Written by Rosemary Leonetti/Syntax
With the Long Beach School District celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, it was fitting that this year’s four inductees to the Long Beach High School Wall of Fame spanned the history of Long Beach from its inception in the early 1900s to the present.
Represented in the 2013 group of honorees were Long Beach developer and State Senator William Reynolds, educational visionary Dr. David G. Salten, 1954 graduate John Radin Sr. and 2000 graduate Cliff Skudin. Over the span of more than a century, these four exceptional leaders showed their love and dedication to the people of Long Beach in unique and lasting ways, personifying so poignantly what makes Long Beach such a special place to live, learn and belong.
Sen. Reynolds was nominated by the Long Beach Public Schools 100 Year Anniversary Committee for his contribution as an early developer of the “city by the sea.” He was responsible for dredging the channel, named in his honor, and credited for his vision in developing a boardwalk, homes and hotels on what was previously just a large sandbar. But perhaps his most important contribution to the successful development of the city was the establishment of the first public school in Long Beach.
“I am so delighted that we have recognized this unsung hero, who in 15 years acted on a vision that turned a sandbar into a self-governing city,” said Long Beach historian Roberta Fiore. Reynolds’ great-grandson Marc Futoran was present to accept the award on behalf of his family.
Dr. Salten, who was also nominated by the 100 Year Anniversary Committee, served as the superintendent of the Long Beach City School District from 1950-1961. A champion of equal education for all, he was an active proponent of desegregation in public schools. After leaving Long Beach, he served as the superintendent of the New Rochelle School District, the executive director of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the provost of New York Institute of Technology.
“He was an educational architect who possessed the superior intellect and leadership to think the unthinkable,” said NYIT professor Dr. Maryse Prezeau. “He was an educator, a father and a friend to all humanity, giving nobility to the humblest of tasks.” Proudly accepting his award in his memory was his daughter Phoebe Salten.
During his days as a student at Long Beach High School, Radin was an accomplished member of the baseball and football teams. After serving in the Army, he returned home to Long Beach where his love of hockey inspired him to help the high school to form a hockey club team, which he went on to coach in the early 1970s.
But perhaps he is best known for his work to highlight the service of local veterans. He founded the Walk of Honor at the Long Beach Recreation Center and led the return of the local Blue Star Banner campaign, giving recognition to families whose loved ones are serving in the military. He also created an essay contest for Long Beach Middle School students, titled, “What Does the American Flag Mean to Me?” Sadly, he passed away last year.
“He was passionate about his love for his country and the flag that represents it,” said his daughter Jeanne Radin, who accepted the award on behalf of her father.
Skudin, this year’s youngest and only living inductee, found inspiration for his life’s work from the sea that surrounds us and the spirit of giving that defines us as residents of Long Beach. A day of volunteering at a surf outing for disabled children turned into a life-altering experience that gave him the strength and determination to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in education.
With his brother Will, he launched Skudin Surf, sharing his love of surfing with young and old alike. They went on to create Surf for All, a nonprofit organization that provides surfing opportunities for children with special needs. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he organized volunteers to raise more than $100,000 to help rebuild the community. In addition, he still holds the high school record for the 200-yard freestyle and is ranked 40th in the Big Wave Tour of Surfing.
“As I watched him grow up, he turned into an example of what Long Beach is all about,” said master of ceremonies Steve Kohut. “He came back to contribute to the youth of the community.”
A time-honored homecoming tradition that began in 1996, the Wall of Fame is presented each year by the Long Beach Booster Club in cooperation with Long Beach Public Schools to serve as an inspiration to the youth of Long Beach.
The Wall of Fame was conceived to honor present and former members of the Long Beach community who have made substantial contributions either locally or to the world at large, including contributors in the area of athletics. This year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the district, the Wall of Fame was expanded to include historical figures, living and deceased, who have played a critical role in local politics, cultural affairs, business and education.