MHS honoring its Distinguished Alumni
Madras High School will honor four "Distinguished Alumni" — Pfc. Tommy Tucker, Dr. Shilo Tippett, Dr. Antonio Pena and Dr. Jarold Ramsey at an assembly at 10:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27, to which the public is invited. The honorees will also be introduced at that evening's homecoming game.
A fifth graduate, Judge Daniel Ahern, was also selected but is uanable to attend this year's event, and will be included in next year's celebration, according to school officials.
This is the third year of the program, which honors the achievements of distinguished alumni, to inspire students and serve as examples of what they can achieve.
Dr. Jarold Ramsey (1955)
Raised on a ranch north of Madras, Jerry Ramsey was the student body president and 1955 class valedictorian of Madras Union High School. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Oregon, and Doctorate in English Literature from the University of Washington, and was a professor at the University of Rochester in New York from 1965-1997.
In 2000, he and his wife, Dorothy, returned to live on the family ranch, where he continues to write, is active in the community, and is publisher of the Jefferson County Historical Society's journal "The Agate."
"Looking back, I and my schoolmates were very fortunate to have gone to MUHS. Most importantly, we were blessed with a really good teaching staff of dedicated, skilled teachers, most of whom lived in the community and were active here," Ramsey said, listing some of his favorite instructors.
"My main mentor was (journalism teacher) Howard Hillis. I didn't go into journalism, but learned the lessons of writing honestly and accurately from him," he said. Ramsey was editor of the school's "White Buffalo" newspaper and at UO, edited the "Daily Emerald" newspaper.
Other favorites included William Wright (science), Bob Duke (social studies), Jack McKethen (history), Leno Christensen (agriculture and FFA), and Myrtis Lewis, who Ramsey said, "was a master teacher. She could teach a number of subjects including English, Spanish, algebra, librarianship, and was a character."
Bob Brewer was not only the band and choir teacher, but also a professional musician. "Every weekend, he would go to Portland and play as a professional trombonist. As our band teacher, he figured out how to teach us classical music by making special arrangements. I wish I could thank him now," Ramsey said.
Inspired by them, Ramsey decided, "Whatever I do with my writing, I want to be a teacher."
He said he wasn't much of an athlete, but enjoyed participating in football and track, especially the high jump. Two of his good friends were Larry Fivecoat and Harold Moore. He and Moore used to show movies at noon to students, and he said the students' all-time favorite one was "Rhapsody in Blue" due to its music by George Gershwin.
He and Moore were also responsible for the stone "M" on the hill above Madras. "We never asked anybody's permission, but surveyed and laid out the M, and the freshman class did the rock gathering to build it," he said.
He chuckled over one memory of the MUHS cafeteria. "Unless you brought your lunch, you had to eat at the cafeteria and the food was really pretty awful. You could see what they were preparing and it was mainly tuna from Korean War surplus cans. Then, my junior year, something unexpected happened. The Dairy Queen opened just down the street, and within two weeks, the cafeteria shut down!" he laughed.
Being from a small town, Ramsey was apprehensive when he went off to college. "But I found out what I'd been taught was very up to par and beyond," he said.
His message for students today is, "You needn't feel any lack of confidence when you go on to college, because you are given opportunities here that are very unusual. At first, I felt overwhelmed by those from larger cities. But by the time we graduated, most of the leadership positions and honors were going to students from east of the mountains."
Ramsey has written six award-winning books of poetry, and his books on Indian literature are nationally recognized. In 2017, he received the C.E.S. Wood Award for lifetime achievement as an Oregon writer.
Dr. Antonio Pena (1982)
Antonio Pena enjoyed his years at MHS, where he excelled in his studies, especially in the sciences. After earning a medical degree, he garnered positions as department chairman of internal medicine in Phoenix, Arizona, and Houston, Texas, and now practices with his brother, Porfirio Pena, in Portland.
