By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – The Red Bank Regional High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame 2013 inductees are an eclectic group, with little on the surface appearing to connect them.
Connected they are – through the high degree of success and the education they obtained at the high school.
This year’s six new members of the alumni hall of fame were inducted Friday, April 26. All attended either the regional high school or its predecessor, Red Bank’s borough high school. While each has a diversity of experience, all expressed an appreciation for the work of educators and the institution that had an impact on their formidable years.
“They continued to challenge themselves, to look forward beyond what most people would think possible,” said Jacqueline Caruso-Smith, a Red Bank Regional Education Foundation board member.
Those inducted this year are Gloria Nilson, Clyde Bishop, David Bett, Audena “Dena” Walter Reger, Ron P. Malloy and Bill Schindler.
Nilson, a noted area Realtor, launched her own brokerage business in 1977, building it to 11 offices and selling it to GMAC in 2000. She continues to work with the company as its executive vice president and director of luxury homes. Wearing her trademark hat, Nilson, who attended Red Bank High School from 1948 to 1950, told the audience, including the school’s freshman class, “The world is not made up of the haves and the have-nots.” Instead, she said, “It is the wills and will-nots.”
She advised the young high school students to strive.
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them,” she said, explaining she keeps a rubber ball on her desk – to always bounce back and “remind myself to be resilient.”
Clyde Bishop, who was a member of the 1960 graduating class, was the first African-American to receive a doctorate from Delaware State University. After working in academia, Bishop, who is fluent in a number of languages, became a career diplomat for the U.S. Department of State, serving in Italy, South Korea, India, Hong Kong and Santa Domingo, before President George W. Bush named him ambassador to the Marshall Islands in 2006. He remained in the post until 2009.
“When I was considerably younger, I thought I had it all figured out,” because he had a girlfriend and a job at a local A&P. But he failed English for two consecutive marking periods and that put his chances of graduating at risk.
It was then that his English teacher “Mrs. Brown” – Bishop never knew her first name – stepped in with the support of Bishop’s father. Bishop said he stayed after school for three days a week for extra help, becoming what students called a member of “Brown’s Irregulars,” he remembered.
“I hate to think what would have happened,” if Mrs. Brown and other dedicated educators, who made the difference in his young life, hadn’t stepped in.
For David Bett, who graduated in 1974, it was two teachers who made the difference. Bett always had a passion for art and drawing and went on to earn an undergraduate degree in design from the University of Kansas and then a master’s in fine art in photography from Cornell University. He currently works as design director for Columbia Records, where he has been since 2001.
Last year Bett won a Grammy award for his work on Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story.
It was two art instructors who fostered Bett’s talent and passion. The first “gave us the freedom to express ourselves” and helped him “be more comfortable in my own skin.” He recalled one of his teachers as “wild and a little scary … he wanted to move me out of my comfort zone.”
Because of the educators’ efforts, Bett said, he – and probably countless other students – found “our unique paths through life.”
Audena Reger, who graduated in 1976, went on to become a lawyer, concentrating on real estate, trust and estate law. Along with that work, Reger co-founded the Monmouth County Consortium for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. Her interest in gay rights and support grew out of her experience when her youngest son came out and she became aware of how little there was of a support network in the area. Since then she’s begun conducting support meetings for the Jersey Shore Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays.
“As a student at RBR, I learned the gift of diversity,” she said. While speaking to today’s students she also learned that tolerance at the school has changed considerably for the better since her time there. “Tolerance stands here where you are,” she said.
Ron Malloy told students that he “never imaged being back here being honored by my high school.” Malloy, who graduated in 1985, is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, serving as a member of the elite Navy SEALs commando unit.
He conceded, other than on the gridiron, he was not particularly notable during his years at RBR.
“You could say I was a late bloomer,” he said.
But Malloy went on to earn a degree from Monmouth University before joining the Navy and then a master’s from the U.S. Naval War College. He has participated in special operations in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia with SEAL Team 8.
As a senior at RBR, Malloy was named the Vince Lombardi Best Offensive Lineman his senior year. He attributes Lombardi and his parents with offering the inspiration that gave his life direction.
Winning correctly, honorably and obtaining victory “not for victory’s sake, but as a test” of who you are is what matters in the long run, he said. While there will be failure, he assured the audience, failure will help make for a better person.
“How you deal with failure will dictate how you succeed in life,” Malloy said.
Bill Schindler holds a doctorate in anthropology and teaches archaeology and anthropology at Washington College, Chestertown, Md.
A 1991 RBR graduate, he went on to Ohio State University where he was recruited to wrestle. An undiagnosed eye disease led to Schindler going blind until his sight was eventually restored with cornea transplants and he continued his education.
Schindler was unable to attend the day’s event because he was presenting a paper in the Netherlands, but he planned to visit the school next week and will spend the day with students, said William Schindler Sr., his father.
The six new inductees join the 103 alumni who have been named to the hall of fame over the past 11 years, Caruso-Smith said.