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We empower students, faculty, and staff for enhanced learning through grants, tech initiatives, and scholarships, propelling them into a successful future beyond high school.


Hillmen Foundation fuels athletic achievements through grants, enhancing safety, facilities, and community fitness.


We foster holistic education by supporting diverse activities through grants, enriching students' experiences beyond the classroom.


Placer High's rich history shines through alumni activities, fostering a strong network connecting generations and the community.


Placer High's prime Auburn location fuels community growth, enhancing facilities and programs through strategic grants.



A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.


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My Unique Vantage Point: The Evolution of the Hillmen Foundation

November 16, 20236 min read

One of the most rewarding things about being a teacher is fostering a student’s growth over the years. Seeing goofy, awkward freshman become confident seniors is a true pleasure. Watching them achieve their potential and become a contributing member to their community is a bonus.

I feel the same about the Hillmen Foundation. It’s been my pleasure to watch the organization grow from a small group of interested individuals to a powerful non-profit that supports the students of Placer High School.

The Foundation was born out of necessity. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13 which drastically cut and capped property taxes and hobbled the state’s ability to raise money for schools. Overnight, the tax revenue available to pay for public schooling was slashed by one-third. Throughout the next decade, Placer High School suffered funding cuts along with the rest of the state.

To address the issue, in 1989, former Placer High School Principal Jug Covich and Teacher/Coach Tom Johnson teamed up with a small committee of Auburn citizens to form the Hillmen Foundation as a 501(c)3 non-profit. The mission of the foundation was to support Placer High programs in academics, activities, and athletics; to stimulate gifts of service, endowments and bequests; and to maintain an association of persons interested in Placer High School.

At first, the committee was comprised of five officers and three committee members of which I was one. In the early years, we held infrequent meetings at Jug Covich’s house, feasting on pies and cookies made by Barbara Covich and doling out grants to teachers at Placer who had applied for support. Much of the meetings involved Covich and Johnson comparing Cal and USC football stories.

At first the Foundation used small membership revenues to support its mission. Then in 1991, Auburn citizen Alonzo Hazen, a PG&E employee, came to the rescue. Upon his death, he left the bulk of his estate to Placer High School for a science scholarship to be awarded to a graduating boy and girl. The Hillmen Foundation became the executor of the estate, which included approximately $23,000 in cash, PG&E stock that generated nearly $500 a quarter at the time, and a home which was sold for $100,000.

During the 1990s when Johnson was the principal of Placer High, he held weekly Bingo nights at the Auburn Gold Country Fairgrounds to raise money for the Foundation. He called the numbers and each night a different school club or academic department worked the event, receiving a portion of the proceeds.

Bingo nights were difficult for the principal and teachers, requiring evening work after a full day at school. And, because smoking was still allowed in public buildings at that time, a majority of the players indulged in their nicotine habit all night long. Exhausted school workers went home at night, their clothes and hair reeking of cigarette smoke, but their programs enhanced financially.

In 1997, the school celebrated its centennial. A committee of Placer alumni and community persons worked for three years in advance of the celebration. During the three-day event, I had the opportunity to view how special Placer High is in the hearts of its graduates. Old Town Auburn was closed down on Friday night, and graduates, friends, and family packed the streets sharing food and drink and memories.

Individual classes assembled at the Fairgrounds on Saturday for specific year reunions. Sunday featured a parade of cars representing almost each of the past 100 years down High Street, and concluded with a massive picnic at the Fairgrounds.

It was evident to me that Placer High is a special place with a strong emotional bond that ties the alumni and the community and its citizens to the school. The Hillmen Foundation received all proceeds from the celebration, allowing us to function for the next several years.

Under Johnson’s chairmanship, the Foundation grew to include more members and reached a total of 12. In 2014, the Foundation stepped into a fund-raising mode to hold a community dinner called Hillfest on the field at LeFebvre Stadium. More than 300 paying guests and business sponsors attended to hear various club advisors and coaches describe activities at the school. Again, the Hillmen Foundation received all proceeds from the event which allowed us to proceed with grants to PHS academics, activities, and athletics.

Various Placer grads were so thrilled with the Centennial celebration that several got together in 2014 to begin planning an encore event, the All-Class Reunion, even though the date held no insignificant historical marker. The committee met for more than a year to create the affair. At the Fairgrounds. Individual classes held reunions and festivities included music, socializing and dancing on Saturday night with a picnic on Sunday. The Hillmen Foundation again received proceeds from the event.

The Foundation experienced a complete restructuring in 2018 to include a new set of by-laws, an Executive Board, and four new committees (Finance, Fund Raising, Community-School Relationship, and Governance). New members were added and the board expanded to 26 voting members. Meetings were held quarterly. Teachers made formal applications for grants and also appeared at Foundation meetings to make presentations and answer questions.

In 2022, the school celebrated its 125-year anniversary and the foundation was the driving force in planning a school-community celebration in October. The weekend began with a football game on Friday night. On Saturday, an all-class and community street gala was held in a closed off Old Town with music, dancing, and food and refreshment booths. Individual class reunions were held Sunday at the Auburn Recreation Park.

Next year, the Hillmen Foundation will celebrate 35 years of existence with smaller, special events currently in the planning stages.

When I was asked to be a committee member the Hillmen Foundation back in 1989, I had no idea the impact the organization would have on Placer High School. As I look back on the 34 years that I’ve been a committee member, board member and for 10 years the chairman, I’ve come to realize the significance of our organization.

Some of the things we’ve done are easily recognizable — the Centennial Archway at the entrance to the school, the football stadium scoreboard, and the snack shack inside the Earl Crabbe Gym. Mostly, however, the grants we’ve provided over the years impact the students directly, enriching their education in the classroom.

I am confident that the technology we’ve supplied in the form of 3-D printers, calculators, computers, cameras, and scanners has enhanced the educational experience and future for students. I know that the field trips for at-risk students and the various band instruments we’ve provided gave students the social and cultural experiences they might not have without the Foundation. And I’m sure the program support and conferences we’ve furnished teachers has allowed them to grow in their profession and continue the legacy and rich heritage of the school that has defined Placer High for 126 years.


After 10 years at the helm, Bob recently retired from his position as Chair of the Hillmen Foundation Board of Directors. As one of our first members, he remains active as a Director with the Foundation, as well as with the Placer Athletic Hall of Fame. In addition to his years of teaching at Placer High, Bob was also the long-time announcer for Hillmen football and the LeFebvre relays.

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Bob Burge

Bob Burge taught journalism and English at Placer High School from 1973-2006. For 38 years, he was the public address announcer at Lefebvre Stadium. Now retired, he is former chairman of The Hillmen Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Placer High in the areas of academics, student activities, and athletics.

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A company called AlumniClass.com has been soliciting Placer Alumni for membership fees. This company is not affiliated in any way with Placer High School, The Hillmen Foundation, or any Placer Class Reunion or Placer High organization, whatsoever. We suggest that you do not respond to their emails or correspond with this company.



Every donation, regardless of size, will positively impact Placer High students, our community, and life on the Hill. All contributions to

the Hillmen Foundation are tax deductible in accordance with state and federal tax laws.






















*Scholarships include Foundation-sponsored and Endowments with the Hillmen Foundation

In the best of times, in the worst of times, at all times… It’s great to be a Hillman!


The purpose of the Hillmen Foundation is to support Placer High School in the areas of academics, student activities, and athletics, including the staff, students, and alumni endeavors of the school; to stimulate gifts of service, endowments, and bequests; and to maintain an association of persons interested in Placer High School.






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