Going strong since 1971

Reunion: More than 300 alumni who graduated in the mid-1970s celebrate the 30th anniversary of Columbia's first high school.

November 29, 2001|By Anne Speca | Anne Speca,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"We had more hair back then," said Shari Jenell Trigg, looking around at her former classmates gathered at the Wilde Lake Millennial Reunion. "It's a lot more nostalgic now. Now that I'm in my 40s, things are different. People are more established, and we've gone through more life cycles."

More than 300 graduates from Wilde Lake High School's first four graduating classes (1973-1976) and 25 teachers and staff members assembled Friday night at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of Columbia's first high school.

The dinner and dance Friday - and an indoor picnic Saturday at Blob's Park in Jessup - were co- ordinated by graduates Scott Kramer (1974), Catherine Dewey (1973), Stuart Jordan (1974) and Alan Jefferson (1976), who worked more than 18 months to organize the events.

It was the second reunion; the first was held in 1989.

For many, the event was "more than just a reunion," Kramer said. It was a chance to reflect how much Columbia has changed, becoming more a concept than a reality.

"We were the Columbia pioneers," Kramer said.

While some former Wildecats paged through old yearbooks, others eagerly scanned name tags in search of good friends and old flames. Most told stories and reminisced about attending the country's first open-space high school.

"I remember sitting on the floor, and sometimes seeing whole classes on the floor. It was a very unique place," said John Marigliano, Class of 1974.

"I set off the sprinkler system once," recalled Carolyn "Bun Bun" Everhart.

She and her sister, Joy "Missie" Everhart, both 1975 graduates, also remembered introducing their father to music teacher Gloria Elaine Oland. The two married while the girls were in high school, and Oland's choir sang at the wedding.

Those who attended, wearing formal attire, mingled among elegant displays of food and tables adorned with Wilde Lake memorabilia. Most were surprised by the planning and coordination behind the reunion.

"I'm blown away by this. It's much more than I expected," said Emmett Walker, a 1974 graduate who returned from Rochester, N.Y., for the reunion.

Walker wasn't the only one making a long trip. Graduates from more than 18 states attended, and the prize for the longest distance traveled went to Kimberly Paumier (1976), who came from England.

Reunion coordinators made a short presentation after the event began. For a moment, it was like being at a high school rally as the speakers struggled to get the attention of the excited and chattering crowd. Dewey practically had to shout as she read letters from graduates living in Japan, England and Italy.

John M. "Jack" Jenkins, principal from 1971 to 1978, then addressed his former students.

"I'm very impressed by everything that the students have done, and by the response to this event," he said later. "There are so many more connections among these students than at other places I've been."

About 10:30 p.m., graduates and teachers took to the dance floor, and the disc jockey was under strict orders to play only 1970s tunes.

Many graduates feel that Columbia's formative stage and Wilde Lake's experimental approach lent a spirit of community to the student body. "There's something about the early classes. There's a lot of feeling among the people in those classes," said Sandy Rasmussen Puterbaugh, Class of 1976.

Trigg, a telecommunications lawyer in Washington, agreed. "Wilde Lake did what no other school could have done, and they gave us more support. The school made us enthusiastic, responsible individuals in our early years. My transition to college was a breeze."

Richard Deutschmann, a 1977 graduate, remembered cutting English class for the math classes. "I liked them better," he said. "The math teacher talked me into being an engineer."

Like others, Deutschmann left the area to study but eventually returned. "I love Columbia and its ideals. I came back to start my own company here," he said.

Michelle Alexander Calloway, Class of 1975, also returned to Columbia after studying outside the area. "This is one of the best places to live," she said. "My parents moved here because Washington, D.C., was segregated and they didn't want to live with that."

When the school opened in September 1971, Columbia was one of few places in Maryland to allow minorities to rent apartments.

"Many of us [African-Americans] were the first to move into the neighborhood," Trigg said. "We were very much a minority. It was a very open-minded place, but there were some undertones. We were all people from different places, and Columbia was a new and different city for everyone."

Photographs from the reunion are on the event's Web site, www.wildelakereunion.com, which Kramer designed and maintains.

For Kramer, the reunion was such a success that he is thinking about planning the next one. "It will happen for sure," he said. "It's in my blood."

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