Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 1:57 pm | Overcast 66º


Santa Barbara High Welcomes Five Newest Members of ‘Always a Don’ Wall of Fame

Alumni association recognizes Stephen Benton, John Campilio, Jack Hufford, Ward Kimball and Bill Oliphant with school’s top honor

The hundreds of students passing through the doors of Santa Barbara High School may not know who’s responsible for restoring the historic façade’s entrances to their former glory, but the Santa Barbara Dons Alumni Association sure does. Their names are the latest additions to the school’s Wall of Fame.

The honorees — Stephen Benton, John Campilio, Jack Hufford, Ward Kimball and Bill Oliphant — were all introduced at Friday’s 13th annual ceremony by Associated Student Body president Laine Fisher, a senior, and junior class president William Belfiore.

Campilio, from the Class of 1953, is an active member of both the alumni association and Ye Ole Gang Dons Athletic Boosters. He’s been a familiar presence on the campus at 700 E. Anapamu St. for a very long time, and helped get the school designated as a historic landmark in 2005 as well as getting a Veterans Memorial erected on the property.

He asked the audience to consider him a representative of the many donors to the school. The Class of 1953 is responsible for several student scholarships that are still given out every spring, and he noted that the alumni association, which organizes the Wall of Fame and boasts more than 4,000 active members, has awarded more than $650,000 in scholarships over the years.

Campilio’s work with the alumni association and with Hufford, a fellow honoree, got the façade restoration under way for the school’s main building entrances.

The students in the audience Friday heard Campilio encourage them to stay connected to their alma mater long after they graduate. When seniors walk out of Peabody Stadium in June, they’ll join a long list of alumni stretching back to the 1800s, he said.

“It’s a long line,” he said. “Be proud to be a part of it.”

Hufford, from the Class of ’51, raised money from fellow alumni to repair the school’s three entrance façades and did a lot of the actual work with his classmates, including Campilio. They even mentored students to help clean, paint and repair the woodwork, brass and marble entrances.

Hufford is a longtime supporter of projects benefiting athletic facilities at local schools, and was instrumental in getting a baseball field scoreboard installed at Dos Pueblos High School and a new sod infield for Bishop Diego High’s baseball field. He’s also active in the Ye Ole Gang Don Athletic Boosters and was named Sportsman of the Month by the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table in 2007.

Like Campilio, he credited his fellow alumni for getting so much done to help the school.

The Wall of Fame also welcomed Oliphant, a well-loved teacher and junior varsity baseball coach who last month had the honor of having the practice field named after him adjacent to nearby Santa Barbara Junior High. Even though he wasn’t the most motivated student, he said, he loved going to school at Santa Barbara High.

After graduating in 1964, Oliphant attended Santa Barbara City College and then Cal Poly. He said he lasted just a week in San Luis Obispo before coming home “tail hanging” and got a job digging ditches. He was finally motivated to go back to school and became a teacher, coach and official for several high school sports.

When Oliphant got the baseball coaching job at Santa Barbara High, he remembered driving to campus “with a smile a mile wide,” he said. “They’re paying me to come here!”

Two of the latest honorees, Benton and Kimball, have passed away.

Benton, from the Class of 1959, died in 2003 at age 61. He was a pioneer in medical-imaging and fine-arts holography, and is credited with creating rainbow holograms, which are used as security measures on credit cards. He went on to study at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and became an expert researcher, professor and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

During his high school years, he was a top student and established himself as a budding scientist with his participation in the science club and radio club, Fisher told the guests.

Benton’s younger brother, Chris, a retired local firefighter and also an SBHS alumnus, accepted the award. He noted that they came from a commercial fishing family so they didn’t have the means to go to college, but a scholarship started his older brother’s higher education career.

The earliest alumnus honored Friday was Ward Kimball, from the Class of 1932, who died in 2002 at age 88. No family members were able to attend the ceremony to accept his award.

Kimball was an influential animator for Walt Disney Studios and his work is recognizable to people well beyond the South Coast. He is known for creating Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio and other iconic characters like the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. He was a train enthusiast and the newest engine on the Disneyland Railroad is named after him.

He played trombone in his days as a Don and continued playing in the band Firehouse Five Plus Two, a jazz band he started and led with other Walt Disney Studio animators.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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