Durango native Blue Angels pilot died last year in a plane accident
The memory of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a Durango native, continues to live in the community that loved him.
The Durango High School Alumni Association was created in part to honor Kuss, who died a year ago in a jet accident in Tennessee while practicing with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
“This group started under the umbrella of the Durango Education Foundation by people who wanted to develop a program to recognize outstanding alumni in the community,” said Elizabeth Testa, executive director of the Durango Education Foundation. “They are classmates, relatives or friends of the late Captain Kuss. To them, he is a larger than life figure. He represents the attributes they consider the very best that students can embody to prepare them for success.”
The association was formed last winter by a handful of alumni, many of whom graduated from DHS in 2000.
“Their driving inspiration started with wanting to recognize the accomplishments of Captain Kuss, and to show the community that he was not the only gifted graduate from DHS,” Testa said.
The association will honor achievement with the Jeff Kuss Distinguished Alumni award, and celebrate future promise with the Distinguished Student award.
Kuss’ character was the inspiration behind the Distinguished Student award, which recognizes one student who displays perseverance, passion, self-discipline, respect, integrity and charisma.
His wife, Christina, will be presented the first Distinguished Alumni award. All future awards will go to an alumnus or alumna selected by the association.
Recent graduate Harry Michael Steinberg will receive the Distinguished Student award, along with a $2,000 scholarship. The money for the award was donated by the DHS student council and Durango School District 9-R.
Future recipients must receive at least three nominations from teachers, administrators or fellow students.
“I think the group wants to continue to give these awards annually, and ultimately the goal is to connect students at DHS and recent grads with alumni out in the world who might help mentor them in a career field or help guide them with college choices,” Testa said.