For his last time Tuesday, retiring Cal State Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell announced four community members would be inducted into the 2017 Alumni Hall of Fame, an honor he helped create when he first came to CSUB 12 years ago. 

When alumni association officials approached Mitchell about the Hall of Fame in 2006, he was enthusiastic about making the event a tradition. 

"It would be another signature event for our Alumni Association," Mitchell recalled thinking at the time. "They wanted to make sure alumni from this university were getting that recognition." 

He gave that recognition one final time Tuesday during a press conference and reception at the Dezember Reading Room. 

Inductees include a public health nurse who has championed the creation of school community wellness centers for uninsured students, a life insurance agent who saved a local daycare center from closure, a businessman who transformed the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and, for the first time in the hall of fame's history, a local teacher. 

"The alumni selected here today not only represent those in Kern County or Bakersfield, but all four million CSU alumni," said John Nilon, a double alumnus of CSUB and retired Kern County chief administrative officer who now serves as a CSU trustee representing alumni. "It's not just a local honor, but a state honor, and in many ways, a national honor." 

They'll be formally inducted during a ceremony Feb. 16 at Bakersfield Country Club. 

The inductees are:


CSUB degrees earned: baccalaureate in nursing, 1982; master’s in education, 2000

Debbie Wood has spent her career fighting to create better health outcomes in Kern County.

A public health nurse who went to work for Bakersfield City School District in the early 2000s, Wood championed the district’s efforts to develop three multimillion dollar regional community health centers for under- and uninsured students and parents in areas that had poor access to doctors offices, clinics and medical facilities. 

She identified the medical deserts — the same areas where chronic absenteeism, poverty and health issues ran rampant. That’s where the centers, staffed with full-time nurse practitioners and counselors, would stand.

“We don’t have enough providers in our community,” Wood said in January when the centers opened. “If a student goes home with an earache, or a stomach ache, they could be out for weeks. They’re missing all that learning.”

The district is planning to open a fourth clinic at Stella Hills Elementary School this year and Wood has at least six more schools identified that need such facilities, but lacks the funding to erect them.

Earlier, she worked with optical companies, doctors and nonprofit organizations to implement annual eye exam clinics for elementary school students. Suddenly, students who couldn’t afford glasses and were without insurance were given the gift of sight.

Wood, BCSD’s school health coordinator, was the driving force behind the Healthy Start Collaborative between BCSD and her former employer, Delano Union School District, which helps families overcome barriers to learning and school attendance.

She’s also taught at the CSUB Nursing Program for almost 20 years, mentoring students in and out of the classroom. The work is vital: Kern County has long struggled to attract and retain qualified nurses.

Wood is retiring in July, a decision she announced to BCSD's board of trustees Tuesday during their regular board meeting. 


CSUB degrees earned: teaching credential, 1999; master’s in education, 2000

Jeremy Adams has, for years, stunned, entertained and excited students and adults alike with high-flying theatrics, song-and-dance numbers and glitzy, show-stopping entrances to Bakersfield High School’s Harvey Auditorium.

Then, the longtime civics teacher did something equally stunning: he got students excited to learn about their government.

The architect behind the Earl Warren Cup, a constitutional quiz show hosted every two years at BHS, Adams packs Harvey Auditorium to the rafters — and he hardly disappoints.

It’s no ordinary quiz show. He has, in the past, recruited superstars of the political world like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey to video record themselves asking quiz questions of Drillers.

A second-generation teacher, Adams not only inspires teenagers at Bakersfield High, but also lectures college students at CSUB.

A sought-after keynote speaker who has twice delivered CSUB commencement addresses, Adams infuses his talks with wit, wisdom and enthusiasm. He regularly publishes an educational-themed column for the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, including one — “The Secrets of Timeless Teachers” — that has been widely used by public school districts in California.

In it, he decries instructional fads in favor of what cannot be replaced: inspirational teaching.

If Adams’ students don’t testify to that — many of whom yearn for the chance to get into his class — his accolades do.

He’s been named Kern County Teacher of the Year by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, California Teacher of the Year by the Daughters of the American Revolution, a semi-finalist for California Teacher of the Year by the California Board of Education and a finalist for the Carlson Family Foundation National Teacher Award.

Adams is the first teacher to be inducted into CSUB’s Hall of Fame.


CSUB degrees earned: master's in business administration, 2000

Twelve years after helping found CSUB’s Alumni Hall of Fame, Bryan Burrow’s name will be added to the list of those honored.

He is a well-known community leader and businessman who has been credited with transforming the nonprofit Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, which saw its attendance rise 67 percent under his leadership, while its endowment grew to more than $2.3 million.

He left his position as executive director there to become chief operations officer at Bakersfield-based Sierra School Equipment Co.

After earning his master’s degree, Burrow spent two decades in business and management, and served on seven nonprofit boards, gaining a reputation as someone who brings a new vision to nonprofits.

A fundraiser with strong ties to CSUB, Burrow has been a past chair of the President’s Community Advisory Council, a past president of the Alumni Association, an adjunct professor and has helped make the annual alumni Party in the Park event a staple. He was CSUB’s 2010 alumnus of the year.


CSUB degrees earned: baccalaureate in business administration, 1980

Edward Paine has had long, successful careers in the insurance and real estate businesses while also donating his time and money to children’s, healthcare and university causes.

Paine spent his life working as an insurance agent and benefits broker starting in 1975 before helping his son build a successful real estate business, that, at its height, was selling 300 homes a year locally, and 500 statewide.

He’s credited with saving the Mercy Child Development Center, a daycare center for kids ranging in age from infancy to about 10 years old. He took financial responsibility for the center, which now cares for about 150 kids a year and is known as California Ivy league Preparatory Academy.

His community service includes being part of a group that ramped up local development of the local Boys and Girls Clubs in the 1990s, service on the Mercy Hospital Community Board and a 15-year tenure on the CSUB President’s Community Advisory Council.

He’s also a CSUB donor who believes universities “won’t be great unless people like you and I give back a little of ourselves.”

​Harold Pierce can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @RoldyPierce.