125th +2 celebrations

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Kat Swift

WHHS alumni enjoyed an evening of good music, food, and conversation as they celebrated the 125th anniversary of their alma mater. “Walnut is, not only is it such an iconic institution, but all of who have gone there know that it occupies a serious, warm place in our hearts,” alumnus Dion Graham ’79 said.

Lael Ingram, Section Editor of News

WHHS commemorated its 125th anniversary with two days full of events and festivities for students, staff and alumni alike to participate in and to celebrate WHHS’ community. 

The celebration would’ve been held in 2020, on the actual 125th anniversary of WHHS as an institution, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that was not possible. Therefore, the celebration was dubbed the “125th +2”, recognizing the two years in between the anniversary and the festivities. 

On Friday, Sept. 30, alumni were invited to watch and participate in an orchestra concert with current orchestra students. The WHHS Alumni Orchestra included 58 alumni who performed an arrangement of “An Ode to Joy Festival” written by Beethoven. “I worked pretty hard…I practiced a lot on my own, especially the night before. So what you saw was not really daily practicing like actual orchestra students do but it was just one song, so it was pretty cool,”alumnus Christopher Sheridan Bebeau, ‘10, who played the timpanis in the orchestra said. 

Next, the Chamber Orchestra performed an assortment of songs, including “In trutina” with a solo from SENIOR Ella Vaughn. The WHHS Vocal Ensemble also performed Benedictus with the orchestra with a cello solo from alumnus Miles Yeazell ‘16. 

The festivities extended into Saturday, Oct. 1, where alumni were invited to watch an excerpt of the fall play, Macbeth, and tour the school with the help of student ambassadors.  “I liked being back. I thought the school was beautiful,” alumna Teresa Glenn ‘86 said.

In the evening, alumni were invited to a celebratory gala that began with a cocktail hour and ended with a night of performances by students, staff, and other alumni. Former principal Jeff Brokamp and alumnus Dion Graham ‘79, an actor who has appeared in several hit TV shows and movies including HBO’s “The Wire”, were hosts for the evening and had the honor of introducing all of the performers. 

There were also several announcements made throughout the night, including the introduction of a plan to raise $50 million for WHHS school improvements, and the induction of Debbie Heldman, Executive Director of the Alumni Foundation, into the WHHS Alumni Hall of Fame. 

Regardless of the event, the 125th +2 weekend gave alumni the chance to reconnect with their peers and reminisce on their time at WHHS, as well as connect with students and experience our current environment. 

WHHS has changed a lot since some alumni have graduated, but for many, memories of their favorite places on campus are still intact. “My favorite place was the library, I read every World War II book in there,” alumnus Alan Immerman, ‘69 said. 

For many alumni, their favorite places on campus were attached to the sport or activity they did. Mary Wineberg ‘98, a WHHS alumna and an Olympic gold medalist in the women’s 400 meter relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, attend the gala.“The track is my favorite place,” Wineberg said, “To just be able to go there and remember when I used to be able to do the workouts. It got me to where I am today.” 

WHHS’ lineage of alumni traces back to the late 1800’s when WHHS was founded, and each class has their own legacy, or defining traits. “When I think of the legacy of the class of ‘98, I just see a lot of great people who were ambitious and did the things that they wanted to do,” Wineberg said. 

“I would say it was a smart, fun-loving class, [with] good people, really accomplished people,” alumnus Dion Graham ‘79 said when defining the class of ‘79’s legacy. 

To be an alumni of WHHS, it is important to connect with students and give guidance and advice on how they can become successful and use their WHHS education and connections to the fullest. “I think it’d be useful to try to get a network of people,” Graham said, “I think that if you’re a younger person coming out [of WHHS], don’t be afraid to reach out.”