If you would like to nominate someone to the San Dieguito Hall of Fame, please click here to download and use our nomination form.
John Fairchild (’61)
This year’s Hall of Fame inductee is Class of 1961’s very own John Fairchild, a former L.A. Laker who played five years of NBA/ABA basketball; a prolific scorer and rebounder who got his start with Coach Dick McCracken here at San Dieguito.
As a Mustang, Fairchild and the San Dieguito varsity basketball team won 25 games in a row; they won the league, county, and Southern California championships and John was named to the All-League, All-Southern California, and All-CIF teams.
After graduation he played at Pepperdine as a freshman before moving on to Palomar, where he became all-conference, all-state, and a junior college All-American, as well as his team’s Most Valuable Player. He set a season scoring record of 622 points and a record of 21.4 points per game and added 14.0 rebounds per game.
During his junior and senior year at Brigham Young University, he was named to the All- Conference Team and set many scoring and rebounding records, some of which still stand today, including the career scoring average per game of 20.92 ppg; the career rebounding average per game, 12.8 RPG; the single season record with 22 Double/Doubles; the single season rebounds record of 13.4 rebounds per game; and the BYU rebound record average for NCAA tournament games played, of 17.0. He was BYU’s first player to score double digit figures in all 28 games.
At BYU Fairchild earned First Team All-WAC honors twice, and Third Team All-American honors as a senior. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the WAC as a senior and played in the East-West College All-Star game.
According to sports writers with the San Diego Tribune, John was believed to be the first player from the county to make All American at a major university, not to mention the first player from the county to sign an NBA contract.
The Los Angeles Lakers took notice; he was their second round draft pick for the 1965-66 season, 16th overall. After playing with Lakers players like Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in his rookie season, Fairchild moved on to the American Basketball Association for the rest of his career, playing for the Anaheim Amigos, the Denver Rockets, the Indiana Pacers, the Kentucky Colonels and the Dallas Chapparels (AKA the San Antonio Spurs) with a career average of 6.6 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and .7 assists per game.
His best season was 1967-68 with the Anaheim Amigos, when he averaged 10.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in just over 20 minutes in each game
His stellar career started at San Dieguito, with Coach Dick McCracken’s 1960-61 varsity team that finished 25-1, losing only to Helix High School by 2 points (on their court) but winning 25 straight games after that.
Our alumni basketball team honored his 1960-61 Varsity Basketball Team in the 2016-17 academic year, and John made two trips to the school that season, in which he spent a good deal of time coaching and encouraging our team. BYU inducted him into their Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980, Palomar College inducted him in 2012, it was about time that San Dieguito inducted him into ours in 2018!
Merna Brown (’49) AKA Sri Mrinalini Mata
The former Merna Brown, Class of 1949, was internationally known, loved, and highly regarded as Sri Mrinalini Mata, the president of the international organization the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) before her passing on August 3, 2017.
Merna graduated from San Dieguito in 1949, already haven taken her final vows and been given the name Sri Mrinalini Mata by Yogananda himself. She served as vice-president and editor-in-chief for over forty years before becoming the president of SRF in 2011.
As written on the SRF website:
Mrinalini Mata was only fifteen years old when she was accepted for ashram training as a renunciant by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1946. When she met the Guru in 1945 at the SRF San Diego Temple, he had instantly recognized her as one who would play a key role in his work in years to come. Thus, with her parents’ permission, on June 10, 1946, she came to live at the SRF Hermitage in Encinitas, where she finished her final years of high school and simultaneously received Paramahansaji’s personal guidance.
Knowing the exceptional quality of this disciple from past incarnations, Paramahansaji bestowed on her the final vows of sannyas in 1947, after she had been in the ashram only about a year. He chose for her the monastic name “Mrinalini,” signifying the purity of the lotus flower, an ancient symbol of spiritual unfoldment.
From the very beginning of her life in the ashram, he spoke to the other disciples about the role he envisioned for her — especially her future responsibility as editor of his SRF Lessons, writings, and talks. “She was destined for this work,” he said in a handwritten letter to Rajarsi Janakananda in 1950. “God showed it to me when I first saw her spirit.” He devoted much time to personally training and guiding her during the final years of his life.
Among the works that have been published as a result of her efforts are Paramahansa Yogananda’s masterful commentary on the four Gospels (entitled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You); his critically acclaimed translation and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (God Talks With Arjuna); several volumes of his poetry and inspirational writings; and three lengthy anthologies of his collected talks and essays — and more works are in preparation.
Tom Dempsey (’64)
San Dieguito celebrated Tom Dempsey (‘64) on Friday, October 14th in a Hall of Fame Induction ceremony that also recognized Tom’s wife, Carlene, their children and grandchildren, Tom’s sister Jan, and other family members.
After Principal Paige welcomed the large audience, Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz (‘77) spoke of how Tom was a childhood hero to him and his friends.Tony then presented Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar’s proclamation to the Dempsey family, declaring Oct 14th to be “Tom Dempsey Day”.
Tom’s classmate and friend, Bill Sullivan (‘64) then spoke to the crowd on behalf of Tom’ family, remembering Tom’s “never give up” personality, his many friendships, and his athletic career.
Midway through his remarks Bill called on friend Charlie Higgins (‘64) to bring up a boom box and play a recording of the radio broadcast of the game in which Tom made his record-setting 63-yard kick.
Charlie’s boom box became a time machine, bringing everyone back to Tulane Stadium on November 8, 1970. With mere seconds left in the game, the Detroit Lions were leading the New Orleans Saints 17-16. As the Saints’ coach sent Tom to kick the field goal, the radio announcer dismissed the possibility that anyone could kick the ball far enough because no one had ever kicked the ball that far.
“Two seconds left, here’s the snap,” said the announcer. “Dempsey kicks, it’s on the way, it is… good! It is good! The Saints have won! The Saints have won! The stadium is wild, Dempsey is being mobbed!”
As the 1970 crowd in the recording shouted and cheered, so did the 2016 audience sitting behind Tom’s family. It was a fun moment, celebrating the best-known achievement in a life that was filled with greatness.
Here is a Youtube video showing the famous kick:
Linda Benson (’62)
Our first Hall of Fame ceremony was held November 3, 2015 and inducted surf pioneer Linda Benson (’62), who won the women’s division of the Makaha International Championships in 1959, shortly before she became the first female to ride the waves of Waimea Bay at the tender age of 15 — and on a borrowed board!
She surfed professionally for ten years, supplementing her surf career with stunt work for actresses like Annette Funicello and Deborah Walley in some classic 1960’s surf movies. She won several US championships and was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1992.
(For more coverage, read this article in the San Diego Reader!)
(Here’s a great Liquid Salt article on Linda Benson.)