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July 2023

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 8 | Number 4

Welcome to Rise, the voice of Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. We show up every other month in over 9,000 in-boxes bringing you news, views, and memories of GISH. Rise is a publication of the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

This is the fourth issue of our eighth year of publishing the only consistent connection for alumni and friends of Grand Island Senior High. That makes this iteration 43 of Rise. We are happy you’re a subscriber and hope you continue to read the comings and goings of Islander alums across the globe.

Here’s some of what you will find inside this issue: “At the Top” looks at a busy Grand Island Public Schools calendar even though it’s the middle of summer. Avery Rogers gives us her inaugural “On the Island” column, which is her looking ahead to what promises to be a busy senior year for the newest member of the Rise family. Grand Island Public Schools Foundation Executive Director, Kari Hooker-Leep, details the plans for the Foundation to lead the work in updating the Hall of Honor wall at GISH in her “Making Your Mark” piece. Annual Giving Coordinator, Maggie McDermott, has everything you need to know to be part of the Second Annual Harvest, the wildly successful gala started last year to widen the circle of opportunities for Grand Island students.

Mike Monk's “Distant Mirror” column has a quiz for you. Bianca Ayala takes us to this summer’s Power Camp. Sarah Kuta chronicles the joys of traveling alone. My column this time is a remembrance of what’s important as we remember lost classmates.

We have a Milestone and a letter in the (e)Mailbag as well as In Memoriam, Reunion gatherings, and the lives and times of Islanders everywhere in Class Notes.

Keep in touch, Islanders. And remember: Keep pushing on. 

  • At the Top

    George looks at a busy Grand Island Public Schools calendar even though it’s the middle of summer.

  • (e) Mail Bag

    An (e)Mail Bag correspondent writes about a GIHS Class of '52 Memories flipbook.

  • Milestones

    A GISH Alum is honored at Hasting College's Arts Awards.

  • Making Your Mark

    Kari Hooker-Leep details the plans for the Foundation to lead the work in updating the Hall of Honor wall at GISH.

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Maggie McDermott has everything you need to know to be part of the Second Annual Harvest, the wildly successful gala started last year to widen the circle of opportunities for Grand Island students.

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Bianca Ayala takes us to this summer’s Power Camp.

  • I've Been Thinking

    George offers a remembrance of what’s important as we remember lost classmates.

  • On the Island

    Avery Rogers gives us her inaugural column, which is her looking ahead to what promises to be a busy senior year for the newest member of the Rise family.

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike has a true-false quiz for you.

  • A Wandering Writer's World

    Sarah Kuta chronicles the joys of traveling alone.

  • Class Reunion Updates

    Class gatherings in Islander Nation.

  • In Memoriam

    Remembering Islanders who have recently passed.

  • Class Notes

    The latest happenings in the lives of GIPS alums.

At the Top

Exploring a Busy Summer, District Web Site

Whoever said “summertime and the living was easy” never checked out the Grand Island Public Schools calendar for June and July. Whew!

No less than 35 camps are available this summer for GIPS students. Rise correspondent Bianca Ayala details one of the more prominent ones, Power Camp, in this issue of Rise. Beyond that there seems to be something for everyone from sports to reading to robotics. Students can lift weights, expand their chops in the visual and performing arts, or settle in with a good book and a cool piece of shade.

Students can also catch up if they are behind or get a head start on the next school year. Traditional “summer school” settings are also part of the mix.

To get an idea of what’s available to students, click on this link.

While you’re there, take look around at the GIPS website, where a new design and look are featured. If you navigate to the Foundation web page you can see all the back issues of Rise and meet the GIPSF staff. You can also find each school’s web page to see what’s happening at your elementary alma mater. Same goes for middle schools (once called junior highs, as some of us can recall.)

Finally, you can see what policies and procedures guide students, faculty, and staff and even take a look at the district’s strategic plan, an effort to get everyone involved to be “on track to thrive.”

(e) Mail Bag

Greetings from Central Oregon.

Among my various "senior" activities, I am the world's smallest publisher.   Currently I'm doing some eBooks.  It occurred to me that I might apply this technology to a slide show done for my Class of '52's 60th reunion - "just" a few years ago. 

