNeal becomes the youngest member of the MRH Alumni Hall of Fame, having graduated in 1998. He has enjoyed an extraordinary twenty-year career in information technology, which began when an MRH teacher pulled some strings and got McNeal an internship doing computer programming for Carr Lane Manufacturing. After five years there, he hopped to Monsanto and then launched his own consulting company, Aycot. Software written by Aycot employees generated millions of dollars in revenue for the Panasonic company. McNeal also was a star at BJC Emerging Solutions and Meridian Enterprises.
Today, McNeal leads several teams at Centurylink's In the Cloud division. Last year alone, his job took him to places such as Seattle and Madrid. And it all started with a helping hand from a caring teacher right here at MRH.
Reginald Finney received his MRH diploma in 1970, and he hasn't wasted a single day giving back to our communities. He has lived in Richmond Heights for 58 years and currently serves on the city council. He has founded and served on numerous community betterment organizations, including a committee which restored this very ceremony -- the MRH Alumni Hall of Fame -- three years ago.
Finney's high school career was marked by a keen intern in business, information technology, and a passion for football and baseball. He went on to receive a math degree from Washington University and worked his way up to a master's in theology from Metropolitan Christian Bible Institute. While working as a systems programmer for Southwestern Bell, he designed a technique which saved the company millions, nationwide. He also developed systems for Mercantile Bank, Bakers Footwear and Jet Aviation, where he works today.
Finney is a deacon in the Church of God and demonstrates his devotion to the welfare of children by serving as a youth minister.
Robert Parker Mills, MRH '63, has been a practicing trial lawyer in the State of California for 40 years. But as a high schooler, he could have set his career path in any direction. He was a journalist, gifted public speaker, thespian and superior athlete.
Mills received his law degree from the University of Missouri and is currently licensed to practice in California, Missouri, and Washington D.C. His reputation is that of a crusader. His practice field has ranged from product liability to medical defense. He has provided a defense to a wide and diverse clientele ranging from the construction managers of the Los Angeles Metro Rail Line, to E-Coli meat suppliers, to defense of trademark infringement actions brought by the “New Kids on the Block” singing group. Mr. Mills has been a guest lecturer, as well as appearing on the Sally Jessie Raphael show and NBC’s “Trial Watch”.
But Mills is perhaps best known for his book about the first so-called “fear of AIDS” case tried in America. It tells the true story from his perspective as the lawyer who actually represented the estate of actor Rock Hudson. One review of the book said "It is hoped the reader, acting as the 13th juror, will see the gross injustice done to the late actor by his friends, the court, the jury, and the press, all of which were blinded from the truth by this newly discovered disease called AIDS."
Robert Parker Mills lives and practices law in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Dick Ulrich is a 1961 MRH graduate who served as class president in his freshman, junior and senior years. He was active in Honor Society, the school paper, and student council as well as a four-sport athlete. After graduating from Grinnell College and the University of Missouri Law School, he continued to serve his community as a board member of the St. Louis Charitable Foundation, the West County YMCA, the Normandy Literacy Program, and a campaign which resulted in a new track being built at MRH.
Ulrich went on to become an attorney who actually represented the district's board of directors for seventeen years. He also represented the Special School District of St. Louis County during a class action lawsuit designed to abolish SSD.
A longtime friend who submitted Ulrich's name for consideration wrote in her nominating letter, "Dick Ulrich is the embodiment of the type of person MRH strives to develop in its educational system. He is a person of honor, integrity, scholarship, empathy, and genuine goodness and kindness."
Each Alumni Hall of Fame inductee will be honored on the evening of Oct. 12, on the MRH High School athletic field. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m.
Class of 2017 MRH Alumni Hall of Fame
John Howard Sanders was known to everyone simply as “Howdy.” Mr. Sanders graduated in 1941 and served our country in the Marines during World War II. After graduating from Miami of Ohio, he returned to his alma mater in 1954 as a teacher, coach, and athletic director. He stayed for more than 30 years, retiring in 1987. Howdy loved the district, and loved the profession of teaching. Students looked up to him for guidance. He encouraged many of them, especially his athletes, to attend college. Many former students will testify that Howdy Sanders was not merely a teacher and coach, but a father figure and confidant. In retirement, he stayed in touch with other alumni at monthly breakfast gatherings and regular class reunions. Mr. Sanders passed away on February 5 of this year, and is survived by his wife Shirley and two children, Cindy and Jeff. The first Howdy Sanders $1,000 scholarship was awarded this past May.
