Winter break grants Ashlanders — young and old — a chance to catch up with former classmates and ask the ever-curious question, "Whatever happened to "…?"
When Travis Bingaman visited his family here during the holidays, he knew he would run into old friends.
"Ashland is a close-knit community and when I come home, I arrive with the idealized notion that I will see friends I've known since middle school," says the Seattle resident. "In bigger cities, there are allegiances based on neighborhoods and private and public schools. You don't have that here."
The following is an ever-expanding list from Ashland High School staff and the alumni association; submit additional names under the comment section at www.dailytidings.com.
2010 — Ian Reynolds Kendall, pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays
2008 — Sam Gaviglio, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals
2006 — Actress Steffanie Leigh (formerly Steffi Garrard), star of "Mary Poppins" musical on Broadway
2002 — "Somm" Cinematographer Jackson Myers
2000 — Fahad Gaviao Siadat, New York artist, vocalist and composer;
1999 — Rachel Zaslow, executive director of Mother Health International; Minnesota businessman James Kreisman and TV news reporter Adam Sexton
1998 — Claire Chambers, founder and CEO of the Manhattan-based luxury lingerie chain Journelle and Journelle.com; Jason Allred, PGA player; and Peter Hollens, an a cappella vocalist, producer and founder of University of Oregon's On the Rocks group
1997 — Jeremy Guthrie, former pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, traded to the Kansas City Royals on Friday
1996 — Jordan Hirsh, a chief programmer of top grossing media entertainment Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
1995 — Shana Cooper, Oregon Shakespeare Festival director and playwright
1994 — Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, author and TV commentator, and Jessica Ripper (aka Aminah Chishti), a tabla player who was the first woman to perform at a large Pakistani music festival celebrating a Sufi saint
1990 — Chad Cota, NFL player; Shannon E. Rhoades, senior supervisory editor for National Public Radio's Morning Edition
1988 — Jason Atkinson, state senator; Christian Hawkey, poet and author of "HourHour," "Citizen Of" and "The Book of Funnels," which won the 2006 Kate Tufts Award
1984 — Darren Kavinoky, lawyer and TV commentator
1981 — Ron Blair, actor in "Se7en" and "Twin Peaks"
1980 — David Fincher, director of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
1976 — Winona LaDuke, vice presidential candidate, activist, environmentalist and writer
1975 — Lisa Koch, entertainer and comedian
1974 — Ann Curry, formerly of NBC "Today Show"; Actor, bodybuilder Neville Archambault
1973 —David Koch, actor, producer, artistic director/producer of Cabaret de Paris Theatre
1972 — Nancy Schwartz Fichtner, who received the first SAVE (Securing Americans Value and Efficiency) award in 2009 from President Obama out of 38,000 cost-cutting ideas from government employees
1969 — Alex "Sonny" Sixkiller, World Football League, actor in "The Longest Yard" and college sports commentator
1965 — James L. Mayo, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Porland
1958 — Ivan Collver, board chairman of Rogue Valley Transportation District and on Gov. John Kitzhaber's Advisory Board of Denture Technology
1957 — Jack Eberhart, chief of staff of Memorial Hospital, Martinsville, Va., and San Juan Regional Medical Center, Farmington, N.M.
1956 — Sam Morton Wayne Scripter, one of the youngest chairmen of a Department of Geography in the U.S., now retired from the University of Idaho
1948 — Marv Wines, retired U.S. Navy radioman chief with a single engine pilot's license checked out in 51 aircraft and an avid HAM radio operator for 62 years
1925 — Kenneth Hobson, Air Force four-star general
We continue to update this list. To add information, please send the name of the alumnus and a brief explanation of his or her professional accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bingaman, who graduated from Ashland High School in 2003, told friends at a Plaza restaurant that he was working at the Experience Music Project, teaching teenagers how to play the guitar, banjo and even the saw. Afterward, he noted that if someone asked him what he was doing, "It was sincere."
A mini-reunion occurred on the high school campus, too. On the first day back from winter break, AHS principal Michelle Zundel saw former students trickle into her office to describe summer plans to work in Prague and Costa Rica.
Later in the hallway, she talked to the current student body president about Rachel Zaslow (class of 1999), executive director of Mother Health International, a group that trains midwives in Northern Uganda. In the afternoon, Zundel told others that she had just returned from seeing Steffanie Garrard Leigh (class of 2006) star in the Broadway musical "Mary Poppins."
What is it about the high school experience that keeps people together or at least interested?
"High school is a powerful place of self-discovery," Zundel says, when young people make decisions about their future and the adults they want to become. Staying connected is so important that she would like to have an alumni office on campus and a yearly magazine profiling graduates' accomplishments, she says.
To help, she probably will turn to Gary Bowles (class of 1962). As the chairman of the alumni association, he corresponds with thousands of AHS grads via emails, Facebook postings and old-fashioned mail.
Bowles, who attended Ashland schools for 12 years, says students in a small town grow up together and become "a family with thousands of siblings."
Another powerful pull back to high school friends: "People didn't realize how much fun they had in high school until they left," he says.
At reunions, he has noticed that there is not a lot of bragging about what graduates have done in life. "They like to talk about what they did in high school and what they didn't do," he says.
He has a database of AHS graduates since 1891, a year after the school opened. It's a difficult job to keep the list current, even for Bowles, who is retired after working 30 years for the CIA. "Students move and change their email addresses about as often as they change their underwear," he says.
Somehow, however, they keep in touch, catching up by coming home for the holidays or reading about each other in the news.
For a small school, Ashland can boast lots of graduates who have distinguished themselves. Director David Fincher graduated in 1980. His latest film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," is playing at the Varsity Theatre. Ann Curry, a member of the class of 1974, is seen weekdays on the NBC "Today Show," and Jeremy Guthrie (class of 1997) pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.
Bowles spends most of his time planning the annual all-years reunion in July. But he also volunteers to send out queries to 1,500 current email addresses, maintain the Ashland High School Alumni Association Facebook page for 700 fans and help debunk untruths.
He says Ty Burrell of ABC's "Modern Family" attended Grants Pass High School, not AHS. "Spiderman" Tobey Maguire dropped out of high school, but it wasn't here, and actress Valerie Harper attended Ashland Middle School from 1951 to 1953, but moved from Ashland before her high school years.
Still, there are some mysteries that linger. According to AHS librarians, actor and composer Wade McCollum was a sophomore here in 1994, but he wasn't mentioned in the yearbook for his senior year. Winona LaDuke, a vice presidential candidate, activist, environmentalist and writer who graduated in 1976 or 1977, can't be found in any of the yearbooks from that era.
Librarians also couldn't put their fingers on photos of Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Rex Young, "Big Love" actor Matt Schwartz or TV news reporter Adam Sexton (class of 1999). But maybe they just needed more time to wade through a century worth of yearbooks or run into a former classmate.
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com.