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NHS Alumni Banquet Returns After 2 Years Off

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
The 2019 Noblesville High School Alumni Association board — Vicki Wright Wilson (front, from left), Kathy Kreag Williams, Terri Sigman Kennedy, Jeff Zeckel, Peggy Baldwin Beaver, Karen Williams Pryor, Janice Robinson; Brad Cook (back, from left), Eric Spencer, Alaina Epperson Shonkwiler, Chris Jensen and Tom Gang — poses for a photo during the 2019 NHS Alumnus Banquet (Joann Cooke White and Tim Timmons not pictured). The 2022 banquet is April 30.

I think I’ve attended nearly every Noblesville High School Alumni Banquet since I started working as a Noblesville journalist 36 years ago.

The banquets are always a lot of fun, graduates reminisce about high school days, the 50-year class is celebrated and an Alumnus of the Year is honored. Plus, attendees enjoy a good meal catered by Noblesville Jim Dandy.

I was glad to hear that the NHS Alumni Banquet will return this year, on April 30 at NHS.

“After two years of canceling our banquet due to Covid-19-related issues, we are hoping for one of our biggest turnouts,” said NHS Alumni Association president Peggy (Baldwin) Beaver, a 1972 NHS grad who is finishing up her second term as NHS Alumni president.

Beaver’s class of ‘72 is celebrating its 50-year-reunion at the banquet. The class is featured in the eight-page Spring 2022 NHS Alumni Newsletter, which she puts together and mails out to alumni each year.

It’s been three years since the last NHS Alumni Banquet, which traditionally takes place the last Saturday in April.

“It was a very hard decision to cancel our banquets for 2020 and 2021, but our entire board, by unanimous vote, thought it was best, in order to protect our members from possibly getting sick,” said Beaver, who has been on the NHS Alumni board for many years.

I remember the March 16 morning that Beaver, then NHS Alumni Association vice president, contacted me. “I have some sad news,” she said. At the time, I thought the date was “so far out.”  I would have assumed that the pandemic would have been over by April 25, 2020. There were no plans to reschedule the banquet. “It would just be too difficult to find a good date for everyone to attend and to coordinate it with the high school since that is where we would be holding it,” Beaver told me.

In 2020, I learned that the banquet began in 1876 with the first graduating class. The 2020 banquet would have been the banquet’s 144th year, the same year, 2020, that Noblesville Schools celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Beaver expected the banquet to return in 2021, but the banquet did not return.

“We made the decision this year to hold our banquet with the guidance of Noblesville High School. We were told earlier in the year that all outside events at the high school were still on as scheduled but would update us if there were any changes to that decision,” Beaver said.

While the NHS class of ‘70 and ‘71 missed out on their time to be honored during 50-year reunions during 2020 and 2021 banquets, due to the pandemic, those two graduating class years will be honored at the April 30 banquet. “We will be recognizing those in attendance from both classes, to give them some much deserved recognition,” Beaver said.

Attendees every year at these banquets seem to have a great time.

“If you have never been to one of our NHS Alumni Banquets, you are missing out on a fun evening reminiscing with classmates from all graduating classes,” said Beaver, who was on the homecoming court her senior year and graduated on May 28, 1972. “Our main mission is to celebrate our alumni and hold a banquet each year for all of you to gather and enjoy the company of your classmates.”

Beaver said average attendance, over the past more than 20 years, at the NHS Alumni Banquet is about 300 guests.

She is especially thrilled this year being her class’ year to be recognized. “The class of 1972 will have reserved seating and our classmate Ted Williams will be sharing with all of us in attendance, about what it was like to be a Miller growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” she said.

The NHS Class of 1973 will be hosts at this year’s banquet, greeting attendees as they check in, directing guests to their tables and serving punch during social hour. It’s a tradition for each class to play host the year prior to its 50-year reunion. Also, in tradition, NHS students will serve the Jim Dandy meals to each table.

One outstanding NHS Alumnus of the Year, voted on by the NHS Alumni Association board, is recognized with a plaque and isn’t announced until the banquet. But before then, during the banquet, door prizes are presented to the graduate who has traveled the farthest, who has the most grandchildren and the earliest and most recent graduates.

All of these add “a little more fun to the evening,” Beaver said.

Terri Sigman Kennedy, NHS Class of ‘72 and current NHS Alumni Association vice president, makes sure that all of the award plaques are updated and all of awards and gifts have been ordered prior to the banquet. She is the widow of the late John Kennedy, also Class of ‘72. (The NHS Class of ‘72 is organizing a golf outing in memory of their classmate, who died in October 2017. John Kennedy loved being on the NHS Alumni board and was instrumental in raising more than $40,000 for scholarships during the annual NHS alumni golf outings that he organized, during his 10 years on the board. In his honor, the golf outing will be at 8:30 a.m. May 14 at Forest Park at $100 per golfer and $100 for a hole sponsor)

For those who would rather ride than walk, the NHS Alumni Association will once again offer a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the NHS door.

The NHS Alumni Association offers two levels of membership, NHS alumni graduates and associate members. Only NHS graduates who have paid their membership dues, can serve on the board and have voting rights. Membership dues for both alumni and associate members is $20 for a lifetime membership. “Again, anyone can attend our banquets,” she said. Beaver encourages folks to make a reservation, “so we can plan for our seating and number of meals,” she said.