A member of the class of ‘65, Dr. Da-I Ping is one of the most respected and successful sports agents and trainers in the United States. He was born in China at a time when communists were forcing entire families to flee for their lives. His family ended up in Bangkok, then later in Taiwan, where they lived in extreme poverty. At age 9, he survived a harrowing ship ride to the U.S. and was placed with an American exchange student with whom he had crossed paths back in Thailand. “Jack,” as Dr. Ping was known back then, entered the 4th grade at West Richmond Elementary School, unable to read or speak English. To support his foster mother, he sold newspapers at the corner of Big Bend and Dale. Jack Ping willed himself to become a superior athlete on the football field, the wrestling ring, the track, and the ball diamond. Immediately after graduating, Jack joined the Marines, where he again played football. That led to a full scholarship to USC and ultimately, a prosperous career representing NFL players in contract negotiations. Today, Dr. Ping has built an empire which includes teaching martial arts, overseeing scholarship funds, raising money for cancer and heart disease research, all from his headquarters in Saline, Michigan.
The landmark court case which William Douthit has championed for nearly a quarter-century changed the face of education all across the St. Louis region. Mr. Douthit graduated with the MRH class of 1971 and eventually earned degrees in law and political science. Little did he know, he would go on to represent the group of black parents and students who filed the now-famous St. Louis Schools Desegregation case just one year after his graduation. His involvement in that lawsuit has allowed him to work with the community in opening dialogue that furthers the best interests of educational equity and social justice, while fostering new opportunities for student success. Mr. Douthit has held high-ranking posts with the Missouri Department of Education, the Normandy schools transition task force, the University of Missouri St. Louis, the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable, the U.S. Department of Education, the NAACP, the St. Louis County Children’s Fund, and countless other agencies.
John Hardy, much better known as Jay, is now marking 40 years at Jay B. Smith Funeral Home. It is the quintessential family business, operating out of an 1890’s-era mansion which has been expanded and modernized over the years to preserve its beauty and charm. Jay, a 1973 MRH graduate, has been a tireless supporter of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District. Examples of his generosity include donations of writing materials to the High School, financial support of the annual Trivia Night for the ECC and Elementary school, regularly advertising in yearbooks, book donations to the ECC, sponsorship of sports teams, and so much more. He is a member of the Mid-County Chamber of Commerce and sits on two boards of directors for associations of funeral directors.
Class of 2016 MRH Alumni Hall of Fame
Martin J Corcoran (1966) – Corcoran began his tenure as City Manager of Maplewood in September 1983 and has been an active member of the community supporting MRHSD, Maplewood Community Betterment Foundation, Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few.
Robert W. Frick (1955)– Upon graduating, Frick served in the US Army where he retired as a company commander in the 91 st infantry division. He started a career in the banking world where he advanced and held multiple positions prior to retirement. Post retirement he has dedicated his time to various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Clark J Hickman (1971) – Hickman has been a lifelong learner and educator. He finished his career as Associate Dean and Associate Research Professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri St. Louis.
Dr. Pickett Pat Whitney Lema (1966)- Dr. Lema has been a life-long leader not just within her career but also with her Tri-Sigma Sorority and her Maplewood community. During her career she has made an impact not just locally but internationally as 42 years as an educator. She has lead educators in various facets of education with History Educators, Citizenship Education and Women’s Network of Educational Administration and Leadership.
King (Iceman) Bailey Parson Jr. (1970)- Parson was a world-renowned wrestler. While attending MRH, he placed 2nd in state for the 67-68 school year. “Iceman” was the state champion for the 68-69 school year and held that title again the following year. King Iceman Parson was the first African American World Wrestling Champ during his professional career.
Skip Watkins(1965) - A 1965 graduate of MRH, Watkins was a standout on the MRH wrestling team. After a brief teaching tenure in the Hancock school district, Watkins returned to MRH as a faculty member, where he served for 30 years. In addition to teaching at MRH, Watkins served as the school’s athletic director and head wrestling coach, where he guided numerous MRH athletes to state medalist finishes.