Accordingly I have prepared a "Flipbook" (eBook) and sent the "link" to the list I have of surviving class members. Please checkout the following web site for our  GIHS Class of '52 Memories.

Enjoy a few of our memories.

Best Regards,

Rex Krueger, Class of 1952



Islander Honored at Hastings College's Beaux Arts Awards

GISH alum, Turner Griffin, Class of 2020, was among eight Hastings College students honored at the school’s annual Beaux Arts Awards and was also inducted into the college’s Alpha Psi Omega theatre honorary. The ceremony took place on May 9.

As part of the event, Alpha Psi Omega distributed colored masks. The White Mask is given to recognize contributions of a first year student of theatre, the Scarlet Mask is open to all students who have participated in the theatre for two seasons, and the Purple Mask is open to any theatre student at the end of their junior year who has at least a 3.6 overall grade point average, high artistic achievement in theatre and meritorious service to college theatre.




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Making Your Mark

Hall of Honor Moving Forward with New Inductees and Display

Kari Hooker-Leep

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

Walking the halls of Grand Island Senior High you see across from the auditorium a wall with wooden plaques on it. Did you ever stop to read the plaques? Did you notice the large plaques in the center that read Hall of Honor?

In 1983, 11 amazing people were honored and inducted into the then inaugural Hall of Honor. 

Grace Abbott, an amazing feminist that was decades ahead of her time. Gen. Theodore Buechler, a four-star general who designed the Grand Island area civil defense planning. William R. Farrall, renowned engineer. Mabel Sterne Geer, a community philanthropist. Marlyn T. Jakub, internationally known structural design engineer. Henry Kleinkauf, businessman with the world renowned Natkin & Company. Jim Merrick, founder of Merrick Machine Company and Triad Fasteners Corporation. Bayard H. Paine, District Judge of the Eleventh Judicial District. Grant T. Reynard, nationally known painter and illustrator. Robert C. (Bobby) Reynolds, All-American football star. Helen Stauffer, renowned author. And Dr. S. Burt Wolbach, research professor of pathological anatomy.

This is an astonishing group of individuals that all have one thing in common. They are Grand Island Senior High graduates! 

The Hall of Honor recognizes Grand Island Senior High alumni who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the betterment of society. 

If you have been down the hallowed halls of Senior High right outside the auditorium then you have seen a wall of 71 plaques honoring what could only be classified as the crown jewels of GISH graduates. The 71 inductees represent 43 different graduate classes of Grand Island Senior High. 

Of course, I have read through each inductee, and am in awe of the long list of stupendous accomplishments. Yes, of course, I was extremely proud to see that one of my graduating classmates is part of the Hall of Honor: Matt Placzek, world renowned sculptor. I ask each of you to go to the Hall of Honor link and do the same. Your Islander pride will skyrocket. 

As I stated, I looked at the inductees and at the current display. The quote that came to my mind was “with great power comes great responsibility.” Why did this quote come to my mind? Because I believe that it is time to take the Hall of Honor display to a new level, something exciting, something interactive, a display that shows how powerful, influential and revered our alumni truly are. It is the responsibility of all alumni to honor those that made some spectacular marks on the history of Grand Island Senior High. 

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation is going to do just that … unveil a NEW and innovative Hall of Honor display. But that’s not all we are looking to do. We want to induct and honor NEW Hall of Honor alumni as well! You have the opportunity to nominate a classmate or any alumni (that graduated at least 20 years ago) to be considered for induction. Nominations close on November 1, 2023.

When we unveil the new Hall of Honor display in March of 2024, we will invite all past inductees to not only see this great display but also welcome new inductees to this elite group. 

Help us expand the history of Grand Island Senior High Islanders. The button to nominate is below. If you would like to be part of making this glorious display happen, you can also donate by clicking below. 




If you're going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can't be erased.  - Maya Angelou

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

Harvest Gala Slated for September 28

Maggie McDermott

Annual Giving Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

Mark your calendar for September 28, 2023. The GIPS Foundation will be hosting our second annual Harvest fundraising gala. The Harvest gala originated in an effort to expand Foundation programs and widen the landscape of opportunities for GIPS students. Our mission remains the same – to give all students the opportunity to thrive. With growing numbers over the years, the Foundation must keep pace to fulfill our mission. We couldn’t do it without our generous donors or the support of our community. And boy did you show up last year.

