Our Alumni

In 1897, the year Placer High School was established with only 17 students, William McKinley was inaugurated as the 25th president of the United States. Fifteen men competed in the first Boston Marathon. The Library of Congress Building opened in Washington, DC. The Klondike gold rush began. And several renowned Americans were born, including aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner, and baseball player Lefty O’Doul.

For more than 125 years, Placer High has stood on the hill as witness to modern history. From the horrors of war to the promise of peace…economic depressions to dot-com booms… horse drawn carriages to space travel… and everything in between, Placer

graduates have been an integral part of local and world history. Graduates have gone on to serve in congress, as WWII aces, cutting-edge scientists, distinguished judges, professional athletes, media stars, business leaders, and so much more.


The Engle Era

Dr. John F. Engle became principal of Placer High School in 1906 and began a long and illustrious 30-year career in which the school expanded from five teachers in one rickety wooden building to an 800-student faculty boasting five buildings and the creation of a junior college. At the same time the high school developed a reputation throughout the state as one of the finest secondary institutions of the Placer High School District which extended from Loomis to Lake Tahoe.

Several landmark buildings were added during Engle’s stay as principal. During the 1906-07 school years the original Sierra College wooden building was torn down and replaced

1906 Upper Campus Building

by a $40,000 building. The new building was a substantial brick structure consisting of 22 rooms on four levels, including a basement, and a large tin dome. Heating was by an automatic system which regulated both temperature and ventilation in every room. Within a few years statuary, pictures, and potted plants were added to beatify the interior of the school. The library was considered one of the finest in Northern California and the collection of American history in the History department was the best in Northern California.

In 1909 shower baths and lockers for the Athletes were installed downstairs in the new building. In the next few years tennis courts were finished on the site of the old wooden building and a football field and track were installed. By 1918 the school showcased a large wooden gymnasium with sideline seating and a stage. The year 1926, however marked the beginning of a new era for Placer when the music/auditorium and science wings were added and the brick building was plastered over to match the architectural style of the two new wings. The auto shop and bus shed building along Agard Street were also constructed at this time. Ten years later, building began on Placer Junior College buildings, gym and athletic field during the final year of Engle’s administration, 1936.

Athletics began to have an impact on the school during Engle’s tenure as well. In addition of a young coach from the University of California, Earl Crabbe, enabled the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams to create a dynasties of legendary significance. Between 1916 and 1920 his girls’ basketball team went 41-1 winning 37 games in succession at one point, compiling four straight undefeated seasons. Beginning in 1923 his boys’ basket ball teams won 16 out of 17 league championships, including 12 in a row. Crabbe also coached his men to eight Central California titles in 13 appearances.

Engle was at the helm as a student endured the tragedy of World War I when a junior Red Cross Club was organized on campus with girls learning to make surgical dressings and the entire school donating over $500 to a war drive. The Engle years also saw the formation of the first high school cadet corps in the State of California under the direction of Captain Fred S. Roumage, a National Guard officer and later captain in France in World War I.

The year 1914 marked the birth of the Placer High School district, thus again changing the names of the school to Placer High School. That same year college level classes were revived after having disappeared several years earlier. However, due to the enrollment drain caused by World War I, the junior college was abandoned by 1920.

Certain ceremonies were now becoming traditional such as the Freshman Reception, the Christmas Jinx, the Junior Prom, the Senior Ball, Senior Picnic, and the Graduation and Alumni Dance. Participation in clubs and organization also grew, beginning with the Agricultural Science Organization which became the Future Farmers of America, the oldest club in existence. During the period of time the Placer Band came into prominence under the guidance of Otto Fox, entertaining the school and the community at various concerts and public performances.

Academics also took on prominence during the Engle principalship. A four year curriculum became the norm with students tracked into Classical, Scientific, or Commercial fields of study. All paths were stiffly challenging with semester finals a dreaded period of time for the students. Miscreant students were dealt with severely and Detention became an unwelcome punishment. Still, Engle and his vice-Principal E.F. Waldo were highly respected by the students and could be seen attending various cultural, social and Athletic events at the school.




We empower students, faculty, and staff for enhanced learning through grants, tech initiatives, and scholarships, propelling them into a successful future beyond high school.


Hillmen Foundation fuels athletic achievements through grants, enhancing safety, facilities, and community fitness.


We foster holistic education by supporting diverse activities through grants, enriching students' experiences beyond the classroom.


Placer High's rich history shines through alumni activities, fostering a strong network connecting generations and the community.


Placer High's prime Auburn location fuels community growth, enhancing facilities and programs through strategic grants.



