2002 Inductees

Nina Noonan (1943-1990)
Class of 1961

Hall of Fame 2002

Twenty-five years as an educational leader in a town with a population of 7,500 allows you to have a significant impact on your students and community. This very special person has influenced thousands of Rumson children in some way.

Maintaining a family tradition, Nina Noonan became a teacher in the Rumson school system in 1965. Her mother, who taught in Rumson for over forty years, was extremely proud. Born and raised on the peninsula, Nina lived in Rumson for most of her life.

Nina went on to receive her masters degree and became a reading specialist and reading coordinator for the district. She was appointed principal of Deane Porter in 1984. Throughout her career, Nina became a known innovator in education who was instrumental in the planning and implementation of individualized education, diagnostic testing for reading, curriculum development, and Sandy Hook and Stokes environmental education programs. Her philosophy that education not be restricted only to the classroom was reflected in her initiation of drama, literacy, writing and photography clubs.

Nina’s great sense of humor, love of travel, theater and literature enriched her classes, leadership skills and personal relationships. She believed that if you couldn’t laugh, you couldn’t learn; every child was special and could be motivated; good teachers had to love, laugh and motivate their students. Nina’s work influenced thousands of students and her style inspired many other professionals.

To quote the Rumson-Fair Haven Yearbook the year that Nina graduated, 1961, she was a “Hard worker…sincere… a friend to the end” and the legend lives on.

Henry Selick
Class of 1970

Hall of Fame 2002

Who would have guessed the creative force behind such popular films as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and some of the most striking MTV ads would describe himself as anything but popular in high school?

“I wasn’t very cool,” says Henry Selick, class of 1970, the award-winning filmmaker who took the stop-motion animation technique to new heights and established himself as arguably the preeminent artist in his field.

Selick is famous for his ability to spin three-dimensional characters-puppets, clay figures, you name it-into movie magic via stop-motion animation, the painstaking medium for which the artist will move characters in infinitesimally small increments, take a photograph, then do it again, twenty-four frames per second.

His own life has taught Selick that no matter how disconnected one might feel in high school, the real world has a spot for anyone with an original point of view, tenacity, and belief in one’s self.  Many teachers at RFH inspired him to excel: Mr. Mitchell in physics; Mrs. Manning, Mr. Lyster and Mr. Thompson in English; Mr. DeNicola in economics.  Coach Frazee pushed him hard enough in wrestling to win a varsity letter.  The band room was a haven for him, with Mr. Walters allowing him and fellow band members to hang out and jam.  Fair Haven artist Stanley Meltzoff was an important inspiration and mentor in Selick’s grammar school years.

Upon graduation in 1970, Selick attended Rutgers as a liberal arts major.  He rediscovered his love for art, transferred to Syracuse U., and eventually found his way to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) on a scholarship.  Upon receiving a M.F.A., Selick took a job with Disney Animation and worked on such films as Pete’s Dragon and Fox and Hound.  While Selick found his time at Disney limiting in some ways, it was here he first met a young, rising star named Tim Burton, who had also attended CalArts.

In 1987 Selick started his own production company, Selick Projects.  Here he produced many television spots, which included the Pillsbury Doughboy as well as a series of award-winning commercials for Ritz Crackers. But his most famous works created during this time were done for MTV.  Selick won the prized Clio Award for his “Haircut M,” in which a bookend figure carved “MTV” into a bystander’s big hair. 

In 1990, Burton was asked by Disney to produce his original idea The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Burton asked his friend Selick to direct the feature.  Ironically, the “uncool” Selick now was in charge of a talented crew of more than 150 artists and a $20 million dollar budget.  While Burton deserves a lot of credit, critic Roger Ebert said:  “But the director of the film, a veteran stop-action master named Henry Selick, is the person who has made it all work. And his achievement is enormous. Working with gifted artists and designers, he has made a world here that is as completely new as the worlds we saw for the first time in such films as Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Star Wars.”  The project took nearly three years to complete, but led to one of the most famous Christmas classics, netting Disney over $51 million at the time, with a re-release to cinemas in the fall of 2000 as well as profitable VHS and DVD sales.

After Nightmare, Selick convinced the family of author Roald Dahl to let him produce James and the Giant Peach.  The Dahl family had rejected numerous offers to adapt the story to film, but when shown footage of his first feature, they readily agreed.  The film won critical acclaim and solidified Selick’s place as one of the top few artists in the stop-motion field.  In 2001, Selick directed Monkeybone, a controversial live action/animated adaptation of an underground comic book, and more projects are underway.

Selick’s one small regret is that he didn’t have time to pursue a career in music.  Recently, he put his old band Shark River back together to play at Selick’s 31st high school reunion, with a performance at Victory Park in Rumson.  That the band’s reunion won’t lead to anything shouldn’t matter.  Selick can now relax-his induction into the 2002 Hall of Fame is proof that he already IS cool.

Jonathan L. Tilly
Class of 1980

Hall of Fame 2002

One of America’s foremost researchers in the field of reproductive science and medicine, Jonathan L. Tilly is dispelling old myths and breaking new ground in his work. “His research findings have been credited with advancing the boundaries of scientific knowledge in women’s reproductive health.” (Vincent Memorial Hospital of The Massachusetts General Hospital , Annual Report, 1997)   Reporting of his work has been done by national news services such as ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly NewsThe New York Times, and The Boston GlobeNature Medicine and Fertility and Sterility, prestigious magazines in the medical field, have run cover articles reporting on his discoveries, and the top scientific journals of the world have published stories on the progress of his studies. What he is discovering can change the body of knowledge about female reproduction health, the aging process, and the ability of young women who have undergone cancer therapies to have children and enjoy healthier futures.

Jonathan Tilly grew up in Fair Haven; he attended elementary school there and graduated from eighth grade at Knollwood School. After his graduation from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, he entered Cook College at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he majored in Animal Sciences and planned to enter veterinary school. He earned a B.S. with Highest Honors followed by a M.S. degree, also in Animal Sciences. By this time, Jon had become fascinated with scientific research and elected to stay at Rutgers to earn a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences/Physiology.  Postdoctoral training at Stanford University was followed by a position as Assistant Professor on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University. In 1995, Jon accepted his current position as Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School.  Jon also serves as Director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology and Chief of the Division of Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Massachusetts General Hospital. 

International recognition has come to Jonathan Tilly for his cutting-edge biomedical research into the understanding of what regulates the life and death of eggs in the ovaries of women.  Jon has a patent application under review that describes the first compound shown to effectively prevent cancer therapy-induced damage to egg cells.  John is conducting research to stop egg loss and prevent menopause.  He carefully monitors mice as they age watching for all of the signs of menopause-related problems.  This work has tremendous ramifications for the management, if not the eventual prevention, of menopause. If science can make it possible for a woman to keep some of her eggs, many of the health problems and signs of aging which accompany menopause and the absence of hormones could be prevented.  The medical, social, and economic effects of this research are monumental.

Beyond the world of his professional achievements, Jonathan Tilly feels that the satisfaction gained from his scientific research pales in comparison to the importance of his son in his life.  “More often than not, people become entranced with the idea that the success of their lives will be measured by how wealthy or well-known they become.  In doing this, many take for granted the blessings that life bestows upon each of us every day.  My biggest blessing is my son Ryan, and the measure of my success will be to do all I can to see that he grows up happy, healthy and able to pursue his dreams.  That is what my parents, Bonnie and Les Tilly, did – and still do – for me, something I have never lost sight of.”