Emmy-winning writer Bell, teacher Giroux among Newport Harbor Hall of Fame inductees

Emmy-winning writer Bell, teacher Giroux among Newport Harbor Hall of Fame inductees
(Courtesy of NHHS Alumni Assn.)

The seeds for becoming an award-winning writer were planted at Newport Harbor High for Maria Arena Bell.

Some of her best memories at the school where she graduated in 1981 came from Fabian Giroux, an Advanced Placement Art History teacher, one of several teachers who inspired Bell.


"I still carry with me many of the views and opinions of art that I learned from him," Bell said in an e-mail. "I think of him often."

Bell and Giroux will be among 15 honored Wednesday when they will be the latest inductees into the Newport Harbor Hall of Fame. After a successful first class last year, Newport Harbor is just as excited to introduce the newest inductees, who feature Bell, five-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Aaron Peirsol (Class of 2002), two-time Olympic gold medal volleyball player Steve Timmons (Class of 1977), and a brilliant doctor, Joseph Corbo (Class of 1986), among other impressive hall of famers.


"I also have great memories of my friends and all the 'Fast Times' hijinx of attending Harbor in the late '70s, the surfers, the smacks, the cheerleaders, the jocks and all the factions that made up the school," Bell said. "I think as a writer I was on the periphery of all of them but not really one of them … something that served me well in my career."

Bell, former head writer and executive producer of "The Young and The Restless," won two Writers Guild of America awards and an Emmy. She continues to be highly involved in the arts and arts education. Drawing inspiration from Giroux, she went on to be a double major at Northwestern University in Fiction Writing and Art History.

"The fact that I had an amazing education in the arts in my public school inspired me to become the chair of an organization, P.S. Arts that puts the arts back into Title One public elementary schools in the greater Los Angeles area," said Bell, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of L.A. "It also inspired me to chair the National Arts Awards for an organization called Americans for the Arts of whom I am vice president and this is the organization that founded the [National Endowment for the Arts] and lobbies for arts in the schools. I was also for five years the chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A., at a critical time in its history and played a role in saving the museum when it might have merged or closed its doors by helping to raise an over-hundred-million-dollar endowment."

Bell is excited to be among the inductees honored at a ceremony at Newport Harbor's Robin Loats Hall Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.


She offered advice for current aspiring writers who attend her alma mater.

"The most important thing is to read, watch great television and films and observe everyone around you," Bell said. "It's so much the role of the writer to take in everything and distill it into something that has power that people can relate to. Enjoy your time at Harbor, you may write about it later!"

The doors for Wednesday's event will open at 5 p.m. It is open to the public, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.

Immediately after, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to name the school's Heritage Hall Museum in honor of beloved math teacher and former curator, Web Jones.

Afterward there will be refreshments and reunion time, as well as an opportunity to tour Heritage Hall, which chronicles 85 years of the school's history through photos and memorabilia.

The faculty hall of fame honorees will be recognized on behalf of all the inductees at the NHHS graduation ceremony on Davidson Field June 18 at 4 p.m.

NHHS Hall of Fame Inductees

Student alumni


Maria Arena Bell (Class of 1981): writer, producer, community leader, began at The Bold and the Beautiful, and went on to the Young and The Restless, where she won an Emmy and two WGA awards. She has served on the board of P.S. Arts, Americans For the Arts, and MOCA, and was appointed as a Commissioner on the Status of Women and Girls in California, and to the L.A. Cultural Affairs Committee. In 2012, Bell was presented with the Women's Image Network Humanitarian award.

Dr. Joseph C. Corbo (Class of 1986): ground-breaking scientist and linguist, graduated as NHHS Valedictorian, then Summa Cum Laude at Stanford, and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. at UC San Diego. A member of multiple professional societies and an honoree of dozens of scientific awards, he has published 45 scientific papers. At Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Corbo directs a research laboratory devoted to developing novel optogenetic therapies to treat and prevent blindness.

David Emmes (Class of 1957): actor, director, producer, co-founded South Coast Repertory in 1964. SCR has grown into one of the most respected professional theatres in America, and earned the Tony Award for Distinguished Achievement in 1988. Emmes has received numerous awards as a director, including the Margo Jones Award for his commitment to fostering American playwriting, and has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council.

A.G. Kawamura (Class of 1974): global agricultural leader, built his company Orange County Produce, LLC, into a forward-looking leader, and served as the California Secretary of Agriculture for seven years beginning in 2003. He has acted on the boards of many organizations, including Solutions from the Land, the North American Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, the Western Growers Association, the CSU Foundation, and American Farmland Trust, and is developing an agricultural display at the OC Great Park.

