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March 2024

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 9 | Number 2

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 Issue #2 of our ninth year of publishing the only consistent connection for alumni and friends of Grand Island Senior High. That makes this iteration 50 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 trio of GISH leaders who are retiring at the end of the school year: Executive Principal, Jeff Gilbertson; Activities Director, Cindy Wells; and Head Football Coach, Jeff Tomlin. Be sure to read their stories.

In her “Making Your Mark” piece, Grand Island Public Schools Foundation Executive Director, Kari Hooker-Leep, points out how you can support the work of the Foundation, which supports students, teachers, and alums in a number of ways. Avery Rogers gives us insight into her favorite activity at school: show choir. Get the details in Avery’s “On the Island'' article.

Mike Monk's “Distant Mirror” lists his favorite movies about high school, including one nominated for many awards this year. Wandering Writer Sarah Kuta reminds us that sometimes what looks like an unfortunate change in travel plans can actually be an opportunity for a wonderful time. My “I’ve Been Thinking” column profiles five GISH teachers and what they taught me, part of my remarks during the Legends & Legacies event.

Milestones provides a link to the full biographies of Hall of Honor and Legendary Educator recipients feted on March 12. As usual we have an In Memoriam list of Islanders who have passed, in Reunions we have class gatherings and other class get togethers, and in Class Notes we have the lives and times of Islanders everywhere.

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

  • At the Top

    George looks at a trio of GISH leaders who are retiring at the end of the school year.

  • Milestones

    Provides a link to the full biographies of the 2024 Hall of Honor and Legendary Educator recipients.

  • Making Your Mark

    Kari Hooker-Leep points out how you can support the work of the Foundation.

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Bianca Ayala talks about how Gates Elementary celebrated Read Across America Week.

  • I've Been Thinking

    George profiles five GISH teachers and what they taught him.

  • On the Island

    Avery Rogers gives us insight into her favorite activity at school: show choir.

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike Monk lists his favorite movies about high school, including one nominated for many awards this year.

  • A Wandering Writer's World

    Sarah Kuta reminds us that sometimes what looks like an unfortunate change in travel plans can actually be an opportunity for a wonderful time.

  • 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

Trio of GISH Leaders Set to Retire

Jeff Gilbertson and Cindy Wells

Photo courtesy of

When the halls quiet this May and students head for summer jobs, camps and sleeping until noon, teachers, administrators, and custodians will start prepping for an August return.

And this August’s start of school will indeed be a new beginning.

Three mainstays who have, in many ways, anchored Grand Island Senior High for many years will no longer be at Senior High. Executive Principal Jeff Gilbertson, Activities Director Cindy Wells, and Head Football Coach Jeff Tomlin are all retiring from GISH. The trio have been leaders at one of Nebraska’s largest schools for many years.

Gilbertson has been part of the Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) district since 2001 when he started as principal at Seedling Mile and Stolley Park elementary schools. He has been the Executive Principal at Grand Island Senior High since 2012. Gilbertson was named the Nebraska High School Principal of the Year in 2022 by the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

Jeff Tomlin

Photo courtesy of

Wells has been part of GIPS since 1981, beginning with a stint as a special education teacher at Senior High and head volleyball coach for the Islanders. In 2000, she was named an Assistant Principal and in 2017 she became Activities Director, a gifted leader for students and coaches involved in school activities.

Tomlin assumed the head football coaching duties in 2003 and led the Islander program to a 148-74 record during his 21 years. Islander football teams enjoy the well-earned reputation of always being well-coached and one of the toughest teams in the state. In 2018, Tomlin was named the Nebraska Coaches Association Football Coach of the Year. In 2019, he was named the NFSH Network Coach of the Year.

Combined, Gilbertson, Wells, and Tomlin represent 87 years of leadership at Grand Island Senior High. Each leaves a legacy of commitment, professionalism, and excellence.


On March 12, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation hosted a banquet at Riverside Golf Club during which it inducted three new members of Senior High’s Hall of Honor and paid tribute to three Legendary Educators. The full biographies of all six can be found at this link.

