BURBANK — On a night in which athletic achievement was lauded, a sense of community proved to be the overriding theme of Saturday evening's third Burbank High Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony.
A total of 14 inductees were added to Burbank's Hall of Fame rafters in front of the gym as the participants and their families were honored in a ceremony in the school's auditorium.
“Tonight is all about the Hall of Famers,” Burbank athletic director Fred Cook said.
The honorees included Dr. Bruce Varon (class of 1974), Scott Moro, Rick Romero (1964), John Gaball (1965), Dave LeSeuer (1967), Bruce Dodge (1969), Jeff Ross (1973), Louise Gronich (1976), Ken Walker (1975), Lin Whatcott (1979), Marji Gilles (1988), Todd Lewis (1989), Jack Loutensock and Clyde Richards (1956).
For Walker, who lives in San Jose with his wife Michele and their four children, the Hall of Fame invitation gave him the chance to come home.
“I haven't been in Burbank in over 30 years,” Walker said. “In fact, I got lost on my way here. I didn't even recognize the school. It's completely different.”
Walker said he was impressed with the upgrades to the facilities.
“When I was here, we kind of had this reputation of being a dumpy school,” Walker said. “You can't say that now. The school looks fantastic.”
While Walker's visit was a long time coming, Saturday's festivities marked a return to campus for Richards, who led the Bulldogs' boys’ tennis program to 13 league titles and a CIF Southern Section championship in 1993 in Division III.
“For me, the reward was seeing the students graduate. It was never about winning titles or championships,” said Richards, who dressed in a Burbank High Social Sciences shirt, the same he wore until his teaching retirement in 2000.
“Of my kids, only three out of 300 went on to play tennis in college. So for me, it was about them growing as student-athletes.”
The evening held additional meaning for Gronich, a two-time All-CIF honoree in volleyball.
“It's a special honor for me. I was in the very first year they started sports for girls,” Gronich said. “So, there's a lot of significance for me and I love telling people my story.”
Burbank alumnus Joe Santa Cruz (1965) came out Saturday to celebrate the election of his friend Romero, a 1964 CIF champion cross-country runner.
“I grew up with Rick. He was a friend and a teammate and I've known this guy since he was 10,” Santa Cruz said. “It's funny, I came here for Rick, but I also loved seeing the new school. I don't even know my way around here anymore.
“To come back and see all the new stuff is beautiful.”
The 2012 class joins two previous classes of 23 Hall of Famers, which includes individuals such as current Major Leaguer Freddy Sanchez, along with teams, such as the 1967 boys' swim squad.
Hall of Fame elections happen every two years.