ELAC 75th Anniversary
1974 Football Team
The Watergate hearings would lead to Richard M. Nixon becoming the first President in U.S. history to resign from office, the Oil Crisis led to long lines at gas stations, the Rubik cube was invented and the Dodgers were driving to their first National League pennant in seven years. Those stories were in the headlines in the late summer of 1974 as the ELAC football team quietly started fall practice. The Huskies may have started the season working under the radar, but they made huge headlines when it was over in what was truly a season for the ages.
Their story was one that could rival the story of baseball’s 1969 “Amazing Mets.” The Huskies virtually came out of nowhere as they went from last to first in 1974, the season culminating with ELAC winning its first and only state championship in football. Their success seemed unlikely when the season started. In 1973, the Huskies, under new Coach Al Padilla, were a disappointing 1-9. Down and frustrated, but not discouraged, Padilla and his staff went to work. The late Gil Rozadilla, the Huskies’ defensive coordinator, said they were determined to get the program back on the winning track. It started with recruiting. “We had a good core of returning players to build with, but we needed more,” he said. “We went out and brought in some good players and some players that we could develop.”
One of the new recruits was Lynn Cain, a little-known running back from Roosevelt High School who quickly made a name for himself. Cain had used all of his high school eligibility by the time he was 16 years old and didn’t play any sports his senior year. “Roosevelt Coach Ray McClean said we were getting a very good player in Lynn Cain, and he couldn’t have been more right,” Padilla recalled. By the time Cain arrived at ELAC he had grown three inches and had added 25 pounds to his frame. Cain, who played fullback in the Huskies’ potent veer-T offense, stood 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and used his speed, power and balance to run through defenses and help lead them from rags to riches. By the time the season ended Cain had gone from virtual obscurity to one of the most sought after JC players by major four-year colleges. He was named the California Community College Player of the Year and the Southern California Conference Most Valuable Player. He rushed for a conference record 1,385 yards and scored 19 touchdowns during the regular season. But 1974 was the only season Cain played at ELAC as Coach John McKay successfully recruited him to USC. Cain was the starting fullback on the Trojans’ 1978 National Championship team and played on two Rose Bowl winning teams. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1979 and spent six seasons with them. He played for the Rams in 1985 before retiring.
Quarterback Walt Ransom was a story unto himself. He was 24 when he reported to practice and was switching to football after having played baseball in the Boston Red Sox minor leagues for several seasons. Ransom, the Red Sox first round draft selection in 1968 out of South Gate High School, was among the first players to take advantage of a new NCAA rule that permitted student athletes to play professionally, but retain their amateur status in other sports. He was also an outstanding football player at South Gate, earning All L.A. City Section first team honors. Padilla, who was the coach at Garfield High School before moving to ELAC, knew all about Ransom’s football skills having coached against the South Gate teams he played on. Ransom transferred to USC after the 1975 season.
Halfback Alvin Fike was another freshman standout for the Huskies who transferred to Long Beach State after his sophomore season. Ransom’s primary targets were Rudy Munguia, Tony Armendariz, Wayne Brown and Kenny Pierce. Pierce would go on to play in the Canadian Football League and later in the NFL. The Huskies were led up front on the offensive line primarily by center Frank Orozco, guards Ben Rivera, Jim Andrada and Cesar Saenz, and tackles Harold Rodgers and Danny Long. Rodgers, Rivera and Orozco were all-conference players. Tight end David Patapoff was all-conference.
The Huskies used an attacking defense that was fast, quick and aggressive to limit their opponents to only 170 points in 12 games, an average of 14.2 points per game. The secondary was a star-studded unit bolstered by sophomore safety Mike Davis, who would later be a mainstay on two Super Bowl winning teams for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. He also starred at the University of Colorado, where he played in the Orange Bowl game. Besides Davis, the Huskies also had sophomore David Gray and freshmen Kerry Justin and Ken Starling. Gray (Houston Oilers, Seattle Seahawks) and Justin (Seattle Seahawks) would also go on to play in the NFL. Freshman defensive end Ed Gutierrez was the leader up front on the line. The unit also consisted of tackles Lorenzo Esparza, Richard Torres, and ends Wayne James and Mike Grimstead. The outside linebackers were Paul Moya and Danny Garrett and the inside linebackers were Mark Duckworth and Rick Gamboa. Gutierrez was one of seven defensive players to make the all-conference team. He was joined by Esparza, Torres, Moya, Duckworth, Davis and Gray. He transferred to USC after his sophomore season and played on the Trojans’ 1977 Rose Bowl champion team, and made all conference the following year.
“The reason why we had a great team wasn’t because of my great coaching,” Padilla said. “We had some great players, it’s as simple as that. We had five players go on to play in the NFL and several go on to play major college.” The Huskies also had great chemistry. “The wonderful thing about this team like Mike Davis has said, was the ethnic diversity we had,” Padilla said. “We had players from throughout the area. My job was to put them together and you could say that we were like a family. It was nice. That’s why we were successful.” The team has held a number of reunions over the years with the most recent one coming last year when Padilla and his players were honored by the ELAC Alumni Association during the association’s annual Homecoming Celebration prior to ELAC’s game versus Mt. San Antonio College. The association presented the players and coaches with state championship rings to commemorate their great success. Mike Garrett, the former Heisman Trophy winner at USC and NFL standout, joined the ’74 Huskies in honoring Padilla, who was his “B” team coach at Roosevelt High School in 1959. Gamboa and Cain returned to ELAC years later as coaches. Gamboa was head coach from 1998 to 2004 and guided the Huskies to the CHiPs for Kids Bowl in 2000. Cain was head coach from 2007 to 2011 and led the Huskies to the American Mountain Conference title and a 42-28 victory over Santa Monica in the American Division Championship Bowl.
The 1974 season started promising, but quickly hit a lull. The Huskies opened with an impressive 27-21 victory at Fresno City College. They played L.A. Valley College to a 14-14 tie the next week and then lost to Cerritos, 9-7. The loss to Cerritos was frustrating because a penalty negated what would have been the winning touchdown. Padilla and his staff were able to right the ship quickly, however and the Huskies relied on their defense to do it, as they scored a tough 10-3 victory over Los Angeles City College in the Southern California Conference opener. Cain’s 90-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter broke a 3-3 tie and gave ELAC the win over the defending state champions. The Huskies never looked back as they reeled off six consecutive victories, defeating Rio Hondo (21-14), Cypress (28-20), L.A. Southwest (41-8), Santa Monica (43-20), L.A. Harbor (21-7) and Golden West (34-26) to win the conference title outright.
It set the stage for a showdown between undefeated Pasadena City College, the Metropolitan Conference champion, and ELAC to meet in a regional playoff game at Pasadena. The winner would win the right to represent Southern California in the Shrine Potato Bowl game in Bakersfield for the state championship. ELAC and Pasadena played to a 14-14 tie, but overtime periods were not played in that era. The Huskies were awarded the victory because they had more total yards than the Lancers. The Huskies nearly doubled the Lancers’ total, gaining 400 to their 231. Cain, who had 156 yards on 30 rushing carries, provided the late-game heroics again. With his team down 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Cain caught a short pass from Ransom and raced 58 yards to the Pasadena 5-yard line to set up the tying score, which he ran in two plays later.
In the Shrine Potato Bowl game played at Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium, Ransom ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as ELAC defeated San Jose City College, 33-14. The Huskies from the outset left no doubt who was best in the state as they rolled to a 27-0 halftime lead. An early interception by Garrett set up their first score, which came on Ransom’s 14-yard touchdown run. The Huskies drove 75 yards for their next score that ended with Fike scoring from a yard out. The defense came up with another San Jose turnover on a fumble recovery by Starling at midfield. Cain scored eight players later to extend the Huskies lead. San Jose responded with its best drive of the night, but the Huskies’ defense hunkered down and stopped the Jaguars on downs at the ELAC 24. Ransom’s 51-yard pass completion to Brown set up his 12-yard touchdown pass to Munguia, and it was 27-0 Huskies at the half. Taking advantage of two second-half turnovers, San Jose crept back into the game by cutting their disadvantage to 27-14. But a 6-yard touchdown run by Ransom ensured the state championship for East Los Angeles College.
Orange Coast College President
One could say that Orange Coast College President Dr. Angelica Loera Suarez was at the right place at the right time that fateful day her senior year at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra. It was getting close to graduation and her part time job working for a florist was going to turn full time once she graduated. She believed she was all set to join the workforce. But while volunteering in the school’s Career Center she was asked to help host recruiters from ELAC’s Student Outreach and Recruitment Department during their visit to the school to promote higher education and lure students. She was so impressed by the presentation of what the college had to offer that she decided to pass up the full time promotion and enroll at ELAC.
“I don’t think I would have ever gone to college had it not been for that presentation that day,” said Suarez, who was appointed president of Orange Coast last year. “That encounter changed the trajectory of my future much higher. They made me see myself as a college student.” The eldest of six children, Suarez was born in Sonora, Mexico and grew up in Rosemead. She graduated from Keppel in 1985, after transferring from San Gabriel High School. “By being in high school I had already fulfilled the highest educational aspiration of my parents,” she said, noting that her parents had second and third grade educations.
Suarez worked at the college to help support her family while she took office administration classes. She earned several certificates that allowed her to continue to work at the college. But she didn’t know what career path to follow. “I was on an unguided pathway to education,” she said. She credits the counselors she had with putting her on a pathway to work in higher education. “I had this connection with my counselors,” she said. “They would always ask me what I was going to do next and they would stress how much I needed to continue my education. They helped me see myself in a different role and got me on the right path. I knew I wanted to do what they were doing for me, an immigrant, transforming the life of a student.”
She earned her associate’s degree from ELAC and transferred to Cal State Long Beach, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She earned her doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University, Chicago.
Suarez was appointed the 11th President of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa in July, 2019. With more than 20,000 students, the Costa Mesa community college is the largest in Orange County. Suarez served as the Vice President for Student Affairs for the Southwestern Community College District in Chula Vista prior to her appointment at Orange Coast. She was responsible for the leadership of the district's student support services and programs serving approximately 20,000 students each semester in five locations. Her administrative experience also includes serving Southwestern College as Acting Superintendent/President; Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Academic Dean for the Higher Education Centers in Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. While working for City Colleges of Chicago, she served as Academic Dean at Wilbert Wright Community College. Dr. Suarez has held faculty positions in counseling at Wright College and Southwestern College.
Suarez’ personal narrative as an immigrant and first-generation college student connects her very directly to the shared experiences of California community college students. Her collective community college experience has provided her with multiple perspectives as a former student, classified staff member, faculty member, and administrator. “For 75 years, East Los Angeles College has been an essential instrument in changing the lives of students and families and serving the community,” she said. “That is an incredible number of years helping students achieve their dreams.”
Suarez, an educational leader for more than 30 years, has never forgotten her journey or the mode of transportation. “I remember sitting on the front steps of ELAC and then hearing the loud roar of my father’s pickup truck with all the tools in the back as he arrived to pick me up after classes,” she said. She advises students to dream big, identify their goals and work hard to achieve them. “You have champions on campus so connect with people,” she added.
Former State Senator
For over 40 years, state Senator Art Torres (Ret.), and Chair Emeritus of the California Democratic Party, has confronted complex issues and stood up for those without a voice. He authored crucial bi-partisan initiatives in health care, education, the environment and human rights and has served in both the private and public sectors.
In 2020, he was elected to become the UC Regent Designate as of July 1, 2020 and then Regent and President of the UC Alumni Association after July 1, 2021, representing over two million UC Alumni worldwide.
In 2016, Torres was re-elected unanimously to a final term as Vice Chair of CIRM, California’s stem cell agency in 2016. CIRM has provided more than $2.7 Billion in research funds to find cures for incurable diseases, (www.cirm.ca.gov).
Torres serves pro-bono as one of 5 members of the board of Covered California which oversees Obamacare in California, appointed to a four-year term in 2016, and for another four-year term in 2020 by the California State Senate. He resigned from the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to assume the UC Regent position. He was appointed to the board by the late Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco to a four-year term in 2017.
Torres’ interest in politics and public service dates all the way back to his childhood. He grew up in Boyle Heights before his family moved to Monterey Park in 1954. He attended Montebello High School where he served as Boys League President and was a member of the debate team. “I attended ELAC because I was not sure what route to take with my academic career and it afforded me an opportunity to think about my future without the high cost of a four-year institution,” Torres said. “It was also a 10-minute walk from my home to the campus.”
Torres received his Associate of Arts Degree from ELAC in 1966 where he served as student body president. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz where he served as student president and his Juris Doctorate degree from UC Davis Law School where he also served as class president.
“I always was interested in public service and student government so it was a natural path to take into law school and politics,” said Torres, who would go on to serve as the longest serving state Democratic Party chair in US history between 1996 and 2009. He previously served 20 years in the California Legislature where he chaired the Assembly Health Committee and the Senate Insurance Committee and founded the Senate Toxics Committee.
He also served as a John F. Kennedy teaching fellow at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government. He also recently served as the University of San Francisco Diversity Scholar Visiting Professor.