Students, faculty and staff apply for and receive educational grants for a wide range of needs that are typically not covered by state funding. Every year, thousands of dollars are granted to enrich academics, athletics and activities that directly benefit students, our feeder schools, and community. Examples of these grants include support for:


Art Equipment and Materials

3-D Printers

Math Materials, including Specialized Calculators

Band Instruments & Uniforms

Programs for At-Risk Students

DNA Lab Materials

Science Equipment

Field Trips

Microprocessor Kits

Music & Drama Materials

Performing Arts Sound & Lighting Equipment

Journalism Dept. Materials

Special Education Enterprise Programs

Photo Lab Equipment, including Cameras, Lenses, and Filters

AVID Program

Special Curriculum & Materials for Every Department

Career Tech Equipment, including Welding Machines

World (Foreign) Language Programs

Peer Counseling Program

VAULT Program

Faculty Continuing Education


General / Multi Athletic Teams




Track & Field



Cross Country

Ski / Snowboard




Grad Night

Enrichment Events

Dance Team

Campus Clubs

Special Programs for Middle & Elementary School Students

Eagle Scout Projects

Community Service Endeavors

Career Day Projects


​Grants for alumni programs help highlight distinguished graduates and their impact in the community and world, as well as connect Hillmen of all ages to their alma mater. These grants include:

- Alumni Bricks Courtyard

​ - Alumni Center

- All Class Reunion

- Centennial Celebration

- Placer Hall of Fame

- Athletic Hall of Fame

- Central Square Tiles in Memory of our Founder Jug Covich and Long-time Board member/Distinguished Alumni Ty Rowe


Special grants for capital improvements or other major initiatives that enhance both the school and community are a significant hallmark of the Foundation’s work over the past three decades. Here are examples:

- Campus Gateway Centennial Arch

- Iron Hillmen Sculpture Base

- Athletic Complex Campaign

- All Weather Track

- Stadium Scoreboard

- Stadium Sound System & Speakers

- Stadium Lights

- Stadium Snack bar Roof

- Sherbina Water Fountain Restoration

- Press Box Renovation

- Track Walkway

​ - Earl Crabbe Gym Snack Shack

The Hillmen Foundation strives to connect our alumni with their classmates and the school that launched the lives of generations of Auburn teens.

● The new Alumni Center in the Earl Crabbe Gym reminds visitors of the Hillmen legacy of achievement in our community and world.

● We are proud supporters of the Placer Hall of Fame and the Placer Athletic Hall of Fame, honoring distinguished graduates, faculty, staff, and coaches.

● Grants to the widely-attended All-Class Reunions and Centennial Celebration united Hillmen of all ages and brought economic benefit to the entire community.

Clarence "Bud" Anderson and Dean "Diz" Laird

​● Our special events, such as the popular Hillmen Tailgater in Central Square, have honored Hillmen Heroes like WWII fighter aces Clarence “Bud” Anderson and Dean “Diz” Laird (both class of 1939), and served as a mini-reunion for graduates and friends.

● Individual class reunions are also supported by The Hillmen Foundation, including maintaining a master list of graduates by class.



Every donation, regardless of size, will positively impact Placer High students, our community, and life on the Hill. All contributions to

the Hillmen Foundation are tax deductible in accordance with state and federal tax laws.






















*Scholarships include Foundation-sponsored and Endowments with the Hillmen Foundation

In the best of times, in the worst of times, at all times… It’s great to be a Hillman!


The purpose of the Hillmen Foundation is to support Placer High School in the areas of academics, student activities, and athletics, including the staff, students, and alumni endeavors of the school; to stimulate gifts of service, endowments, and bequests; and to maintain an association of persons interested in Placer High School.






Special Projects & Initiatives


P.O. Box 6115 Auburn, CA 95604

Tax ID #68-0168995

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved


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My Unique Vantage Point: The Evolution of the Hillmen Foundation

November 16, 20236 min read

One of the most rewarding things about being a teacher is fostering a student’s growth over the years. Seeing goofy, awkward freshman become confident seniors is a true pleasure. Watching them achieve their potential and become a contributing member to their community is a bonus.

I feel the same about the Hillmen Foundation. It’s been my pleasure to watch the organization grow from a small group of interested individuals to a powerful non-profit that supports the students of Placer High School.

The Foundation was born out of necessity. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13 which drastically cut and capped property taxes and hobbled the state’s ability to raise money for schools. Overnight, the tax revenue available to pay for public schooling was slashed by one-third. Throughout the next decade, Placer High School suffered funding cuts along with the rest of the state.

To address the issue, in 1989, former Placer High School Principal Jug Covich and Teacher/Coach Tom Johnson teamed up with a small committee of Auburn citizens to form the Hillmen Foundation as a 501(c)3 non-profit. The mission of the foundation was to support Placer High programs in academics, activities, and athletics; to stimulate gifts of service, endowments and bequests; and to maintain an association of persons interested in Placer High School.

At first, the committee was comprised of five officers and three committee members of which I was one. In the early years, we held infrequent meetings at Jug Covich’s house, feasting on pies and cookies made by Barbara Covich and doling out grants to teachers at Placer who had applied for support. Much of the meetings involved Covich and Johnson comparing Cal and USC football stories.