Pena's family moved to Madras when he was age 1. "My parents, Porfirio and Tiburcia Pena, came here from Washington. My dad worked as a farm hand and managed the Vibbert Ranch. There were seven kids in our family, and I was the second to the youngest," he said.
"I have very good memories of high school. The MHS teachers had been teaching for decades and really knew how to instill study habits and taught very well," he recalled, adding "I honed my study skills there — that's what high school is all about."
"Some of my favorites were science, chemistry and math teachers Chuck Alexander, Walter Ponsford, Vince Powell, and Mr. Grantier. Even in the first grade, the teachers were experienced and quite the disciplinarians," he said.
He said his strong areas were in the sciences. He played tennis, but wasn't in other extracurricular activities, and studied a lot. "Any free time I had, dad had me working on the farm," he laughed.
"You can judge how well the teachers did because in college chemistry and math classes, they just repeated what we'd learned at MHS. I wish I could go back and say my thank yous now," he said.
Setting his sights on becoming a doctor, Pena enrolled at OSU, where there was a four-year pre-med program, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1986. He attended medical school at the University of Washington, graduating with a medical degree in 1991.
During the last two years of his clinical study, he got interested in specializing in internal medicine.
"You get to see a grand variety of everything. For me, it was sort of like having a puzzle, and I've always been into puzzles. And there's the satisfaction you get from solving puzzles for patients," he explained.
Tired of the gloomy weather of the Northwest, he and his wife, Julie, moved to Phoenix, Arizona. "We thought we'd try something different, and Phoenix had eight months of nice weather. But over the years it flipped, and began having ugly 116- to 120-degree weather," he said.
For 18 years, they stayed in Phoenix, where Pena worked at a hospital, and was the department chairman of internal medicine for two years.
Moving to cooler weather in Houston, Texas, Pena operated his own clinic for six years, and also was the Hospice medical director.
"After being away from home for so long, we decided to return to Portland in 2014, and have had no regrets," he said, noting his wife's relatives live in Seattle. They don't have any children, but have raised their niece, Alicia, since the age of 14, after her mother died.
In Portland, Pena joined the Oregon Internal Medicine Clinic of his brother, Porfirio, who had remained in Oregon. Porfirio was a member of the first class of the MHS Distinguished Alumni, in 2017.
Dr. Shilo Tippett (1991)
A member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Tippett has a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and is the staff psychologist at the St. Charles Family Care Clinic in Madras.
Tippett attended middle school in Madras, and then her family moved to Redmond until her senior year, when she returned to attend MHS.
"I have good memories of teachers being encouraging. I remember history teacher Steve Rankin, who always seemed to be trying to help. He was friendly and never made me feel stupid if I didn't understand," she recalled. Her favorite class was English and she really enjoyed writing.
Her parents were Mavis Shaw, of Wasco heritage, and Nat Shaw, who was not Native American, but as a teenager, moved to Warm Springs, where his mother worked for the tribes. Later, he started the tribal KWSO radio station, on which Tippett has appeared in the science and nature program "Earth, Wind and Sky," and more recently as a mental health guest speaker on "Community Talk." She also speaks on the national radio program "Native America Calling."
Tippett confessed, "I didn't really care for high school at all, and struggled at times. I want struggling students to know that there's hope. My parents and family members continued to inspire me and believe in me and that kept me going. I wasn't at the top of my class in high school, but I was later in college."
"I never wanted to go to college, but my dad encouraged me, and the year I graduated from high school, my mom graduated from college," she said.
After graduation, she worked for the Early Childhood Education program in Warm Springs for several years and found she loved teaching. Deciding to pursue an education degree, she attended junior college, then studied psychology at the University of Oregon and earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1997.
"I loved working with Native families and saw how much families and children could use support in mental health," she said of her return to Warm Springs to direct the Early Head Start program. There, she shared an office with author and counselor Jane Kirkpatrick, who kept nudging her. "She inspired me and encouraged me to keep going with my education," Tippett said.