The inaugural gala brought in just over $140,000. Coming off a successful first year, we know we can exceed our goal of $170,000 this year with your support. Selling out of tickets last year forced us to pause and rethink how we could accommodate the demand this year. So we decided to move the Harvest gala to a larger venue for 2023. Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island will be the new location. With their large ballroom that can hold up to 500 people, the outdoor patio accessibility, and a separate space for the silent auction, we’ll have plenty of room to expand the gala this year.

Harvest 2023 will include a cocktail hour to peruse silent and live auction items, purchase raffle tickets or play Harvest Plinko and Heads or Tails. The dinner is entirely gluten free and will include a two meat entrée. Options for dairy free, vegetarian or vegan meals are available by checking these boxes when purchasing your ticket. We’ll play the ever fun Dessert Dash, listen to keynote speakers and of course, we’ll present our annual Heart of the Foundation award to an individual who has continually encompassed the passion and mission of the GIPS Foundation.

Tickets for Harvest are now available! 

Single tickets can be purchased for $100 each or a table of 8 can be reserved for $800. Click the button below to purchase tickets and find more information on Harvest! You can preview auction items, donate an auction item, become a Harvest sponsor and much more!

I'd like to point out a special mini-campaign we are running for Harvest called Fund a Mission. Each year, the Foundation will choose one of its current programs to dedicate Fund a Mission donations. Our 2023 Fund a Mission goal of $10,000 will go specifically to our Classroom Grant program. You can donate anytime between now and September 28. During the Harvest gala, we will hear from a teacher who has received a classroom grant and how it impacted their students. Our host will announce our Fund a Mission moment so Harvest gala attendees may donate to help us reach our goal.

A big thank you goes out to Tom Dinsdale Automotive as our presenting sponsor this year. Tom and Kim Dinsdale have a well-regarded history of championing education in our community. Kim has served on the board of directors for the GIPS Foundation, while both Tom and Kim continue to serve on the Foundation’s board of trustees. Beyond giving generous amounts of their time, the Dinsdales have donated to many of the major projects the Foundation has launched over the years including the Restoring a Masterpiece campaign to renovate GISH’s auditorium and the Our Grand Legacy campaign that overhauled GISH’s Memorial Stadium. They have continued their passion for supporting educators through the Foundation’s Harvest gala this year, and we could not be more grateful!

I invite you to join us for Harvest on September 28, 2023, to celebrate Your Legacy and invest in Their Opportunity.

Thank you to ALL of our Harvest sponsors!

Shining Bright Since 2005

Power Camp Summer Success

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board

I had the opportunity to be the co-coordinator for Grand Island Public Schools Power Camp alongside Hannah Luber. Power Camp is an afternoon STEM camp for elementary students in grades 2-5 whose home school is a Title I school. 

The Title I elementary schools in GIPS are Dodge, Howard, Jefferson, Knickrehm, Lincoln, Starr, Wasmer, and West Lawn. The students were able to attend Monday through Thursday from 12:30-3:30 pm, June 5-29. 

Photo courtesy of Gracie Smith, The Independent

The students were able to attend classes such as art, wilderness, lift off, Legos, music, sculpture, theater, engineering, movement, coding, PBL-zoo, and cards. At the end of each day the students were able to give a shout-out of their favorite part of the day, and it was great to hear their opinions. 

Every Thursday, Power Camp hosted a staycation. We are grateful for the community organizations for participating and providing the students with engaging opportunities. 

This year Power Camp was fortunate to have 180 students enrolled, 12 classroom teachers, and 14 para educators.

My favorite part was the daily smiles from the students and how excited they were to share about their creations for the week. To quote a student, the last day was “boo-ray.” He was sad for Power Camp to end but excited to start his summer. 

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I've Been Thinking

Classmates Remembered, Classmates Missed

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Our class’s 55th reunion is scheduled for the end of this month, so the planning is starting to come together. I’ve been a part of putting together the reunion weekend a few times now, and while it’s a lot of work we seem to have a lot of fun doing it, too. The committee meetings are packed with stories from high school, which all seem to get better with age — even the ones we’ve told over and over. Perhaps that’s the prerogative of people our age: repetition and magnification.