Current officers on the board are Peggy Baldwin Beaver, president, class of 1972; Terri Sigman Kennedy, vice president, class of 1972; Janice Robinson, treasurer, class of 1968; Karen Williams Pryor, secretary, class of 1974. Board members are Jeff Zeckel, class of 1973; Tim Timmons (publisher of The Times), class of 1975; Tom Gang, class of 1967; Vicki Wright Wilson, class of 1968; JoAnn Cook White, class of 1948; and Debbie Davis Bastin, class of 1971. “If you are interested in serving on the board, we would love to hear from you,” Beaver said.

“We have a unique board of directors. In my opinion, it is very rare, in this day and age, to find a group of volunteers who only meet four or five times a year, who can plan an event with over 300 in attendance, and with very little effort, raise money for scholarships to some very deserving graduates of NHS,” she said.

Most of the NHS Alumni Association board meetings consist of planning for the banquet and deciding how many scholarships will be awarded based on the amount donated from the prior year. This year, the board is also working on updates to by-laws.

“We have some very generous NHS alumni who donate, to make this happen,” she said. Donations are encouraged for the NHS Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, Newsletter Fund, general fund to support the banquet, and the Gold Star Program (in which name appears on a plaque and is on display at every banquet.)

Those who currently serve on the NHS Alumni Association scholarship committee are chairperson Karen Williams Pryor, plus members Tom Gang, JoAnn Cook White and Beaver. “Each year we go over all the (scholarship) applications that are submitted to our committee from Noblesville High School. It is very hard to only choose a few since everyone who applies is so deserving.” One of the requirements is that each applicant has at least one family member who has graduated from Noblesville High School.

Planning a reunion also means reaching out to find alumni. Beaver said, “One of the biggest challenges we have is trying to keep our membership list current. The updates are made year-round, as people move and some who have passed away.  We only keep a list of graduates who have paid their alumni membership dues (Lifetime dues are only $20).

Beaver said she doesn’t have a list of every member of every class who has graduated from NHS, and isn’t always aware of a change of address. “Our board members are always on the lookout for any updates to pass along to keep our membership data up to date. We also appreciate those of you who contact us directly, with your address updates.”

All paid members will receive an alumni newsletter, “if we have your current address,” This year’s newsletter was mailed out in early March. The newsletter includes a banquet reservation form that can be completed and mailed in with a check payable to NHS Alumni.

There is a lot of work and planning that goes into the newsletter prior to print, Beaver said. Currently, she serves as newsletter chairperson, with the help of Timmons and board member Jeff Zeckel, class of ‘73. Planning begins shortly after the banquet for the following year’s newsletter. Some  of the data is pulled from the reservation forms, Beaver said. “We list the previous years scholarship winners with their pictures, the 50-year class has a whole page to share about their high school days and we always have a unique front page that normally gives us all some history of happenings in Noblesville.”

In previous years, we had the pleasure of having  Brad Cook, class of ‘73, to provide content for the front page of the newsletter. “This year, I give a big thank you to Jeff Zeckel for our front page,” Beaver said. “He worked very hard and did much (interesting) research (with the help of many others, including Times columnist Paula Dunn) on the history of Noblesville’s football fields.”

Preparation for the NHS Alumni Banquet takes a lot of work from some very loyal volunteers. “The day of the banquet is a very busy day for all board members,” Beaver said.

Janice Robinson, NHS Alumni Association treasurer, collects all the money and records all the reservations and maps out the seating.

Robinson and Beaver usually arrive at NHS by 8 a.m. to make sure all of the tables and chairs are set up properly by the NHS staff, “who, by the way, does an awesome job every year for us,” Beaver said. Everyone else arrives around 10 a.m. to wipe off tables and set up the tables with placemats, programs and centerpieces for the night’s event. They make sure the sound system is working properly and set up the registration tables for check in and go over all the last-minute details.

Beaver said, “We normally have this all taken care of by noon, only to return by 4 p.m. to be there prior to everyone arriving.”

After the event, NHS Alumni board members help clean up and load up table centerpieces to be stored to use for next year’s event.

Beaver said, “It’s a day, but we all are very proud of how it all turns out.”

She said, “We are hoping to see all your smiling faces on April 30 as we once again celebrate our alumni.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want TO GO?

What: 2022 Noblesville High School Alumni Banquet.

When: Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m., program at 7 p.m. April 30.

Where: Noblesville High School, 18000 Cumberland Road, Noblesville.

How much: $20 per person.

Who can attend: While the banquet celebrates NHS alumni, you don’t have to be a graduate to attend.

Good to know: Shuttle service available from NHS parking lot to the front door.

Reservations required: Call Peggy (Baldwin) Beaver at 317-372-2674 or email bvrhut@aol.com; or Janice Robinson at 317-773-3425 or bbop1950@yahoo.com, by April 23.

What else: NHS Class of ‘72 reunion is 7-11 p.m. April 29 at Purgatory Golf Club, with a farewell breakfast on May 1 at a location and time to be announced. The 2022 NHS Homecoming is Sept. 23 vs. Franklin Central.

More info: www.NoblesvilleAlumni.org