Torres is grateful for the teachers he had at ELAC. “My favorite memory of ELAC are the teachers, especially Dr. Helen Miller Bailey who really mentored my interests and the Dean of Students Evelyn Field who was my mentor to UC Santa Cruz,” he said. Torres joked that ELAC’s 75th Anniversary means he’s getting old. “Seriously it is a testament to the faculty and administrators who have kept this campus moving and I am proud to have sponsored legislation to bring appropriations to help build our library on campus,” he said.
“My advice to students that I have taught and counseled is to always follow your heart so that you are happy in the career path you choose,” he added.
In 2010, former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Torres to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He served for four years as a member and President. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the One Legacy Foundation, the largest organ transplant foundation in the US, headquartered in Los Angeles.
Torres authored the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, known as Proposition 65, which protects our drinking water from carcinogens. This proposition helped create the sole toxic reporting repository that helps scientists determine environmental and health impacts. Dr. Eric Roberts called the database as a “data source that really no one else has on the planet.”
In the early 1980’s he appropriated university research funding at the height of the AIDS crisis with Dr. Marcus Conant and with the support of Dr. Anthony Fauci before the severity of the epidemic was recognized. He also advocated for insurance reimbursement for breast cancer treatments.
He also helped create the only national Japanese American museum in Little Tokyo, while also co-authoring the Museum on Tolerance both in Los Angeles. He led international delegations to release Vietnamese prisoners detained in “educational camps” in Hanoi, Vietnam; and, later led the first Vietnamese American delegation of Vietnamese US citizens to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. He also assisted Soviet Jewish refuseniks in the former Soviet Union in 1987.
In 1989, he assisted in drafting Pope John Paul II’s environmental message along with Nobel laureates who presented their message to the Holy Father before his delivery in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on New Year’s Day 1990. He also served as a German Marshall Fund Fellow. The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy appointed him to the Commission on International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development, which led to the last immigration reform law in 1986 signed by President Ronald Regan.
Torres also served as the President of the Kaitz Foundation, dedicated to increasing diversity in the cable television industry with a board composed of all the top CEOs in the cable television industry.
He is married to Gonzalo Escudero and has two children Joaquin Torres, a Stanford (BA) and NYU (Masters) graduate who serves as the Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development for the city and county of San Francisco. He is married to actress Ruibo Qian.
His daughter Danielle attended two years at Porter College at UCSC and then transferred to USC to graduate with a BS in the Music Industry from the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Thornton School of Music. She is currently a third-year law student at UC Hastings School of Law.
A basketball career seemed to be in Ben Davidson’s future until a chance encounter at ELAC sent him on a different trajectory. At 6-foot-8, it was only natural hoops was his sport of choice at Wilson High School in El Sereno and figured to be at ELAC, as well. But Huskies’ football coach Clyde Johnson, himself a former All-American lineman at Kentucky and professional player with the L.A. Rams and L.A. Dons, spotted Davidson on campus and convinced him to go out for football, a sport he had never played. The rest, as they say, is history.
Davidson stood out enough as a defensive lineman at ELAC to earn a scholarship to the University of Washington where helped the Huskies win the 1960 and ’61 Rose Bowls. His pro career began in 1961 after being selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants. He was traded in training camp to the Green Bay Packers.
As a rookie, he played mostly on special teams for the Packers, who routed the Giants, 37-0 in the NFL title game, the first of five titles for coach Vince Lombardi. In 1962 he was traded to the Washington Redskins for a fifth-round pick. He played there for two years, then was released in training camp in ’64. Shortly after his release, the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, coached by Al Davis at the time, signed him, beginning a nine-year run that made up the defensive end’s prime years.
He was an AFL all-star in ’68, ’69 and ’70, helped the Raiders win the AFL title in ’67, was part of the merger of the two leagues in ‘70 and played in Super Bowl II. An Achilles tendon injury sidelined him the entire 1972 season, effectively ending his NFL career. In 1974, Davidson returned to pro football with the Portland Storm of the brand new World Football League. But a late-season injury ended his season and his career.
Off the field, he dabbled in the entertainment industry, appearing in such films as “MASH,” “Conan the Barbarian” and “The Black Six.” He also appeared in an episode of the TV series “Happy Days,” as well as Miller Lite beer commercials.
Also an avid motorcycle rider, he and fellow Raider teammate Tom Keating completed a ride from California to the Panama Canal and four-month, 14,000-mile trip across the United States while with the Raiders. Davidson, who lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 72 in 2012, still has his legacy live on at ELAC.
Because he always said he owed his career to coach Johnson, Davidson funded a scholarship on the condition that it would be called the Clyde Johnson-Ben Davidson Scholarship. The award is still given annually to one outstanding ELAC male and one outstanding female student-athlete in memory of Johnson and Davidson. In fact, Davidson returned to ELAC in 2005 to speak at the annual Husky Student-Athlete Awards Luncheon. He presented the Johnson-Davidson award to baseball player Adrian Magallon and softball player Carolina Navarro. Davidson also gave a touching eulogy at a memorial service ELAC held for Johnson in 1997.
In 2009, Davidson was inducted into the California Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding football career and his commitment to ELAC athletics. He was joined by baseball great Wilver “Willie” Stargell, who attended Santa Rosa College, and Mickey Davis, an administrator, coach and a trailblazer in women’s athletics at Long Beach City College and Golden West College. Induction into the CCCAA Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed in California community college athletics. It honors those who have made the most of their experiences as California community college student-athletes, coaches and administrators while maximizing their own potential to better themselves along with those whom they come in contact.
Colorful, creative and irreverent were just some of the adjectives used to describe Bud Furillo over the years. Though only 5-foot-7, he was a giant in Southern California sports writing and sports talk radio for more than 40 years. Furillo, who attended ELAC for a semester before launching his journalism career as a copy boy with the L.A. Herald-Express in 1947, was best known as sports editor of the Herald-Examiner where he wrote a column called the “The Steam Room,” earning him the moniker, “Steamer.” His “Steam Room” became such a daily staple of local newspaper readers that then Mayor Tom Bradley once complained that L.A. residents were pulling the sports section out of the Herald, then dumping the rest of the paper, clogging all of L.A.’s drains.
While still sports editor of the Examiner, he began hosting a sports talk radio show for KABC-AM (790) in 1974. No matter, the venue, he was not afraid of taking on the biggest figures in the sports world. Although often critical of the people he criticized, he was considered fair. As Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson was quoted by columnist and ELAC alumnus Steve Bisheff in the Orange County Register in 2006, “You know what was great about Bud. He was honest. You could trust him. I never cared if Bud gave me a little tap (knock). Because if he wrote it, it was true.”
He was known as a tough taskmaster with the writers who worked under him at the Examiner, but was also a great teacher. Jack Disney, a long-time local sports writer and public relations man, said, “I learned more about journalism under Bud than I could have anywhere else.” The late Mitch Chortkoff was hired by Furillo at the Herald Examiner. “He was a great boss,” wrote Chortkoff, who also attended ELAC. “He hired me to work the midnight to eight shift in the office when I was 24 years old. Two years later, he promoted me to the Angels beat and I also helped out on the Rams. Two years later, he offered me the Lakers beat, which I accepted. It turned into my career highlight.”
“Bud Furillo was right in the middle of it,” recalls former longtime Dodger manager Tom Lasorda in the book “The Steamer. Bud Furillo and the Golden Age of L.A. Sports,” written by Bud’s son, Andy Furillo, a reporter with the Sacramento Bee. Lasorda wrote the 2016 book’s foreword. “You couldn’t wait to read the Herald Examiner to see what the Steamer was saying. He covered every sport and brought out things nobody else could ever do.”
Born in Hubbard, Ohio in 1925, Furillo and his family moved to Southern California in 1940, settling in Maywood. He went to Bell High School, graduating in 1943, then serving in the Marines. After his military service was complete, he enrolled at ELAC. Among the classes he took was beginning newswriting. He would leave after a semester to take a job with the Herald-Express.
While with the Express, he was one of four original beat writers for the Angels in 1961 when they played at L.A.’s Wrigley Field, then later at Dodger Stadium prior to the building of Anaheim Stadium. He helped turn a colorful young left-handed pitcher Bo Belinsky into a short-lived Hollywood celebrity. When the Express and Examiner merged in 1962, it would lead to him becoming sports editor two years later. He held that position until 1974.
Furillo, who was 80 at the time of his death in 2006, had other lesser-known jobs during his career. He was also an actor and writer in such television shows such as “Gunsmoke” (1955), “Batman” (1966) and “Banacek” (1972).
On Sept. 12, 1970, a group of five back football players, Clarence Davis being one of them, made their own special contribution to racial equality in the South. Those five, all starters, played spectacularly while leading an integrated USC team over all-white Alabama by a score of 42-21 in Birmingham, Ala., ironically the birthplace of Davis.
What happened on that night would accelerate the integration process in that region of the country. The all-black backfield, the first ever in NCAA Division I history, saw fullback Sam Cunningham rush for 135 yards and two touchdowns and Davis add another 76 on 13 carries. Quarterback Jimmy Jones completed the backfield triumvirate.
There was plenty of irony in Davis’ place in history. Until he arrived at ELAC in 1967, a future in football seemed more of a pipe dream than anything. He grew up in Birmingham, then moved to the Bronx, New York with his mother after his parents divorced. She then moved the family to Los Angeles when Davis was 13.
At Washington Prep High School, Davis played offensive guard despite being one of the faster players on the roster. He was also a shot putter on the track team. What he wasn’t was a running back. That would come following graduation from high school.
He walked on at ELAC where he was put in the backfield for the first time. All he did for the Huskies and Husky Coach Bob Enger was earn junior college All-American honors and break O.J. Simpson’s JC rushing record in 1968. They won the Western State Conference and advanced to the state title game where they lost to Fresno City.
Davis, who not surprisingly had no scholarship offers out of high school, suddenly was being pursued by the likes of USC, Washington, Arizona and Kansas. He chose USC and became the heir apparent to Simpson, who would move on to the Buffalo Bills as the NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick. In his first year with the Trojans, Davis rushed for 1,357 yards to earn All-American honors. During his two-year career there, he finished with 2,329 yards and 18 TDs.
A fourth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, Davis played for the club from 1971-78, amassing 3,640 yards and 28 TDs during his career. As a rookie, he had 734 return yards, 321 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards. He had a couple of memorable moments with the Raiders. In the 1974 playoffs, his “Sea of Hands” catch helped Oakland defeat the Miami Dolphins and advance. With two minutes left, Kenny Stabler heaved an off-balance pass while falling down. With the ball floating into the endzone, Davis and two Dolphins converged. They collided simultaneously, but it was Davis who wrestled the ball away for the score, ironic because he was not known as having good hands.
After coming up short in consecutive AFC Championship games, the Raiders beat the Steelers, 24-7 to win the AFC crown. Davis and the Super Bowl bound Raiders made the cover of Sports Illustrated. In Super Bowl XI in 1977, he played a key role in the Raiders’ 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings with 137 yards on 16 carries.
Upon his retirement from football, Davis worked for the Alameda County Probation Department. Davis’ son, Tyler was signed by the Miami Dolphins in 2016 to become the first player from the German Football League to go straight to the NFL. He played collegiately at Missouri Valley.
KCBS/KCAL TV News Reporter
One of the more enduring figures in local television news was Dave Lopez. The now-retired award-winning journalist retired after 43 years with CBS2 in June, 2020 marking a career that saw him report on nearly every major local event in Southern California and earn numerous honors along the way. Among the awards he received were Emmys, Golden Mikes, Associated Press and recognition from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
Lopez started out as a sports writer for the Huntington Park Daily Signal. That would lead to him moving to the television side of the media. He was a general assignment and sports reporter, as well as weekend anchor at both KFMB-TV in San Diego and at KHJ-TV (now KCAL9). He also produced the station’s sports specials. In 1977, his four-decade run began at CBS2 as a general assignment reporter. Since 2002, he has also reported for KCAL9.
The 1966 South Gate High School graduate said it was his goal to become a journalist since he was in the fifth grade. He enrolled at ELAC to major in journalism and wrote for the Campus News. “In 1966, you had to attend a junior college that was in your residential district” Lopez recalled. “Cerritos College was closer to my house, but not in the district. So I went to ELAC and I am glad I did. Paying $6.50 per semester and $50 for used books seemed like a lot of money back then, but what a bargain!”
Lopez transferred to Cal State L.A. and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He advises students to set a goal and follow their dreams. To Lopez, his days of reporting about student activities, student government and sports for the Campus News doesn’t seem like that long ago. “I went to ELAC from 1966-68. Where did all the years go?” he wondered. ELAC’s 75th anniversary of service to the community is even more surprising to him. “I can’t believe it’s been that long,” he said.
As much as Lopez loved a job that put him on the scene at virtually every major news story locally and some on foreign soil, an even bigger love was his late wife Elaine, the mother of his two children. The two met while attending South Gate High School (both were 1966 graduates). They were married in 1970 and she would go on to a teaching career in the Long Beach and Downey school systems.
When Elaine died in 2013 after battling health issues for two decades, Lopez was moved to honor her with a number of gestures. Since her burial, he has made weekly visits to her grave site at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier to leave two vases of flowers. He also instituted an annual $12,000 scholarship in his wife’s name to Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy, a magnet school in Wilmington for students seeking to become teachers.
