Ronald W. Davis
Class of 1964
Not only is Ron Davis one of the most successful business men in St. Louis, he’s also committed to empowering others to improve their quality of life.
Davis graduated from Ritenour High School in 1964 and attended college at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. Davis received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
He returned to St. Louis and joined Numerical Control, Inc. as a manufacturing engineer. He soon became a well respected manager, and after 11 years switched companies to work for Cleveland Pneumatic Co. in management and sales.
Davis began working at Engineered Support Systems, Inc., formerly Engineered Air Systems, Inc., more than 20 years ago. He recently retired as President, Business Development, Office of the Chairman. His expertise in marketing and business development helped the company see record revenues of $884 million in 2004.
Throughout his career, Davis has been committed to giving back to the community.
He serves as a volunteer for numerous organizations, including the United Way, Cancer Foundation, and Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents of the USA. Each year Davis assists with the St. Patrick Centerï¿½s Irish Open Golf Tournament. With his leadership, the tournament raises more than $500,000 annually to help end homelessness. He’s also established the Christopher Davis Scholarship in honor of his son, Christopher who died in a car accident 12 years ago. Davis serves on the Special School District Special Education Foundation's Board of Directors.
Davis and his wife, Marsha, live in Chesterfield, Mo.
Class of 1975
Jeffrey Leen’s journey to journalism excellence began at Ritenour High School, where Leen served as sports editor for the school newspaper, The Pepper Box. Since graduating from Ritenour in 1975, Leen has won nearly every national journalism award – including five Pulitzer Prizes for his investigative articles and series.
In 1979 Leen received his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Drama from Washington University. That summer he found himself writing about Ritenour again, this time as a reporter for the St. Louis County Star. In 1982 Leen received his Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Leen received his first national journalism awards in feature writing during a two-year stint at the Columbia Daily Tribune. He then joined The Miami Herald in 1982. His strong work ethic and ability to scoop other reporters helped him quickly move up the ranks, and he eventually landed on the Herald’s investigative team.
The first to publicly expose Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, a violent leader of the Medellin Cartel, Leen made a name for himself as the best drug reporter in America. Leen’s reporting on this cocaine cartel became the basis of his best-selling book, The Kings of Cocaine.
Currently, Leen is the Assistant Managing Editor/Investigative at The Washington Post in Washington D.C. Throughout his career at the Herald and the Post, Leen has contributed to and edited numerous investigative series that have lead to sweeping reform in criminal justice. Five of Leen’s series have won Pulitzer Prizes. He’s earned the deepest respect of fellow editors and reporters. Legendary writer Bob Woodward, known for exposing the Watergate scandal, calls Leen the finest editor with whom he has worked. He’s known by colleagues for his humbleness and enormous compassion for others and keen, analytical mind.
Leen and his wife, Rebecca, live in Edgewater, Md.
Class of 1955
Ritenour teachers and coaches expected Jerry McKinnis, a 1955 graduate, to find his fortune and fame in baseball. McKinnis played baseball, basketball and football for Ritenour. After graduating, he played professional baseball for three years.
Then, McKinnis went fishing.
He traded his baseball bat for a fishing rod and became a professional fishing guide in Arkansas. In 1963, McKinnis began providing local news with reports from area fishing holes.
That same year, McKinnis and a partner began JM Associates, a television production company specializing in outdoors shows. McKinnis became known as a national expert on fishing, thanks to the television show he created and starred in, The Fishin’ Hole. In 1980, the show went national, appearing on ESPN as the anchor of the cable channel’s outdoor line-up. The Fishin’ Hole remains the longest running outdoor program in the nation.
JM Associates continues to provide hundreds of programs to ESPN each year. Often called one of the most influential figures in the outdoor industry, McKinnis has produced and hosted programs such as the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the Citgo BassMaster Tournament Trail, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and ESPN’s Stihl Timbersports Series, to name a few.
McKinnis is known by friends and family for helping others and giving generously.
McKinnis lives in Little Rock, Ark.
Cornell C. Thomas, D.D.S.
