On Tuesday, Hilary and I went to Falcon Awards Night at Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar, California and presented the James Tedrow Gauntt Memorial Scholarships to this year’s recipients—three remarkable graduating seniors; two young women and a young man. This is the sixth year of awarding scholarships from the fund that was created within the first few days after Jimmy died. The fund was the idea of Jimmy’s older sister, Brittany, and was crystallized within those first nightmarish 24 hours on a walk in the San Elijo Lagoon in Solana Beach. Because of the abundant generosity of family and friends, enough money was raised to award scholarships—that are now known as “The Jimmys”— for many years to come. These are my notes of our presentation of this year’s Jimmys.

The James Tedrow Gauntt Memorial Scholarships
Torrey Pines High School

June 3, 2014


Jimmy Gauntt attended Torrey Pines High School from 1998-2002. He did pretty well. 4.65 GPA, Senior Class President, Homecoming Prince, “nicest guy,” starting wide receiver for the Falcons, and enough advance placement credits that he would have graduated college in 3 years if he didn’t add another major—thus earning him a full-ride-all expenses paid Trustee Scholarship to USC. He was extraordinarily well-rounded, but it was the time he spent with Marinee Payne and the high school theatre—everyone calls it The Box—and his advanced English teachers that lit the fire of his passion. Writing. He excelled at USC, majored in English and Spanish, spent his senior year at Queens College in London and during those 4 years his passion developed into an out of control wild fire. He wrote 4 plays, two of which were produced before several audiences, and countless poems, short stories and treatments. Upon graduation he launched his career in L.A. as a writer and actor and wrote several screen plays, including one as a ghostwriter for a major Hollywood director. Although his career was cut short in 2008 walking home late from a party—struck by an automobile-nobody’s fault—the light that was and is Jimmy remains bright. The scholarships that we award tonight, and the ones awarded each year by the USC English Department in Jimmy’s name and memory keep that torch lit.

Jimmy personified Passion. Passion oozed from him. Passion is his legacy and it is this passion for the arts and literature that we acknowledge and reward with these scholarships. This is the 6th year and we have been blessed with so many wonderful recipients. But this year, we have to say, our three recipients are the finest so far. And they just might edge out Jimmy on the Passion meter. We have two singers- a first- and an artist and published author. All three are exceptionally bright, they volunteer, teach and mentor others, they are good examples for others and they are driven to make this world a better and more beautiful place. They also would not be here if it were not for their wonderful parents, who have sacrificed a great deal to make the lives of their children better and brighter. We acknowledge and honor you parents with these awards. Let me introduce you to the 2014 recipients of The Jimmy. Come up when I call your name.

Rachel Oh— Rachel is a very talented artist and photographer, has written and published a self illustrated children’s book, founded the author’s club at the high school and will be attending the University of Notre Dame. Rachel is driven—she will succeed at whatever she decides to do. We have awarded Rachel a $2,000 scholarship.

Minji Kim— Minji is a very talented singer and actress—singing and performing all her life in fact—she has been in every play produced at The Box over the last four years earning most of the lead roles, she’s a musician—bass guitar and piano- and a singing coach. Hilary was playing a CD containing clips of some of Minji’s performances and I asked her ‘What are you listening to–is that from a play at La Jolla Playhouse?’ She’s that good. Minji has been accepted to the very prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Minji is receiving a $2,000 scholarship.

Jose Antonio Soto— words are inadequate to describe Tony — if I was to select a few they would be “extraordinarily exceptional.” He’s a scholar, and an athlete, and an accomplished and renowned opera singer. His list of accomplishments, credits, performances, and awards are literally over three pages. He’s proficient in three languages- English, Spanish and of course Italian. He thrives on performing before large audiences. He exudes talent and confidence. One of his accomplishments, very near and dear to our hearts, is his community service. He has given hundreds of hours of his time performing at fundraisers on behalf of community groups—in fact through his performances he has helped the Torrey Pines High School Foundation raise over $100,000!!! Oh, and did I mention he has also written a book Making Greatness a Habit? Tony is destined for greatness—we so look forward to following what will surely be an enormously successful career. Tony will be attending Dartmouth. We have awarded Tony a $6,000 scholarship.

Please congratulate the 2014 “Jimmys,” and their proud parents.

Minji Kim, Rachel Oh, Jose Antonio Soto

Minji Kim, Rachel Oh, Jose Antonio Soto

One response to “"The Jimmy" Torrey Pines High School Scholarships”

  1. AvatarCasey says:

    June 2, 2015
    The Gauntt/Kirby family is pleased to announce Omar Gaidarov has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the James Tedrow Gauntt Memorial Scholarship Award, aka The Jimmy. Omar is a superb floutist and also a beautiful writer with a big heart, who shares his talent and love of music with autistic children as well as at-risk children living near the border with Mexico. Omar will be attending Northwestern University having been accepted into the prestigious Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts dual degree program. We are proud to have awarded Omar with a $5,000 scholarship and wish him continued success in his pursuit of the arts.
    Omar Gaidarov
    Omar Gaidarov with Hilary Gauntt and Brittany and Hunter Kirby

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is an attorney and senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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