Oneonta Club | Three SPHS Seniors Awarded Scholarships

Oneonta Club Foundation honors students with $30,000 in scholarships and teachers with $2,000 in grants.

PHOTO: Oneonta Club Foundation | Scholarship Winners featured, from left to right: Oneonta Club Event Chair Dan Evans, Alyysa Chan, Conner Wang, Laurian Lien, Oneonta Club Foundation President William Cullinane.

News provided by Oneonta Club Foundation

May is a very special month for South Pasadena’s Oneonta Club. May is when the Club presents an Oneonta Club Foundation $10,000 Swan Scholarship to each of three South Pasadena High School graduating seniors.

First presented in 1955, the Oneonta Club has awarded nearly 140 deserving SPHS students with cash scholarships. Once more this year, the master of ceremonies at the May meeting, was Dan Evans, one of the 1955 winners (although Dan only received $100 back then).

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The Foundation selected the three students from more than three dozen of highly-qualified applicants. “It is a relief that I don’t have to pick between the finalists,” confides Foundation president Bill Cullinane, “because the candidates are all so remarkable, and this year was no exception”.

ALYSSA CHAN aspires to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, learned surgical skills in a summer internship at Stanford, and volunteered at the Huntington Hospital. Alyssa also played on the HS basketball team where she served as captain, was named 2022 defensive player of the year, and was selected for the All-Rio Hondo League First team. Alyssa plans to study molecular and cellular biology at UC Berkeley.

LAURIAN LIEN intends to become an aerospace engineer and an astronaut. Laurian has developed an enthusiasm for mathematics and volunteered for “Calculus for a Cause”. She served as captain of the SPHS varsity swim team, where she twice won the Coaches Award. Laurian also became a professional sound engineer for The Way, received awards for graphic design, served as president of the Urban Sustainability Club, and for three summers flew to Kyrgystan where she taught English. Laurian will study aerospace engineering at Purdue University.

CONNOR WANG has already taken all the mathematics courses offered at PCC, where he “discovered a side of math filled with artistry”. Conner has developed a passion for the capability of computer science to contribute to other fields, like the summer research program at Caltech analyzing genomic data to research codon usage bias. Not limited to math, Conner has a passion for rock climbing, and has secured two separate grants to provide rock climbing sessions for underprivileged youth. He also explores the music of Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi on the piano. Conner will study applied mathematics at UCLA.

The other May meeting tradition honors the South Pasadena Unified School District’s teachers of the year. Elementary Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Detterich of Monterey Hills School was introduced by MHS Principal, Dr. Laurie Narro. An educator for about 20 years, nine of those at Monterey Hills, Detterich was recognized for her caring work with 3rd – 5th grade students who need specialized academic instruction.

PHOTO: Oneonta Club Foundation | Teachers honored from left to right, SPUSD Super intendent, Geoff Yantz, Monterey Hills School Principal Dr. Laurie Narro, MHS of the Year Teacher Jennifer Detterich, SPHS Teacher of the Year Maryann Nielsen, SPHS Principal John Elred.

Introduced by SPHS John Eldred, Maryann Nielsen, the South Pasadena High School teacher is also a graduate from SPHS, returning to teach in 2005. In addition to teaching History and Government classes, Nielsen serves as the Social Studies Department Chair, member of the Tiger Bingo Committee, and leads a group of students to Washington D.C. each year through Close Up Washington.

In addition to being named South Pasadena Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year by their peers, these teachers each received a $1,000 honorarium and commemorative plaque from the Oneonta Foundation.

“We are all proud to be part of this great community and to honor both its outstanding students and amazing educators, like Jennifer and Maryann,” remarked Oneonta Club president, Tom Polansky. “What thrills me is how tight our community is. One of the principals taught a Scholarship winner’s mother, and several Club members were themselves teachers or principals for Maryann.”

Through the vision of past Club President Philip V. Swan (for whom the Scholarship is named), the Oneonta Club Foundation was created in 1975 as a separate 501c3. The dedication and foresight of Swan along with that of his good friend Ross MacMichael (who served as the Foundation’s President for 22 years) created a lasting legacy in South Pasadena. Also recognized this year was longtime Club member and Foundation Board member, William Bird who passed in 2021.

Since its founding in 1923, the Oneonta Club creed includes the following statement, “I further believe that only with confidence founded upon acquaintance, friendship and understanding may we render free and unselfish service to each other and our country”.

Through these scholarships and teacher grants, The Oneonta Club and The Oneonta Foundation both remain in service to the youth and teachers of South Pasadena and support their growth into the leaders of tomorrow.