History and Background
In the late 90's, Carl Williams, Mayor of Asbury Park and graduate of Asbury Park High School, conceived of a vehicle where the rich history of the high school and its graduates would be remembered and celebrated. Carl also saw this as an opportunity to introduce outstanding graduates to current high school students, enabling the students to observe first hand that success was indeed possible regardless of how difficult their backgrounds may be.
Mayor Williams enlisted his friend, Judge Ira Kreizman, also an APHS graduate, and together they formed a committee to make Carl's dream a reality. The initial committee consisted of Williams and Kreizman, Sandy Armstead, the late Gladys Johnson, Henry Johnson, Oliver Jones, Janice Davis Keener, Lorraine Hartigan Nonnenberg, and Myrna Wright, the Parent/Community Coordinator at APHS. After all of the legal and accounting requirements for a non-profit corporation were met, and criteria for induction was determined, the first group of Hall of Famers was selected. The initial group was inducted on 4/11/03 before a sold out crowd at the Berkeley Carteret Hotel in Asbury Park. Earlier that day, many of the inductees met with students at the high school, sharing their paths to success.
Each inductee into the Asbury Park High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame is honored with a plaque featuring a photo and brief career highlights. The plaques are mounted in the main corridor of the high school where they can be viewed by present day students who will hopefully be encouraged to emulate the success of prior students who came from similar backgrounds and overcame similar hardships.
By 2005, the committee expanded to include Alan McKean, Sharon Brown, Thomas DeSeno, Remo Strada, and Stanley Smith. Unfortunately, one of the charter members, Gladys Johnson, passed away on 1/17/05. The journal was dedicated to her memory recognizing her tremendous contribution to the APHS Hall of Fame.
Nineteen alumni were inducted on 4/22/05, once again at the Berkeley Carteret Hotel. Included in the group of inductees was the late Leon Hess, founder of Amerada Hess and owner of the N.Y. Jets, who graduated from APHS in 1931.
In 2007, Marilyn Higginbothan Tomaino and Rita Abbott Abrams joined the committee. Fourteen new honorees were inducted into the Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at Branches in West Long Branch, while the Berkeley was undergoing renovations.
A generous contribution from the Hess Foundation and Norma Wilentz Hess, widow of Leon Hess, gave the committee the ability to provide college scholarships to Asbury Park High School graduates. Scholarships were awarded each year from 2007.
Paul Chaiet joined the Hall of Fame committee in 2009. Thirteen new honorees were inducted into the Hall of Fame during ceremonies held on 5/21/10, once again, at the Berkeley. The induction ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Norma Hess who unfortunately passed away in 2010.
In 2012 we inducted 13 more distinguished alumni in a ceremony highlighted by the performance of gold record recording star Lenny Welch, accompanied by Grammy Award winning composer and musician, John Colby ,APHS,Class of ’67.
It is anticipated that another induction ceremony will be held in the spring of 2014.