My task this time around is to put together a video of our classmates who have passed away. My friend and classmate Kathy Hitchler Bartunek has really done the heavy lifting on this project. Remarkably, she has compiled not simply a list of our deceased classmates, she also has found their obits so we have the date of their deaths. I’m simply scanning photos and putting it all together for Tally Creative, a local ad agency, to create the video for us.

The project is a bittersweet one. Without waxing philosophical on matters of life and death or lapsing into being mopey or morbid, I’ve been alternately sad at the sheer number of those from the Class of 1968 who are gone — 90 out of 420 — and happy when a name or a picture evokes a wonderful memory. 

We lost our first classmate senior year before our new 501s and Bass Wejuns were even broken in. Monty Williams died in September of 1967, his death a jarring jolt to our systems — both as individuals and as a class. Especially for those unaccustomed to such tragedy, Monty’s death increased the pace of growing up.

But, as it was with nearly every classmate whose name, senior class picture, and date of passing I marked, I also remembered the joy of Monty’s smile and laugh, his easy going nature, and his skill as a wrestler.

We’ve also lost classmates within the past few months, too. Although the long list has not an inkling of rhyme or reason, I’m reminded the inevitable march of time is just that: inevitable. 

I’ve been honored and blessed to eulogize two of my classmates at their funerals: Mark O’Brien in 2008 and Peggy Poullos O’Dea in 2021. I told a few funny stories and we had a few laughs, just the way OB and Peggy would have wanted it. I sat next to Debby Gleason Romanski at work at the Independent before she died suddenly in February of 2001, breaking all our hearts. Debby and I grew up a block apart — she was my first kiss in kindergarten — and we spent every grade in school together from Howard Elementary to Walnut Jr. High to GISH. Years later, there we were together again at the newspaper, a wonderful, comfortable, full-circle circumstance. A few years later her daughter, Stephanie, came to work for the Independent. She, too, sat next to me.

I took many more strolls down the lane marked “Memory” while putting all the names and faces together for the video. Consequently, the compilation took me much longer than I thought it would. 

To be honest, slow was the only way to do this, to remember listening to the music Gayland Baker and Steve Bielfeldt made; hanging out with Sandi VanCleave, who, like Debby Gleason was a block away and a lifelong friend; admiring Charlie Bisbee as perhaps the world’s nicest guy and one of its smartest; playing basketball with Gary York and football with Mitch Klein; riding with Craig Gibson in a his little car as he raced through a gymkhana track at Fonner Park; and, in a more recent memory, running into Delbert Hoselton all the time at the grocery store.

All of which means for me that making this video reminded me that the key to life is often perspective. Sure, it’s sad that our classmates are gone and we miss them, but what joyous, sweet, and in some cases crazy memories we shared. 

Yes, the remembering was difficult sometimes. 

The only thing worse would be not remembering.

On the Island

Looking Forward to Senior Year

Avery Rogers

Class of 2024
Student Correspondent

Hello, readers of Rise. My name is Avery Rogers, and I am happy to be your new student correspondent at Grand Island Senior High. I am looking forward to helping bring a student perspective to the newsletter, just as Jacqueline did so well for the past couple of years. There are a lot of exciting things going on within the halls of Grand Island Senior High, and it’s a great honor to be the one chosen to share them with you.

Being a part of Grand Island Senior High these past couple of years has been very enjoyable. In a school the size of GISH, it has been very easy to find friends. With so many different activities, clubs, and interests, it doesn’t take much effort to find a group of people who feel like family. Of course, school is more than just the social aspect. I have loved pretty much all of my classes (except AP Chemistry). Even the more difficult ones can bring a fun challenge to the year (except AP Chemistry). Some of my favorite classes include AP Language and Composition because I love reading, writing, and analyzing and AP Psychology. Both of these classes have helped me realize my strengths and what I may want to pursue in the future. 

I am also a student who loves being involved. Throughout the year, I participate in a few different activities and organizations. Outside of school, I participate in a competitive dance program. I am also very active within Grand Island Senior High. One of my favorite areas of the school is the music department. I participate in both show choir and the advanced concert choir. This will allow me to bring an inside look into this area of our school including the musical, band, and orchestra ensembles, and the one-act play. I am also involved in GISH’s National Honor Society Chapter as well as being a class officer. Sports are also a very important aspect of life at GISH. Although I don’t participate in any, I love attending games with friends and cheering on my classmates. This will allow me to bring a broad and diverse viewpoint of GISH and all that it has to offer.