“Elaine taught for years and absolutely loved working with the kids,” Lopez told the Orange County Register newspaper in 2014. He funded another project called “Elaine’s Garden,” at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey. The site now has a playground for kids 5-and-under, flowers, a running fountain and a plaque with a picture of Elaine Lopez and the inscription, “Elaine loved this church. She loved making people happy and she wore a perpetual smile on her face. Enjoy these grounds, smile, be happy and thank God for all the blessings He has given you.”
Family Physician/Business Leader
For more than 40 years Dr. Drew Palin has been at the forefront of the intersection of medicine and technology. The long-time Milwaukee private family physician has consistently identified creative new concepts that succeeded in the marketplace, generated millions of dollars in revenues for business startups and took on leadership roles as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Medical Office and Chief Innovative Officer for many of these companies.
Palin has also served as a sports medicine physician for Olympic gold medalist speed skaters and Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers. He has also been a frequent speaker at healthcare technology events. Yet almost none of this happened. Save for a perceptive professor at ELAC, Palin’s life would likely have gone in a different direction. It all began with a second semester anatomy course taught by professor Harry Cornsweet, described by Palin as “kind, caring and irascible.”
One day after lab, Palin was asked by Cornsweet to stay after class. “I was not surprised. I had been fooling around in the lab and I was used to getting in trouble.” What followed was surprising. “Professor Cornsweet sat me down and said, ‘Son, you are really smart. You have something between the ears. If you wanted to and worked hard you could be a physician.’ This had never occurred to me. I really did not think I was smart. But Professor Cornsweet thought I was. Well why not. Let’s pretend you are smart and see how far you go. I have been pretending ever since and I have gotten a lot farther than I could have imagined and certainly a lot farther than my high school (San Pedro) teachers would have predicted. All thanks to ELAC.”
Besides Cornsweet, his football coaches at ELAC, notably head coach Joe Goldin and assistant coaches Moore, Al Padilla and Gil Rozadilla, provided more inspiration. “Cornsweet started the fire, but the coaches kept the fire going with great coaching and support,” he said. “They opened the door for a scholarship to Stanford.” Surprising since Stanford traditionally recruits very few community college players.
At ELAC, he was a defensive lineman on a Husky team that won the Southern California Conference championship. He went to Stanford, redshirting in 1972, then lettering in ’73 and ’74 as a defensive tackle. During the ’73 spring game, he recorded 10 tackles and recovered a fumble, earning “Defensive Player of the Game” honors. He would go on that year to be a special teams captain. Palin had a solid senior year in ’74, earning himself a spot in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.
After graduating with a degree in biology from Stanford, then from the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., Palin served medical residencies in family practice at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Fellow American College of Sports Medicine. He was an emergency room physician at St. Mary’s, the founder of Mt. Sinai Lipid Clinic and a physician of Take Control.
He would go on to be co-founder and Chief Innovative Officer, investor and board chairman for Intellivisit, known as the “digital front door to primary care.” He was the Medical Innovation Officer and investor of Preventice, which provides preventative patient monitoring via wearable cardiac sensors and mobile AI systems. He has also been the founding CEO and investor for Point One Systems, Think Med and Competitive Edge and the Chief Development Officer for Blue Cross of Northeastern, Pa. Palin has invented and patented a weight lifting machine designed for Olympic speed skaters and successfully used in world competition. He has also authored the book “Healthy Living in Wisconsin.”
His active athletic career didn’t really end following his college football years. He was part of the Milwaukee Rugby Club from 1981-95 and was captain of the Midwest All-Star Rugby Team from 1985-90. The ’85 team won the national championship.
Palin, now 68, is the father of five adult children and seven grandchildren. Looking back, he said, “ELAC changed the course of my life. I would not be where I am and who I am without ELAC. My life has been full and interesting and would not have happened without ELAC.”
Edward James Olmos
It might be an exaggeration to say Academy Award-winner Edward James Olmos has done it all career-and personal-wise, but only a slight one. The extensive resume for this one-time ELAC student includes actor, director, producer and activist. He may be best known for his role as Garfield High School math teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” a performance that earned him the Oscar for Best Actor.
Other prominent roles included actor/director in “American Me” (1992), as Det. Gaff in “Blade Runner” (1982) and the patriarch in “Selena.” He’s best known for his television role as Lt. Martin “Marty” Castillo in Miami Vice (1984-89). In 1985 he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
A pioneer for more diversified roles for Latinos in U.S. media, Olmos has had notable directing, producing and starring roles in such made-for-TV movies and shows, including “Wolfen,” “Talent for the Game,” “American Me,” “The Burning Season,” “My Family/Mi Familia,” “The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca,” “American Family,” and “Dexter.”
Social activism has been a big part in his life, as well. During the 1992 Rodney King riots in L.A., he worked to get communities cleaned up and rebuilt. In 1997, he co-founded with Marlene Dermer, George Hernandez and Kirk Whisler the Los Angeles International Film Festival. That same year, he co-founded with Whisler the non-profit organization Latino Literacy Now.
In 1998, he founded Latino Public Broadcasting, in which he currently serves as chairman.
He also makes appearances at juvenile halls and detention centers to speak to at-risk youth.
Primarily raised by his grandparents after his parents split up when Olmos was seven, he originally intended to play professional baseball. Two years later, he left baseball to join a rock-and-roll band.
At Montebello High School, he lost a race for student body president to future California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres. He also became the lead singer for a band he named Pacific Ocean, because as he said “It was the biggest thing on the West Coast.” While performing at various clubs in and around L.A., the band released its only record, “Purgatory” in 1968. Olmos was attending classes, including some in acting while at ELAC at this time.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, he branched out from music to acting in many small productions, including his big break as the narrator “El Pachuco” in the play “Zoot Suit,” a World War II depiction of the tensions between Mexican Americans and local police.
Pro Football Player
It’s been more than a half-century since the passing of Frank Buncom, today a largely forgotten pioneer in the early days of the American Football League. But to those who knew him – family members and former teammates – the legacy still shines bright for someone who died tragically and suddenly at the young age of 29.
Buncom’s football career included Dorsey High School, ELAC and USC, then seven years in the AFL, the first six with the San Diego Chargers. He starred for two years at ELAC and was named the Huskies’ most valuable player in 1959. He was influenced greatly by legendary ELAC Coach Clyde Johnson, who was an All-American player at Kentucky and played pro football for the Rams.
Buncom transferred to USC and played defensive tackle for the Trojans from 1960-61, earning All-Pacific Coast and All-Athletic Association of Western Universities honors in 1961. He would be selected to play in the Shrine East-West and College All-Star games following graduation.
A sixth-round pick by San Diego in 1962, Buncom immediately became a starting linebacker, earning All-AFL honors in 1964, ’65 and ’67. He intercepted four passes as a rookie, five for his career. When the Cincinnati Bengals came into existence in 1968, he went there in the allocation draft.
He was set to start for the Bengals again in 1969 when tragedy struck the morning of the season opener against the Miami Dolphins at the Bengals’ team hotel. Awakened by the sound of Buncom gasping for breath and calling for help, roommate Ernie Wright tried to save him. Paramedics, called to the scene, were also unsuccessful. The cause of death was determined to be a pulmonary embolism.
He was gone, but certainly not forgotten.
Former Charger teammate Ron Mix said, “I remember Frank as being the best of us, and I’m talking about as a person with high character.”
Another ex-teammate Bob Petrich was also glowing in his praise.
In an article by Todd Tobias, who writes extensively about the AFL, Petrich said more than 40 years after his passing, “Frank Buncom was the gentlest person you would ever hope to meet. I was with him in Cincinnati when he died. Little kids loved him. Frank was the happiest, nicest man, and he hit like a mule on the field. That was a guy I’d lay down my life for in a heart beat. I really would. Frank was an angel. He’s up in heaven somewhere.”
The Chargers and Bengals would establish trust funds for his son, Frank III. The Chargers inducted Buncom into their inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1976. He was the club’s original 55, a number that later would be retired in honor of the late Junior Seau. In a bit of irony, Seau was born the same year Buncom died. Both were also USC products who would be drafted by the Chargers. His grandson, Frank IV, played free safety at Stanford, graduating in 2018.
Retired Washington State Senator/Former Pro Football Player
Football was the platform that first brought George Fleming to prominence. But it was years of public service where he really made a lasting mark. Born in Dallas, Texas in 1937, Fleming’s football career would take him to ELAC and the University of Washington. Upon the conclusion of his college playing days, he would be selected in both the NFL and fledgling AFL drafts. His journey would ultimately take him to the Canadian Football League before a hip injury in 1963 led to his retirement from the game.
Fleming found his way from Dallas to ELAC where he played football in 1957. He went from the Huskies to another group of Huskies in the Pacific Northwest where as a halfback and kicker he helped Washington go to consecutive Rose Bowl games. Washington won the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) title in both 1960 and ’61 and was a second-team All-Coast halfback as a senior.
He really made his mark in the 1960 Rose Bowl game, a 44-8 rout of Wisconsin. In a performance that would earn him co-player of the game with teammate Bob Schloredt, Fleming kicked a 36-yard field, returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown, caught a 65-yard scoring pass and booted five extra points.
In the 1961 Rose Bowl, he kicked a game-record 44-yard field goal that would contribute to a 17-7 victory over Minnesota. Those two performances would lead to Fleming being inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Oakland Raiders selected Fleming in the second round of the 1961 AFL draft. The Chicago Bears took him in the sixth round of the NFL draft the same year. At the time, he was the highest drafted player ever out of Washington.
Opting for the Raiders, his rookie year was highlighted by a 54-yard field goal that was an AFL record at the time and a club mark that stood until 2003. He would also rush for 112 yards and catch 10 passes for 49 yards. A contract dispute led him to departing Oakland for the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. As a rookie in 1963, he led the CFL in scoring with 135 points and established a league record with a 55-yard field goal.
When injury ended his football career, Fleming moved into politics. In 1968, he was elected into the Washington House of Representatives and in ’70 became the first black elected to the Washington State Senate. While in the Senate, he served as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Caucus from 1973 to ’80 and as Caucus Chairman from 1980 to ’88.
While in office, Fleming was an advocate for the underprivileged, a state Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, control of illicit drugs, improvements in education, small business and economic development and civil rights. In 1990 he retired after 22 years in the State Legislature.
Vasquez & Company LLP - Managing Partner
Mention ELAC and watch Gil Vasquez’s eyes light up. “I never would have attained the success I’ve had had it not been for East Los Angeles College,” said the prominent certified public accountant, entrepreneur and community leader. “Enrolling in classes at ELAC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” He is managing partner of the certified public accounting firm Vasquez & Company LLP, a position he’s held since its founding in 1981. He oversees the Glendale-based firm’s direction, strategic planning, administration, marketing and major account management.
Moreover, Vasquez has led successful practices in public accounting, auditing, taxation and financial consulting for nearly five decades. He guided the firm's growth from a one-person consultancy into the largest Latino-owned CPA firm in California. In 2017, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants ranked Vasquez & Company among the Top one percent of the 400 largest firms in the country.
Vasquez found the road to success after choosing to leave the work force at an early age to pursue a college education. He went to work for Sears department store almost immediately after graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1957, but it didn’t take long for him to change his career plans. “I didn’t see any future working for Sears,” he recalled. “They offered a great pension plan, but so what? There was no future there.”
He enrolled at ELAC six months after getting a job at Sears and immediately adjusted to college life. “Some of my friends were already taking classes there and I made a lot of friends.” The outgoing Vasquez and his friends formed the Alpha Omega fraternity. “It was very popular from the outset and the membership grew quickly, so it didn’t take to get it established.”
With his work in the classroom complete, Vasquez was prepared to transfer and moved on to Cal State L.A. But he did not leave with ELAC stuck only in his rear-view mirror. He would return later to teach accounting classes as an adjunct in the evenings. “I had such a wonderful experience at ELAC that I felt I owed it something, so I returned to teach as a way to give something back and be a good role model to the students,” he said. “My parents put me on the right path and it went through ELAC and Cal State L.A. That’s why I was successful.”
Vasquez was the first minority board member of the California Board of Accountancy, which is responsible for regulating more than 100,000 CPAs, and later served as president. He is also a former Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee for the Central District of California. He is founder and president of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, which now has 90,000 members and 200 chapters across the country, and a founding advisory board member of the International Society of Filipinos in Finance and Accounting. He also chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ minority recruitment and equal opportunity committee.
Vasquez has received many honors including, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Achievement Award, the Coca-Cola Golden Hammer Award and the Citizen of the Year by the Northeast Chapter of the American Red Cross. He also received recognition from Cal State L.A. as one of the 40 outstanding luminaries for his exemplary service to the university on its 40th anniversary and the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles’ Golden Book of Distinguished Service Award. In 2015, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization he had founded 43 years earlier, which has expanded through the years to become Association of Latino Professionals for America.
He is very active in the East Los Angeles community. In fact, he was a member of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and was the driving force in bringing the Olympic field hockey competition to ELAC. “We were met with some resistance at first, but we were able to show the administration how having an Olympic event in the stadium is a lifetime opportunity and how beneficial it would be to the college,” said Vasquez, noting that the stadium received $1 million worth of improvements, including the installation of an artificial playing surface and running track.
