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Longtime EU High principal selected for Hall of Fame

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POSTED April 4, 2010 1:52 a.m.
Dick Durham - a man whose half century career in education includes 18 years as the East Union High principal - is being inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame.

The dinner and induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame take place Saturday, May 1, at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane. Tickets are $40 apiece and available at the Manteca Boys & Girls Club, 545 Alameda St., or by calling 239-KIDS.

Other members of the Class of 2010 are Evelyn Prouty, community service; Sammy Davis, special recognition; Susie Beeler, at large; Kirt Giovannoni, education; Dr. Mel Larson, health care; Gail Perry, business; and Janet Dyk, agriculture.

Durham is being inducted for education.

Durham has served as a teacher, counselor, and administrator. His main philosophy has always been, “Let’s do what’s right for the kids.”

“Through Dick’s career he has always been an innovator,” noted Dino Cunial in nomination papers for Durham. “He worked to improve programs in all school disciplines including academics, athletics, and the arts, and the vocations. Dick’s mentorship led to three of his assistant principals going on to become principals in the Manteca Unified School District. His leadership style allowed for professional growth in the careers of many colleagues.”

In an interview years ago, Durham shared how Ron Hanamoto was quarterbacking the East Union High Lancers using the formidable wish-bone offense coordinated by head coach Vern Gebhardt.

It was November of 1974. East Union was undefeated in football and never had beaten Manteca High on the varsity level.

When the dust finally settled in the 1974 version of the Big Game, it was 30-13 for the Lancers who won the Valley Oak League championship and racked up the only undefeated football season in the history of the school that graduated its first class in 1967.

It was extra sweet for Durham who was in his first year as principal. Not only did his 18-year career as principal - the longest ever at EU - start out on a winning note but he also got to enjoy bragging rights at the dinner table. His son Jim was a freshman that year at cross-town rival Manteca High.

East Union High opened with sophomores officially in the fall of 1966 in the older section of Manteca High where the fabled bell tower once stood. The plan had been to start school at the North Union Road campus but a steel strike delayed construction. So the two friendly cross-town rivals shared a campus in EU’s infancy. The first principal was Bill Rodoni, who after a year, was replaced by Bob Trigg. Then his replacement was Gary Brophy. Durham was next serving from 1974 through 1993 before being followed by Linda Frost, Roger Hartman and then John Alba who just marked his seventh year as head of the Lancers.

When Durham arrived at East Union High in 1974, it was still pretty much “out in the country.”

To the north of the campus were corn fields. To the east, there were onion fields and to the west almonds. South of the campus was more irrigated farmland.

The initial student body was comprised primarily of Lathrop and French Camp students as well as those who lived in Manteca generally north of Yosemite Avenue.

Durham, it should be noted, is known for his upbeat personality with his own distint brand of humor.

He liked the Lancers being competitive on the playing field as well as off.

He remembers when East Union High tested higher than Manteca High for the first time in the school improvement program.

Between beating Manteca High in football and edging the Buffaloes out academically, the step-cousin attitude that once seemed to be the rule of the day when it came to East Union effectively dissipated.

He is particularly proud of East Union’s 44-plus years of academic excellence. On his watch, the first Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program was started.

The Oregon State University graduate also has been active at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church as board member and treasurer. He was also an active member of Manteca Rotary and served as the club’s recording secretary.

Durham, served four years as president of the Valley Oak League, chaired the South Sac-Joaquin Section Realignment Committee for 15 years and also served as chairman for the south section’s by-laws committee for four years.

A veteran of the U.S. Marines Corps, Durham was wounded in action during the Korean War.

Durham and his wife Ernie have four children - Joanne Bellestreri, Richard Durham, Jim Durham, and Chris Etcheverry.

His hobbies include woodworking, building, and traveling.
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