As a senior-to-be, I am very enthusiastic about what this year has in store. It can be a little scary going into your final year of high school, but I know that it will be a great one. Senior year brings with it a bunch of new opportunities. For example, more new and challenging classes to take, more room in your schedule, and events such as prom and graduation. Many students are also able to complete capstone classes within their pathways. These allow the students to get a taste of careers that they may want to pursue in the future.

Speaking of careers, now is the time when many students will begin to put their plans for college into action. After spending the first couple of months searching for their perfect school, students will begin to apply to colleges and for scholarships. Some students may be considering other options as well. Many will go straight into the workforce. Others may be considering joining the military. No matter what students choose, it will be a completely new experience, which may be a bit scary at first. However, the guidance of parents, teachers, and counselors will help this process be a little less overwhelming.

Senior year is also a time for leadership. Our class is now the oldest in the building, and with that comes great responsibility. New leadership opportunities are now available to us. Students can now become class officers, team captains, and leaders within student organizations. Younger grades now look up to us, and it is important to set a precedent for how the students of Grand Island Senior High behave. I look forward to being able to take on a new set of responsibilities and set a positive example for future classes. 

Even though the change can be difficult, it can be exciting, too. I know that the upcoming year will be a great one. I can hardly wait to get back into activities and extracurriculars. And of course, the new classes will be exciting as well. It will be super awesome to get back into the swing of things and share this senior year with all of you.

A Distant Mirror

A True-False Quiz

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

As we gaze into the Distant Mirror today, we look back at the days of the True-False quiz in our Walnut, Barr, and Senior High lives. To take you back, you will see below ten statements, propositions, or words of wisdom. You, the reader, must decide whether each statement is true or false. The many astute readers of Rise may suggest that the answers to some of these questions are a bit subjective. I will agree, but my answers reflect my subjective views. I welcome any views that come to different conclusions.

The answers to the test are set forth at the end of the column, but don't peek before answering.  Violators will receive harsh punishment, including being placed on double secret probation.  So, here goes the quiz.




True or False?

1. No good deed goes unpunished.

2. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

4. All's well that ends well.

5. Let Hercules himself do what he may
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.

6. Only the good die young.

7. The eyes are the window to the soul.

8. To err is human, but to forgive divine.

9. The love you take is equal to the love you make.

10. When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions.


As a segue to the answers below, I will share a true story about a true-false quiz given when I was in Ninth Grade at Walnut in 1964. Our teacher gave a 10 question true-false quiz.  After completing the quiz, we exchanged papers with a student near us to grade each other's quiz.

The teacher then went through the class list and asked each student to state the number correct. Each student in turn announced his or her grade:  9, 7, 10, 8, 6, 9, 10, 9, and so forth.  When it came to Mike Parmley, my irreverent buddy, he said, "zero." The teacher was puzzled and asked if he meant "10 correct”? Mike then confirmed that, no, he had gotten zero correct. He had missed each of the 10 true-false questions. I could not stop laughing. As we know, it is just as difficult to get every true-false question wrong as it is to get them all right.


1. No good deed goes unpunished.

False.  This saying I think comes from the experience many of us have had where we do a "good deed" and somehow get punished for it. But many good deeds stand shining like a beacon and go unpunished. I suggest one instance is when Sydney Carton gave up his life to save the life of Charles Darnay in Charles Dickens's “Tale of Two Cities.”

2. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

True. This one is a little tricky. The line is from a poem by the Romantic poet William Blake. Indeed, the road of excess often leads to trouble, pain, and heartache. But I think Blake's point is that those painful troubles and heartaches do lead to wisdom — maybe not happiness, but wisdom.

3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

True. This is a line attributed to Margaret Hungerford in an 1878 novel. While some beauty will be acknowledged by most observers, there are many instances where opinions vary greatly.  As one writer said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure, One man's work is another man's leisure."  

"The Eye of the Beholder" is also the title of a famous Twilight Zone episode. In that episode a team of surgeons is in surgery trying to reconstruct what they describe as the hideous, misshapen face of a woman. Throughout the half hour episode the camera never shows the faces of either the physicians or the woman. At the end of the surgery, the surgeons are distraught and declare the surgery to be a failure. The camera then shows us the face of the woman, and she is gorgeous. The camera next moves to the faces of the surgeons, all of whom have similar, but terribly disfigured, faces.  

