Distinguished alumni recognized at Hillcrest’s homecoming gameNov 01, 2022 08:03PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Mick Dowd, receives a crystal plaque from association president Craig Condor. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
It was Mick Dowd’s first time back home in 26 years.
The 1963 Hillcrest High graduate and class vice president reconnected with his classmates and family as he accepted the Hillcrest High Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
“I was shocked and also, really flattered; I thought I had been forgotten, but obviously wasn’t quite so,” he said. “It was really nice to come back home again.”
At halftime of the homecoming football game Sept. 23, Dowd received the award in front of not only the student body, but also a group of his classmates from Hillcrest’s first graduating class.
The Distinguished Young Alumni Award went to Miranda Jessup, class of 2014, who is in England and was unable to accept the crystal award in person.
Alumni Association Vice President Michele Rasmussen, class of 1981, said, “We had a lot of outstanding nominations, but these two stood out.”
She said that Jessup’s academic interest in history, specifically transcribing Holocaust survivor accounts and exploring 17th-century English female education, as well as researching indigenous women in Utah history for Better Days 2020, were prominent in her nomination.
“She wants to share people’s stories and she uses her love of history to serve,” Rasmussen said.
In an acceptance statement, Jessup said the more she has learned about history and the complexity of life, the more she recognizes the value and impact.
“I choose to study history because I value people as complex human beings and am fascinated by their experiences and the stories they tell about themselves,” she said. “I firmly believe that my time at Hillcrest set the trajectory of both my formal education and my personal growth and development. My participation in the International Baccalaureate Programme encouraged me to look beyond my own perception and engage with other viewpoints as I developed critical thinking and research skills. My interpersonal experiences with fellow students from various walks of life taught me empathy and the power of connection.”
Dowd “has done so much in the entertainment industry and in the community. He began singing on TV when he was five here in Salt Lake and has gone to perform nationally with all the stars, but he also has worked as a volunteer for a children’s hospital for Special Olympics, so he has given back,” Rasmussen said.
Dowd attended Midvale Elementary and Midvale Junior High, then went to Jordan High his sophomore and junior years before Hillcrest was built.
“We were initially brokenhearted our senior year because these are kids we’ve gone to school with and to be separated our last year, we were all kind of saddened by that. We ended up loving it, being the first graduating class of Hillcrest because, we got to pick everything, the logo, the school colors, the song,” he said, adding that he was the student who suggested Huskies for the school mascot after the initial name of the Rebels (after “Rebels without a Cause,” he said) was rejected by administrators. “At the time it was built, Hillcrest was a top-notch school. It was the best in the (Salt Lake) Valley.”
Since then, Hillcrest has been rebuilt and Dowd got his first glimpse of it at the game, when he met the current student body vice president, Kunal Kamtekar.
“Before we left Jordan, we had an election for Hillcrest’s president, secretary and treasurer, but they left off the vice president for some reason. We didn’t elect the vice president until we were at Hillcrest the following fall. I lost my bid for president, but I won vice president,” he said, adding that his competitor for the office, Mary Jensen, was in the stands homecoming night to support him getting the alumni award.
While in high school, Dowd shared his talents—as a ballad singer—as part of a traveling assembly group that performed at area high schools. However, he got his start as a child, singing weekly on a Saturday morning children’s program for about seven years. The Deseret News named him as one of the pioneers of Salt Lake television.
“My cousin was on that TV show, ‘The Doris Hardy Show,’ and she had a birthday party at her house with a bunch of kids. We played spin the bottle and, in those days, you did anything that was suggested. When the bottle came to me somebody said to sing a song. So, I sang. The woman with the TV show talked to my mother and said she wanted to put me on TV,” Dowd recalled.
He sang at the talent show during Midvale’s Harvest Days, where he was scouted. He was invited to New York City, where he competed in an amateur hour.
“It was like ‘America’s Got Talent’ today,” he said. “I won the national championship, but I came back to finish school.”
After graduation, during a summer while serving with the National Guard, he auditioned at Disneyland as a singer at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland.
“I got a job there singing five shows a day and I did some other shows at Disneyland. I would go back every summer between going to college at the University of Utah and the National Guard,” he said.
Dowd went on to a singing career in Los Angeles.
He worked with Florence Henderson for three years (who sang with him at his birthday party in 1982), sang with Ann-Margret (“she is just the sweetest; there’s not an evil bone in her body”), performed with Bob Hope, Julie Andrews, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Mitzi Gaynor and Dean Martin and was on shows with Sonny and Cher, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Steve Allen and others.
“Ann-Margret and I in Vegas had a song we did together, and I am notorious for getting the giggles and she was also, even in rehearsal we would make each other laugh a lot,” he said. “Bob Hope was lovely. The first time I worked with him was a (1975) homecoming show for UCLA basketball and it was filmed right on the basketball court. I did some other shows with him later on, and I worked with Julie Andrews on her show. I was blown away really by just how beautiful her voice was and just how pitch perfect. When you see stars like that or hear them, and witness them in person, you become aware how amazing their talent is so amazing.”
Eventually, Dowd began working as a television producer in commercial production and was the casting director until retirement.
“I always consider myself as an average student, but everything just fell in place,” he said. “I always believed I was going to be successful and never waived on that belief. I was very lucky growing up in Midvale. How many people can say they went to school with their friends from kindergarten to college? And they’re still here supporting me today.”