Considered the most prestigious honor presented to a member of the graduating class each year from Escalon High School, the Wendell Eliason Memorial Award went to Jacob Dugo for the Class of 2022.
Eliason, born on July 11, 1940, was Escalon’s lone casualty in the Vietnam War, killed in action on March 31, 1965. He served in the United States Marine Corps and was a First Lieutenant when he gave his life in service to this country. He was a helicopter pilot and was struck by hostile fire while flying a mission to evacuate injured American soldiers. Wendell Theo Eliason is buried at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon.
The winner of the award is announced each year at the Senior Awards Night that occurs shortly before high school graduation. The recipient is selected by the combined faculty, staff and student council of Escalon High School. It was first presented in 1966.
“I didn’t really know that much about it beforehand,” a humble Dugo said of being selected for the Eliason Memorial. “My grandparents knew the history and I was just really, really honored.”
The Memorial Award is presented to a student who embodies the qualities that Eliason did during his years at EHS: Exemplary Citizenship, Leadership, Conduct and Service.
Dugo said he has always tried to serve as a good example, not only for his younger siblings, but also for schoolmates. He also said he made it a point to be “as involved as I can” with school, sports and clubs to ensure a well-rounded high school experience.
While at Escalon High, Dugo was involved in many activities, ranging from football to soccer, golf and baseball to FFA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, California Scholarship Federation and student government. He was the Student Body President for his senior year, was the FFA President and was also part of the PIT, Peer Interaction Team, at the high school, mentoring younger students in the Escalon Unified School District.
“In my mind, I didn’t think I was the top,” he admitted of classmates he felt might be considered for the award. “It is definitely amazing.”
Now an EHS graduate, Dugo will first be attending Modesto Junior College to study soil science/plant science with the goal to transfer to either Cal Poly or Fresno State. His eventual goal is to work as a pest control agent and he will start his road to that goal at the MJC Ag Internship program in crop science.
A four-year scholar athlete, Dugo also graduated with a 3.6 GPA and is the son of Brian and Jamie Dugo of Escalon.