4. “All's Well That Ends Well”

True. This is the title of a Shakespeare play. This one is also complicated. While some might suggest that even with a good ending, some losses and pain along the way have not been overcome and so "all" is not well. But while some damage may have occurred in the process of something ending well, if it truly ends well, the damage must have been overcome.  

5. Let Hercules himself do what he may
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.

True.  These lines come from Shakespeare's “Hamlet.” It observes that no one can control all aspects of life. I believe this is quite true. The saying “every dog will have his day” has been repeated over the centuries. It is a phrase that is over 450 years old, but became popularized by the Bard in these lines from “Hamlet.”

6. “Only the Good Die Young”

False. This is the title of a song by Billy Joel. We grieve deeply when someone good dies young. But history is replete with bad guys who also died young.

7. The eyes are the window to the soul.

False. The origin of this line is unclear. It has been variously attributed to Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cicero, and even the Bible. The eyes tell a lot, often reflecting our emotions, our joys, and our fears. But who the heck really knows what or where the soul is? Therefore, I would say it is speculation to say the eyes are the window to the soul.

8. To err is human, but to forgive divine.

False. This one could go either way. This is a line from the English poet Alexander Pope. Clearly to err is human. And often, forgiveness is divine. But is it divine to forgive the most violent, cruel, inhumane acts of humans? Some might say yes. I would say no. Then there is the Mae West line, "To err is human - but it feels divine."

9. The love you take is equal to the love you make.

True. Who could quarrel with the Beatles, and this is what they say. I think generally it is true.

10. When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions.

False. This is also a line from Shakespeare's “Hamlet.”  The saying captures the reality that when one sorrow comes it seems like it is often joined by others. But this is not always the case. Indeed a single sorrow can come amidst times of joy and good events.


For those who have differences with the answers above, feel free to email me and straighten me out. And let me know if you got them all right (or all wrong!).

I can be reached at

A Wandering Writer's World

Reflecting On What I’ve Learned While Traveling Solo

Sarah Kuta

Class of 2008
Rise Contributor

Several years ago, I went through a breakup that nearly crushed me.

And among all the various questions and fears I had in the aftermath — What went wrong? What’s wrong with me? Why did this happen? — one of my biggest concerns was this: How am I going to travel now?

Like many people, I believe that without a romantic partner — or, at the very least, a super close best friend willing and able to drop everything to go on trips — travel simply wasn’t for me. Who would I talk to while having dinner? What would I do all day? How would I navigate an international flight all by myself? At that point in my life, though I was outwardly confident, my internal monologue was full of self-doubt and fear.

Fortunately, with enough time, I got over the breakup. And, yes, as cringe-worthy as it may sound, the whole situation did, in fact, make me stronger (I am actually rolling my eyes right now as I type this). Perhaps it had something to do with simply being with the wrong person. Or perhaps I just had some more growing up to do than I realized. Maybe we really do need to go through something painful and hard, in order to come out the other side as fully developed humans.

Visiting Niagara Falls for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta

Either way, I emerged as a happier, more decisive, more confident, and more interesting person. I began dabbling in travel journalism, which meant I got invited to go places with other writers for a few days or a week at time. And even though they were strangers, I was still traveling with people — in a nice, safe, comfortable group setting. 

Eventually, though, I knew I needed to strike out on my own. So I started traveling by myself—just me, my suitcase and my thoughts. And to my great surprise, I loved it. (No, really, I was actually shocked at how much I enjoyed myself.)

I still take trips with other writers and, now, with my partner Russell. But, more and more these days, I travel alone. And as someone whose feelings about solo travel have basically done a 180-degree flip, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the lessons — both philosophical and practical — I’ve learned along the way.

1. No one cares what you’re wearing (or what you’re doing, for that matter). 

I used to really agonize over what to pack and what to wear while traveling solo. Why? I have no idea. Probably because I was self-conscious and thought people would be staring at me. Or that I needed to somehow look the part in order to fit in wherever I was going.