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Making Your Mark

Support Can Mean a Variety of Things at the Foundation

Kari Hooker-Leep

Class of 1983
Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

What does supporting the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation look like, and, in turn, what does the Foundation do to support our students, staff, and alumni?

Support can refer to various forms of assistance, aid, or backing provided to someone or something in need. It encompasses emotional, physical, or financial assistance aimed at helping individuals overcome challenges or cope with difficulties.

That is a very generic description of support, but the Foundation is anything but generic.

Supporting the Foundation can come in numerous ways: giving to the Annual Staff Giving Campaign, the Annual Community Campaign, endowed scholarships, memorials, Legacy Grants, or attending our Harvest Gala.

What, in turn, does your giving then produce through the Foundation? This is where the emotional and financial part of giving comes to light. When you give to the Foundation, we provide comfort to our students by providing them clothing, glasses, caps and gowns, emotional support, even bicycles and helmets. The Foundation wants to ensure that every student has what they need to be successful at school and in class daily.

The Foundation provides avenues for teachers to have out-of-the-box teaching opportunities for their students through Classroom Grants. These can give a once-in-a-lifetime experience to a student, a learning experience that can change the trajectory of their education, or just provide a unique way of teaching and learning benefiting both teacher and student.

Supporting the Foundation can also be about post high school experiences. What does that look like? The Foundation will offer more than $680,000 in scholarships for the Class of 2024. These scholarships can range from $250 to $260,000, from financially beneficial to life-changing. When we say we want our students to DREAM BIG, we mean the sky's the limit. Dreams of aerospace engineering, architecture, underwater welding, nursing, physical therapy, creating art, and educating a new generation. Regardless of a student's aspirations, our aim is to equip them with the resources necessary for achieving success.


I know each of us has a book of memories from our high school days. My memories of high school focus on not just the grand times of football games, school clubs, yearbook, prom, and graduation but also those teachers who pushed you just a little harder for success, the school counselor who said, “We will do whatever we can to make your college dream come true” and the classmates who inspired you to strive a little more and be a better student. Behind all of the great memories of high school was the unseen support of so many.

Support can be provided informally by friends, family, alumni, volunteers, or community members, or it can be delivered through ongoing endowed scholarships, legacy funds, or estate planning. If you choose to support the GIPS Foundation, know that the end result benefits students.

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Your legacy. Their opportunity.

If you are interested in supporting or have questions on how you can support the GIPS Foundation, contact Kari Hooker-Leep at 308-385-5525 or


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

Shining Bright Since 2005

Read Across America Week Observed at GIPS

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005

The week of February 26 – 29, Gates Elementary celebrated Read Across America Week in honor of Dr. Seuss. During the week, students embraced their reading skills, completed grade-level reading buddies, and participated in a spirit week. The students enjoyed spirit week because it consisted of dressing up as if they were in outer space, as their future careers, wacky Wednesday, and in neon colors.

Mrs. Nebraska with a group of 3rd grade students

Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala

The third-grade students were fortunate enough to be able to have a Dr. Seuss book read to them by Alissa Harrington, Mrs. Nebraska. She was kind and brought each student a book they could take home and read independently or with a family member. We also appreciated that she took the time to answer any questions the third graders had. It was a joy to have her visit Gates Elementary.

My favorite quote by Dr. Seuss is “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” I like this quote because it reminds everyone that each day can be their day, but they need to take the initiative to begin their goals. I have also viewed this quote as meaning it will be challenging to climb the mountain but the sense of accomplishment you feel when you have reached the top will be amazing. Each day during Read Across America Week, I remembered this quote and did my best to inspire others to achieve their goals.

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I've Been Thinking

Luck Had Everything to Do With It

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

I was thrilled and humbled earlier this week to be inducted into Grand Island Senior High’s Hall of Honor. Among those I thanked for their mentorship, wisdom, and guidance was a quintet of Senior High teachers, some I’ve written about previously in this space, all five of whom many of you also had at GISH.

I wanted to share with you what I said about them and a little more about the power and beauty of growing up in a place like Grand Island.

“This honor reminds me that I am a lucky guy.

