Beverly Hills High School Honors Noted Alumni With Hall of Fame

Staff Writer

Like baseball and rock and roll, Beverly Hills High School has its own Hall of Fame.

Each year since 1984, the school has selected a group of graduates who have gone on to fame and fortune.

Past recipients have included Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Andre Previn (Class of ’46) and actress Betty White (Class of ’39).


But “we are not just talking about celebrities,” said John Suckling, president of the school’s Alumni Assn., which makes the selections. “I would prefer to think of them as people who are noted in their chosen professions or careers. They might be in any profession--banking, medicine or acting.”

Thus, this year’s inductees are brothers George and Hoyt Pardee, home building executives, and Charles Older, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge. They join 12 other Beverly Hills High School graduates who have been honored.

The winners are selected from a group of people who are nominated and interviewed by individual members of the Alumni Assn. board of directors. The entire board votes on the final decision.

Winners are announced in the association’s annual magazine, mailed to former graduates throughout the country. This year, the association plans to place plaques honoring each Hall of Fame member on a wall at the school. The display, said Principal Sol Levine, “will give students a sense of the history and achievements of the institution they are a part of.”

Philanthropic Work

“The Hall of Fame was created because we know these names are important,” Suckling said. “It’s an interest-getter, but it is also intendeded to be a true honor. We don’t give it to anyone to whom it would not be important. They have to want it.”

The Pardees founded the Pardee Construction Co. in 1946. The company merged with Weyerhaeuser Co. of Washington state and became one of the largest residential construction firms in Southern California. George (Class of ’38) and Hoyt Pardee ('36) have been recognized for their philanthropic work.

Older (Class of ’35) was a decorated fighter pilot during World War II. He was appointed judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1967. He has won several California State Bar awards.

The two Pardees could not be reached for comment.

Older, reached by telephone, said: “I think it’s great. I feel honored to have been chosen. There are many others who are just as deserving.”

Other Hall of Fame members are Sherman Mellinkoff ('37), dean emeritus of UCLA School of Medicine; Robert Moore ('38), Disney animator; Robert Hartmann ('34), White House aide and journalist; Walter Stoessel Jr. ('37), former ambassador to West Germany; Robert Badham ('47), former congressman from California; Maria Tallchief ('42), prima ballerina; Dr. Jerome Kay ('39), thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, and Louise Brough ('40), former Wimbledon and national tennis champion.

Last year, founding President Justin McCarthy ('41) was honored along with oil executive William Pagen ('38) and White, who stars in the hit NBC-TV series “The Golden Girls.”

Suckling said those in the Hall of Fame are only a few of the notable graduates from Beverly Hills.

Famous Parents

“There are few public high schools in the country with more famous students,” he said. “Beverly Hills graduates turn up all over the place.”

For example, Suckling displayed a newspaper article that appeared last year about Col. Robert B. Thieme Jr., a graduate in the Class of ’36. Thieme, a Texas-based fundamentalist preacher noted for his frequent attacks against unions, feminists and homosexuals, made news when it was reported that Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, used to listen to tape recordings of his speeches.

Other famous former graduates who have not made the list include Donald L. Bren, a wealthy Orange County developer whose personal fortune was estimated at over $1 billion; Los Angeles Times Managing Editor George Cotliar, and actors Jackie Cooper, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Chamberlain and Richard Dreyfuss.

Beverly Hills High School also has a long list of graduates whose parents were celebrities, such as Desi Arnaz Jr., Alana Ladd and Jack Linkletter.

Suckling, 58, a graduate of the Class of ’48, said he falls in the category of one of the “youngest of the oldtimers who graduated from Beverly Hills High.”

Besides naming graduates to the Hall of Fame, the alumni group works to raise money for college scholarships for students. About $27,000 has been given to students since the organization was founded in 1977.

The association also has managed to track down 19,000 of the 25,000 students who have graduated from the school, which turns 61 years old this year, Suckling said. These efforts have helped various graduating classes set up reunions each year and has even assisted in the formation of alumni chapters in New York and San Diego.

The association is planning a big reunion for the school’s 65th anniversary in 1993.

It’s through such reunions, Suckling said, that he manages to keep in touch with the past. “These are special gatherings,” he said. “I had an older brother who was killed in World War II, when I was 12. When I go to these reunions it is the only time I’m around people who knew my brother. It is a way for me to keep in touch.”