Besides the field hockey competition at ELAC, Vasquez also fought for East Los Angeles to be included in the Olympic Torch Relay route. “With the backing of (then-) Sheriff Sherman Block, we were able to have the relay run down Whittier Boulevard,” he recalled. “That was very special.”
Vasquez, who is presently the chair of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce, is proud of having grown up in East L.A. He said his speeches always include: “I was born in the wealthy community of East Los Angeles.”
He’s attained prominence as a CPA, entrepreneur and community leader, but he’s always followed the advice of ELAC astronomy instructor Ray McGrath gave him about taking notes. “He said, Mr. Vasquez every day you organize your notes you will be one grade better the next day.
“ELAC is a very special place and is a very important part of the community,” said Vasquez, who noted that his sister, Olivia Anderson also taught there after having attended ELAC as well.
Gloria Molina and public service have gone hand in hand for the better part of four decades. Born in Montebello, she grew up in Pico Rivera in a family of 10 children and attended El Rancho High School. She would go on to attend ELAC and Rio Hondo College and Cal State L.A.
It was during Molina’s college years she worked as a full-time legal secretary. She then became certified as an adult education instructor and taught clerical skills at the East L.A. Skills Center. Her early career was marked by advocating for women’s health. She started a Nursing Mentoring Program to address the shortage of nurses by partnering with local community colleges.
She was also involved with Mothers of East Los Angeles, a group formed to stop the proposed construction of a prison in East L.A. Her entry to public service began in 1982 when she was elected as State Assemblywoman for the 56th District.
In 1987 she was elected to the L.A. City Council where she would serve as the councilwoman for the First District until 1991. In 1991 she was elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, representing the First Supervisorial District.
Molina made history by becoming the first Latina to be elected to the California State Legislature, the L.A. City Council, L.A. County Board of Supervisors and to serve as assemblywoman at the California State Assembly.
During her 23 years serving the Board of Supervisors, she was known as a fiscal watchdog committed to overseeing good government reforms, maintenance of the county’s public health care system and also the quality of life issues for county residents living in unincorporated areas. She was forced from office in 2014 because of term limits.
Prior to being elected to public office, Molina served in the Carter White House as Deputy for Presidential Personnel. After leaving the White House, she served in San Francisco as Deputy Director for the Department of Health and Human Services.
In June 2010, Molina voted yes with two other L.A. County Supervisors to boycott Arizona because of SB 1070. In her statement, Molina claimed, “This law goes too far. A lot of people have pointed out that I am sworn as an L.A. County Supervisor to uphold the Constitution. All I can say is I believe that Arizona’s law is unconstitutional.”
Molina’s years of public service have led to numerous honors. In April 2006 she was named the “Hispanic Business Woman of the Year” by Hispanic Business magazine and in 2014 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Whittier College.
She currently serves on the California Community Foundation Board of Directors as chair-elect.
Major League Baseball
Hero is a word often associated with great athletes and their achievements. None was more of a hero to many than the late Hank Aguirre. But it was more for his accomplishments post-playing career than anything he did during his 16 years as a major league baseball pitcher that earned him that moniker.
The Latino community was especially indebted to Aguirre, who took great pride in his Mexican-American heritage and proved it by mortgaging his home to borrow $350,000 to create Detroit-based Mexican Industries, which produced head rests, steering wheels and air bags for the auto industry. It started with eight employees, all minorities. Eventually, the family-run business grew to have a work force of more than 1,000 employees, 85 percent Latino. It had revenues of $100 million annually.
He did more than just provide jobs for the growing Latino population in Detroit. He offered English classes to Spanish-speaking workers that were interested. In Mexican Village – Detroit’s version of East L.A. – Aguirre was revered, according to plant officials. He was a constant presence and pushed city officials to pay more attention to Latinos and other minorities.
He would establish a scholarship fund for local schools, giving an estimated $50,000 each year to deserving students. He helped pay for after-hours recreation programs for inner-city youth and pushed Major League Baseball to bring more minorities into management. Of his post-playing career, Aguirre once said, “I’m grateful for what I’d been able to acquire. The least I could do is give something back.”
Aguirre grew up in San Gabriel, dividing his time between baseball, school and working as a tortilla maker in his father’s store. He graduated from Keppel High School in 1953 and was discovered by baseball scouts while pitching for ELAC.
The left-hander’s career began in 1955 with the Cleveland Indians, but the bulk (10 years) was with the Detroit Tigers. He was a member of the Dodgers in 1968, then finished with the Chicago Cubs in ’69 and ’70. He had a 75-72 win-loss record, his best season being 1962 when he was 16-8 with an American League-best 2.21 earned run average for the Tigers. He was an all-star that year. He capped his baseball career as manager of the Tucson Toros, a farm team for the Oakland Athletics.
His service to the community extended to the San Gabriel Mission he worshipped in as a boy. When it was damaged by the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, he donated more than $20,000 to help in the restoration project. In a 1994 Los Angeles Times article, Fr. Gonzalez of the San Gabriel Mission said, “His name will go down in history, but not as a star. He was a genuine hero.”
In 1976, Aguirre was appointed Executive Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). A year before his death at 62 in 1994 from prostate cancer, he was recognized with the National Council of La Raza’s Roberto Clemente Award for Excellence. His work coordinating and endowing programs to educate others on cancer awareness and prevention earned him that honor. It was just another reason that in the Latino community, he was called a “Mexican god.”
Retired Chief Of Police
Jacqueline Seabrooks is spending the early years of her retirement attempting to add to her list of impressive accomplishments. Seabrooks served in law enforcement for 36 years, the last 10 as the chief of police in Santa Monica and Inglewood. “I retired from what I can only characterize as an extremely rewarding career in public safety service,” said Seabrooks, who retired in 2017. She now resides in Dallas and is currently a 1L (first-year law) student at the University of North Texas at Dallas. “Thanks to the strong encouragement of quite a few excellent lawyer role models and friends, I am pursuing my lifelong dream of earning a juris doctorate degree,” she said.
Seabrooks started her career in law enforcement as Santa Monica’s first African-American woman patrol officer in 1982. When she became chief of the Inglewood Police Department in 2007, she made history again as California’s first African-American woman to serve as police chief for a municipality. Santa Monica welcomed her back in 2012 when she returned to her roots and took over the reins as its chief of police. As Santa Monica’s chief executive officer, she was responsible for providing strategic direction, adroit leadership and oversight of the day-to-day operation of a 465-member municipal police department operating in an 8.4 square mile footprint located in western Los Angeles County. During her initial 25 years in Santa Monica, Seabrooks served in a variety of operational and administrative capacities, and was the first woman to rise to the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
Seabrooks grew up in South Los Angeles and attended St. Matthias High School in Huntington Park for two years. She participated in the voluntary Los Angeles Unified School District bussing program and transferred to Van Nuys High School for her senior year. An outstanding track and field middle distance runner, Seabrooks enrolled at Pierce College in Woodland Hills after graduating from Van Nuys in 1979. She applied for her first job in policing and did some research in anticipation of the hiring process because she knew very little about law enforcement. She was impressed with what she learned about ELAC’s Administration of Justice program. “What made the program appealing was the number of police officers who were adjunct instructors,” she recalled. “It also helped that ELAC had a good track and field program.” So she transferred to ELAC to study administration of justice and run track for Coach Bea Johnson.
“I absolutely enjoyed my administration of justice coursework,” she said, when asked to share some of her memories of ELAC. “I also enjoyed representing the ELAC Huskies in track and field. I was proud to be both a conference champion and state champion in both the individual and team events.” She was a workhorse for the Huskies, running the 400 and 800 meters, the 400 meter hurdles and on the relay teams. She has plenty of advice for ELAC students. “Students should maximize their learning experience by asking lots of questions, keeping an open mind to new ideas, respectfully listening to others who have divergent views, never stop being willing to learn, work hard to be the best, and be intentional in doing the necessary work to achieve their goals,” she said.
Seabrooks consistently provided transformational leadership during her tenure in Santa Monica, as she implemented the tenets of 21st Century policing during a time of national conversation regarding policing practices. She focused her leadership on strengthening community-police partnerships and building a force that was responsive to community needs. She was also quick to adapt to changes in police practices and trends. The department launched a body-worn camera pilot, implemented a state-of-the-art interoperable radio system, consolidated the police and fire communication centers, updated the department’s critical equipment, and acquired the hand-held technology needed to enable officers to respond to the legal requirements of state Assembly Bill 953 (Racial & Identify Profiling Act) well ahead of schedule.
Seabrooks left a rich legacy and received several awards and honors for her efforts. She was recipient of the Most Influential African-American Award for Extraordinary Leadership in 2014 from the National Action Network – Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Commission of the Status of Women presented Seabrooks and Fox 11 news anchor Christine Devine with the Outstanding Woman Leader (OWL) Award in 2014. The Wave Publication named her one of Los Angeles’ 100 most influential African-Americans at an event held at the California African-American Museum. She was also as an adjunct faculty member at area colleges where she provided instruction on various criminal justice topics. Seabrooks was involved with the Santa Monica Police Activities League and served on the Board of Directors for the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club.
Olympic Silver Medalist
For James Butts, the road to the 1976 Montreal Olympics was filled with more than its share of obstacles. To get there he had to balance two jobs, training for his specialty and sleep. One of America’s elite triple jumpers in the 1970s, Butts grew up in South L.A., attended ELAC and UCLA before qualifying for the ’76 Summer Games. There he took the silver medal, finishing a close second to the Soviet Union’s Viktor Saneyev. Butts, whose mark of 56-8 ½ earned him second place, became the first American to medal in the triple jump since Levi Casey at the 1928 Games.
Before that he twice raised the American record in the event, first at the Pepsi Meet with a 56-5 ½ and at the Helsinki World Games with a 56-6 ¾ to become the No. 6 performer in world history. After transferring from ELAC to UCLA, Butts would go on to win the NCAA men’s outdoor track and field championship in 1972. He would qualify for the Olympic Trials, but just missed making the team when he finished fourth. The same fate befell him in 1980 when he also placed fourth at the Trials.
The success he had was rather remarkable considering the balancing act he had to perform. While at UCLA, he worked as a security guard at a department store and also did a shift delivering laundry around the UCLA Medical Center to support his mother, who was under a physician’s constant care, and to help his sister through school. Between those two jobs, he would get four hours of sleep (five on a good night) and rise at 5 a.m. to train.
He talked about that in a 1978 Track & Field News interview. “Well I cut the hospital job loose. Trying to train and compete with two jobs was too much to deal with. I still had the security job and going to work unarmed every day definitely keeps my adrenaline flowing.” His career would extend through the ‘70s and was highlighted by a third-place finish at the 1979 Pan American Games while representing the Tobias Striders. The year before he won his only AAU title.
UCLA recognized his contributions to the school in 2014 when it inducted Butts into its Athletics Hall of Fame. He currently resides in Southern California and is the father of four.
Former UCLA Assistant Basketball Coach/Stockbroker
Of all the influential figures associated with UCLA basketball over the years, one of the least mentioned is Jerry Norman. Names such as John Wooden, Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton and Reggie Miller are just a few that immediately come to mind for a program that has won 11 national championships.
But it was Norman as an assistant coach to Wooden who helped take the Bruins from a good local program to a perennial national power during the 1960s. Norman, a star player at L.A.’s Washington Preparatory High School, ELAC and UCLA, convinced Wooden to make two pivotal changes in his approach.
One was to institute the zone press on defense, which was a huge factor in the Bruins winning their first two national titles with an undersized lineup (no starter taller than 6-5). He also pushed for Wooden to expand his recruiting base to a national level, leading to the signing of Walt Hazzard (from Philadelphia), Alcindor (New York), Lucius Allen (Kansas) and Mike Warren (Indiana), among others.
“Jerry did not get the credit he deserved,” former UCLA assistant Gary Cunningham said in a 2014 Daily Breeze article. That would lead to the Bruins winning 10 national crowns in 12 years before Wooden stepped down as coach in the mid-1970s.
Norman, who had left after the first four championships to go into a successful business career, graduated from high school in 1947 and was headed to nearby El Camino College. But the newly-opened school was full, so he went to ELAC, instead.
He played one season for the Huskies, leading the Metropolitan Conference in scoring and earning All-Southern California honors. He transferred to UCLA, where he started at forward for three seasons and was co-captain on the 1952 team that reach the Final Four. In a 72-70 semifinal loss to eventual champion Cincinnati, Norman scored 27 points.
After serving in the Navy, Norman’s coaching career began at West Covina High School. He was then hired to coach the freshman team at UCLA, where he went 94-22 in six seasons. In 1959, Wooden promoted him to varsity assistant. Norman’s contributions did not go unnoticed, especially by athletic director J.D. Morgan. Morgan reportedly guaranteed Norman he would be named UCLA’s head coach when Wooden retired.
But after 11 years in the program, Norman realized he couldn’t continue to support a family on a $14,000-a-year assistant’s salary that was low for even the 1960s. So he went into the business world, becoming a stockbroker. That first year he earned $60,000, but would eventually go onto become a multi-millionaire.
Olympic Track Hopeful
ELAC has had countless student-athletes achieve great success in its 75 years, but arguably none as decorated as two-sport star Laura Aceves. The two-time cross country All-American won state titles in track and field and in cross country, and she continued her excellence at the next level. The 2021 Olympic marathon hopeful was an NCAA All American at Cal State San Bernardino.
