La Jolla High School honors big names in entertainment on new Wall of Fame

Film director and producer Gore Verbinski stands under his photo on La Jolla High School's Wall of Fame at Parker Auditorium.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The wall displays photos and plaques for alumni Cliff Robertson, Raquel Welch, Gore Verbinski and Robin Wright and former theater teacher Walter Stewart.


As La Jolla High School theater students prepared for their evening performance of “Beauty and the Beast” on May 13, a different kind of presentation took place in the Parker Auditorium lobby.

La Jolla High alumni going back decades gathered with friends and family for the unveiling and induction ceremony of the school’s new Wall of Fame, honoring four alumni and a former teacher.

For the record:

8:18 a.m. May 20, 2023This article has been updated to correct the year Cliff Robertson graduated from La Jolla High School.

The wall displays photos and plaques for actor Cliff Robertson; class of 1941; actress Raquel Welch, class of 1958; film director and producer Gore Verbinski, class of 1982; actress Robin Wright, class of 1983; and theater educator Walter Stewart, who taught at LJHS from 1972 until his retirement in 1994.

La Jolla High School's Wall of Fame honors Cliff Robertson, Raquel Welch, Gore Verbinski, Robin Wright and Walter Stewart.
(Jim McInerney)

The inductees were selected because they became “successful in the world of entertainment or have shown tireless devotion to our performing arts programs,” according to an accompanying plaque.

The Wall of Fame began as a project to coincide with the school’s centennial last year, spearheaded by current theater teacher Stacey Allen and Erick Haswell, treasurer of the drama department’s parents booster club and a former student of Stewart’s.

“When I first got here, I kept hearing all these stories about these wonderful alumni that we have, all these really talented people … in the world of entertainment,” Allen said.

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After the photos and plaques were installed, the Wall of Fame “looked like it’s always been here,” Allen said. “It looks like it’s supposed to be here.”

Verbinski and Wright are the only honorees still living. Wright did not attend.

Having his photo displayed on the Wall of Fame at his alma mater is “weird,” Verbinski told the La Jolla Light. “I’m just here to honor Mr. Stewart.”

La Jolla High theater teacher Stacey Allen welcomes guests to the Wall of Fame inductions.
La Jolla High theater teacher Stacey Allen welcomes guests to the Wall of Fame inductions ahead of his class production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
(Elisabeth Frausto)

That sentiment was shared by many in attendance, most of whom are related to or are former students of Stewart’s. Several shared memories and tributes to Stewart, who died in September 2021.

Stewart’s theater classes were more than mere electives, Verbinski told the group. “He took it seriously. ‘A’ was the hardest grade to possibly get. I just loved the man … he definitely blew wind in my sails and changed my course.”

Verbinski went on to direct the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “The Ring” and “Rango,” for which he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for 2011.

When Allen, who has been at La Jolla High for seven years, first began teaching theater 27 years ago, Stewart “was the top theater teacher in the district,” he said. Stewart visited Allen at school to show him “all the nooks and crannies. This theater is because of this man,” Allen said.

“I just loved the man … he definitely blew wind in my sails and changed my course.”

— Film director Gore Verbinski, speaking about late La Jolla High School theater teacher Walter Stewart

Sharon Gleason, LJHS class of 1978, was Stewart’s theater student and later worked for him while in college. She said Stewart was “a force of nature and had a personality that was an intriguing mix of encouraging optimism and perfect sarcasm.”

Gleason, who runs an adult school at night, said she takes “every opportunity I can to promote the same camaraderie of running a show as [Stewart] did. I push others to laugh, work, take care of business. … Today, thousands of students who never got to meet [Stewart] have benefited for all that [he] did for one student in the mid-1970s.”

Stewart’s grandson Samuel Quinzon credited him with influencing his own path in the performing arts. “It’s nice to know that people still remember what he did,” Quinzon said.

Former student Linda Dowley agreed that Stewart “made the whole school a better place by the excellence he brought to everything he did.” ◆