Alumni High Line


Here are some of our famous graduates.  For a comprehensive list, please visit the Alumni Page.  Please contact us if you know of any grad who should be on the list.

Professor Jack Dougherty of Trinity College is working on the history of Hartford’s public schools.  He has done a beautiful job with his research on Mabel Florence White, Class of 1890.  Please visit the links to his research:


Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith graduated from HPHS in 1961 and received her B.A. at CentralConnecticut State University in 1965.  She has published eight novels:  The Book of Phoebe (1985),Lament for a Silver-Eyed Woman (1987), The Port of the Missing Men (1989), Masters of Illusion(1994), An American Killing (1998).   Her popular mystery series narrated by sleuth, Poppy Rice, includes:  Love Her Madly (2002), She’s Not There (2003), and She Smiled Sweetly (2004).  She collaborated with her son Jere Smith on Dirty Water:  A Red Sox Mystery (2008).

Girls of Tender Age:  A Memoir  (2006), is a portrait of growing up in 1950s Hartford .  This work has received national acclaim and is well-known by the reading public in the Hartford area.  It has been optioned for a film.

Mary-Ann has had short fiction and essays published in collections; most recently she was of one hundred writers who contributed to a collection of short stories, poems, script excerpts, and essays: Dirty Words:  A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex (2008).  It is R-rated rather than X, and according toElle magazine “…it is wicked fun to read.”

She is now working on a Civil War novel.  An excerpt appears in the Fall/Winter, 2009, edition of the North Atlantic Review.

Mary-Ann lives in Connecticut and is a member of the HPHS Museum Committee.

Richard O. Benton

Richard O. Benton, HPHS Class of 1956, author, publisher, novelist. Began writing seriously in 1999, shortly before retiring from what I call the “Corporate Sector, i.e., working for somebody else. During late 1999 and into June of 2000, I wrote I Wish I May, A Tale of the Fourth Millennium, a classic sci-fi. After going the traditional route with as much success as the vast majority who also collect a shoebox full of rejection slips, I got wind of a relatively new phenomenon known as self-publishing. In December of 2002, I went through 1st Books Library, later known as AuthorHouse. Subsequently, I worked on book two, Moonlight Man, which was billed as a thriller, finished it in about a year, but didn’t publish it until 2009, a few months after I formed Storycraft Publishing.

During this period I worked on other book projects. Currently The Mission, a story of apocalypse and redirection of the pitifully few humans who remain, is going through its final edit before a March 2010 publication date. Evading Desolation is about two young street kids who flee New York City before it eats them alive, and how they grow and change once beyond its influence. Four other novels in progress are tentatively titled The Screen Door, The Alley, The Master’s Yoke, andMy Wish is Might, a sequel to I Wish I May, which is about a third complete.

In early 2003, with seven others, I formed The Litchfield Writers Guild, a critique group with a social flavor, and became its president. The Guild has been an excellent experience for me for seven years now and shows no signs of slowing. We have produced six public performances to date, known locally as A June Coffee House. In 2007 I compiled and published LWG, Anthology of The Litchfield Writers Guild for the group. Also during that time I wrote several hundred short stories, articles, autobiographical memoirs composed as individual stories, intending to publish them as story collections, a couple of stage plays, dabbled in poetry and became storyteller for an assisted living facility and a local nursing home. In this same period I joined the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association and now sit on its Board of Directors.

Donald C. Johanson

Donald graduated from the Hartford Public High School in 1961 and received his Masters Degree and Ph.D. in 1970 and 1974 from the University of Chicago .  His interest in anthropology began while he was a student at HPHS, and he and another HPHS student organized a campaign to save the Alvan Clark telescope at the school. They attended board of education meetings and spoke out, solicited letters from astronomers at eastern universities and wrote letters to the editor at theHartford Courant. The observatory and telescope would have been lost if it had not been for the combined efforts of students and faculty who worked to have them preserved.  In another restoration milestone for the school, he was invited back to Hartford to dedicate the new showcases for the James G. Batterson Fossil Collection at HPHS (1998).

Dr. Johanson has spent many years exploring, discovering, and studying some of the most significant fossil finds in the search of human origins.  Two of his well-known discoveries were of a 1.8million-year-old fossil skeleton of Homo Habilis and “Lucy,” a 3.5 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis fossil.

A prolific author, Dr. Johanson has often appeared on television in National Geographic and Nova programs.  In 1981, he founded the Institute of Human Origins , a non-profit research institution devoted to the study of prehistory located at the Arizona State University in Tempe .  As Director of the IHO, he continues in his paleontological studies and writings.

Franklin R. Chang-Diaz

Franklin graduated from the Hartford Public High School in 1969 and received his B.S. from theUniversity of Connecticut in 1973 and a PhD. in applied plasma physics from M.I.T. in 1977. He joined the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory where his work was directed toward the design and integration of control systems for fusion reactor concepts and experimental devices.  He has been engaged in the design of new concepts in rocket propulsion, and as a visiting scientist with theM.I.T. Plasma Fusion Center he led the plasma propulsion program to develop the technology for future missions to Mars.

Selected by NASA in May, 1980, Dr. Chang-Diaz became an astronaut in August, 1981.  From October, 1984 to August, 1985, he was leader of the astronaut support team at the Kennedy SpaceCenter .  He is a veteran of a number of space flights, from 1986 to 2005. He was Director of the NASA Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory from 1994 to 2005.

Dr. Chang-Diaz is the Chairman, C.E.O., and President of Ad Astra Rocket Company in Webster ,Texas .  The vision of Ad Astra is “to revolutionize space transportation and exploration, through the development and commercialization of the VASIMR® engine and related technologies.”

Dana Backman

Dana Backman graduated from HPHS in 1973 and pursued a college career in astrophysics.  He was a professor of physics and astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster , Pennsylvaniafor 12 years. An infrared astronomer, he received his doctoral degree in astrophysics from theUniversity of Hawaii and became especially interested in the formation of solar systems.

Dana Backman became the manager of SOFIA E/PO in June 2003. The SOFIA E/PO program is subcontracted by USRA to the SETI Institute and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. It is located in Palmdale , California . He worked on several research flights of SOFIA ‘s predecessor, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, while a post-doc at NASA-Ames. He is currently an Associate Director.

Backman co-authored with Michael A. Seeds:

Perspectives on Astronomy    2007

Horizons:  Exploring the Universe   2009

Foundations of Astronomy   2010

Maria Perez-Brown

Maria Perez-Brown graduated from HPHS in 1979 and received her B.A. at Yale in 1983 and a law degree from New York University .  Early on, Maria began a career as an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry.  She started a pre-school series Gullah Gullah Island, which was named one of the top ten televison shows for children by TV Guide in 1996.

Sí TV, the nation’s leading network targeting millions of 18–34-year old Latinos with entertainment in English, partnered with Maria’s production company, Dorado Entertainment, to develop and produce programs.  She also developed  several drama and sitcom scripts for Touchstone Television. In 2006, Perez-Brown  produced the 20th Anniversary of the Hispanic Heritage Awards from the Kennedy Center in Washington , D.C.

Maria also served as executive in charge of production for the Nickelodeon series The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and was the creator and executive producer of Taina, a live-action comedy series for Nickelodeon about a 15-year-old Latina caught in between two cultures, that of her traditional Latino family and the world of her school and friends.

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