“I’m lucky because I was raised in a loving home. My parents read the newspaper front to back every day, so becoming a journalist and writer came naturally. I am blessed, too, to have picked up the habit of always having my nose in a book just as Mom often had.

“I’m lucky because we lived in a neighborhood where backyards and porches would fill with neighbors and laughter on warm summer nights. It wasn’t quite the Wonder Years, but close. The mothers in our neighborhood had permission to give any kid the business, too, so if I sassed Charlotte or Ramona or Grandma Dubbs or Mabel or Marcie, I paid on the spot and again when I got home.

“I’m lucky because at Grand Island Senior High, I had teachers whose lessons have stayed with me. I wish I could say that those lessons were instantaneous. They weren’t. They were seeds … seeds that took root, and, after some growing up on my part, they bore fruit. I’m forever grateful for those teachers, especially these five:

left to right: Matt Fisher, Kari Hooker-Leep, George Ayoub, Thomas Meedel, Jeff Gilbertson

“Choir Director Mr. Jack Learned, who taught me what teamwork really was. In his universe, that was knowing your part and then doing your part. The result: beautiful music.

“Mrs. Judy Barth, who taught me the meaning of a deadline. I was crushed when she left me off the Islander staff because I missed one too many of them. Thousands of deadlines since, I can’t thank her enough. So do my editors.

“Miss Lillian Willman, who taught me that research is an action verb, preparation is the mother of creativity and the father of getting it right, and, years before social media, that not all sources are created equal.

“My track coach, Mr. Bob Hanson, taught me that good discipline requires a change in behavior and that if I do it enough times, I’ll have a healthy habit.

“And, finally, Mr. Elmer Kral, who taught me many things, not the least of which were the power of a good declarative sentence and the debilitating nature of lazy thinking. Mr. Kral and I reconnected after I started writing for the Independent. He would offer story suggestions and even an occasional compliment. Sometimes he would call, but he often sent me long letters, typed on a typewriter, single spaced, and rarely amended with whiteout. For someone such as me with a passion for language, literature, ideas, history, culture and their individual stories, Mr. Kral was a lifelong teacher and guide.

“Since education underscores everything we are celebrating tonight, I have three quick thoughts before I close.

“First, despite my age -- Class of 1968, you do the math -- a friend recently asked what keeps me young. I quibbled with her premise -- I mean, look at me. Young? But she was persistent. Here’s what I told her: The Peloton, the produce, and the Dylan song help, but my experience is that -- for me -- it’s clearly curiosity. Sometimes that can be a curse, but mostly it’s a blessing. I remain curious about the world in all its beautiful, crazy permutations. When nothing is left to learn, then nothing is left. This morning, I told Senior High students what I tell my college students. Become and remain curious. I encourage you to do so, too. It might even keep you young …”

March 12 was a great day, meeting students and celebrating with my fellow inductees: Class of 1968 compadre, Steve Hornady, in absentia as he was out of the country, and Dr. Tom Meedel, Class of 1967.

We also celebrated three extraordinary Grand Island Public Schools teachers as Legendary Educators: Yvette Engelhaupt, Kermit McCue, and Don Vander Hamm. They gave to their hundreds of students what I was given by the five teachers mentioned above -- their best.

On the Island

Show Choir Memories Lasting

Avery Rogers

Class of 2024
Student Correspondent

Welcome back, readers of “Rise.” For this month’s edition, I wanted to focus on what is perhaps my favorite activity that takes place at Grand Island Senior High: show choir. I have been a member of show choir since middle school, so it has become a pretty significant part of my life. During my first year, I was a member of the JV show choir, Future Image. For the last three years, I have been a part of Ultimate Image, the Varsity show choir. I even had the privilege of being a dance captain during my junior and senior years.

"Sleepyhead" performance

Photo courtesy Avery Rogers

This year, Ultimate Image’s show was called “Sleepyhead.” It told the story of Mrs. Sandman as she tried to get the choir to sleep and eventually take on a new day. It featured many popular songs, such as “Mr. Sandman” and “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce. It starts with the choir bringing Mrs. Sandman to life and asking her to get them to sleep. The next song follows them as they struggle to get to bed. Then, the “Sea Lullaby" finally lulls them to sleep. The guy/girl song represents the dreams that the singers are having. And the final song is them waking up to a brand-new day.

