MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Four new members were added to the Columbia High School Hall of Fame on June 8. Grace Mirabella from the Class of 1946 was honored alongside Bernard “Buzzy” Hellring Jr., Joel Silver and Jonathan H. “Jonny” Hines, all from the Class of 1970. Mirabella was a fashion writer who became the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine in 1971, and, after she left the magazine in 1988, she founded the women’s magazine Mirabella. The other three honorees are the inventors of Ultimate Frisbee, which has become a worldwide sport and is still thriving at CHS.
“Grace Mirabella had an impactful career in fashion, starting her career working at Macy’s,” CHS special education teacher Kate Brown said of the now-deceased trailblazer. “Her main goal was to make fashion accessible for all women, not just models.”
Mirabella lived in Newark until her family moved to Maplewood when she was a teenager; she attended Maplewood Middle School and then CHS. She graduated from Skidmore College and began her career in fashion; when she became the head of Vogue, the magazine had a circulation of 400,000. By the time she left in 1988, circulation was more than 1.5 million.
Judith Warner co-wrote Mirabella’s 1995 memoir, “In and Out of Vogue,” and she spoke about her experience working with Mirabella in a video she sent to CHS for the ceremony. Warner remembered Mirabella’s willingness to make changes at the magazine in the 1970s. Mirabella is credited with removing nicotine and tobacco ads from Vogue, as well as with hiring Beverly Johnson, the first black model to grace the cover of the magazine.
“She was all about change,” Warner said. “Not everyone was embracing it at the time, but she was ready and waiting. She beefed up Vogue’s science and health (section), and she got rid of tobacco, even though it meant a hit to advertising funds.”
Warner, too, emphasized that Mirabella wanted to make sure that fashion could be accessible for normal people.
“She was all about being normal and doing normal things, but looking better than normal,” Warner said. “She said what she thought, and she meant what she said. “She was funny, she was sharp, and she was unlike any person you’re likely to meet, in or out of the world of Vogue.”
Mirabella died at the age of 92 in December 2021. She is survived by two stepsons, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Silver, Hines and Hellring invented Ultimate Frisbee when they were juniors at CHS, in a parking lot down the street. They developed the rules and typed them up, attempting to combine the rules of other sports into one game. Hellring typed the rules and Hines edited them; photos of the original notes were on display at the ceremony. They and other friends would play the game on weekend nights, according to Class of 1972 graduate and friend Jane Musky, who introduced them.
“Every Monday there was this buzz about some game that was being played in the parking lot,” Musky, who is a film production designer and in the Hall of Fame herself, said. “I would say that 99 percent of the school had no idea what was going on. But then it started to spread, and it became a real sport with rules.”
Silver, who went on to study film production at New York University and has been a producer and film executive since the late 1970s, went to summer camp in Massachusetts the summer before their junior year and played a primitive version of the game. He brought it home to his friends, where they changed it and made their own rules, publishing a pamphlet so players could learn.
Hellring was the editor-in-chief of the CHS newspaper, the Columbian, for two years. He expanded its coverage and frequency of publication, and he is credited by Silver and Hines as being responsible for the Ultimate rule “the spirit of the game,” which emphasized good sportsmanship. Hellring died in a car accident during the spring of his freshman year at Princeton University in 1971. His sister, Heidi Hellring, was at the ceremony to accept his hall of fame plaque.
“I know he would have been very proud of this,” she said. “He had a great experience here. Buzzy’s name has been carried all over the world, and it’s been a privilege for me to watch it. I was in third grade when Buzzy took me to the parking lot to watch them play. It’s so touching for me to see his name live on.”
Hines initially went to the University of Pennsylvania after graduating from CHS but transferred to Princeton after having visited Hellring there. While at Princeton, he organized the university’s Ultimate team and managed the first intercollegiate game against Rutgers University, just like the first intercollegiate football game 100 years earlier — Rutgers won both games. He went on to become an international lawyer, first working in New York City and then in Russia for 20 years.
“We tried to combine the best of all the sports, of soccer and football and hockey,” Hines said in his speech at the ceremony. “My parents thought I was crazy. They said, ‘What about girls? Are you going to marry a Frisbee?’ We made up the rules, but there were also lots of other people in the Class of 1970, and also 1971 and 1972, who were there who spread it around.”
Heidi Hellring said in an interview with the News-Record after the ceremony that inducting Silver, Hellring and Hines for their accomplishments while students at CHS is unusual.
“Most people are chosen for what they did after high school, so this is unusual because they were chosen for what they did while they were here,” she said. “It’s really emotional for me.”
Hines agreed, saying it was exciting to see the CHS Ultimate teams and how much of an impact the sport still has at the school in person.
“I like to think I’ve done some interesting things since, but nothing like Ultimate,” he said in an interview with the News-Record after the ceremony. “I know that it’s gone all over the place, and to see the reality of it here is exciting. It’s very joyful.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic and headshots courtesy of CHS Hall of Fame