BRANDON — The Brandon High School Alumni Association has announced the newest inductees into its Hall of Fame, marking the 11th time the wall of tribute, on display outside the school cafeteria, has been expanded.
Newly inducted are John Andrew Mulrennan Sr., from the Class of 1928; David “Frank” Vining, a retired teacher and coach; Theresa “Teri” Maxwell Wehinger, a retired teacher and 1961 alumna; and Karen McDaniel Rodriguez, outgoing president of the Brandon High School Alumni Association and 1972 alumna.
Their plaques were presented at the Greater Brandon Area Community Picnic and Grand Reunion on April 26, at the First Baptist Church of Brandon. The picnic is conjoined with the Brandon High School Alumni Association’s annual grand reunion, to which alumni from all classes are invited.
The Brandon High School Hall of Fame was established to remind today’s school community that the Eagle tradition burns bright into the future through the achievements of notable alumni, educators and supporters.
Mulrennan, this year’s oldest Hall of Fame inductee, hails from the Brandon School, the high school’s predecessor, back when the town had one school for 12 grades. It opened in 1914, which is why Brandon High this year is recognizing its centennial celebration.
The Mulrennan family dates back to the town’s pioneer days, having owned orange groves in Valrico, which today house residential subdivisions and the school that bears the family name — Mulrennan Middle School, at the Durant Road corner where Pearson Road turns into Mulrennan Road.
In accepting the award on behalf of his father, John Mulrennan Jr., who lives in Jacksonville, said the honor was well-deserved.
“It got me all choked up, it’s a long time coming,” he said. “My father loved sports, he was a baseball nut, he liked to go fishing and he was just a great guy. He loved coming down to Brandon. He came back home as much as he could.”
Both Mulrennan Sr. and his son, who followed in his father’s footsteps professionally, are credited for developing and nurturing mosquito control operations in Florida for more than 50 years. The Rockefeller Foundation recognized Mulrennan Sr. as the first entomologist and malariologist in the state of Florida. He trained military entomologists in malaria control and, after World War II, headed the state’s bureau of entomology, a position he held until his retirement in 1976.
At the luncheon, too, was Vining, who traveled from his home in Lake City to accept his Hall of Fame recognition.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said of his induction. “I just never thought something like this would happen.”
Educated in Kansas and Tampa, Vining taught and coached at East Bay and Hillsborough high schools before landing at Brandon High, where he taught driver’s education and physical education. As a coach, he amassed a 424-93 record in girls volleyball from 1978 to 2002. According to his biography, Vining “was the only coach in Brandon High history to win a state title in a girls sport,” winning “two state titles with a record of 27-0 both years.” Vining also coached boys basketball from 1980 to 1995, leaving with a 502-109 record. According to his award bio, he obtained the most wins in boys basketball history and was named Coach of the Year twice.
“Why I was so successful,” he said in an interview at the picnic, “is because I had great people who helped me.”
Like Vining, Wehinger, too, started her teaching career at East Bay High, in 1965. In 1967 she transferred to Brandon, where as a student she played saxophone in the band. She taught science and retired after 38 years at Brandon. She is the newly elected secretary of the Brandon High School Alumni Association and a member of both the Greater Brandon Community Picnic and Grand Reunion committee as well as the committee overseeing activities for the 100th Celebration Committee for Brandon High.
Even though she was on the alumni association’s board, Wehinger had no idea she was to receive a Hall of Fame nod, as the announcement was kept secret from her during the board’s deliberations.
“It’s payback time,” Rodriguez said, in announcing Wehinger’s award. As a board member, Rodriguez, too, was surprised by her own Hall of Fame induction just minutes earlier.
“These two women had no idea” that they were each getting their own awards, said Donn Gunn Jr., a fellow board member, who added that it was one of the board’s best-kept secrets ever.
Rodriguez served as the association’s president for eight years and is credited with working “long and hard helping to keep the spirit of the Brandon community alive” with her efforts to help organize the newly constituted Greater Brandon Area Oldtimers Picnic and Grand Reunion and the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Brandon High School.
“Karen has saved articles and photos from past picnics to have on display at the event,” her biography notes. “She has yearbooks on display that go all the way back to Brandon High School’s beginnings. Her efforts to support and keep something special about Brandon alive are truly appreciated.”