During this competition season, Ultimate Image traveled all over Nebraska and even out of state. The season began at Gretna, then Hastings, Omaha Westside, Grand Island Northwest, Urbandale, Iowa, and finally Omaha North. We even hosted our own Islander Invitational in the mix. This season was also incredibly successful. Ultimate Image brought home two Grand Champion awards and placed very well in large competitions with very competitive groups.

One of my favorite memories from this season was traveling to Urbandale. Although we ended up placing fifth in this competition, it was such a great experience to see how show choir is so different in Iowa. It was truly inspirational to watch some of the groups we competed against.

March 2 marked our last competition of the season at Omaha North. While we hoped to win this competition, we took home second place. No matter the placement, I was incredibly proud of my fellow singers. We left it all out there on the stage, and it was an extremely close competition. I honestly cannot believe that Omaha North was my last ever show choir competition. It is very wild to think that I have been involved in this activity for so long, and now my time with it has ended. In honor of our last competition, I interviewed some of my fellow seniors to see how they felt about show choir ending.

Show choir with trophy

Photo courtesy Avery Rogers

Elena Martinez said she came to love show choir because of the sense of community and confidence it helped build for her. She also said she is grateful for her time in show choir. She said it has taken up to her senior year to realize how much she appreciates show choir and the people involved because it isn’t something she will always have the chance to do.

Samantha Osborn also listed community as one of her favorite aspects of show choir. She mentioned that the feeling of attending her last competition was very bittersweet. She hated the idea that it was her last competition, but she was pleased that this was the group of people that she experienced it with.

Brayden Stromer shared that his favorite part about being involved in show choir is seeing the impact that our performances have on the people who watch. He wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this being his final competition.

Tito Austidillo said that what he loved most about show choir was putting all the time and effort into it and seeing how it paid off in the end. He was sad about this time coming to an end, but he also knew that it was time to move on to bigger things.

I am so very appreciative of the time I got to spend in show choir. It has brought me closer to so many people I know will be in my life for a long time. It also taught me a lot of essential life skills beyond just singing and dancing. It taught me how to be disciplined, to show up, and to work hard, no matter what I’m feeling on a given day. It also helped me learn how to work as a team; sometimes, you must sacrifice what you want for the group's greater good. I also got to work with some fantastic and inspirational adults who have significantly impacted my life. I want to thank Mr. LaBrie, Mrs. Flaherty, Ms. Welk, and Ms. Bloom for all they have done for me. I’m unsure if I would have the same love for show choir as I do now if it wasn’t for them.

Although our competition season is officially over, we still have one final performance. Cabaret Night will take place on April 4 in the GISH auditorium. If you would like to see the show, I recommend coming to give it a watch. You will not be disappointed.

A Distant Mirror

My Favorite Movies About High School

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

Those crazy days of high school include some times we never forget. As we look back in the Distant Mirror today, we recall memories of study, friendships, activities, sports, successes, disappointments, class clown high jinks, and for some, the first steps toward romance. Some are poignant memories that stay with us forever. Many of these experiences are wonderfully captured by four of my favorite movies about high school. Often hilarious, these movies also deal with the joys and pains of growing up.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I have always loved the 1982 movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Starring Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, and Judge Reinhold, among others, the movie is set in Southern California. A young Forest Whitaker appears as the high school football star. The movie is electric from the start, as we see interactions at the local mall, accompanied by the pounding     Go-Go’s song “We Got the Beat.”  

Cates and Leigh are young beauties who experience the perils of first romance. Sean Penn is hilarious as the stoner who orders pizza to be delivered during class and battles with “Mr. Hand,” his history teacher. Judge Reinhold is a senior who jumps from one unsatisfying fast-food job to another and gets dumped by his girlfriend. Cates and Leigh have jobs at the local mall restaurant, and the naïve hero, Mark Ratner, works at the mall cinema. From car accidents to an abortion to football games to scalping tickets to concerts to the joys and stresses of high school, the movie is telling and poignant yet consistently amusing. The swimming pool scene with Phoebe Cates has become iconic. While now 42 years old, the movie holds up well, bringing to mind the adventures of our own high school years.