Aceves’ path to greatness started innocently enough on a summer day in 2013. Louis Ramirez, ELAC’s cross country and track and field coach at the time, was impressed with what he saw while Aceves was running the trail at Legg Lake Park in South El Monte. The same trail the Husky men’s and women’s cross country teams ran on to train. “She was running at a real consistent pace, not fast, just consistent from start to finish,” Ramirez recalled. The curious Ramirez, who ran cross country and track for ELAC in the mid-1970s, wondered who the talented runner was.
It turned out, Aceves had never run competitively. She was 26 years old and working full time as a waitress in a restaurant, and running for exercise and physical fitness. She immigrated to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2004. Aceves was an instant success. Her story was similar to Roy Hobbs, the fictional character Academy Award-winning actor Robert Redford played in the 1984 movie “The Natural.” Hobbs rose from a player no one had ever heard of to become an overnight sensation.
Aceves proved to be a natural in cross country. She breezed through South Coast Conference competition and won the conference championship. At the Southern California Regionals at Central Park in Santa Clarita, she won the 3.1-mile (5 kilometers) race in 18 minutes 35.8 seconds with temperatures reaching nearly 90 degrees. It was on to the state meet the following week at Woodward Park in Fresno for a showdown between the South’s Aceves and the favored Yesenia Silva, of College of the Sequoias, from the North. Silva led the entire race, but Aceves caught and passed her with 50 meters left and won the race. Aceves ran an excellent time of 17:42.98 to win it.
“My goal was to go out there and run the best race that I could, not go out and win state,” Aceves recalled. “My focus was to run my best.” Silva ran 17:45.73 to finish second. It was her only loss of the season. Aceves became the second ELAC women’s cross country runner to win state. The other was the great Sylvia Mosqueda in 1985.
There was little rest for the weary Aceves afterward. The track and field season was less than three months away. She and it paid off. Aceves was just as big a sensation on the track as she was while running on grass and dirt and over hills in the fall. Aceves over came pain and injury to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the state championship meet. She won the 10,000 meters the day before. Aceves was twice named the women’s South Coast Conference Athlete of the Year.
At Cal State San Bernardino, she holds the school record in the 5,000 meters and was the school’s first female athlete of the year. She praised Ramirez for working with her. “He’s an amazing person, an amazing coach,” she said. “He believed in me from the first day that I met him. He always believed that I could do more and that I was capable of winning state championships and that I could be the best.”
Always a competitor, Aceves won the 5,000 meters at the 2018 Occidental College Distance Carnival Spring Break Classic, running a personal best 16:33.20. She has fond memories of ELAC. “I really enjoyed running with my teammates, working with the coaches and attending classes,” she said. “Everyone was very supportive.” Aceves has a bachelor’s of science degree in Kinesiology – Exercise Science.
Dr. Lou Moret
Public Administration/Boxing Referee
Dr. Lou Moret was one of the most recognizable faces in professional boxing for more than three decades before calling it quits in 2018 after 37 years as a referee. He officiated an astounding 250 professional bouts and as he proudly notes, it was quite an accomplishment. He accomplished much outside of the ring, too during an equally impressive public-policy driven career that all started when he successfully managed an election campaign for a childhood friend during his senior year in college.
Moret, an Army veteran who graduated from Garfield High School in 1962, was 25 years old, married with three children and was working for a bail bonds agency in 1966 when he enrolled at ELAC. He attended classes at night and earned his Associate Arts degree in sociology and was looking toward working in probation. With the guidance of ELAC counselor Frank Gutierrez, he transferred to Whittier College on a half scholarship and got his bachelor’s in sociology. It was during his senior year that he ran the campaign for State Assembly candidate Richard Alatorre, his former classmate at Belvedere Middle School, Garfield and ELAC. Alatorre won the election and appointed Moret his chief of staff. “We grew up together and we remain very close,” Moret said. “We’re compadres and we both live in Eagle Rock.” Moret continued to pursue his educational goals and received a Master’s degree in public administration from USC and a doctorate in public administration from Whittier College. Moret also ran former State Senator Art Torres’ campaign. He was teaching political science at ELAC when President Jimmy Carter appointed him Assistant Secretary of Energy in 1977. “Ironically, I wanted to work in probation and wound up working in politics,” Moret recalled.
After returning from Washington in 1981, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him Commissioner of Public Works and he would go on to serve on the City’s Fire and Police Commission for four mayors. He also was appointed to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) Board, as the representative for the State Legislature. Moret worked in finance while serving on the commissions and was Chief Operating Officer of the Southern California Association of Governments for 15 years.
It was while serving on the Fire and Police Commission that he contacted the State Boxing Commission about becoming a fight referee. He liked boxing and was always interested in becoming an official. Years earlier, it was Gutierrez, a high school football and basketball referee at the time, who had got Moyer interested in officiating. He also credits the late Larry Rozadilla, who worked at ELAC in Student Services and Financial Aid and was a longtime boxing referee, for helping him along the way. Moret said the first bout between East L.A.’s Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley in Los Angeles was the most memorable fight he ever worked. “It was the first-ever fight at Staples Center and it was sold out, and both fighters were in their prime,” he said. “It was an exciting and enjoyable fight to watch and referee.” Besides his work in the ring, Moret is known for his work in the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN,” and “HBO Boxing After Dark.” “I’ve gone all over the world and had a good time working all those fights,” Moret said.
Moret said he has fond memories of ELAC. “I had good teachers who were very helpful in working with my full time work schedule,” he said. “They gave me some slack. ELAC was a really good experience.” But he does have one regret. “I didn’t have a college life (outside of the classrooms), because I didn’t have time to participate since I had to work after class,” he said. “So I didn’t experience any extracurricular activities or fraternities. I had to make do without it.” He advises students to get their A.A. degrees before they transfer. “I have every degree,” he said, “but I cherish my A.A. the most. I was able to graduate from Whittier in two years, because I was able to transfer 95% of my credits. I was really happy when I graduated from ELAC. It was as good a day as I ever had.”
Moret is proud that ELAC has kept its name for 75 years. “There was a lot of opposition and many residents worried that they would change the name of the college when Monterey Park annexed that section of East L.A. into its city limits in 1976,” Moret recalled. “We didn’t want to let the community down, so we fought and kept them from changing the name. We were lucky that we had County Supervisor Ernest E. Debs’ Chief Deputy Arnold Martinez – who also went to ELAC – in our corner. We made it loud and clear that they couldn’t rename it.”
Luis J. Rodriguez
Poet, novelist, journalist, critic and activist and politician all aptly describe Luis J. Rodriguez. Born in 1954 in El Paso, Texas and raised in the East Los Angeles area of Southern California, the award-winning author, who attended ELAC, is recognized as a major figure in Chicano literature. His status reached such heights that he served as the second L.A. Poet Laureate under Mayor Eric Garcetti from 2014-16.
His best-known work, 1993s “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, a book that was the subject of controversy when it was included in the school reading lists in California, Illinois, Michigan and Texas due to its frank depiction of gang life.
Other books included more poetry, children’s literature, a short story collection, a novel and a non-fiction book on creating community in violent times. Numerous other awards would follow.
In 1993 he received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize in Journalism with photo journalist Donna de Cesare to cover Salvadoran gang life in L.A. and El Salvador.
In 1998 he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, the Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Lannon Poetry Fellowship, a Poetry Center Book Award of San Francisco State University, a Patterson Prize and a Get Lit Players Ignite Award.
He founded numerous organizations, including Tia Chucha Press, which publishes works of unknown writers.
His early life was anything but easy. Gangs, drugs and run-ins with the law were prevalent in his life during the 1960s and 1970s. He dropped out of high school at 15, but returned and graduated from Keppel High School. There he led school walkouts and became president of To Help Mexican American Students.
In 1970 he took part in the Chicano Movement, joining the East L.A. walkouts and taking part in the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. His activism continued at Cal State L.A. in 1972-73 where he became a member of the Chicano group MEChA.
He ran for the L.A. School Board in 1977 in a “Vote Communist” campaign after the California Supreme Court validated his right to run such a campaign based on the First Amendment.
Rodriguez’ writing career began in 1980 while attending evening classes at ELAC. While there he worked as a writer and photographer for several East L.A. publications. He also became more active in politics, running as a vice presidential nominee for the Justice Party in 2012 and in 2014 ran for Governor of California as the Green Party candidate.
Then beginning in 2014, Rodriguez became a script consultant for three television shows: Fox’s “Gang Relate,” Hulu’s “East Los High,” and FX’s “Snowfall.” He was the grand marshal for the Latino Heritage Parade in Pasadena and the Mendez High School Parade in Boyle Heights.
To bring things full circle, in 2019, Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights had a full-staged version of “Always Running.”
1974 Football - State Player Of The Year
Lynn Cain took ELAC football to new heights – twice. First as a player, then as a coach, he was a driving force in the program’s success. Between those times, his career path included a successful run at USC and the NFL.
Coming out of Roosevelt High School, Cain was an unheralded addition to the Huskies. But that would change rapidly for the running back who would rush for 1,666 yards and 19 touchdowns while leading ELAC to the 1974 state championship. He was the community college state player of the year and the Southern California Conference most valuable player.
The Huskies finished the season with a 9-1-2 record, including a tie with Pasadena in the Southern California playoffs. The game was the first one that came to Cain’s mind when he was asked about the championship season. It ended in a 14-14 tie and they didn’t play overtime then, but ELAC outgained Pasadena in total yardage (400-231) to win the tie-breaker and advance to the Shrine Potato Bowl to play San Jose for the state title.
Cain scored the tying touchdown on a short run in the fourth quarter on a score he set up himself. He caught a short pass from quarterback Walt Ransom and raced down the field to the Pasadena 5-yard line for a play that covered 58 yards. “To me, Walt was like a coach on the field and he looked at me and said ‘stay awake’ when we broke the huddle because he expected tight coverage,” Cain recalled. “Most quarterbacks would have looked downfield, but one of the aces he held onto was that he had a running back who could catch the ball. Walt was a very special player. He could really orchestrate with the game on the line. It was a magical moment during a memorable season.”
What made the outcome even sweeter for Cain was that he had planned to attend Pasadena after high school. “My family’s church pastor lived in Pasadena and I really liked the neighborhood,” said Cain who lived in the Estrada Courts Housing Project in Boyle Heights. “Pasadena had a very nice campus and they had really good teams.” But coach Al Padilla won the recruiting fight by talking him into attending ELAC. “Coach Padilla did a really good job bringing in talented players from the different neighborhood schools and putting us all together. We had a lot of success and had a lot of fun doing it.”
Cain played only one season for the Huskies and then transferred to USC, starting at fullback on the 1978 national championship squad. “My childhood dream was to play for USC,” Cain said. “I grew up watching Mike Garrett (the first USC Heisman Trophy winner) and then O.J. Simpson, and watching all the great USC games. He chose USC over scholarship offers from UCLA, Washington and Arizona State.
He was the lead blocker for Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Charles White, Cain was a big reason the Trojans would go 11-1, win the Rose Bowl game and finish atop the national polls. White garnered much of the attention for his 1,859 yards rushing that would make him the Pac-10 career leader in that department as just a junior. But Cain added another 977 yards on the ground, the most ever by a USC fullback.
A second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1979 NFL draft, Cain again was cast in the role of lead blocker for a workhorse tailback. In this case it was William Andrews, taken a round later in the same draft out of Auburn. Andrews would go on to have four 1,000-yard rushing seasons with Cain leading the way much of the time.
Cain’s best season individually was 1980 when he ran for 914 yards and eight TDs and added another 223 yards on receptions. He wound up with 2,309 yards rushing, 1,061 yards receiving and 25 TDs in a seven-year career that concluded with the Rams in 1985.
He returned to ELAC in December 2007, charged with the task of resurrecting a struggling football program. He did just that as coach, directing the Huskies to the divisional title in 2011, 37 years after he had done so as a player. He left ELAC after the season. Cain currently is entering his second season as head coach at Los Angeles Southwest College. He also serves on the advisory board of the Indio-based SoCal Coyotes, referred to by NFL executives as the No. 1 developmental football league in America.
On a personal note, Cain is the uncle of The Black-Eyed Peas rapper/singer/producer will.i.am. He is married to Lisa Gordon Cain and has three children and four grandchildren.
Cain advises students to take advantage of all that ELAC has to offer and that they get all the education they can. “Get your degrees,” he said, “and not just a bachelor’s. Get a master’s degree and then work on a doctoral degree. Students should get themselves ahead of the game. Times are constantly changing.”
Professor Of Kinesiology/Health Emeritus
Longtime ELAC professor of kinesiology and health Marilyn Ladd retired in 2014, but she remains a fixture on campus and is active in the communities she works and lives in. She is an adjunct faculty member who enjoys working with adaptive students, serves on the ELAC Alumni Association board of directors, supports ELAC Kinesiology Club activities, serves on the East Los Angeles Women’s Center board of directors, and is a troop leader and service unit manager for the Girl Scouts. “I enjoy every minute here, every student and every faculty member,” she said. “I think the Kinesiology Club is one of the best student clubs on campus. It’s just great being here.”
