Members of Park High School’s Class of 1965 got a big surprise last September, when some

of them met to finalize the finances from their 50th reunion celebration a month earlier.“It was really exciting,” said Barb (Kemnitz) Salvo, a member of the class of 1965 and a former Park High School teacher, now teaching at Carthage College. “When we realized we had enough for 10, we were blown out of the water.”

Some of the most fun she’s ever had, Salvo said, was walking into Park High School and handing the check (for close to $20,000) to school counselor Wendy Saber.  “I said to her ‘I know I told you we’d have enough for a couple scholarships, would you take 10?’,” she said with a chuckle.

While it is not unusual for Park alumni to donate scholarship money to the school, the amount raised by the Class of 1965 is very unusual, said Saber, who oversees scholarships at Park. Alumni often raise money when they get together for class reunions, but the amounts are typically in the $500 to $1,000 range, she said.  “This is an amazingly generous donation,” Saber said. “They’ve given almost $2,000 for each of 10 students to use toward college.”

An idea was born

The idea to raise money for scholarships was inspired by the class reaching a milestone year at its 50th reunion.  “We had always kept leftover cash from previous reunions in a checking account, but this was the ‘Big One’,” said Kathy (Sidwell) Smullen, head of the 50th reunion organizing committee, which also included Marilyn (Kayon) McGoldrick and Bill Guenther.The committee decided that anything leftover from the 50th would go to a scholarship fund, and they were originally hoping to raise at least $1,000 for one scholarship, Smullen said.“We figured our 50th would likely be our last really big reunion, so why not make it special not only for the class, but also for the school,” Salvo said. “And everyone bought into the idea from the get-go.”


They started by asking everyone who registered for the reunion to “round up” their registration fee by $20 (or more), with the extra money going to the scholarship fund. The resulting $4,225 raised by that effort was so encouraging that organizers decided to add a silent auction to one of the reunion events ($4,570 raised) and a 50/50 raffle ($670) to another, Smullen said.“The scholarship fever became contagious,” she said.

Before long, three classmates had each donated a full scholarship and many others — including those who couldn’t attend the reunion — sent donations both during and after the reunion, bringing in thousands more. And when all of the donations from the 50th reunion were added to the money the class still had its account from its 40th reunion, they found they had enough for 10 scholarships.“Pretty amazing,” said Smullen, now of Morgan.

The scholarships

The class has designated that four of its 10 scholarships go to high school seniors planning to study specific fields in college, Saber said. One will be issued to a student majoring in business, while another is designated for an engineering/math major.

Two others will be issued to students attending technical colleges, one of which specifies that the student be enrolled in Gateway Technical College’s automotive program — a designation that was inspired by the Class of 1965’s tour of Park High School automotive shop during their reunion weekend.  The other six scholarships will have no restrictions, Saber said, and recipients will be determined by the Washington Park Scholarship committee. Class of 1965 members will take part in the scholarship presentations in May.  “We are really excited to be able to present these scholarships,” Salvo said.

Members of the Class of ’65 said they hope their success in raising money for college scholarships might inspire other classes of Park alumni to make similar efforts at their reunions. The Class of 1966 will have its 50th reunion this coming summer, Smullen said, and she’s heard that its members are hoping to donate scholarship funds as well.  “It is sort of a ‘pay it forward’ thing to do,” she said.

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