But my very wise friend Patty once told me: “Everyone’s the star of their own movie.” And her advice really resonated with me. No one cares what you’re wearing and, more to the point, what you’re doing. You might be worrying what other people think of you as you sit alone at a bar or on a ski chair lift, but I can assure you, no one is paying any attention to you. And that’s a freeing realization.

On a seaweed foraging tour in Cayucos, California

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta

2. People are friendly to solo travelers.

The slim minority of people who do notice you are the kinds of folks you want to meet (generally speaking — of course there are sketchy people out there). When I’m traveling by myself, I find that more strangers strike up conversations with me. There must be something a bit less intimidating or more inviting about a person on her own, rather than someone who’s part of a couple or a group. 

Some solo travelers like to complain about this behavior, as if friendly strangers pity us for being lonely and in need of company. And that might be true in some instances. But the people I’ve met while traveling are generally well-meaning and they don’t typically stick around long, either. They just want to hear where I’m from and what I’m doing while I’m in town. Maybe, even, they’re a little envious of my position, because they lack the means, opportunity, or confidence to travel on their own but have always wanted to. I often use this as an opportunity to pick their brains about what I should do next, or to get more of a local's perspective on something I’ve observed.

When you open yourself up to the world, it opens itself up to you, too. And that’s an ideal scenario while you’re trying to understand a new place and the people who live there.

3. A good book makes everything better.

It’s true in life and it’s true in solo travel. You can read a book anywhere, anytime, and it’s guaranteed to help you feel less awkward. (Not to mention, it means you’re not mindlessly scrolling on your phone, which these days feels like a go-to coping mechanism for any sort of downtime or discomfort.) 

In an ideal world, sure, you’d be able to sit mindfully for hours at a time, taking in every little detail of the world around you. But that’s just not realistic for most of us — especially if we’re feeling a little unsure or nervous about traveling alone. While reading, you can still soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a destination. And it allows you to physically stay in one spot long enough to notice subtle changes, such as the sun beginning to set or the tide coming in. You can really get a feel for a place if you slow down and hang out for a while — and a book can help.

Riding a ski chairlift at Schweitzer in Idaho Bottom

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta

4. Just go with your gut.

When you travel on your own, you’re completely in the driver’s seat. There’s no travel companion to sway the day’s plans. At first, that might seem like a lot of pressure, and you might find yourself obsessively reading Yelp reviews to find the best restaurant in town … as if you’ll miss out by going somewhere else. 

But I’ve learned that waffling is really just a waste of time. While traveling solo, be decisive. Go with your instincts. Take the tour that sounds most appealing to you at first glance, and don’t worry about what you’re missing on the others. Order the first entree that catches your eye. Pick the Airbnb or hotel with a funky aesthetic if that’s your jam. Chances are, you’ll have a great time no matter what you do — and by making quick, gut-led decisions, you’ll maximize your time and the amount of fun you can have.

That’s it. That’s my advice. If there’s someplace you’ve always wanted to go or an experience you’ve always wanted to have, but you don’t have anyone to do it with, I say: Book the trip. You likely won’t regret doing it — but you might regret not doing it. And you might learn something valuable about yourself in the process, too.

What questions do you have about travel, solo or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you:

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Alumni Reunions

Kari Price

Alumni Coordinator

Planning a class reunion?

We can help get you started! 
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion.
We will post it to our website.

NOTE: Reunion information in this newsletter is current as of the publication date. To see Reunion updates and additions go to our Alumni Reunions page.




  • 1956

    The Class of 1956 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly gathering. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Ramada Midtown at 6:00 pm.

  • Decades of the 60's
    Decades of the 60's

    The Decades of the 60’s breakfast continues to be held the second Saturday of each month at Tommy’s, 8:30 a.m. This is a great opportunity to reconnect over a cup of coffee and/or breakfast. We would love to have you join us!

  • 1960

    The Class of 1960 has resumed their gathering at Tommy’s Restaurant the first Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m. Local suggested COVID safety measures will be assessed on a monthly basis. Send your email address to Donna Weaver Smith for monthly communications at:

  • 1965

    The second Annual Meet and Greet for the Class of 1965 will be August 26. This is also the first weekend of the Nebraska State Fair. Seniors only pay $5 for admission to the State Fair. Hosting us will be the Wave Pizza Co. and Bonsai Beach Club from 1:30 pm until … It’s a “lively joint with beach themed digs,” a cash bar, stone-fired pizza, compliments of the Reunion Committee, all in a patio setting. Can’t you hear Jerry Ewing and Gene Baker’s band playing “Help Me, Rhonda” and “California Girls?” Circle August 26th and plan to attend.

