Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Eagles

Recognition of three former principals, dozens of former or longtime teachers, and unveiling of a large bronze eagle – a gift from the Memorial Middle School PTA – were a few of the highlights during a 50-year celebration held Oct. 7 at the middle school campus.

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Memorial Middle School’s 1,400 students and a number of guests gathered in the new gym for a program that included a student-led journey through the past five decades in school history. The Memorial Middle Band performed five songs representing the decades. The choir then led a packed auditorium in “Happy Birthday” during a fast-paced afternoon program. A reception was held later in the library for special guests.

The program was capped by the unveiling of a bronze eagle, the school’s mascot, which will be installed near the main entrance. School PTA President Rikki Graber said that the association had worked for many years to raise funds for the large, winged figure as a “wonderful and lasting” tribute to the golden moment. Current Principal Lisa Weir led the program and welcomed all the guests, which included several Board of Trustees members.

The middle school was dedicated as Memorial Junior High School on Sept. 24, 1963, with 1,490 students enrolled during a boom period in Spring Branch residential development. Within three years, 900 students were transferred to new Spring Forest Middle School as enrollment reached the 2,200 student mark. Current school enrollment is 1,411 students.

Special public remarks were made by former Principal Melvin Eldridge, who led the campus from 1978 to 1998. He hired Principal Weir as a teacher in 1990. “I think that I have been to this school before,” he quipped. “One of the best things about Memorial Middle School is the dedication of its students to learning and the great teachers that have served this school.

It has been my privilege to serve here.” Other former principals who attended were Bob Price, retired, and Sofia Petrou, who is a Spring Branch ISD administrator. Seventh-grade teacher Sally Griffin, who has taught 45 years at Memorial Middle, drew a good-natured laugh when she ended her remarks about the changes she has seen at the “wonderful place” that is Memorial Middle School by uncovering, then waving, a wooden paddle. “Bend over!” she admonished the gym crowd jokingly. She noted that the original families at Memorial Middle planted trees and installed the first running track.

For one, Mrs. Griffin has seen volleyball grow in popularity from two to 18 separate student teams. Courses popular five decades ago like drafting, wood shop, home economics and sewing have evolved into a dizzying array of computer interests.

“[Women teachers] had to wear a skirt or dresses, hose. Male teachers had to wear a tie, and many times wore suit coats. Pregnant teachers might work in the offices, but not in the classroom. Things have changed!” she reminded students and adults. Included among special guests were former teachers like Ina Schmidt, who helped open the school, taught science for 20 years, and then served as assistant principal for 13 more years.

What is her deepest memory of middle school back in 1963? No air conditioning. Ina and her husband moved to Spring Branch with three young boys for one reason: Good Schools. Her memories are happy ones. “I was so fortunate to be at that school. I loved the school dearly. I had really great kids, and I taught a subject that I enjoyed. I was happy!” she proclaims.

Former Principal Bob Price, now retired to the San Antonio area, noted that one of his goals had been for the middle school to gain a space big enough where students and staff might gather together. The new gym impressed him in that regard. “It’s really nice to stand in a place where you can gather all the students. It’s really nice to be back and to see this,” he said.

Special guests at the 50th Anniversary campus program included:

Memorial Middle Principals
Edgar Willhelm, 1963-1966
Jim Colquitt, 1966-1968
Jake Alexander, 1968-1969
Claude Blanchard, 1969-1978
Melvin Eldridge, 1978-1998
Sofia Petrou, 1998-2002
Bob Price, 2003-2006
Lisa Weir, 2007-Present

Former Teachers and Longtime Teachers
Sally Griffin, 45 years
Donna Dodson, 36 years
Denise Nygard, 36 years
Barbara Gibert, 25 years
Gloria Montalbano, 25 years
Lynn Greenhill, 23 years
Chris Thornton, 21 years
Bobbie Wheelan, 20 years
Meredith Picket, 19 years
Kim Moore, 18 years
Shanda Fraser, 15 years
Rebekah Ruiz, 14 years
Kim Tucker, 14 years
Cindy Balderach, 13 years
Paige Krekler, 13 years
Beverly Gore, 13 years
Mark Miller, 12 years
Lee Lemmons, 10 years

Teachers who are Memorial Middle graduates
Katherine Cossey, 1983
Meredith Picket, 1985
Elisabeth Dains, 1993
Lauren Simpson, 1997
Hannah Borman, 2004

Five Decades of Songs as performed by the Memorial Middle Band
1960s – I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles
1970s – 25 or 6 to 4, Chicago
1980s – Thriller, Michael Jackson
1990s – Smooth, Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas
2000s – I Gotta Feelin’, The Black Eyed Peas


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