Wichita East History, Part 2 – Notable Alumni

Campus Overview – 1925

The students at East High wasted no time in finding ways to contribute to society.  The trend began in 1925, just four years before East became “East,” and continues to this day.   According to the 1929 Wichitan yearbook, two senior girls earned high honors for their Girl Scout work, several were inducted into the National Honor Society, and most of the seniors were involved in a variety of clubs and activities.

Throughout the years, East has boasted of many notable graduates.  Those on the following list may be the most recognized by the public, but it is worthwhile to remember that many students went on to accomplish extraordinary feats and make their mark without this recognition.  Many of the achievements of our class members have been highlighted in stories on this website and indeed illustrate the difference just one person can make.

Notable Alumni listed by Wikipedia, “Wichita East High School”

  • Ross McBurney (1925) – All-American basketball player at Wichita State
  • Stanley Thomas Counts (1943) – United States Navy rear admiral
  • Daryl Spencer (1946) – former MLB player, played an additional eight years in Japan
  • Bruce Conner (1951) – Beat Generation-era experimental artist who influenced the music video genre
  • Clay Lacy (1951) – multiple world-record-holding air pilot and motion picture aerial coordinator
  • Fritz Brickell (1953) – former MLB player for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Jeffrey Farrell (1954) – champion swimmer who went on to participate in the 1960 Olympics
  • Ron Walters (1955) – civil rights pioneer, participant in 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-in
  • Philip Anschutz (1957) – billionaire, real estate developer
  • Diane Bish (1959) – organist, composer, PBS television hostess
  • George Tiller (1959) – physician, assassinated in 2009 for providing abortion services
  • Robert Gates (1961) – Chancellor of the College of William & Mary, former Secretary of Defense, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and former president of Texas A&M University
  • Jim Waskiewicz (1962) – All-American Football Player at Wichita State and former player for the New York Jets
  • Jamie Thompson (1963) – All-American basketball player at Wichita State and amateur golf champion, professional basketball player for the Dallas Chaparrals
  • Jim Ryun (1965) – former US Representative from Kansas and a world-record mile runner; recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Charles “Chuck” Jones (1970) – American astronaut, passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 that hit World Trade Center
  • Kevin Kastning (1978) – composer and recording artist for Greydisc Records
  • Kym Carter (1982) – received 10th place in the heptathlon at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona; won the bronze medal in the five-event pentathlon, at the 1997 IAAF World Indoor Championships
  • Adrian Griffin (1992) – assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors
  • Korleone Young (1997) – former NBA player for the Detroit Pistons
  • Taj Gray (2002) – professional basketball player
  • Taryn Southern (2003) – singer and actress
  • Arthur Brown (2008) – NFL linebacker
  • Bryce Brown (2009) – NFL running back, 2009 Hall Trophy winner
  • Oliver Bradwell (2010) – American sprinter, gold medalist at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics
  • Hannah Wagner (2014) – Miss Kansas 2015
  • Joe Walsh, guitarist for The Eagles, also attended East before moving to Columbus, Ohio
  • Bruce McCray, former NFL player for the Chicago Bears

Editor’s Note:  Bolded names indicate those who attended East close to our time and who went on to experience success in various fields. 


Phil Anschutz, ’57, is a billionaire businessman who has owned control in a variety of industries, including energy, railroads, real estate, sports, newspapers, movies, theatres, arenas, and music.  A few years after graduating from East, he bought out his father’s oil drilling company, the start of his many business ventures.  Among his more well-known  involvements have been Regal Entertainment, The San Francisco Examiner, a number of pro soccer teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Staples Center, and the Broadmoor Hotel. Somewhat reclusive, he is most generous with his fortune, and as one of the world’s richest persons, he remains an active philanthropist.

Diane Bish, ’59, is an internationally-acclaimed organist who practiced after school on the 1925 Austen pipe organ installed in the East High auditorium. In 1984, she returned there to play a benefit concert, which raised enough money for the East High organ to be restored. A flamboyant performer, Bish has produced 500 television shows for her series, The Joy of Music, performing on famous pipe organs in churches, concert halls, and auditoriums throughout Europe and North America. In addition to playing the organs, Bish writes the scripts for her shows, using skills she honed as editor of East High’s The Messenger. In addition to publishing books about organs and organ music, she has recorded numerous organ performances and television shows now available on You Tube and for sale at bookstores and Amazon.com.

Bob Gates, ’61, demonstrated his life-long commitment to service from a young age. An active member of Boy Scouts with Lee Ayres, Fred Elder, John Van Slyke, and other 1960 classmates, Bob attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He is remembered for his integrity, extraordinary range of skills, and good-humored adaptability to working with diverse partners. At East High, Bob sang with ensembles and performed in stage musicals. He also served as an athletics team manager, doing operational tasks including laundering uniforms, keeping meticulous statistics, ordering supplies, and talking with sports reporters. For 26 years, he worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and the National Security Agency, rising through the ranks to the level of CIA Director. He then served as Secretary of Defense for Presidents Bush and Obama from 2006-2011. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After leaving these presidential assignments, he served on corporate boards and then as president of Texas A&M University. The author of many books and articles, Gates’ latest publication is Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World.

Jim Ryun, ’65, didn’t find running easy or pleasant at first.  He couldn’t run far, he hurt, running exhausted him and kept him from being able to eat dinner after a workout.  But, he wanted to be an athlete, and by a process of elimination, he decided running was his only option.  Maybe the 440 was his race.  Listening to the sports opportunities at the beginning of his sophomore year at East, he opted to start cross country in the fall and track in the spring.  He joined the teams, and his dogged inner drive and self-discipline slowly propelled him toward respectability.  Coach Timmons noticed, and the rest is history.  He was confident Jim could run a 4-minute mile, and began training Jim with that goal in mind.  The goal was not only reached, it was surpassed. Jim was the first high school boy to break 4 minutes for the mile (3:59.0) in 1964 at the Compton Relays in California.  His 1965 high school mile record of 3:55.3 lasted 36 years.  He went on to run the mile in three Olympics (Tokyo, Mexico City, where he won a silver, and Munich).  Jim and Coach Timmons remained lifelong friends, and Jim trained with Coach in Lawrence KS.  Jim married Anne Snider in 1969 and they have four children.  Anne has been a steadfast soulmate in their intimate faith journey.  Jim was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas’s 2nd district and served from 1996-2007.  On July 24, 2020, President Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In Quest of Gold, the Jim Ryun Story by Jim with Mike Phillips is his biography.




1 Comment
  1. Janice Bailey 1 year ago

    I enjoyed reading about these talented and illustrious Blue Aces, but wished the many graduates who went on to educate the following generations would also get notice for their essential work.

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