Another view of the high school years is the 1995 film “Clueless,” starring a very fetching Alicia Silverstone as “Cher.” Silverstone plays a well-to-do, pampered daughter and a fashion-conscious, manipulative high school student at a Beverly Hills high school. As she notes, “Daddy’s a litigator. Those are the scariest kind of lawyer.” One famous sequence is with her dad:


Dad: “You mean to tell me you argued your way from a C+ to an A-?”

Cher: “Totally based on my powers of persuasion.”

Dad: “Honey, I couldn’t be happier if they were based on real grades.”

Cher is at the top of her high school’s social pecking order, and her over-the-top fashions and “Valley Girl” language are stunning. “As if!” We see the shifting cliques and popularity and Cher’s ill-fated attempts to pass her driving test. After running a stop sign, she argues, “I totally paused.”

The plot is remarkably close to Jane Austen’s classic novel “Emma.” Like Austen’s Emma, Cher sees herself as a matchmaker. Cher first coaxes two of her teachers into dating each other. Next, she decides to give a hopelessly klutzy new student, Tai, a makeover and find her a boyfriend. But when that match goes awry, and Tai becomes more popular than her, Cher then realizes that she is the one who is “clueless.” She realizes how misguided her manipulative ways have been and takes a more modest and measured approach.


The final two high school movies are directed by one of my favorite directors, the Omaha native Alexander Payne. Payne has directed a trove of outstanding movies, including “Sideways,” “Nebraska,” “The Descendants,” “About Schmidt,” and “Downsizing”. Far and away my favorite Payne movie is his second film, the 1999 movie, “Election.” “Election” stars Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris Bueller in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (another terrific high school movie).

“Election” revolves around a student body election at an Omaha high school. The movie was shot at locations around Omaha, with Papillion-La Vista Senior High School used as the fictitious Carver High School. Tracy Flick (played by Witherspoon), the aggressive type-A student, desperately seeks the student body presidency, where she is opposed by Paul Metzler, a good-natured and popular, but slow thinking, football star. 

Metzler is encouraged to run against Tracy by Mr. McAllister (played by Matthew Broderick), a civics and history teacher, since “Mr. M” cannot stomach Flick’s annoying ambition and competitive nature. Further, after McAllister’s teacher friend Dave Novotny is fired for having a sexual relationship with Tracy, McAllister thinks Tracy also needs to suffer the consequences. Also running for president is Paul’s younger sister, Tammy Metzler, whose girlfriend Lisa has dumped her and become Paul’s girlfriend. As revenge against her brother, Tammy runs for president, too.

We see the three candidates campaigning in a spot-on parody of high school elections. The scene where the students give their campaign speeches is a classic. Tracy Flick, determined to succeed, gives a traditional political speech saying that while we can’t make our days longer, we can make them better. Her speech is interrupted by a couple of reprobates who shout, “Bite Me!” Paul, the innocent puppy dog of a football star, gives a halting, monotone, terrible speech, saying just as he led the football team to victory, he could lead the student body as president.

The speech by Paul’s younger sister, Tammy, is fantastic. She denounces student government as a sham and vows to dissolve it if she wins:


“Who cares about this stupid election… The only promise I will make is that if elected, I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again!.........So vote for me! Or don’t vote for me! Who cares? Don’t vote at all!”


This speech by Tammy rallies the students to a rowdy standing ovation. The principal retaliates by suspending her and taking her off the ballot.

    The election is a tight one between Tracy and Paul, and major controversy ensues in connection with the vote count. When the dust settles, Tracy is elected and later goes to college at Georgetown. Mr. McAllister resigns his position and leaves Nebraska to live in New York City. After a fun-filled senior year, Paul goes to the University of Nebraska. Tammy transfers to a Catholic girls’ high school, which is what she wanted all the time.   

