OLYMPIA – A bluegrass bandleader, a professor who made strides in the push for gender equality and an Olympia educator whose name graces a local school will be inducted Monday into the Olympia High School Alumni Hall of Fame, the school’s alumni association announced. Don Ulrich, who used the stage name Don Rich; Jenijoy La Belle; and Leland P. Brown will be honored at a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at Olympia High School, 1302 North St. S.E.
Don Ulrich, class of 1959, was the bandleader of Buck Owens’ band, The Buckaroos. Buck Owens and The Buckaroos were the house band for the television program “Hee Haw.” Ulrich also was “the musical director for the show. Ulrich began playing violin at age 3, and at 16, he opened for Elvis Presley in Tacoma, according to the alumni association. Ulrich died at 32 in 1974 after a motorcycle crash near Morro Bay, Calif.
Jenijoy La Belle, class of 1961, became the first woman named as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology in 1969. La Belle, a professor of English and literature, won tenure at Cal Tech in 1979 after a five-year struggle that involved California’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The state investigated and charged the institute with sex discrimination. La Belle, still at Cal Tech, also wrote two books and column for the Los Angeles Times in the 1990s.
Leland P. Brown was the principal of Olympia High School from 1919 to 1931, and superintendent of the Olympia School District from 1931 to 1958. He also was a civic leader. L.P. Brown Elementary School, at 2000 26th Ave. N.W., was named after him. His grandchildren will accept his award for distinguished service.