MIAMI (CBSMiami) — An early personal computer that helped inspire Bill Gates to start Microsoft was created by Henry Edward Roberts, a member of Miami Senior High’s class of 1959.
Before Bucky Dent hit the three-run homer that led the New York Yankees to victory over the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff in 1978, he was the shortstop on the Hialeah High baseball team that won the 1969 state title.
And before Sheryl Sandberg was one of the top faces at Facebook, she graced the yearbook at North Miami Beach Senior High, class of 1987.
These are just a few of the noteworthy graduates of Miami-Dade Public Schools, which on Monday celebrates its 125-year history by launching an Alumni Hall of Fame.
CBs4 news partner The Miami Herald reports fourteen people made the inaugural cut, including Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com (Palmetto High); Bob Graham, Florida’s 38th governor and former U.S. senator (Miami High); actor Andy Garcia, an Oscar nominee for The Godfather III (Miami Beach High); and four astronauts, including Apollo 16 pilot Thomas Mattingly (Edison High). The inductees’ teachers also will be honored.
“If past is prologue, then the 14 great Miamians we’re honoring Oct. 8th predict great things for our students today and tomorrow,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a statement. “How can you look at that roster and not say ‘Wow?’ These people are us. They’ve lived on our streets and attended our schools.’’
Judges from the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, HistoryMiami, Miami-Dade County Public Library, Miami-Dade Sports Commission, Arts for Learning and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau made the picks from 78 nominees.
“We’re very proud,” said Adele Khoury Graham, wife of Graham and a 1956 Edison graduate.
As part of the induction ceremony, the school district and the Miami Herald are unveiling a searchable database with the names of 300 other notable Miami-Dade public school students. To search the database by schools, click here.
Here is a closer look at six of the inductees:
DOROTHY JENKINS FIELDS
Booker T. Washington Jr./Sr. High, 1960; founder, Black Archives of South Florida.
Thanks to teachers at Booker T. Washington Jr./Sr. High, the youngster from Overtown found herself in a one-on-one interview with Florida’s 33rd governor in his Tallahassee office.
“Mrs. Marian Shannon told my mother I should enroll in journalism,” Fields said. “I had never written anything. I didn’t know why that was necessary. What will I write about?”
Shannon, her high school journalism teacher, encouraged Fields to interview classmates about their concerns. She suggested Fields pose the same question to Leroy Collins, Florida’s governor from 1955 to 1961. Collins answered her questions and promised to give her an audience.
“I was blown away. We got to Tallahassee and the time came for me to go to the governor’s office and Mrs. Shannon said, ‘Your taxi is here.’ I get to the door and she’s not behind me.
“I’m thinking this lady is crazy. No way I can meet the governor of Florida by myself. I walk up the stairs to the Capitol. I gave my name. They said, ‘Governor Collins is waiting for you.’
“It was quite an experience for me. The big thing was that he took the time to meet with me. I was very honored.’’
Fields, 69, credits her years at Booker T. with launching her career as a writer, historian and founder of the Black Archives of South Florida.
“If it had not been for the faculty and staff of Booker T. in Overtown, I would not have been able to do the things I’m doing now.”
Miami Senior High, 1955; U.S. senator 1987-2005, Florida governor 1979-1987.
Lamar Louise Curry, a member of one of Key West’s founding families, taught all the Graham children at Miami High, a point she reiterated on the first day of class.
“She got to my name and said, ‘Robert, do you see this desk?’ and pointed to a desk to the side of the room. ‘That’s where your brother Phillip sat. He was a very good student. Robert, do you see this other desk? That’s where your sister Mary sat. She was a very good student. Finally, do you see this desk? That’s where your brother William sat and he was a very good student. I expect you to be a very good student.’
“That’s what she called leadership by intimidation,” Graham said. “That was my introduction, a wonderful, life-changing experience. She taught me a love of American history, taught me order and discipline and did most of her things in a Roman numeral outline context. If I’m doing a speech or writing an article I do a Roman numeral outline based on Mrs. Curry.’’
His only regret about his schooling, says Graham, 75, is that segregation was still in force.
“I graduated a year after Brown vs. the Board of Education and didn’t go to school with any African Americans. That was a big deficiency in Hialeah and Miami High to a wide range of young people.”
