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Outstanding Alumni

     About the Award
     Nomination Form
     Past Award Recipients

2018 Alumni of the Year and Athletic Hall of Fame

Alumni of the Year

Dimple Tansen Ajmera ‘06
Timothy Arner ‘71
Javier Ramirez ‘95

Athletic Hall of Fame

Ruben Ayala, Jr. ‘89
Michael Jackson ‘92
Sheldon Pace ‘04

2016 Alumni of the Year and Athletic Hall of Fame

Alumni of the Year
Andrea Benitez

Andrea Benitez
Fine Arts
Class of 2009

Andrea Benitez has been drawing for as long as she can remember with her brother. She felt that it was nothing more than a hobby.

However, she ended up finding a career in her hobby at Chaffey College.

“I didn’t think I would continue drawing and making art after college,” She said. “And I never imagined I would get paid to work on such awesome projects like the murals in Ontario or the Faces of the Community Project.”

Her work can be seen around the Ontario area, where she grew up. Her work has been exhibited at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art, Ontario Museum of History and Art and the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art. She also has permanent displays, like the Ontario Town Square Mural, and the Conservation Park Murals located near City Hall.

“Chaffey was the first step and starting point to my career,” Benitez said. “I had many introductions here: how to use a Mac computer and learning to use graphic design software, how to put together a portfolio, write an artist statement, first time receiving critiques/reviews of my work and how to work with a gallery and arts team to put together a professional exhibit. Chaffey gave me the opportunity to try new classes and explore new subjects.”

Benitez credits Chaffey for not only shaping her career, but also herself as she learned to be responsible and to live on her own. She also learned that teachers can be mentors in her career.

She is honored to be receiving the Alumni of the Year award.

“I will always have a special place in my heart for Chaffey,” Benitez said. “At the time I attended, I had no idea what a gem this school is to our community.”

Alumni of the Year
Jack E. Long

Jack E. Long
Hotel Management
Class of 1998

Jack Long had always looked for a thrill anywhere he could find it. A chance conversation he had during a day of water skiing challenged his idea of what seeking thrills meant. “I made the comment, ‘I haven’t fallen in two years,’” Long recalled. “This one older guy was sitting there and didn’t look up and said, ‘You’re not trying hard enough. You’re complacent. You’re not trying anything new.’”

At the time, Jack dismissed it. A few days later the true meaning hit him. “I was watching TV and the light goes on and I go, ‘He’s absolutely right,’” Long said. He went to Chaffey after he retired at the age of 58. The new experiences and points of view from students who were up to 40 years younger than him energized him. “What it did was it woke me up,” Long said. “People would ask me why I went back to school. I would tell them it was because I wanted to remember what it was like to play with kids at recess.”

The biggest change in his life came in 2014 when he won the $60 million Powerball Lotto jackpot. Since then he’s given to charities like San Bernardino’s Children’s Fund. He is also a member of the board of trustees for the Ronald McDonald House in Loma Linda and sponsors a program in Fontana to help subsidize college placement test costs for underrepresented students.

“To have a girl come up to you and hug you and tell you, ‘Thank you so much because instead of taking one test at $91, I can take two tests,’ and have her look you in the face with tears in her eyes and say, ‘And now, my family doesn’t have to eat Top Ramen for a month,’” Long said.

Long said he believes college is a valuable learning tool both in and out of the classroom. “College should help you be true to yourself,” Long said. “There is always one person in life you can never get away from and this is yourself. If you can’t make yourself happy, you can’t make anybody else happy.”

Alumni of the Year
Alaa Milbes

Alaa Milbes
Liberal Arts
Class of 2007

Life after high school can be intimidating, especially if you want to further your education. It can be even more challenging when no one in your immediate family has ever gone to college. Alaa Milbes took her first steps into the unknown at Chaffey College and the road led her to Riverside, New York, the Middle East and finally Long Beach.

It was the first step at Chaffey that made it all possible. “As a first generation college student, Chaffey was instrumental in providing me with the tools needed to excel in a university,” Milbes said. “Chaffey is the place where I learned how to navigate an intimidating system and take advantage of all the educational opportunities available to me.”

It’s clear after viewing her path she took advantage of her time. Milbes would move on to get a degree at UC Riverside, and a master’s from Columbia University. Her career path includes an internship at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and a stint with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Plastine refugees in Jerusalem. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at Long Beach City College, and works for Jobs to Move America as a Senior Communications Specialist.

Milbes thanks her family for encouraging her to continue her education and ask for help from the faculty at Chaffey. She also counts former librarian Marie Boyd, counselor Susan Starr and professors Thierry Brusselle, Ryan Falcioni, Alexis Alvarez, among others as those that she still goes to for advice.

