Celebrate South Pays Tribute to Notable Alumni

By: Madeleine Rowell

The Axemen Hall of Fame as we know it today was founded in 2009. Celebrate South initially honored only students who had participated in athletics during their time at South Eugene high school, but the focus has been shifted so that all high-achieving alumni are considered for inauguration. In addition, Celebrate South also serves as a valuable fundraiser for South.

We have an uncharacteristically long history here at South, which first opened its doors as Eugene High School in 1874. From the first class of just eight graduates to last year’s graduating class of nearly 300, we have 140 years of alumni who have passed through South’s halls. We have graduated grammy-award winners, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and many more successful individuals.

“Previously, it was about just the athletes, and when I look at the three pillars on which the school really stands, it’s arts, academics, and sports. To celebrate just contributors to the athletics misses two-thirds of the most important aspects of the school. With this transition it’s a more comprehensive list of alumni who are inducted each year,” Principal Andy Dey said.

The annual celebration is now more representative of South’s culture, which extends beyond athletics, and this year’s inaugurations very clearly exemplified the broader scope of post-graduate success.

“At first I was skeptical,” Athletic Director Dave Hancock said of the transition, “but it’s a great way to really showcase how big South Eugene is. It’s really amazing.”

“South has such a great legacy, and I see that everyone at school is going to be really successful.”

Alyssa Gao

12 individuals, one family, and two athletic teams were inducted into the Axemen Hall of Fame in 2016.


South Eugene Gymnastics was well represented this year, with the Boys team of 68’, Oregon’s all-sport coach of the year Sandy Cutler ‘75, gymnast Aaron BreMiller ‘80, and gymnast Jodie Lee Kwai ‘85 all receiving awards.

“It’s always been really nostalgic, alumni remember their days at South,” Hancock said. “If you’ve ever watched the Dead Poet’s Society, they say ‘Look into their eyes, they have the same dreams and hopes that you do when they were your age’ to me, that’s the significance of this.”

Hancock’s thoughts on inspiration from past students exemplify the intention of the all-inclusive transition perfectly. The change was made in the hopes of provoking inspiration among students and staff in all extracurricular areas within South.

Non-athletic honors were awarded to singer, song-writer, and Grammy nominee Tracy Bonham ‘85, renowned German teacher Jerry Webking, entrepreneur Geoff Hollister ‘64, and actress Julie Payne ‘64.

“It’s important to recognize them,” Principal Andy Dey said. “Alumni connect our school to its history and orient the school towards its future. This is an excellent way for us to bring them together one night per year and celebrate the lives that they have lead.”

As Principal Dey said, South’s alumni are crucial to the inspiration of future generations, which is why an event such as this is so important. Celebrate South epitomizes how participation in school activities has lead many individuals to successful careers and lives after high school.

Entrepreneur and 2016 Axemen Hall of Fame inductee Geoff Hollister spoke about why he values participation in school activities, specifically athletics.

“I like to hire former athletes because of what they have learned from competition,” Hollister said. “They learn things like how to remain humble because on any given day there will be someone out there that’s better.”

“We have graduated Grammy award winners, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, professional athletes, and more successful individuals.”

Madeleine Rowell

This year’s induction ceremony was as inspiring as it was exciting. Entertainment and music was provided by a string quartet of South students, comprising of junior and 1st violinist Erika Parisien, junior and second violinist Alyssa Gao, junior and violist, and senior and cellist Alissa Liu. Music included a selection of pieces from Coldplay, Mozart, and Brian Balmages, most notably an arrangement of Clocks by Coldplay, an all-time crowd favorite. Many staff members, past and present, attended to congratulate the 2016 inductees. Several current South students attended as well.


“I thought that the event was really great,” South junior Alyssa Gao said. “It really showed me how many influential people have come out of South, and it was nice to see some other people there that I really look up to. South has such a great legacy, and I see that everyone around me at school is going to be really successful as well.”

Celebrate South manifests inspiration in current students and nostalgic pride in alumni. Many current students are choosing to focus on how they will spend Winter break or graduation itself before contemplating how they will earn themselves a place among South’s most esteemed Hall of Famers. However, there are also students who are already excited by the possibility of inauguration after graduating from South.

“It would be cool to be recognized for some big scientific breakthrough,” ASB vice President and senior Alex Leve said.

“Alchemy, it is inherently mystical,” South junior Henry Linninger said of an achievement he hoped to be recognized for in the future.

Overall, Celebrate South was a huge success that will only grow in attendance and popularity with the continuous graduation and induction of notable alumni. With this annual celebration, South may see an in increase in the quirky school spirit that it is so well known for, a spirit of inclusiveness and appreciation of the diversity and talent in its student body.


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