He recalled that his father, an engineer, came to South Florida in 1920 to run a sugar plantation and went on to start a dairy and cattle business.
“Many times I heard him say the best value he got in any one year were the taxes he paid to the Dade County school system because they gave his four children a great education — and I would agree.”
Miami Palmetto Senior High, 1977; Zoo Miami communications director.
Magill says he wasn’t voted “most likely to succeed” at Cutler Ridge Middle and Palmetto High in the 1970s.
On the contrary, because he was younger than his classmates (he’d skipped the fourth grade) and considerably taller, he was called Lurch or Magilla Gorilla.
“I had a tough time growing up,” he says. “I thought I’d never be able to do anything.”
But then Palmetto’s basketball coach asked him to try out for the team.
“I shuddered. I tripped and fell and didn’t even make it to the basket at tryouts.”
But the 6-foot-6-inch Magill made the team, and by his senior year was starting center on one of the top basketball teams in the district.
“That was a pivotal point in my entire life in getting confidence and doing something.”
The next game-changer was Magill’s biology teacher, the late Bill McCreary.
“I never made an A in this guy’s class but he’s the guy who, every day, he would tell me I was brilliant,’’ said Magill, 52. “I wasn’t brilliant but he made me believe I was. When you got a kid called Lurch and Frankenstein, to have a teacher tell you you’re brilliant, it just changed my life.”
North Miami Beach Senior High, 1988; author, screenwriter.
Meltzer wrote the bestselling political thriller The Inner Circle, the nonfiction hits Heroes for My Son andHeroes for My Daughter, and co-created the WB television series Jack & Bobby. Quite likely, none of these stories would have been told without his teachers.
“I went to Highland Oaks and North Miami Beach, and it changed my life,” Meltzer says.
English teacher Sheila Spicer wanted to place Meltzer in an honors English class but couldn’t make it fit into his schedule, so she fashioned a personalized program for him.
“She was the first person who ever told me I could write, the first person other than my parents that told me you’re good at something,” he says.
A decade later, when Meltzer’s first book was published, he knocked on her classroom door. She didn’t recognize him at first — he had hair when he was in school — but when she found out how much she had inspired him, she cried.
“These people, I owe them every day,” says Meltzer, 42, who names characters in his books after his favorite teachers. “Always the good guys.’’
THOMAS ‘KEN’ MATTINGLY
Miami Edison Senior High, 1954; Apollo 16 astronaut.
Flying to the moon on the 1972 Apollo mission was an honor for Mattingly, the command module pilot for Apollo 16.
“It was a fun, exciting thing that had some danger but, my goodness, what an exceptional opportunity.’’
Mattingly, 76, looks back fondly on his Edison years, remembering a chemistry teacher who stressed discipline.
“The other person who had a big impact — probably not intentional — in the way my career unfolded was Bob Lawrence, the orchestra director. He was a character.’’
Lawrence was an ROTC advisor and was supposed to line up graduating seniors for the exam. He had forgotten and urged his music students to sign up at the last minute so the school would have enough applicants.
“He was the catalyst who got me a Navy ROTC scholarship. Without that, my world would have been, who knows?”
Coral Gables Senior High, 1968; Space Shuttle Endeavour astronaut.
Winston Scott performed five space walks in his two flights aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1996 and 1997. Walking the halls of Coral Gables High decades earlier as a member of the first integrated class helped him find his way.
“I went to Gables with the first large number of African Americans,” says Scott, 62. “This was a large cultural shift for us. Gables was a huge school, historically white. This broadened our opportunities because we were exposed to such a nice facility, nice books, equipment.’’
Scott played in the school band, graduated from Florida State University and completed naval aviation training, which led to NASA.
“I can trace that back to Gables. I would not have had the perspective and education which led to my career.”
The Hall of Fame induction, he says, is particularly poignant.
“I’m always invited to go to places all over the world, but it’s nice to be invited back home and recognized by the hometown crowd.’’
Do you know other notable Miami-Dade School graduates or students not included on the Miami Herald database? Please send their name and that of the elementary, middle or high school they attended (graduation is not necessary) to Alumni@dadeschools.net or Luisa Yanez at lyanez@MiamiHerald.com.The information will be verified and their names will be added to the database.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)