“My time at Chaffey was special. I was young but determined to work hard and take full advantage of all the school has to offer,” Milbes said. “Because of this, I have made lifelong friends that I'm still in touch with today.”

Athletic Hall of Fame
Athletic Hall of Fame James E. McLemore Jr.

James (Jim) E. McLemore Jr.
Liberal Arts
Class of 1954
Football & Baseball

Sports was a big piece of Jim McLemore’s life. McLemore directed and coordinated all media activities for the first 10 Super Bowls on top of working for the Houston Oilers.

To many, that would be enough. To McLemore, there was still more to do. He attended every Texas high school girls basketball game and was the official scorer for 26 years and wrote the book, “Texas Schoolgirl Basketball,” published in 1976. He would also cover high school football games the Friday night before home Oiler games, and also loved and chronicled the Texas state meets in Track and Field.

McLemore enrolled at Chaffey College 1952 after serving as a Military Policeman for the Marine Corps during the Korean War. McLemore was a two-year letterman in football and baseball for the Panthers while also being a member of the student government. He also met his wife Harriett there, and their daughter, Margie, was born while he was on the football practice field.

“My father made a brief visit to the hospital and presented my mother with a football for ‘junior,’” Margie Parman said. “Then, he was off to cover a high school football game for the Ontario paper.”

McLemore passed away before the final Oilers preseason game in 1976, and was eulogized nationally for his work with the NFL and in prep sports.

“Chaffey College was instrumental in providing Jim with educational, athletic and social interaction skills,” Parman said. “He developed those skills into a career in what is a very unique profession open to few. He was recognized for his writing skills, his sports knowledge, his professionalism, his mentoring of others, and his unique sense of humor.”

Athletic Hall of Fame
Athletic Hall of Fame Rufus Thompson

Rufus Thompson
Class of 1977

Going to college changed Rufus Thompson’s life. Once through that door, he helped young people find their path to an

In fact, he recommends his path. “I have always encouraged every youngster interested to attend community college first and the next words out of my mouth are Chaffey is an outstanding school and when on the proper course, classes
taken there will transfer easily to any university,” Thompson said.

Thompson attended Chaffey because it was a place to play baseball and study architecture. He moved on to Cal Poly Pomona and played in the minor league for the Minnesota Twins before coming back to CPP to focus on education.

Thompson worked as a teacher and coach for the Mountain View School District for 30 years. He also authored the book, “Yes, You Can!: Advice for Teachers Who Want a Great Start and a Great Finish with Their Students of Color.” His mission was to see students succeed and the results came years later when he’d see the same students thanking him for being a model for them.

He credits his success to his time at Chaffey.

“It was essential to my future success in college,” Thompson said. “My main goal was to play professional baseball. Coach Howard Lowder provided me that opportunity by providing a competitive environment both on the team and against opponents. He taught me the game of baseball beyond the performance level.”

This path he took has him “living the American Dream,” he said. The path also led him to meet his wife or more than 30 years, Gail, at CPP. Together they have three children: Nafissa, NaChe’ and Stephen, and two grandchildren, Isaiah and Iveren.

“They are the best family on the planet,” Thompson said.

Athletic Hall of Fame
Athletic Hall of Fame Natalie Marie Wyatt

Natalie Marie Wyatt
Theatre Arts & Political Science
Class of 2000

It was simple advice Natalie Wyatt’s father gave her about attending Chaffey College.

“My Dad would always say, ‘You never know until you try; keep reaching for your goals, this is the perfect place to see
what you can do,’” Wyatt said. So she did, all she could.

Wyatt would focus her academics in theater, political science and on the softball diamond. As a result, she spent all her waking hours during the week on campus.

“I found more self-confidence in my fields of study here,” Wyatt said. “I knew that my decision to double major was perfect, I already knew I loved those areas, was passionate about them, but at Chaffey I got to hone in and really practice each craft. Rehearse, create, there was always something to do, always ways to improve. We are always
practicing, or rehearsing; we are never experts.”

While the quantity of her activities are evident, it is the quality of the work she produced either in the classroom or in front of a crowd for which she is remembered. Sometimes, the two would almost overlap.

“I play better with fans,” Wyatt said. “My adrenaline is always up and I am positive I have elevated the anxiety of many a coach and director, but Chaffey allowed me to do what I love doing; to add extra courses, to arrive early, to stay late, to get better. So many talented, dedicated and understanding people everywhere I went. My coaches knew I had theatre, my directors knew I had softball; for what seemed like an impossible schedule, we made it work.”

Today, she is married to her husband Thomas and is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and she knows Chaffey had a lot to do with her shaping.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to learn and to grow,” Wyatt said. “Every day there is a chance to be better.”

Rev. 2/13/18

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