Class of 2019 includes Dr. Dick Barnes ('54), Paula (Rivers) Gordon, Ph.D ('57), Michael McCormick ('65) and Dr. Harvey Trop ('71)


Taft Union High School Hall of Fame Committee Co-Chairs Dr. Kathy Garner Orrin and Janice Garratt Ashley announced recently the newest inductees into the Taft High School Hall of Fame.

This year’s inductees include Dr. Dick Barnes (Class of 1954), a practicing dentist until 1985, whose career as a dentist included teaching at the University of Southern California (USC) Dental School, being a founding member of the Aesthetic Dentistry Association, and beginning a dental laboratory that today is one of the largest laboratories in the world. Dr. Barnes currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Also inducted will be Paula (Rivers) Gordon, Ph.D (Class of 1957), whose name was submitted for consideration by another Hall of Fame recipient, Doug Smith. Dr. Gordon was academically outstanding in her years at Taft High, and she was part of many campus clubs. Her leadership and academics were further honed at the University of California, Berkeley. She went on to receive a Ph.D in Public Administration from American University in Washington, D.C., and returned to UC, Berkeley to get another Ph.D in Educational Policy Planning and Administration. In 2001, Dr. Gordon focused on homeland security concerns which have led to her interest in enhancing and building the skills and capabilities of those individuals in roles of public responsibility. Dr. Gordon resides in Washington, D.C.

Michael McCormick (Class of 1965), who not only lives in Taft, but who also is a familiar face in our community, is our third Hall of Fame inductee for 2019. He has been nominated by Dennis Eubanks in the Life Time Recognition category. Michael has served the Taft community in many capacities: teacher, band director, swim coach, driver’s training instructor, and counselor, in addition to his volunteering with the West Kern Oil Museum and the Midway Sunset Lions Club. He also has served our country in the Naval Reserves. His nomination submittal contains recognitions from the offices of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, former State Senator Jean Fuller, former Assembly member (now State Senator) Shannon Grove, and recognition as Volunteer of the Year from the Taft Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. McCormick also was one of the nominators for our fourth inductee, Harvey Trop (Class of 1971). Dr. Trop’s nomination to the Hall of Fame represents the first time the Committee has received two complete application packets from two different people for one single nominee. In addition to Michael McCormick, Debbie Potaczala also submitted an application for Dr. Trop. After graduating with honors from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975, Dr. Trop went on to receive his Ph.D in Inorganic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1979. His thesis work was involved with the coordination chemistry of two transition metals, rhenium and technetium. Knowing that all the isotopes of technetium are radioactive, and is used in nuclear medicine, his goal was to understand more of the basic properties and types of compounds that one could create. As a student at MIT, then Harvey Trop became the first graduate student to ever be appointed to MIT’s Radiation Protection Committee. Currently, Dr. Trop’s work includes development of the next generation of optical switches for the optical communications network, and he is a California resident, living in Fremont, California.

This year’s class of inductees represents the thirteenth class of honorees since the Hall of Fame was begun in 2007. Stan Barrett, Taft Union High School board member, put forward the idea for a Hall of Fame. The idea was brought into reality under the direction of then-Superintendent Dr. Curt Dubost, and the committee was organized by former Taft High Principal Bill Wickwire and Sherry Gregory, Secretary to the Superintendent, under the direction of then-Principal, Marilyn Brown. Since that time, seventy-seven graduates of Taft Union High School have been honored at the annual dinner.

Inductees must have graduated from Taft Union High School and must be outstanding in at least one of the following categories: achievement (outstanding recognition in their chosen fields on a local, national, or international level), athletics (outstanding records in their chosen sports, or life time recognition (those alumni who have been graduated from Taft Union High School for at least forty years and whose life has reflected character and distinction). The inductees are chosen from a list of nominees whose nomination applications have been submitted to the Hall of Fame Committee by friends, classmates, and family members. Committee members vote by secret ballot for the inductees each December. Those nominees receiving a majority of the votes of the Committee are inducted. Nominees stay eligible to be considered for five years.

This year’s dinner will be held, as is tradition, in Mullen Gym on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Tickets are $50 per person and may be purchased at the Taft District Chamber of Commerce, 400 Kern Street, Taft, California, online at, or by calling 661-765-2165.