Compiling the Literary Legacy of Local Authors

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In the wake of recent tributes to Laguna Beach High School alumni, Sam Totten, of the class of 1967, envisions yet another, but one that serves as a literal source of inspiration to current students.

Totten proposed adding books published by or about Laguna Beach High School grads to dedicated shelves in the high school library.

Last June, a Wall of Honor was dedicated to LBHS alumni, faculty and staff who have served, or are serving, in the armed forces. Last month, the school’s league champion football teams over 74 years were honored during the homecoming game. So why not authors?

While the logistics of Totten’s project still need finalizing, the concept has generated moral support and momentum.

Howard Hills, president of the LBHS Alumni Association, said the idea dovetails with the association’s agenda to promote community awareness about alumni and the high school’s heritage. “This is a special project like the Wall of Honor and it deserves attention,” said Hills, who plans to add the project to the agenda of the next board meeting.

Totten, a professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetville, specializes in Holocaust and genocide education. He was in the process of co-editing, “Genocide of Indigenous Peoples,” with LBHS classmate Bob Hitchcock, a Michigan State University anthropology professor, when he began thinking about the number of works that he and Hitchcock and other alumni he knew had edited and authored.

“All of that got me to thinking about what a great high school experience we all had at LBHS and how many talented and smart people graduated from that high school,” said Totten, who wondered whether the current faculty and students knew about the fascinating and creative lives of some of their prolific predecessors. Thus the idea for dedicated shelf space to alumni was born.

Moving from concept to implementation is proving a longer chapter. Principal Don Austin was receptive to idea of an alumni author section in the library when Totten approached him about it last year, and suggested that a meeting with him and library media specialist Lillian Jones when he was next in town would be a good starting point.

While still open to the idea, Austin said Totten has yet to follow up with him. Before committing to the project, Austin would need to know the titles of books, the number anticipated, and expected costs, as well as someone to coordinate the process.

Totten concedes the point. He’s been preoccupied with genocide research, requiring extensive travel to Africa. He remains enthusiastic about moving forward, though, particularly in rounding up information Austin requested, such as book titles and a better sense of the number of LBHS alumni authors.

He’s reaching out to fellow alumni for information they might provide about books by or about other alumni. He also welcomes suggestions or donations about the actual bookshelves. He will contribute $200 to the kitty.

Meanwhile, everyone who hears about the project is enthusiastic.

Betty Carle, née Tobin, (class of 1967) is all for it. She believes the high school should showcase the accomplishments of their alumni, such as the legacy of her brother, Laguna surfing legend, artist and author Pat Tobin (class of 1968), who passed away five years ago. “To keep his legacy alive in a tiny part of LBHS would truly be a tribute to him, his talent and his family,” said Carle.

Jim White, a 1967 graduate whose name is on the Wall of Honor as an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, knows the meaning of recognition. “I was very honored to be included, and additionally pleased to be able to help identify others to be added to the project,” he admitted. He agrees with Carle on the importance of showcasing the accomplishments of former students as role models to their successors. “What better place than the institution that arguably played the most important role forming and molding them into the people they are?” asked White, who retired as a lieutenant in 1999 from the Laguna police department.

Students grow up into sometimes surprising adults. “I don’t think there was a teacher in the school who would ever have guessed that Sam would go on to earn a doctorate,” or become a prolific author and an advocate for genocide studies, said Totten’s younger brother, Michael.

A green technologies advisor, Michael Totten co-wrote “A Climate for Life: Meeting the Global Challenge,” among other works. He admits to curiosity about the literary output of fellow alumni.

Surely, a multi-faceted collection would fill the alumni section if Totten’s plan is realized.

Scholarly works by the Tottens and Hitchcock would keep company with that by MTV star and ’04 grad Lauren Conrad, who penned “Sugar and Spice: An L.A. Candy Novel.” Filling in-between might be Tobin’s limited edition autobiography, “Aqui no Mas and Tehuantepec or Bust,” about his early surfing days in Mexico; the novel “Explosion: The Day Texas City Died,” by Michael Sutton, class of ‘67; “Making Music: Unique Ways Songs Became Hits,” which John Gregory, class of ‘60, published with classmates, illustrators Carl Glassford and August Cid, and editors Sheila Morshead and Bob Simpson; “Laguna Beach,” a history of our fair city by 2004 graduate Claire Vogel; and “The Condemned,” a novelization of the movie screenplay by writer-producer Rob Hedden, class of ’72.

Totten is sure there are many more LBHS alumni authors, and he wants to hear from them or from anyone who knows about them: [email protected] or 479-927-0318.

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