Ladd’s association with the college spans six decades, beginning in 1969 as a multi-talented student-athlete. She was one of 12 children, grew up in South Gate and graduated from Pius X High School in Downey. In her book “Glad to Be a Ladd,” she wrote about what it was like growing up with 13 other family members in a two-bedroom, one-bath house in a typical 1950s middle-class postwar American neighborhood. The book is an unusual combination of revealing autobiography, insightful self-help, and handy classroom teacher’s guide. Ladd said that readers born between 1946 and 1960 will find a delightful nostalgic journey down the baby boomers’ memory lane, and that others might use the story of her personal failures and subsequent triumphs to create value and positive changes in life. “I wrote it as a clear and compelling testimony describing my childhood recollections that convey to the reader why I am ‘Glad to Be a Ladd.’”
She attended ELAC because it was the closest community college to her home. “But I’m glad it turned out that way,” she said. Luckily for ELAC, it did turn out that way because Ladd played volleyball, basketball, softball and badminton and excelled in each. There were no postseason honors for women student athletes during those years, but Ladd and her badminton mixed doubles partner won first place consolation. She really enjoyed playing for the Huskies. “ELAC had so much diversity and I loved being around athletes who were from such a wide range of backgrounds and cultures,” Ladd said. “But what I loved even more was how well we all got along. We got along so well that we all still keep in touch and support each other to this day. I loved every minute of my experience as an ELAC student athlete.”
She accepted a scholarship offer from California State University, Fullerton from legendary women’s basketball coach Billie Moore. Moore was the first-ever U.S. Olympics women’s coach in 1976 and would go on to coach at UCLA, where her teams had another successful run. The Fullerton teams Ladd played on were 32-2 during the two seasons she was there. A 1-point loss to Fresno State was their only loss her senior year cost Fullerton the state championship and the Titans finished third. Though undersized, she played the high post and had two exceptional teammates in Linda Sharp, who would eventually coach USC to consecutive national championships and coach the WNBA Sparks, and Rosie Adams, who was better known for her scintillating success as a softball player. Ladd received an invitation to try out for the U.S. World Games team as a forward, but she had trouble making the transition from playing the high post to a new position in a short amount of time.
Ladd planned on becoming a nurse when she enrolled at ELAC, but she changed her major to physical education because of her love for sports. “My coaches knew how much I loved sports so they made me realize that I could get paid to have fun teaching physical activity classes and coaching, so I switched my major to P.E.,” she said. Ladd earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education with an English minor from Fullerton. She also worked on a master’s degree in physical education administration. Ladd started her teaching career at Los Altos Intermediate School in Camarillo in 1974. She moved to Simi Valley High School in 1976.
In 1978, Ladd joined the ELAC faculty as a physical education instructor and women’s basketball and volleyball coach, replacing the retired Mary Parnell. Ironically, Ladd succeeded the woman she played basketball and softball for her freshman year. “They gave me her keys,” Ladd recalled. Ladd thinks highly of the ELAC coaches she played for. She noted that Betty Reeves was at one time the No. 1 rated synchronized swimmer and that Flora Brussa was an internationally known field hockey player and advocate in the establishing of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities. “I felt so privileged to play for such a great staff, and then come back to work with them,” Ladd said. She played volleyball for Reeves and basketball and softball for Brussa as a sophomore.
Ladd said she is also grateful to have had the instructors she had at ELAC. “They always treated us with a lot of respect and they were committed to helping us grow,” she said. “It remains that way today. I treat my students the same way and take an interest in them as a way to thank the instructors that I had as a student.” Ladd never had an “offseason” as a student athlete because she played four sports in the four semesters she attended ELAC, but the demands of playing intercollegiate athletics never kept her from reaching her educational goals. “Never let anything get in the way of getting your degree,” she said. “No one can take your education away from you. Persevere no matter what, it will be worth it.”
Rap icon M.C. Hammer’s connection to baseball goes beyond his days as a bat boy for the Oakland A’s in the early 1970s. While that part of his life has been well-chronicled, it is less well-known that he was a second baseman at McClymonds High School in Oakland and was part of the ELAC baseball team in the early 1980s.
The baseball career was largely undistinguished at ELAC and ended when a tryout with the San Francisco Giants failed to result in a contract. By then, though, he had achieved some measure of fame in the sport due to his connection with his hometown big league team.
Stanley Kirk Burrell, his given name, would find and sell baseballs in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. The 11-year-old’s dancing to a beatboxer caught the attention of former A’s owner Charles Finley, who hired him as an assistant and bat boy. It was a role he held from 1973 to 1980.
It was later revealed on ESPN’s First Take that his brother Louis Jr. was actually the bat boy and Hammer’s role was to take calls and do play-by-play over the phone for absentee owner Finley, who lived in Chicago. Oakland players felt Hammer’s role was really a spy in the clubhouse, nicknaming him “Pipeline.”
The great Reggie Jackson was actually the one who tabbed him “Hammer,” due to his resemblance to superstar Henry Aaron, whose nickname was “The Hammer.” It stuck. The M.C. portion of his name came from Hammer being master of ceremonies at many of the clubs where he performed.
Baseball soon became a distant memory. Greater fame and fortune in the music world soon followed. Best known for the hits “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit,” Hammer’s greatest years of commercial success and popularity ran from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.
Considered the forefather and pioneer of pop-rap, Hammer, now 58, became the first hip hop artist to achieve diamond status for an album BET ranked him as the No. 7 “Best Dancer of all time,” and Vibe had him ranked its 17th favorite of all time. He sold more than 50 million records world-wide and won three Grammy Awards.
In later years, he expanded to other areas of the entertainment industry. He became an ordained minister and formed a Christian rap music group. He starred in a Saturday morning cartoon called Hammerman in 1991 and had a reality show, “Hammer Time” on A&E Network during the summer of 2009. In the late 1990s, he hosted a Christian-oriented show on TBN called “M.C. Hammer and Friends.”
Mike Davis has long been considered one of those unsung heroes in Oakland Raiders history. But the one-time ELAC star will never be forgotten due to him being the central figure in one of the biggest moments in organization history.
It occurred during the closing moments of the 1980 AFC Divisional playoffs. Already in position for a game-winning field goal, the Cleveland Browns decided to go for the touchdown instead. But with less than a minute remaining, Davis came to the rescue from his spot at safety.
Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe lofted a pass in the direction of tight end Ozzie Newsome. But the strong winds blowing in from Lake Erie forced the ball to flutter and Davis was able to step in front of Newsome for the interception that preserved a 14-12 victory for the Raiders in one of the coldest games (4 degrees with winds gusting as high as 16 miles per hour) in NFL history.
That propelled them to the AFC title game where they defeated the San Diego Chargers to earn a spot in Super Bowl XV. There the Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10 to become the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl. Davis, who spent all but one of his nine years in the NFL with the Raiders, would also be a major contributor to the Raiders winning Super Bowl XVIII by a 38-9 score over the Washington Redskins.
A Los Angeles native who attended Locke High School, Davis then went to ELAC where he helped the football team win the 1974 state title. He also ran track for the Huskies and was a standout high hurdler. In fact, he was recruited by track Coach Dave Williams to run track for ELAC. He met football Coach Al Padilla while visiting ELAC on a recruiting trip arranged by Williams. Padilla had just been named Husky head coach.
“I liked what coach Padilla had to say about the football program,” Davis said. “He said the team could do well if he could add some of the players he was looking for and I believed he could.” Davis, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds twice in practice, wanted to play linebacker, but assistant coach Gil Rozadilla, the Huskies’ defensive coordinator, moved him to the secondary. “My 40 times marked the beginning of my career playing in the secondary,” Davis said.
His freshman season was anything but memorable for Davis. He sustained a concussion while making a bone-jarring tackle in a preseason scrimmage and he played in only three games because of an ankle injury that required him to wear a cast. The 1973 season was even longer for the rest of the team. The Huskies finished a disappointing 1-8. But they had a good core of returning players to build on and another good recruiting class added up to the Huskies winning the 1974 state title the following year.
“We came out of nowhere to win state,” Davis recalled. “We wanted to go out and do something really special and we were very successful. I was happy for our coaches because they treated us like family and it was great for the community, which really supported us.” There were three other players on the team besides Davis who went on to play in the NFL. Lynn Cain (Falcons), the state player of the year, Kerry Justin (Seahawks) and David Gray (Oilers, who are now the Titans).
Davis ran the 120-yard high hurdles on the track team his freshman year. He consistently ran the race in 14.3 seconds to rank among the top hurdlers in the state. Although his specialty was the 120 highs, he also competed in the 440- and the 220-yard races, and he also ran a leg on the mile relay team because the team only had 14 athletes. Though football is his favorite sport, Davis said he always fantasized of competing in the Olympics and winning a gold medal in track.
He competed for the Husky track team only during his freshman year, because he transferred to Colorado after the fall semester of his sophomore year. “I completed 45 units during the three semesters that I attended ELAC and almost all of them transferred to Colorado,” said Davis, who was also recruited by Pac-12 colleges UCLA, USC, California, Stanford, Washington, and Nebraska, Michigan and Dartmouth. But he would go on to help Colorado win the Big 8 Conference championship in 1976 and defeat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. He was named All American.
“I would go to ELAC if I had to do it all over again,” said Davis, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English at Colorado. “ELAC is where I was taught the importance of commitment and family values. My instructors were good to me. They got after me when I needed it. Community colleges are very valuable to the students they serve, because 4-year college tuition is expensive.”
In 1977, Davis was a second-round pick of the Raiders. He was part of the organization’s transition when they moved to Los Angeles in 1982. He was with them until 1985, then finished his career with San Diego in 1987. Davis would end his career with 11 interceptions and 11 sacks.
He would go on to a successful career in business following his playing days and returned to ELAC to work as an assistant football coach for two seasons.
Orlando Brenes and championships seem to be synonymous. He helped lead ELAC to the 1974 State championship as a player and led the Huskies to the 1990 State title as ELAC’s coach. His run of success is much longer than that, however. Brenes ranks among the most successful coaches of all time in the community college and high school ranks. His ELAC teams won nine conference championships during his 10 seasons as coach.
He coached Bell Gardens High School to four CIF Southern Section championships and 32 league titles in his 37 years at the school. Brenes, who retired from teaching in the Montebello Unified School District in 2017, is currently the men’s soccer coach at Rio Hondo College, where he his teams have won 12 conference championships.
As a player, Brenes was an aggressive and intense defender whose stellar play was admired by coaches, teammates as well as opponents. His drive and passion for the game started while he was playing at San Gabriel High School. Brenes helped lead the school to two CIF Southern Section championships. He was voted the team’s captain his senior year.
He returned to ELAC as coach in 1988 and the Huskies won their second state championship in 1990. The Huskies had a very impressive 10-year run under Brenes, whose teams won nine conference titles (they finished second the year they didn’t win it) and played in the state championship game twice. His teams at Bell Gardens High School were even more successful during his 37-year tenure. Bell Gardens won four CIF Southern Section championships and 32 league titles.
He planned to enlist in the Marines Corps after graduating from high school. His family, however, convinced him to enroll at ELAC and go out for the school’s fledgling soccer team, rather than enlist. Things couldn’t have worked out any better for Brenes. He played for Tony Critelli, an Eastside high school coaching legend, his freshman season and was reunited with his high school coach, John Wilde his sophomore year. With Wilde guiding the team and Brenes’ tenacious and gritty play on defense setting the tone, ELAC won the state championship in ’74.
“We had some really talented players on the team in Alejandro Borca, Antonio Morales and Alejandro Gutierrez,” said Brenes, who played defender and was used on corner kicks and set pieces. “I may have lacked some technical skills, but I didn’t lack aggressiveness. I like the blue-collar style of play. We worked hard, got dirty and good things happened.”
Brenes uses ELAC as a blueprint. “I’ve always loved ELAC,” he said. “Everybody we played came into the game knowing they were going to be in a fight and they always left the field talking about our toughness and aggressiveness. I mention ELAC quite a bit during the speeches I give my teams. There’s just a different mentality there.”
Brenes transferred to Whittier College, where he was reunited with Wilde his senior year, and was named National Athletic Intercollegiate Association All American after helping lead the Poets to the NAIA playoffs. “I was fortunate to play for coach Wilde for as long as I did,” Brenes said. “He made quite impact in my life.” In 1988, Brenes was inducted into the Whittier College Athletic Hall of Fame. He is proud to say that he is in a hall of fame that also includes football coaching greats George Allen and Don Coryell. Brenes earned his bachelor’s in physical education at Whitter. He received his master’s degree in school administration at the University of La Verne.
His work in education started as a teaching assistant at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles and moved to the El Rancho School District in Pico Rivera as a long-term substitute instructor at North Park Middle School. Brenes joined the Montebello Unified School District in 1981 and retired from Bell Gardens High School in 2017. He stepped down as the school’s coach in 2009 to focus on college coaching.
Brenes advises his players to follow his approach to success. “Always have goals and be consistent in your drive to fulfill them and succeed,” he said. “Don’t let people tell you that you can’t accomplish what you desire.”
Major League Baseball Player
There’s a play in the 1966 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers that defined the late Paul Blair’s major league baseball career more than any other. In the deciding game four of the Orioles’ sweep, Blair preserves a 1-0 lead by robbing Jim Lefebvre of a game-tying home run in the eighth inning.