Class of 1970
Cornell C. Thomas, D.D.S. is dedicated to serving his community. As a dentist and an educator, Dr. Thomas has been helping people receive quality dental care and helping students fulfill their dreams.
Dr. Thomas graduated from Ritenour High School in 1970. He attended Millikin University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology in 1974. Dr. Thomas received his D.D.S. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Dentistry in 1978.
After graduating, Dr. Thomas began teaching at Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. He is currently associate professor in the school’s Department of Restorative Dentistry. He also serves as the director of minority affairs for the School of Dental Medicine and as the acting director of admissions. As minority affairs director.
Dr. Thomas has collaborated with undergraduate schools to encourage minority students to pursue dentistry. Through his efforts, 80 minority students have improved their dental admissions test scores and many have successfully entered dental school programs.
Dr. Thomas has been in private practice at Thomas Dental Office in the city of St. Louis since 1982. Dr. Thomas has been an advocate for dental health care for minorities and the economically disadvantaged. He has encouraged area dentists to accept Medicaid patients and has made his practice accessible to the less fortunate and under-represented. Dr. Thomas also volunteers his time to make presentations on dental health and the importance of education to minority students.
Dr. Thomas and his wife, Faith, live in Breckenridge Hills.
Class of 1963
As a Ritenour student and athlete, Raymond Thorpe was already making a name for himself. This future teacher, coach and businessman got his start playing basketball, baseball and football as a Ritenour Husky.
As a senior, he was named “Most Athletic” at Ritenour in 1963. Thorpe attended the University of Missouri at Columbia where he was recruited to play football. Thorpe also became the first African-American student to play baseball for the university. Thorpe excelled in both sports. As starting fullback on the football team, he became known for his big plays and touchdowns. His vital contribution to the team helped Mizzou clench the 1966 Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile on the baseball field, Thorpe was named an All-American outfielder and led his team in hits, triples, home runs, stolen bases and walks. In 1967 Thorpe was named to the Missouri College Baseball Hall of Fame. Thorpe was inducted into the University of Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
Thorpe’s success did not end at Mizzou. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Education, Thorpe entered the classroom to coach and teach. He received his master’s degree in secondary school administration from Washington University in 1973. In 1979, Thorpe left education and entered corporate America as a manager at AT&T. Thorpe received AT&T awards in communication, customer care and innovation. He went back to Washington University and received a second master’s degree in 1995, this time in human resource management.
Currently, Thorpe is a fifth-grade teacher at Forsyth School, an independent school in St. Louis. He’s also coaching football and baseball at John Burroughs School also in St. Louis.
Thorpe and his wife, Gwyn, live in St. Louis.
Billie Lou Watt
Class of 1941
Billie Lou Watt knew she wanted to be an actress long before she graduated from Ritenour High School in 1941. The Broadway and television star first appeared on a professional stage at age 15 in the Municipal Opera’s production of “The American Way”.
Upon graduating from Ritenour, Watt attended Northwestern University in Chicago. The temptation to be on the stage overcame Watt, and she joined a touring company of the play “Kiss and Tell”.
Watt eventually landed in New York City where she performed in eight Broadway plays, such as “Little Women”, “Barefoot Boy With Cheek” and “Take Her, She’s Mine”.
Watt is best known for playing Ellie in “Search for Tomorrow”, a daily soap opera that aired on CBS and later NBC for 35 years. She’s also been a voice artist for numerous cartoons and has appeared on shows such as “Unsolved Mysteries”, and “One Life to Live”. Co-stars praised Watt for her professionalism both onstage and off. Punctual and passionate, Watt didn’t just portray her characters, she became them.
When not on the stage, Watt was a dedicated volunteer. She visited sick children in the hospital to read them stories. She also donated her time and talent to In Touch Networks, a national reading service for people who are blind or visually impaired. Watt read newspaper and magazine articles over the radio for more than 4 million people.
Watt died in September 2001. She is survived by husband, Hal Studer, of Orangeburg, NY, and three children.