Members of the CJ community were treated to an assembly of historic proportions Friday, Feb. 4, during a combined celebration of Catholic Schools Week and the school’s 160/125 anniversary.
Current students, faculty, staff and about 25 guests, including members of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and Society of Mary, filled the auditorium to see, feel and experience 160 years of memories via a 90 minute multi-media presentation. The event included live speakers, photos, video clips, and an original song—We Didn’t Start the School, a parody of Billy Joel’s 1989 hit of similar name—recorded by VEGA, CJ’s first-year a cappella group under the direction of Joe Whatley ’04.
The idea, according to Jim Brooks, CJ English teacher who helped organize the massive undertaking, was to educate students on their school’s past in order to provide them with a better understanding of where CJ is today, and where it might go in the future. Those integral in making the program a success, said Brooks, included members of the assembly’s planning committee Nancy Egbers, Laurie Eloe, Angela Ruffolo, Tim Dillon, Peg Regan and Cindy Budde, as well numerous other faculty and staff members who made contributions.
“History is a tough sell to teenagers so we knew that if we were going to do that we needed an audio-visual approach to it, and so the key person who edited it all together was [2008 graduate] David Brun,” Brooks stated. Clips consisted of narrated segments, each containing pictures and information from different points in the school’s history beginning with the founding of Notre Dame Academy and St. Mary’s School for Boys in the 1800’s and leading up to the present day accomplishments of those at Chaminade Julienne.
“I’ve never seen our students more attentive for that period of time which tells me that something was going in, and that they were paying attention to everything that was happening,” added Brooks, who’s spent 31 years at CJ teaching and coaching.
Students delighted in seeing their fellow senior classmates Riviere Duffy and Cassie Zehenny outfitted in authentic Julienne uniforms on stage as they alternated reading aloud the Notre Dame Courtesy Code, and likewise as seniors Joe Ferneding and Jarred Jones took turns reading excerpts from the 1930 CHS yearbook dressed in sport coats, slacks and ties.
“I was very pleased with the student response. The combination of audio-visual presentation and live speakers was very good,” he said. Guest speakers representing different periods in the school’s past were chosen to compliment the themes of each video segment’s era and included: Charlene Wheeler, 1965 Julienne graduate and current guidance department chairperson; Don Nooks, a 1969 Chaminade graduate; Ann Meyers, a 1976 CJ graduate and current math teacher; and Jim Place, former CJ football coach and athletic director.
“I was to talk about when the schools merged,” Meyers recounted. “I was a freshman when I found out and a sophomore the year it happened. Then the next year St. Joseph’s Commercial High School merged in, and merging two schools together was crazy; just really crazy.”
Having the opportunity to hear first-hand the similar experiences some of her teachers had while attending the same school is something senior Seanice Reynolds said was very rewarding. She described the assembly as a great experience, but admitted her favorite part came during the conclusion when Meyers, along with the 20 other current faculty and staff members who graduated from CJ or one of its predecessor schools, shared some of their most memorable high school stories on video.
“I just thought it was incredibly well-received by the students,” Meyers said. “Anyone that was at the assembly left the auditorium feeling more informed, but also feeling energized about being a part of this community.”
Anniversary Assembly Reception
Following the assembly, guests including former faculty and staff members, as well as members of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and Society of Mary, were invited to a reception hosted in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame room. A few shared their thoughts on the ceremony:
Bro. Paul Jablinski, S.M., Chaminade class of 1954 and former art teacher at his alma mater, called the assembly "very nice, and very moving." He now lives with the Marianists above the annex at CJ and enjoys meeting with students on walks around campus.
Don Nooks, Chaminade class of 1969 and guest speaker at the assembly, reflected on his time at the corner of Franklin and Ludlow Streets and reminisced, "The four years I spent down here were the finest years of my life." He admitted his favorite part of the assembly was seeing his former principal Mr. Ed Regan, who was in attendance with his wife Dot. "Next to my father, I respect him more than any other man," Nooks said. "I don't think he really ever knew how important he was to all the Men of Chaminade. He was a father-figure, a teacher, an administrator and a big brother."
Kathleen Stanaford, a 1990 graduate who taught at her alma mater from 1994 to 2007, enjoyed being back at the school she considers home. "I thought the assembly was incredible, the presentation was well put together, and the students were well-behaved," she said. "A few students came up to greet me even though they had never had me in class."
More Catholic Schools Week Fun: January 31 - February 4
Due to the inclement weather that closed CJ during most of Catholic Schools Week, many of the planned festivities were postponed until Friday, Feb. 4 to accompany the Anniversary Assembly. These activities included Catholic T-shirt Day—when students, faculty and staff were able to wear a Catholic elementary school shirt, a CJ t-shirt, or a Catholic college t-shirt to school—and the annual Teacher Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the Co-Educators.
Additionally, the delivery of special Catholic Schools Week cakes and posters to area grade schools (pictured below) was a success, even if delayed by the snow and ice. Volunteers from CJ's faculty and staff dropped off the gifts for their fellow educators at 17 Catholic elementary schools around the city. Posters contained a photo and a "Thank you" from current CJ students who got their start at each school.