The Orioles would win that game 1-0 to complete the sweep, just a day before also winning Game 3, 1-0 when Blair homered off Claude Osteen for the only run.
Blair’s 17-year major league career became synonymous with defensive excellence. Considered on a par with the great Willie Mays as a center fielder defensively, Blair would go on to win eight gold gloves and play on four World Series champions (two with the Orioles and two with the New York Yankees as a part-time player).
Former teammate Don Buford, in a 2013 Associated Press article, said, “When you talk about the greatest defensive center fielders, he was right in the mix. With me in left and Frank Robinson in right, we played towards the line and gave him a lot of room. He could really go get it.”
Blair’s baseball journey began at Manual Arts High School and included a short stay at ELAC before being signed by the expansion New York Mets in 1961. At Manual Arts, he had a legendary athletic career, excelling in baseball, basketball and track. Not only was he known for his mammoth home runs for the baseball team, but he once scored 54 points in a basketball game.
Following graduation from Manual, he attended ELAC and was playing for the baseball team during its fall schedule. But before he got the chance to play during the regular spring season, the Mets, who would have their inaugural campaign in 1962, signed him. A year later, Baltimore selected him in the First-Year Player Draft.
That launched a career that saw him bat .250 with 134 home runs and 171 steals. He had career highs of 26 homers in 1969 and 27 steals in 1974. He really rose to the occasion in the postseason. In the 1970 World Series, Blair batted .474 to spark Baltimore’s five-game series win over the Cincinnati Reds.
His post-playing career included stints as an outfield instructor for the Yankees in 1981, an outfield instructor with the Houston Astros and a third base coach for the Orioles’ Triple-A Rochester team. He also held college head coaching positions at Fordham University in 1982 and Coppin State from 1998-2002.
Besides defense, Blair was also known for talking a good game. His Oriole teammates nicknamed him “Motormouth,” which was not lost either on his Manual Arts classmates during a memorial service for Blair, who died of a heart attack just five weeks shy of his 70th birthday in 2014. “Paul was all-everything, a great athlete and he loved to talk,” classmate Charles Russell said in a 2014 MLB.com article by Lyle Spencer. “That’s why all the girls loved him.
Allegiant Stadium - Vice President Of Operations
The position doesn’t require him to do any game planning to score touchdowns or shut down opposing quarterbacks, but Raul Gutierrez has more than his share of challenges as the Vice President of Operations of Allegiant Stadium, the new state-of-the-art domed stadium that is the home of the newly-relocated Las Vegas Raiders.
The ELAC alumnus and his staff are there to ensure that all fans who attend Raider games and all events that are held there have a safe and memorable experience. He oversees stadium operations, including guest services, security, safety and emergency services, parking and transit, the box office, information technology (IT), facility presentation, production and venue operations. He was formerly the Executive Director of Arena Operations at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas before joining the Allegiant Stadium project a year ago.
Gutierrez was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Highland Park and Alhambra, and graduated from Don Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead, where he played baseball, volleyball and soccer. He enrolled at ELAC after high school and joined the baseball team, which at the time was coached by Al Cone, his high school coach. “I really enjoyed my time at ELAC and really loved the culture and the whole environment,” Gutierrez said.
Allegiant Stadium is the fourth venue that Gutierrez has opened. He was Assistant General Manager of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, before moving to Las Vegas. He was Senior Manager of Security and Guest Services at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston prior to that. His resume includes a 4-year stint as Guest Services Manager at Home Depot Center in Carson (now known as Dignity Health Sports Park). The lifelong Dodger fan got his start in stadium operations and security and guest services working at Dodger Stadium for 24 years. He started as an usher while attending ELAC and worked his way up to Assistant Manager of Security and Guest Services.
“Working in a stadium presents a different challenge every day, it isn’t the same,” said Gutierrez, when asked why he chose his profession. “There’s a lot of variety and I think it’s nice that people are paying to come to your job.”
He advises ELAC students to take advantage of the opportunities that come along. “I started out as an usher at Dodger Stadium,” he said. “I worked every position that I would ultimately manage. I worked my way through the ranks in a blue-collar manner. You just have to take advantage of all opportunities. And communicate. Never assume the job is done. Always double-check.”
Gutierrez says proudly that his daughter, Justina, graduated from ELAC and that his nephew and niece are currently attending. “ELAC is a benchmark for community colleges,” he noted. “It has served the community well and has provided thousands with great opportunities for 75 years – and will continue to do so.”
LA Clippers Assistant Coach
Rex Kalamian realized at an early age that basketball was his passion. The longtime NBA assistant coach, now in his second season on the staff of head coach Doc Rivers of the Clippers, he recalls first being drawn to the sport as a fifth grader. In a 2019 article in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, the second generation Armenian-American said, “As a kid I didn’t do what other kids would do, which is to watch cartoons all day. I watched mostly basketball.” He was further sold after watching the Lakers, behind rookie point guard Magic Johnson, defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in game six to clinch the 1980 NBA championship. From that point forward, “I set my sights on doing something in the field of basketball.”
Kalamian’s playing career was highlighted by being an all-league player who led Keppel High School to the Mission Valley League title in 1987. He caught the eye of ELAC assistant coach Herman Flores, who reached out to him and asked him to visit ELAC and meet head coach Jim McFarland to learn about the Husky basketball team. “After meeting the staff, I just felt it was the place for me to improve my basketball skills and my grades at the same time,” Kalamian said. “It proved to be a great experience for me and it was exactly what I needed. I spent two years taking my core classes and I was prepared to transfer.”
Kalamian was the Huskies’ team captain and the South Coast Conference’s leading 3-point percentage shooter. In fact, his remarkable 55% shooting as a freshman is still the best in ELAC history. He also credits assistant coach Danny Rodriguez in helping him develop his playing skills. An injury his sophomore season prevented Kalamian from playing the next season, but he transferred to Cal Poly Pomona where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business. Kalamian really enjoyed the basketball team’s togetherness during his two years at ELAC. “We had a tight bound,” he said. “All the players took the same courses and we spent a lot of time together before and after classes in the quad area. The campus was much different back then than it is now. It was smaller and older, but it was always fun being on campus.”
His coaching career began at ELAC in 1990 when then-head coach Jorge Calienes hired him as an assistant. “It was an opportunity to stay involved in basketball and I really enjoyed the coaching aspect,” Kalamian said. After one season I was hooked. I knew I wanted to coach basketball at the highest level.” His duties included attending coach’s meetings, watching game footage and evaluating and creating plays. That work would lead two years later to his introduction to the NBA. “I was fortunate to get a part time internship with the Clippers in their scouting department.” His duties included evaluating game and player videos and helping the coaching staff during practice. “I turned that part time job into a career and 26 years in the NBA.”
Kalamian’s work ethic so impressed then-head coach Bill Fitch that he was promoted to assistant in 1995, thus launching a coaching career now in its 24th season. His NBA travels have included stints as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. He got to the NBA Finals with the Thunder and made an Eastern Conference Finals appearance with the Raptors. He twice got to coach in all-star games.
In 2018, he returned to the Clippers for the opportunity to work under Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer. That first season back, the Clippers surprised a lot of people by qualifying for the playoffs, then winning two road games against the Golden State Warriors before bowing out. This season they are among the favorites to win the NBA title.
Kalamian would like to one day head his own team, but for now is focused on the present. As he said in the Mirror-Spectator article, “You always have to play for what’s in front of you and not get too far ahead of yourself. The best thing I can do is prepare to be the best assistant coach I can be and possibly be a head coach someday.”
From the Mission Valley League and the South Coast Conference to the NBA, Kalamian advises student-athletes to make a plan and follow it. “Find your next step and take it,” he said. “But always be ready to pivot. The road to any successful career is rarely straight. There’s going to be obstacles and setbacks. Use them as learning experiences. Stay positive and always continue to learn, the most important thing in life is education. Educate yourself and become a professional. If you do this, you success will come.”
Dr Richard Zapanta
Orthopedic Surgeon/Community Leader/Art Collector/Philanthropist
East Los Angeles lost one of its heroes late last year with the passing of Dr. Richard Zapanta, M.D. Dr. Zapanta left a vast legacy of philanthropic and civic leadership and was remembered as a champion in the community he was from and served for decades. He served the community since 1979 and was the senior partner of Eastside Orthopedic Medical Associates. But his giant footprint leaves a massive impression beyond the Eastside.
Born in 1946, Dr. Zapanta attended ELAC after graduating from Garfield High School. An avid art collector who amassed a trove of paintings and artifacts, he served on the board of ELAC’s Vincent Price Art Museum Foundation. “He lived by example and showed his love for East Los Angeles, ELAC and the VPAM through his enduring leadership and public service,” said Victor Parra, VPAM perparator and assistant to the director. “Dr. Zapanta inspired us as a model citizen and important community figure committed to the arts. We will never forget his countless efforts to make VPAM the museum it is today.”
Dr. Zapanta received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from USC in 1968. He attended Haverford College in Philadelphia, where he participated in a one year post-baccalaureate fellowship program supported by the National Medical Fellowships. In 1973, he received his medical degree from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He completed a one year straight surgical internship, one year neurology residency, and a four year orthopedic residency at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
True to his roots, Dr. Zapanta had long been committed to the cause of education in the Hispanic community. Dr. Zapanta was a founding member of the USC Mexican-American Alumni Scholarship Fund that has given 7,500 scholarships and raised more than $14 million. He was on the Advisory Board and financially supports the Latino Medical Student Association at the Keck School as well as its national organization. He awarded a yearly scholarship to a deserving Garfield High School graduate and annually sponsored a high school student for the Keck School MedCor Summer Work Program. He frequently mentored high school, college and medical students, and encouraged students to continue strive for a better education.
He was also a founding member of the American Association of Latino Orthopedic Surgeons and served on the Keck School Admissions Committee for many years. Dr. Zapanta was on the Board of Trustees of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Whittier College, Alta Med Health Services Foundation, Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center Foundation and the LA Health Foundation at the time of his death.
Dr. Zapanta contributed to numerous non-profit and charitable organizations including the ELAC Foundation, the USC Mexican-American Alumni Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic Outreach Task Force, the Latino Medical Student Association, Alta Med Health Services, the National Hispanic Medical Association Foundation, the Los Angeles Music and Art School, the Orthopedic Research and Educational Fund, Disabled American Veterans, National Medical Fellowships, COPE Health Solutions, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the Museum of Latin American Art.
Dr. Zapanta’s and his wife Rebecca’s passion for Mexican art had resulted in a unique and well recognized collection of 20th century Mexican art, amassed over 30 years that included examples of nearly all the relevant styles and primary figures. He has shared his art and exhibited it at various venues including the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, San Diego Art Museum, Bakersfield Art Museum, Luckman Fine Arts Gallery at California State University, Los Angeles, National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and several others. He envisioned and saw through the creation of the historic mural completed by the famous Mexican artist Maestro Raul Anguiano at ELAC in 2002. Dr. Zapanta held exhibits at the University of Hong Kong Gallery and Art Museum and the Yuchengco Museum in Manila.
Rebecca Zapanta wholeheartedly continues to support her husband’s commitments and endeavors. She is also involved in many community activities and fundraising. They were married for 47 years and resided in Whittier. They had five children, daughters Gina, Valerie and son-in-law Gregory Koselke; and sons Joseph, Gregory and Richard Jr. He is also survived by grandchildren, Sofia Murphy, Valentina Murphy and Arthur Koselke. Dr. Zapanta’s legacy will live on in his children and grandchildren, and all the lives he touched.
Known for always opening his home and heart to all, Dr. Zapanta traveled the world and his adventurous spirit was reflected in his inclusion of all people, cultures and religions. His work as a surgeon since 1979, alongside Eastside Orthopedic Medical Associates partner Dr. Tomas Saucedo and his staff were dear to his heart. The foundation of his dedication to his family, committed work ethic and love of community came from his deep-rooted love and upbringing by his adoring parents, Gregory and Adeline, who preceded him in death. His brother Dr. Edward Zapanta also preceded him in death.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adjourned their general meeting in Dr. Zapanta’s memory on the day of his passing. “I always admired Dr. Zapanta’s commitment to improving public health,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “He also understood the importance of diversity in the field of medicine, which is why he spent so many years mentoring students in order to increase Latino representation in the medical field.” Said Supervisor Janice Hahn: “Dr. Zapanta was a life well lived, and the lives that he touched and saved are too many to even count.”
Kinesiology Professor/Former ELAC Football Coach & Player
School pride has always run deep with kinesiology professor Rick Gamboa. He made a special connection with ELAC when he put on his Husky football uniform in 1974, the same year the Huskies won the state championship. Gamboa continued his connection by returning to ELAC in 1997 to resurrect the Husky football team as its new head coach. And though he hasn’t coached at ELAC in years, he remains highly visible outside the classroom and away from the sidelines. Gamboa formed the student Kinesiology Club six years ago and has been very instrumental in organizing the club’s annual Turkey Trot holiday food drive which helps benefit students and local families. He has also taken the lead in arranging reunions of the 1974 football team and assists in the staging of the annual ELAC Track and Field Hall of Fame banquet. He is an ELAC Alumni Association Board Member.