At first the Foundation used small membership revenues to support its mission. Then in 1991, Auburn citizen Alonzo Hazen, a PG&E employee, came to the rescue. Upon his death, he left the bulk of his estate to Placer High School for a science scholarship to be awarded to a graduating boy and girl. The Hillmen Foundation became the executor of the estate, which included approximately $23,000 in cash, PG&E stock that generated nearly $500 a quarter at the time, and a home which was sold for $100,000.

During the 1990s when Johnson was the principal of Placer High, he held weekly Bingo nights at the Auburn Gold Country Fairgrounds to raise money for the Foundation. He called the numbers and each night a different school club or academic department worked the event, receiving a portion of the proceeds.

Bingo nights were difficult for the principal and teachers, requiring evening work after a full day at school. And, because smoking was still allowed in public buildings at that time, a majority of the players indulged in their nicotine habit all night long. Exhausted school workers went home at night, their clothes and hair reeking of cigarette smoke, but their programs enhanced financially.

In 1997, the school celebrated its centennial. A committee of Placer alumni and community persons worked for three years in advance of the celebration. During the three-day event, I had the opportunity to view how special Placer High is in the hearts of its graduates. Old Town Auburn was closed down on Friday night, and graduates, friends, and family packed the streets sharing food and drink and memories.

Individual classes assembled at the Fairgrounds on Saturday for specific year reunions. Sunday featured a parade of cars representing almost each of the past 100 years down High Street, and concluded with a massive picnic at the Fairgrounds.

It was evident to me that Placer High is a special place with a strong emotional bond that ties the alumni and the community and its citizens to the school. The Hillmen Foundation received all proceeds from the celebration, allowing us to function for the next several years.

Under Johnson’s chairmanship, the Foundation grew to include more members and reached a total of 12. In 2014, the Foundation stepped into a fund-raising mode to hold a community dinner called Hillfest on the field at LeFebvre Stadium. More than 300 paying guests and business sponsors attended to hear various club advisors and coaches describe activities at the school. Again, the Hillmen Foundation received all proceeds from the event which allowed us to proceed with grants to PHS academics, activities, and athletics.

Various Placer grads were so thrilled with the Centennial celebration that several got together in 2014 to begin planning an encore event, the All-Class Reunion, even though the date held no insignificant historical marker. The committee met for more than a year to create the affair. At the Fairgrounds. Individual classes held reunions and festivities included music, socializing and dancing on Saturday night with a picnic on Sunday. The Hillmen Foundation again received proceeds from the event.

The Foundation experienced a complete restructuring in 2018 to include a new set of by-laws, an Executive Board, and four new committees (Finance, Fund Raising, Community-School Relationship, and Governance). New members were added and the board expanded to 26 voting members. Meetings were held quarterly. Teachers made formal applications for grants and also appeared at Foundation meetings to make presentations and answer questions.

In 2022, the school celebrated its 125-year anniversary and the foundation was the driving force in planning a school-community celebration in October. The weekend began with a football game on Friday night. On Saturday, an all-class and community street gala was held in a closed off Old Town with music, dancing, and food and refreshment booths. Individual class reunions were held Sunday at the Auburn Recreation Park.

Next year, the Hillmen Foundation will celebrate 35 years of existence with smaller, special events currently in the planning stages.

When I was asked to be a committee member the Hillmen Foundation back in 1989, I had no idea the impact the organization would have on Placer High School. As I look back on the 34 years that I’ve been a committee member, board member and for 10 years the chairman, I’ve come to realize the significance of our organization.

Some of the things we’ve done are easily recognizable — the Centennial Archway at the entrance to the school, the football stadium scoreboard, and the snack shack inside the Earl Crabbe Gym. Mostly, however, the grants we’ve provided over the years impact the students directly, enriching their education in the classroom.

I am confident that the technology we’ve supplied in the form of 3-D printers, calculators, computers, cameras, and scanners has enhanced the educational experience and future for students. I know that the field trips for at-risk students and the various band instruments we’ve provided gave students the social and cultural experiences they might not have without the Foundation. And I’m sure the program support and conferences we’ve furnished teachers has allowed them to grow in their profession and continue the legacy and rich heritage of the school that has defined Placer High for 126 years.


After 10 years at the helm, Bob recently retired from his position as Chair of the Hillmen Foundation Board of Directors. As one of our first members, he remains active as a Director with the Foundation, as well as with the Placer Athletic Hall of Fame. In addition to his years of teaching at Placer High, Bob was also the long-time announcer for Hillmen football and the LeFebvre relays.

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Bob Burge

Bob Burge taught journalism and English at Placer High School from 1973-2006. For 38 years, he was the public address announcer at Lefebvre Stadium. Now retired, he is former chairman of The Hillmen Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Placer High in the areas of academics, student activities, and athletics.

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*Scholarships include Foundation-sponsored and Endowments with the Hillmen Foundation