    Class of ‘65 Meet and Greet: Wave Pizza Co. and Bonsai Beach Club at 107 N. Walnut. It’s across the alley from our old library, the historical Carnegie Library, and across the street from our prom site, the Liederkranz. A little deja vu! More information will be coming on Facebook at Class of 65 GISH and by email. If you have ideas, suggestions or questions contact us at Last year’s attendees all said they had a great time. This casual, relaxed setting really lent itself to wonderful conversation and a fun time!

  • 1966

    The class of ‘66 meets for lunch the third Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche, 12 noon. Please join us!

  • 1968

    The Class of 1968 will celebrate its 55th reunion July 28-29, 2023 at Riverside Golf Club. Save the date, watch for mailings, and see more at the Facebook page: “GISH Class of 1968.”

In Memoriam

May and June memorial list of GISH Alumni

JUDY MEVES KEMPTAR, Class of 1957, died May 1, 2023 in Cairo, NE. She was 83.

BRUCE  KRUEGER, Class of 1953, died May 3, 2023 in Fremont, NE. He was 88.

SHAWN  HONEYCUTT, Class of 1998, died May 4, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. He was 43.

JANE OELSCHLAGER HERMSMEYER, Class of 1953, died May 6, 2023. She was 88.

GREGORY (GREG)  ROBISON, Class of 1971, died May 10, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. He was 70.

WAYNE  SASS, Class of 1950, died May 12, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. He was 90.

SHIRLEY HOFFER SCHIENO, Class of 1960, died May 22, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. She was 80.

DONALD  SCHROEDER, Class of 1949, died May 24, 2023 in Sioux Falls, SD. He was 92.

GERALDINE OYSTER FOREMAN, Class of 1950, died May 26, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. She was 91.

STEPHEN  WARNKE, Former GIPS Staff,  died May 28, 2023 in Aurora, NE. He was 79.

JOAN  STAMER, Former GIPS Staff,  died May 30, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. She was 90.

SONDRA  GIESE, Class of 1969, died May 31, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. She was 72.

DAVID  MCGRATH, Class of 1959, died June 2, 2023 in Altoona, FL. He was 82.

BONNIE PARO KUTSCHKAU, Class of 1952, died June 3, 2023 in Central City, NE. She was 88.

SUSAN SCHULTZ PETERS, Class of 1969, died June 6, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. She was 72.

GARY  PEARCE, Class of 1964, died June 6, 2023 in Grand Island, NE. He was 77.

JOHN  HOEFT, Class of 1947, died June 11, 2023 in Kearney, NE. He was 93.


To report an alumni death since June 2023, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

Class Notes

Rise wants to help you celebrate your successes with other Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. “Class Notes” is the place to highlight a birth, an anniversary, a promotion, a college degree, an award, or other notable personal accomplishments and triumphs. Tell us about that new business. That perfect baby … or grandbaby. That Masters degree you earned after years of hard work. That recognition from your company, your cohorts, your community.


  • Rex Krueger, Class of 1952, wants to share a few memories from Grand Island High School. Among Rex's various senior activities, he is the "world's smallest publisher." He created a flipbook of the slide show created for the Class of 1952's 60th reunion. Click the picture to view.

  • 1976

    Dawn (Krueger) Lutz, Class of 1976, is retiring after 5 years with GIPS. She was a LPN at Gates Elementary.

  • 1981

    Judy (Walters) Eastman, Class of 1981, is retiring after 26 years with GIPS. She was the Nutrition Services Kitchen Manager at Grand Island Senior High.

  • 1986

    Kelly (Graves) Usrey, Class of 1986, is retiring after 32 years with GIPS. She was a 2nd Grade Teacher at Engleman Elementary School.

  • 2020

    GISH alum Turner Griffin, Class of 2020, was among eight Hasting College students honored at the school’s annual Beaux Arts Awards and was also inducted into the college’s Alpha Psi Omega theatre honorary. The ceremony took place on May 9.

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