2018 Outstanding Exes
Myles J. Cohen
Class of 1958
Two characteristics launched Myles J. Cohen’s personal passions and his professional and humanitarian callings because he attended El Paso High School. First, because his teachers really cared about their students, he developed a real love for learning. He said, “They laid the foundation for my quest to learn. I still believe if a day goes by that I haven’t learned something, it’s a day I have wasted.”
Second, was the diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds and cultures of the EPHS Student Body never affected the respect students had for one another. He said, “We worked together, liked each other, played together, horsed around together.” He realized, “everyone has value. Everyone should be respected for who they are.”
Myles met the most important person and love of his life, Cita, at EPHS. They had a blind date for the Homecoming Dance in October of his sophomore year. Two months later, that December, he proposed to Cita. He was 15 and she was 14 years old. Eight years later, Cita and Myles were married. They have two married sons, Matthew and Johnathan and two grandchildren, 13 and 2 years old.
Myles was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Manley and his wife, Lillian. When Myles was 12, his family moved to El Paso, where he attended Mesita School and El Paso High School.
In 1959, Myles’s father died as he was preparing for finals his freshman year, at Princeton University. He was offered a full scholarship there, where he worked 3 jobs while he went to class every day. He went on to Columbia Medical School, again on a full scholarship. His internship and both general surgical and orthopedic residencies were at UCLA School of Medicine. During the Vietnam War, he served in the US Air Force, at Sheppard Hospital in Wichita Falls, TX. As the casualties came home for treatment and rehabilitation, Myles developed his interest in the specialty of Hand Surgery.
His technical skills in hand surgery, plastic surgery and orthopedics became his passion and life’s work. He completed his residency in orthopedic surgery and completed a hand surgery fellowship at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky.
For over 40 years, Dr. Cohen served as Director of Hand and Upper Extremity Reconstructive Surgery for Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center for Excellence, in Los Angeles, California and subsequently as the Chief of this specialty with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. He held dual clinical professorships in surgery at both the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
In 1986, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as a member of the International Medical Corps, Myles went 15 miles from the Khyber Pass, to train Afghan medics. He worked at two hospitals under very primitive and understaffed conditions. He taught at the Afghan Surgical Hospital reconstructing hand wounds and screening casualties for further treatments in facilities in other countries, including England, France and the USA.
While he was in Pakistan, one of his colleagues, who was Muslim asked him if he was Christian. Myles told him he was Jewish. He was told not to tell anyone else he was Jewish or he would be killed. Because of the man’s respect for him as a fellow human being, helping others in need, Myles changed the man’s opinion. Without thinking of their religious affiliations, they continued to work together.
For Myles, in his experience working in Afghanistan, he realized a most important affirmation which stemmed from his experiences at El Paso High School. He said, “All men are created equal. We need to talk to each other. We all want the same things.”
In 2017, a newly formed Levin/Gordon Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital was established in his honor. He and his extraordinary life partner, Cita, will celebrate living between their new home, near their children and grandchildren, in Denver, Colorado, and in their lifelong retreat in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
Anna Lucia Mares
Class of 1980
Anna Lucia Mares, Class of 1980, was born in Anchorage, Alaska where her father served in the United States Air Force. She lived and was raised in the Mission Hills area where she attended Mesita Elementary School before going to El Paso High School (EPHS). While at EPHS, Anna was a 4-year varsity basketball letterman, excelled scholastically, served as Student Council President, and was selected as All EPHS Girl. As a senior in high school, Anna worked with the El Paso County Historical Commission to research, document and submit the application to the National Historic Commission and the Texas Historical Commission to have EPHS be recognized as a National Historic Site. The submission was approved and EPHS is now a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Due to Anna’s efforts, the “Lady on the Hill” will always be preserved and protected.
After receiving her Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas at El Paso, Anna went to work for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. She created specific innovative performance-based methodologies to increase friendly aircraft protection thereby reducing fratricides to United States and Coalition forces. She is highly regarded and respected in her field. Her technical awards include the Army Research Laboratories 13th Annual Honorary Award for her work on the Analysis for Air Defense during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, and the Human System Integration Practitioner of the Year Award. Anna has received letters of commendation from the Secretary of Defense, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation as well as many of the Commanding Generals of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center.
