Schools reaching out to alumni — it’s catching on

J. Patrick Eaken

        Waite High School has more than 100 years of alumni, and included are many great people. The school itself is named after a former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Morrison R. Waite, who hailed from Toledo.
        For example, Waite grad the late Ray Frick used his wealth from the entertainment business and was always good to his alma mater, where he excelled on the athletic fields. There are countless others, of course.
        Three local school superintendents, one high school principal and a Catholic school president spoke about how they are reaching out and building relationships with their alumni at the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Communities breakfast held Wednesday at Mercy Health – St. Charles Hospital in Oregon.
        “We have a lot of alumni at Waite High School who make their way east out to Oregon; we have the top and strongest alumni association, I would say, of all public schools here in Northwest Ohio,” said Waite Principal Todd Deem.
        “Since 1964, when the alumni association officially started, they have given over $750,000 in scholarships — that is just two groups, Waite alumni and Waite, Inc., and that is specifically to Waite High School students,” he said. “We have a few more of them that are giving on an annual basis, but since 1964, when the first one was $100, the alumni said, ‘we are going to keep going with this’.
        “If you’ve driven down Front Street lately, you’ve seen some work going on the river side. But on our side of Front Street, you’ll notice about two years ago a softball field went in,” Deem continued. “Our alumni association is working hard to bring our tennis courts back on campus. They used to be down where we played at Ravine before the Veterans Skyway went in, and now they travel over to Navarre Park, which is a little tough with four courts. So, we’re looking to bring that back on our campus.”
        Deem himself is an alumnus. Six of Waite’s 11 principals all-time were graduates. “I guess we kind of boomerang and come back home, if you will,” he said.
        “What a powerful statement that six of the 11 principals of Waite High School have been graduates,” said Lake Local Superintendent Jim Witt. “I think that really is a fantastic statement to the passion and education they receive at Waite. That is awesome.”
        Oregon City Schools Superintendent said the district is building on a growing momentum alumni relationship-building.
        “Like never before, we are growing and expanding our relationships in alumni development, with the goal of supporting alumni in purposeful ways and fostering an environment for private gifts through the Oregon Schools Foundation,” Gregory said.
        “The Oregon Schools Foundation has raised close to $150,000 for 2019 and the endowment is close to $300,000 for the very first time. We’re working with our reunion classes to reconnect alumni. That dates all the way back to the 1950s, which is usually where we can get people to want to connect. It’s been very exciting,” he said.
        At Northwood, it’s a work in progress, but it’s only the beginning, Superintendent Jason Kozina said.
        “I don’t know if Hal knows this, but I actually borrowed some of the paperwork from the school’s foundation that has been there for years. I’ve been at Northwood for 12 years and this is my second as superintendent,” Kozina said.            “One of the concerns I had coming into that role is that we didn’t have a very good alumni relations program. We didn’t have a reach-out; we didn’t have that kind of a foundation, so in the course of the last year-and-a-half, I’ve worked with several of our alumni and we have just formed a foundation just about eight months ago now, getting it off the ground.
        “Northwood Education Foundation was founded by nine alumni trustees and another alumnus who helps in the background doing different legal aspects of it. It’s been a great addition. They will be hosting their very first sponsored event next Friday night for an alumni night at our school with a spaghetti dinner and a basketball game.”


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