Opportunity presented itself when her brother, Bodie Shaw, sent her a flier on the University of Kansas Psychology Department's six-week exploratory program for Native American graduate students. "I went and loved it. We traveled to different tribes and learned about their psychology needs," she said.
Accepted at several schools, she chose to attend Oklahoma State University in a program, which combined master's and doctorate degree studies. There, she met her future husband, Greg Tippett, who was also a psychology student. They were married in 2005, and she earned a doctorate in clinical psychology in 2006.
She began her career at the Seattle Veterans Administration Medical Center, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. "My big mission was transformative care of Native American individuals, because their care was very behind. I created an educational series on how to provide care for Native American veterans," she said.
She was hired as the staff psychologist in the PTSD outpatient clinic and worked with returning war veterans until 2011, when the Tippetts moved back to Warm Springs. She worked as a psychologist, then as director of the Warm Springs Behavioral Health Center until 2014, when she joined the St. Charles Family Care Clinic.
The Tippetts live in Madras with their two daughters, Cadence, 10, and Columbia, 9, and son, Camon, 3.
Pfc. Tommy Tucker (1999)
Tommy Tucker, the son of Meg and Wes Tucker, grew up in Madras. He was hardworking, fun-loving, musically talented, and proud to be an American.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army, and while serving in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division in 2006, was killed after an insurgent attack at a checkpoint he was guarding. Gov. Ted Kulongoski called Tucker "a true American hero."
A bronze memorial statue of Tucker stands in front of Madras City Hall, showing him helping an Iraqi girl out of a war-torn building.
During his high school years, Meg Tucker said he couldn't participate in any contact sports, because he had ruptured his spleen just before his freshman year.
"At MHS, he enjoyed Mr. Mannenbach's Vocational Industry Clubs of America class, where they built an electric race car. In band, he played trombone all four years, and was in the jazz band, pep band and concert band," his mother said, noting he also played piano and guitar.
Outside of school, she said, "Tommy liked to fish at Haystack or the Cove, and loved to ride dirt bikes ever since he was 13 years old. He also liked to do drag racing at the drag strip."
His good friend Jake Koolhaas, who moved to Madras in the fifth grade, said, "I never had a brother, and Tom to me was kind of my brother. We both liked pickups and four-wheelers and one year, both rode our go-carts in the Fourth of July Parade."
Koolhaas told the rest of the story on Tucker's injury. "Tommy came over to my house and his folks had told him not to ride three-wheelers, which is what we had — but I didn't know that."
"And that's what we did, and took them to Gray Butte. Somewhere, he was going too fast and crashed my three-wheeler, but never said he got hurt. We made it back almost to home when he crashed it again and this time, said he was hurt. His sister picked him up and next thing I knew, she called and said he was in the hospital. I felt really bad," Koolhaas said, adding, "So, that's how we became friends. We got off to a rough start, but got along good."
At MHS, they both relished Mannenbach's metals class, where they built the electric car, then raced it against other schools on the Coast, in Florence. "Tommy was the driver and raced it, but didn't complete the race because the back wheel came apart," he said.
Outside of school, Tom's dad bought him a blue 1972 Chevy pickup. "I knew more about engines than Tom did, and we worked on it together. We also started working on a drag car to run up at the drag strip," he said.
"Tommy was a good guy. He always had my back. You could call Tommy anytime day or night and he'd be there," Koolhaas said.
After graduation, Meg Tucker said Tommy was working in construction for a few years, and then the work slowed down. "He got interested in the military when he saw a recruitment commercial on TV and called the number. A recruiter came down, and he joined within 40 minutes. He was 24 years old," she said.
Koolhaas remembered his friend joining the Army. "Tommy had a little trouble wondering what to do with his life. He signed up for the military and me and some friends met with him for dinner as a send off. He came in uniform, and we were all proud of him for doing that. That was the last time I saw him," he said.
On the side of Koolhaas' pickup is a sign that reads: "Pfc. Tucker, never forgotten."
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