Aaron Peirsol (Class of 2002): international swimming champion, has won five Olympic gold medals, 12 World Championship titles, and the current world record holder in both the 100-meter and 200 backstroke. He attended his first Olympics while still a student at NHHS, and was named 2005 American Swimmer of the Year. Peirsol has served as an ambassador for the Global Water Foundation, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Oceana campaign, and in 2014, returned to NHHS to coach boys' varsity swimming.

Bob Rogers (Class of 1968): film maker, inventor, master story-teller, founded BRC Imagination Arts to create exhibits for impressive corporate clients, like Epcot Center in Disney World. He invented the film technique Holovision, and helped NASA develop its master plan for the exploration of Mars, earning their highest civilian honor, the NASA Public Service Medal. Rogers has been nominated for two Academy Awards, and was voted in as a member to the Academy of Motion Pictures.

James "Walkie" Ray (Class of 1963): builder, philanthropist, grew his father's company, J. Ray Construction, into a giant in the industry. He led the development of the Discovery Cube OC in Santa Ana, and helped found the Orange County School of the Arts. In 2007, he and his wife were presented with the Orange County Spirit of Philanthropy Lifetime Achievement Award. At NHHS, he helped design and build the original Heritage Hall.

Gregg Schwenk (Class of 1986): entrepreneur, film-lover, educator, worked in the banking and investment field, overseeing mergers and acquisitions, for Strategic Mergers Group, RSM McGladrey, and Citigroup. In 1999, he co-founded the Newport Beach Film Festival, and has served as president of the Orange County Film Society. Schwenk was appointed to the Economic Development Committee for Newport Beach, and has served as adjunct faculty at the Cal State Fullerton School of Communications since 2000.


Steve Timmons (Class of 1977): three-time Olympic medalist in volleyball (two golds, one silver), was known for his fiery, red flat-top. He joined the U.S. Olympic team for men's indoor volleyball for the 1984 Games, winning Gold then, and again in 1988. He was named FIVB's Best Blocker and the USOC's Male Volleyball Player of the Year, and flourished on the AVP tour from 1987 to 1994. He consistently ranked in the top 10 in professional beach volleyball, while running a successful sportswear company, Redsand.

Irene Worth (Class of 1933): renowned actress of stage, screen, and radio, made her Broadway debut in 1943, and her debut at the Old Vic in London in 1946. Her signature role was Goneril in King Lear, and she won three Tony Awards, as well as the British Film Academy Award in 1958. Worth was inducted into the New York and London Theatrical Hall of Fames, and became an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empires for her services to drama.

Honored faculty

Bill Barnett: revered water polo coach and teacher, spent an unprecedented 49 years at NHHS from 1966-2015. With boys' and girls' water polo, he garnered 15 CIF championship titles, and trained over 100 High School All-Americans. Internationally, Barnett coached the National Junior Team, National B Team, and the U.S. Men's Olympic Team in 1988, 1992, and 2000. In 1998, he became one of three coaches to lead the U.S. men to silver, and in 1991, he was honored as the World Coach of the Year.

Roscine Feeley: inspiring English teacher, served as department chair from 1943-65. She set high standards for her college-bound seniors, that began a tradition of excellence at NHHS, and was also a sought-after Hollywood "reader." She helped organize the Newport Harbor Art Exhibits from 1946-66, and in the 1980s, served on the Art Committee to restore the Ruth Stoever Fleming Art Collection. She wrote the introduction for the Collection's catalog, Changing Times/Changing Styles in 1985.

Fabian Giroux: renowned History teacher, brought his knowledge of languages, history, philosophy, religion, art, and a student-centered approach to learning to NHHS from 1961-84. He revised the Freshman History curriculum to use a topical approach, and introduced students to AP Art History, and Comparative World Religions. After retirement in 1984, Giroux worked with Web Jones to develop Heritage Hall and preserve NHHS history for years to come.

Dennis O'Hern: adventurous Social Studies teacher from 1965-98, taught a wide variety of classes, and founded AP U.S. History at NHHS. He expanded learning beyond his classroom walls, to make it personally relevant to his students. He has served as Department Chair, Faculty Club President, and on the Art Committee and Educational Foundation. For 50 years, O'Hern was the voice announcing NHHS Football, and spends much of his time in retirement volunteering at NHHS and other organizations.

Donald J. Ulander: respected English teacher 1959-89, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, was wounded in combat and recognized with a Purple Heart in 1950. At NHHS, he fostered critical thinking and commitment to community in his students, as Department Chair and Beacon advisor, and in 1967, founded the Advanced Placement program at NHHS. He taught at UC Irvine from 1970-85, acted as an English Teacher Specialist for California, and helped other schools establish AP programs.

Bios provided by Newport Harbor Alumni Assn.