TC Community Honors Former Staff and Students
A packed hall in the back of OT’s Steakhouse on November 13th around 6:20pm was decked from the reflective ceiling with cascading Christmas lights over a crowd of dapper attendees waited on by attentive student volunteers.
Attendees were rife with conversation echoing through the hall as dinner was being served. They enjoyed Chardonnay with a dinner of pork and potatoes as they awaited the commencement of the program honoring Taft College alumni and former staff–heroes of a tightly knit Taft community.
This year, Taft College celebrated its 95th year with a banquet honoring the hometown legends that have carried the legacy of Taft College into remarkable lives of success and significance.
Among the many inductees to be honored for the evening, Andy Baroncelli was the first to share his gratitude for the award and stories of the old days, setting the communal theme of the evening.
“We always stood with good posture and we conducted ourselves in front of all representing this college with respect” says Baroncelli of the high-caliber conduct displayed by the athletes of his heyday at Taft College. He’s led an amazing life, playing football at USC and then briefly for the NFL. Most of his life he has been a civil engineer and a member of the US Naval Reserve. Having been awarded with an induction for Outstanding Male Athlete, he accredits much of his success to the “family” that he found at Taft College as did many other alumni in their acceptance speeches for the evening.
Dr. David Cothrun, who was honored with an Outstanding Administrator award, explains honestly to the crowd about how he and his wife ended up in Taft: “When my wife and I decided we’d retire somewhere, it wasn’t Taft, California,” he says. “It was New Mexico, where you can see through the air for about 90 miles straight.” The crowd laughs and cringes a bit in response to this comment about the polluted air for which Taft and Bakersfield are known. “But it’s the people here,” Cothrun goes on, “that make this place a great place to live and I’m glad to be here. Thank you.” Dr. Cothrun was honored as a Distinguished Administrator for his service as Taft College president from 1980-2001, and during his career, he established and helped establish several programs that have been instrumental to student success. Such programs include TC’s Dental Hygiene Program, the Westside Energy Services and Training Education Center (WESTEC), and the Transition to Independent Living Program.
He received this most prestigious award along with Dr. Garcia Loretta Lipscomb, who said that “Taft College was an extremely important part of my educational journey and I am very grateful.” Dr. Lipscomb was an instructor and librarian at Taft College for many years before she made history by becoming the first woman and the first Hispanic to achieve an upper level, academic administrative position when hired as the Vice President of Instruction. For 30 years she served as a leader, educator, and an innovator in the Taft College community, and this reporter has her to thank especially for introducing the Distance Learning Program which has been responsible for many crucial academic credits in my own ‘educational journey.’
Another distinguished career educator, Bob Hampton, shares his gratitude with the audience: “It’s really an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.” Hampton was a strong basketball player for Taft College for a year and was awarded a scholarship to play for USC where he played for 3 years while earning a Master’s Degree in education. He then enjoyed a long and successful career in public education, basketball coaching, and a new chapter of success in the sanitation business starting in 1979. He has many accolades from various schools and business organizations for his successes. He says, “Whatever success I’ve had, in my opinion, there’s some connection to TC.”
Ron Coomer’s speech was particularly funny. In regards to a photo projected of him on the screen of himself when he was much younger, he said, “I’m heavy now. I don’t know what the hell happened to that guy in the picture.” The audience roared with laughter. Toward the end of his lengthy speech about his remarkable career as a professional baseball player that led to his current position as a Fox Network sports broadcaster, he became very emotional when he shared the sentiment, broken by tears: “My father would be very proud.” He humbly accepted his induction.
Every person who grabbed the mic for the evening had entertaining, hilarious, and/or deeply moving stories to share with the audience about the honorary guests themselves and the familial culture of the Taft College they grew up with. Kanoe Bandy reports that her favorite part of the evening’s banquet was also “to hear the stories of how Taft College has affected the lives of so many young people. For them to come back and share their stories with us is awesome.” Bandy, the athletic director at Taft College, was in charge of the event and stayed busy for the evening. When asked about how difficult it was to organize the event, she said, “It’s a lot of work and it takes work from everybody involved. It’s a long process.”
The last honorees of the night were the collective powerhouse 1984 Taft College Football Team. This group demonstrated some of the highest appreciation for the late, great Coach Al Baldock. Baldock was inducted last year. Doug Wells worked alongside him to lead the Cougars to victory in the renowned 1984 Potato Bowl against LA Pierce–a victory that solidified their number one ranking among college community football teams.