Anna is always ready to participate and help in anything having to do with EPHS. She was instrumental in making the Centennial Celebration a success. She was part of the core team that planned, raised money, located alumni, and rallied the community to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event. As a member of the EPHS Alumni Board, Anna continues to pursue activities that assist the students, faculty, staff, and school. She is currently submitting grant applications for funding to construct the “El Paso High School Museum” as well as grants to fund the digitizing and preservation of the over 100 years of photos, yearbooks, newspapers and artifacts. She also worked with El Paso Independent School District to ensure that an expert on restoration of historic buildings was selected to evaluate the condition of the EPHS façade.
Anna always gives unconditionally to her family, friends and community. Whenever possible, she reaches out to students to promote education. Anna volunteers her time to promote education by providing inspirational Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) seminars to the 5th graders at Carlos Rivera School and to the Girl Scouts. She mentors a Loretto Academy Challenge Program student and encourages her to become the first college graduate in her family. After submitting the application and receiving a DoD STEM grant for robotics, Anna worked with the Loretto Angelbots robotics team to build a robot for competition. She helped these girls realize their own creativity, imagination and intelligence. Anna serves as an inspiration and role model for young women throughout the community to strive for and achieve success in the fields of science and math.
Anna Lucia Mares is a true El Paso High School Outstanding Ex.
Mary Jo Ponsford Melby
Class of 1958
Born on Texas Independence Day, Mary Jo Ponsford Melby epitomizes what good citizens, good Texans, good El Pasoans, and good Tigers are all about. She is a fifth generation Texan and a third generation El Pasoan. Her Ponsford grandparents arrived in El Paso in 1897 to become pioneer contractors and builders. They worked closely with Henry Trost, designer of El Paso High, and had nine children, all of whom graduated from The School on the Hill.
After graduating from EPHS, Mary Jo attended The University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a degree in Interior Design. She was a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority and was in the Sun Carnival Court and a Fabens Cotton Festival contestant. After graduation, she married Everett “Willie” Melby, her high school sweetheart and they began their lives together with Willie serving in the army. After his discharge, they returned to El Paso where they raised their 3 children, and Mary Jo began her “career” as a civic volunteer.
Few people have been involved with as many activities as Mary Jo. She is a Past Director of the El Paso Pan American Round Table, which is celebrating 92 years in El Paso and is the largest chapter in the Western Hemisphere. It promotes friendship between the United States and Latin America. She represented El Paso at a conference in Lima, Peru. She is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the International Museum and serves as a docent, giving tours of the museum and was on the Advisory Board for the El Paso Museum of Art. She is Past President of the El Paso County Historical Society, served on the El Paso Historical Commission, and was a committee person on the Texas State Historical Association. She is Past President of the El Paso Opera Foundation, and the National Society of Arts & Letters (El Paso Chapter). In 2013, she was inducted into the El Paso Commission for Women’s Hall of Fame.
Mary Jo is active in Chapter AJ of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, an international organization that promotes education for women. Her great-grandmother organized the first chapter in Texas. She is a past president of her chapter and currently serves as president of the El Paso P.E.O. Council. She is also active at Trinity-First United Methodist Church, serving on the Church Council.
She is also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Comadres (historic women of El Paso), El Dedon Verde Garden Club, Discover El Paso, the UTEP Woman’s Auxiliary, the El Paso Symphony Guild, Delta Delta Delta Alumnae, El Paso Panhellenic, the Festival Theatre of El Paso, the Junior League of El Paso, and the El Paso Art Association.
She has been the scholarship chairman for the EPHS Alumni Association, chaired 5 class reunions for the Class of 1958, chaired the “Year of the Tiger” Reunion for the classes of the 1950’s, and was a member of the Centennial Committee.
On top of all this, she is an artist who has exhibited her work at UTEP and the Titovets Show. She has opened her home to many organizations and is the ultimate hostess. You know what they say, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” Obviously, Mary Jo has been asked to do a lot and has done so.
Mary Jo Ponsford Melby, is an avid Texas supporter, an enthusiastic supporter of El Paso, and loyal El Paso High School Tiger. She could not be more outstanding.