ELAC discontinued football after the 1992 season and since a coach’s past experience as a player at his alma mater often serves as one of the best recruiting tools, hired Gamboa to restore the program for the 1998 season. Who better to explain to a teenager what a school has to offer than a coach who has already walked the path a recruit hopes to follow? Gamboa played linebacker on ELAC’s 1974 and ’75 teams, two of the most successful teams in ELAC history. “It was a privilege to return to ELAC and resurrect the program,” he said. “I played for two really good men in head coach Al Padilla and defensive coordinator Gil Rozadilla. They were tough, but very compassionate men who cared about their players. They helped me further my education. I wanted to do what they did for me for my players.”
Prior to his hiring, Gamboa coached linebackers at Cal State Northridge from 1986-91 and then took a break from coaching. He worked the next six years at Northridge working in the student outreach and recruitment services department. “I missed coaching,” he said. “I missed working with players. Just the whole environment of athletics.” Known for his ability to not only coach, but to also raise funds to support his program, Gamboa guided ELAC to a 7-3 record and the ChiPs for Kids Bowl in 2000. It was the Huskies first bowl appearance since 1974. He resigned after the 2004 season.
Gamboa got an early start in coaching. He was a 175-pound two-way lineman at Wilson High School and made All-City Section offensive line his senior year in 1972. He planned to study art at Cal State Long Beach, but his passion for football was greater than it was for art. So he spent his first year out of high school helping coach the “B” football team at Wilson under head coach Dave Loera. The team shut out nine opponents and gave up only six points in league play. “That might be a record somewhere,” Gamboa said. Ben Rivera, a high school teammate who was playing for ELAC, talked Gamboa into joining the Huskies the following season. “I was now up to 200 pounds and big enough to be a college linebacker,” he recalled. Gamboa played inside linebacker as the Huskies went on to win the Southern California Conference title and the state championship. “We were a very unique and talented team,” he said. “We were very close and had a lot of success, and had a lot of fun.”
Leave it to a linebacker to say that a crucial tackle he made that broke his nose and left a permanent scar is his favorite memory of playing for ELAC. It happened on a pivotal play during his sophomore year on a cold November night in Bakersfield before 17,000 fans. Gamboa stopped Bakersfield’s all-state running back Deacon Dan Turner in mid-air as he tried to dive over the goal line. The collision caused his chin strap to unfasten and the front rim of his helmet struck the top of his nose. “But I stopped him,” Gamboa proudly said. “There was a lot of blood and the scar tissue left this bump on my nose. At least the bump keeps my eyeglasses in place and I can thank Deacon Dan for that. The Huskies went on to defeat Bakersfield, 25-20 in the same stadium where they scored the biggest victory in ELAC history nearly a year earlier when they beat San Jose City College in the Shrine Potato Bowl game for the state championship. Turner went on to play at San Diego State and in the pros for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gamboa earned his associate’s degree in liberal studies and transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where he played one season for the Titans. He received a bachelor’s in physical education and was hired as an assistant coach at Brea-Olinda High School. The National Institute of Sports in Mexico City hired him as defensive coordinator and American athlete recruitment coordinator in 1978. The institute was a two-time national champion and had a record of 37-0, including a 12-0 record against American universities and colleges during Gamboa’s two seasons there. He returned to Los Angeles and was an assistant coach at Los Angeles City College for three seasons. In 1983, new ELAC head coach Vic Cuccia, Gamboa’s high school coach at Wilson, named Gamboa defensive coordinator. The Huskies had a 6-4 record in Cuccia’s only season. Gamboa received his first-ever head coaching assignment the next season when he was hired by Franklin High School. His teams were 8-10 during his two seasons there and his team finished 6-3 in 1985. He left to coach at Northridge. His resume also includes a stint as an assistant coach at Citrus College.
Gamboa said his affiliation with the college goes back well beyond his days as a student-athlete. “ELAC Stadium was like everybody’s home field when I was in high school,” he said. “I used to see games played there going back to my days in middle school. Everybody wanted to play in the stadium. Besides football, I would watch my brother perform with his band during the Battle of the Bands shows that were held at the college. The auditorium would be packed for two to three days. The college is a major fixture in my life. The transformation of the college to newer modern buildings is beautiful, but I wish they would have saved one of the old bungalows for historical purposes.” He advises students to learn about the many services ELAC offers. “I’d like to see more students take advantage of what we offer to help them earn their degrees and certificates,” he said.
Besides teaching and coaching, Gamboa is an inventor. He is founder, owner and president of Borg Unlimited Inc., a sports and recreational goods and supplies industry. Borg specializes in new product development, manufacturing and marketing. He negotiates all license agreement contracts, and creates all of its product market testing, marketing strategies, trademarks design and development. Gamboa has invented Striker II, a baseball hitting device, Third Hand, a coach’s game plan protector, and The Pit, a portable fiber glass sideline bench. The benches are used by several colleges, including USC, Michigan, Oregon State and Wake Forest. He also invented the air rope exercise device.
Rodrigo "Rod" Garcia
Century Diversitied INC./Founder Of The Society Of Hispanic Professional Engineers
When the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite, in the fall of 1957, it was the beginning of a new era of political, military, technological and scientific developments. The launch also started the space age and led to a new emphasis on science and technology in American schools. Rodrigo “Rod” Garcia had just entered Montebello High School and took an interest in engineering thanks in part to the beach-ball-sized satellite that triggered the space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R.
“I liked math and schools were really pushing engineering because of Sputnik,” Garcia recalled. “The U.S. was gearing up.” And so was Garcia, who went on to pursue a career in civil engineering. His resume includes working for the City of Los Angeles as a civil engineer and project manager, an executive officer of a construction firm and a major engineering firm. In 1991, he established Century Diversified Inc., which provides infrastructure and facilities professional services, construction management and oversight, management services and administration support. Based in Monterey Park, CDI’s clients include government agencies and private clients in the transportation, educational, housing, water and other infrastructure industries. Garcia’s corporation has provided services for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Federal Transit Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the city of Monterey Park, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Alameda Corridor Transportation Agency among others.
Garcia was born in East Los Angeles and moved to Montebello with his family when he was 10 years old. He enrolled at ELAC after graduation from Montebello High. “ELAC was a good choice for me because it offered engineering classes and that’s what I wanted to study,” he said. He earned his associate’s science degree from ELAC and transferred to UCLA. But Garcia had trouble making the transition from a community college on the east side of Los Angeles to a major university on the west side. “It was culture shock and I was scared to death,” he said. “I dropped out.” He got a job with the county of Los Angeles as a draftsman and would later work for the city of Los Angeles. While working for the city, he took advantage of a program in which the city would pay for an employee’s tuition. Garcia enrolled at USC, transferred to Cal State L.A., where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1971. “The city discontinued the program, so I had to leave USC because I couldn’t afford the tuition there,” he explained. “Cal State L.A. was a good school for me. Things worked out well.”
Garcia is also the founder of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the nation’s largest association dedicated to fostering Hispanic leadership in the science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) fields. Established in 1973 and incorporated in 1974, SHPE (called “shape”) is dedicated to increasing the number of Hispanics in engineering. Garcia credits his involvement with the L.A. City Chicano Association for the establishing of SHPE. “I learned about politics and organization, and issues in the community through the association,” he said. “Around the same time, I was exposed to an effort on the East Coast to push the number of minorities in engineering. And so from that I got the idea for SHPE. I recruited prospective board members and we agreed to start it.” Garcia has drawn praise from many educational leaders for starting SHPE. The late Dr. Raymond Landis, a longtime dean of engineering, computer science and technology at Cal State L.A., and who’s often considered the “father” of Minority Engineering Programs in the U.S., was one of Garcia’s admirers. “I don’t think Rod (Garcia) gets even a fraction of the credit he deserves,” he stated in a report on the History of Minority Engineering Programs in California. “In the early days, he went everywhere and represented SHPE as a “national” organization, even though he knew it was he and several other Hispanic engineers that worked for the Los Angeles city Bureau of Engineering. Talk about a vision! Rod had it, and he made it come true. Rod made strong student organizations a key part of the structure of SHPE. He knew that building strong “farm clubs” was the way to have a championship team.”
When asked about his days as an ELAC student, Garcia said he liked ELAC because the campus was small. He advises students to push themselves. “You have to believe in yourself and make it happen,” he said. “I’m a good example because I failed several times, but I kept pushing myself and I became very successful. I was working in engineering before I had my degree.” He views ELAC’s 75th anniversary as a significant milestone for the community. “East L.A. College is a good school that helps a lot of Latinos,” he said. “The longer it lasts the better for the community it serves.”
Los Angeles Times Column One Editor
It was at an early age that Steve Padilla knew his career would go in a different direction than his famous father. While Al Padilla built a legendary resume as the long-time football coach at East Los Angeles College around coaching stints at Garfield and Roosevelt high schools, journalism was the path of choice for son, Steve.
“I think I had known as early as sixth grade that I would make my living with words, so I can’t give ELAC credit for inspiring me to become an editor,” Steve said. “But my time working for Campus News, as both a reporter and editor, certainly reinforced my desire to be a journalist and develop skills I use to this day.”
A member of the Los Angeles Times since 1987, he is currently the Column One editor and Metpro director of the Times. Column One is the paper’s showcase front-page feature. Metpro is a two-year fellowship aimed at promoting diversity in the newsroom.
He joined the paper in 1987 as a police reporter, but soon moved on to editing. He helped guide the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of a botched bank robbery in North Hollywood in 1997. He now serves as a writing coach and has edited a wide variety of subjects, including presidential politics, religion, higher education and international news.
Prior to his days with the Times he was a reporter with the San Diego Union (now Union-Tribune) and editor of Hispanic Link and Weekly Report, a national newsletter on Latino affairs. A graduate of Alhambra High School, he earned his associate in arts degree from ELAC and a bachelor of arts in history and print journalism from USC.
Some of his fondest memories as a student at ELAC involved him and his father. “My father was head football coach while I attended ELAC and it was always a kick to swing by his office and see his players, who all towered over him. But they also treated him with such admiration and respect. And perhaps a little trepidation, too.”
Does he have advice for current ELAC students? “Let me answer by recalling a young man I met in an L.A. Times training program for high school journalism students and recent grads. After other students said they were headed to four-year schools, he mumbled that he would attend ELAC. He was clearly embarrassed, if not ashamed. It reminded me of my high school years when ELAC was derisively called Taco Tech. Imagine my delight when I replied, ‘Cool, I went to ELAC.’ His head snapped up. He couldn’t believe it. He later told me that this changed his whole perception of ELAC. He came to realize that it was not the end of his education, but the beginning. And yes, he’s now at a four-year school and doing great.”
He says it means a lot to him that ELAC is celebrating its 75 th anniversary this year. “It just fills one with admiration and pride. ELAC serves all students, but it’s clearly played an important role in creating leaders in the Latino community. If you ever attend an event in Southern California with lots of Latino leaders – in business, politics, education, whatever – stop and ask how many went to ELAC. Always lots of hands go up.”
When it comes to distance running, few people have had as successful or lengthy career as Sylvia Mosqueda. Whether it was excelling in cross country and track at San Gabriel High School, ELAC and Cal State L.A., then competing in five consecutive U.S. Olympic trials, she distinguished herself over nearly four decades.
Mosqueda, currently in her first year as head coach of the cross country and track and field programs at Pepperdine University, compiled a list of accomplishments at the community college level that stood the test of time. At ELAC, she won state track and field championships in the 800, 1500 and 5000 meters, setting records that lasted over 20 years. She also won a state cross country title in record time.
At Cal State L.A., she won the 1987 NCAA cross country title and at the 1988 NCAA women’s outdoor track and field championships won the 10,000 in the national record time of 32:28.57, a mark that stood for 30 years. That season she was named the conference female athlete of the year and the Billie Jean King Woman of the Year.
National attention first found her when she used the 1986 L.A. Marathon as a training run. Largely unknown to the distance running community at the time, she found herself leading the field until dropping out at nearly the 20-mile mark. A year later, Mosqueda ran the L.A. Marathon, finishing second in 2:37.46. Also that year she won the Philadelphia Distance Run Half Marathon in 1:10.47.
In 1988, she began her run of competing in five consecutive Olympic trails in the marathon. A too-fast early start forced her to drop out due to exhaustion at 18 miles. She also competed in the 10,000, finishing 12th. Her closest bid to make the Olympic team was 1992 when she was fourth in the 10,000, one spot from qualifying. At the 1996 trials in Atlanta, she was leading the 10,000 deep into the race before the heat and humidity forced her to quit. In 2004, Mosqueda, now 38, again qualified for the trials in the 10,000 and marathon.
Her road racing career, especially the half-marathon, is where she enjoyed much of her success. She was runner-up in 2000 and won the 2001 national championship at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championship. She also had wins at the Austin Half Marathon and America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego. Her personal best of 2:33.47 was set at the New York City Marathon in 2002.
Mosqueda has also enjoyed success developing young runners as a coach. In 2007, she was named head coach of the L.A. City College cross country and track programs. That same year, she was the Women’s 40 Masters Age Division runner of the year. Also a one-time assistant at ELAC, she founded TEAMosqueda Running Club in 2009. Her runners won regional titles in 2015 and ’16 and were ninth at the nationals in ’16. She has coached numerous runners to the Olympic marathon trials.
A year ago, she was named an assistant in cross country and track at Pepperdine, then was promoted to head coach this year.