The Holdovers

Another terrific Alexander Payne high school movie is this year’s “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. “The Holdovers” is a 2024 Oscar nominee for best picture, best actor (Paul Giamatti), and best supporting actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

“The Holdovers” is the story of a Christmas vacation in 1970 at a New England prep school for students who have no place to go during the holidays. They “holdover” at the school. Giamatti, a long-time crotchety teacher who has many troubles, is required by the headmaster to stay with the holdovers as punishment for flunking the son of a senator and important school donor, causing Princeton University to rescind the student’s offer of admission.

Giamatti develops a fraught but later poignant relationship with Angus Tully, one of the holdover students, and with Randolph, the school cook grieving for her son who died in Vietnam. Giamatti takes them on an unauthorized road trip, allowing both to see some family. Angus’s mother is outraged by the forbidden road trip, placing both teacher and student in major trouble. But the grumpy teacher nobly saves the day for the student. While humor abounds, this movie has some serious themes. It is terrific.  

This movie has some personal interest for me since part of it was filmed at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, the prep school attended by my college roommate, Dr. Steven Sicher. Also, Dominic Sessa, an actual student at Deerfield, was chosen to play the part of the student Angus Tully, and he is excellent.      

At this very moment, there are students at GISH making memories, some of which will last a lifetime. We alums, too, may be thinking of some high school experiences etched in our memory. Rise, Grand Island!


I can be reached at  

A Wandering Writer's World

Learning to Embrace New Adventures When Travel Doesn’t Go As Planned

Sarah Kuta

Class of 2008
Rise Contributor

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking from the bridge. Unfortunately, the tropical depression over French Polynesia has turned into a cyclone. We will not be able to continue on our itinerary as planned. Please join us in the lounge in a few minutes for more information,” said Simon Terry, captain of the Star Breeze.

I’d boarded the 312-passenger Star Breeze two days earlier in Papeete, Tahiti, for a 10-day Windstar Cruise sailing around the Tuamotu Islands and the Society Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. A travel magazine had hired me to write about the experience (tough job, I know).

Sarah stands in front of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
A bench overlooking the water on Hiva Oa.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta.

But ever since I stepped foot on the ship, I’d been overhearing other passengers murmur nervously about this being a “mystery cruise,” a reference to the increasingly bad weather forming in the region—and whether that bad weather would affect our journey.

And now, it seemed those passengers were right to be worried. To keep us safe and comfortable, the captain and crew had scrapped our original itinerary and come up with a totally new plan. In an effort to dodge the storm, we’d be making a 1,800-mile round trip detour to the Marquesas Islands, a rugged chain of volcanic islands in the far northeast corner of French Polynesia.

But this isn’t a story about a trip gone wrong. It’s a story about a misadventure gone right.

In travel—as in life—almost nothing goes according to plan. But many of my favorite trips and most memorable moments arose from some sort of disruption.

The museum has on display the bronze bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald .
The Upeke archaeological site on Hiva Oa.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta.

There was the time Russell and I got a flat tire while driving home from Steamboat Springs one summer Sunday—but, as a result, got to enjoy the sunset at a prime campsite on the banks of the Yampa River. The time we almost got stuck in the mud at Zion National Park, but also got to see a huge bald eagle sitting on a fencepost just a few feet from the car. The time a snowstorm shut down Interstate 80 over Christmas, which meant we got to spend one more night playing card games with family in Michigan. Or, earlier this year, when a blizzard struck Jackson, Wyo. and canceled our flight home to Denver—which meant we had to rent a car and make a spontaneous (and fun) road trip across Wyoming.

Back in French Polynesia, the ship’s captain and crew were able to pull off a miracle in just a few hours: By the time we reached the Marquesas Islands a day and a half later, they’d lined up three port calls, multiple shore excursions and two local dance performances, all in a place with little to no tourism infrastructure. And, indeed, their plan to sail us out of the cyclone had worked. In the Marquesas, the sun shone brightly and there wasn’t a storm cloud in sight.

I was initially disappointed that the trip wasn’t going as planned—that we wouldn’t get to visit the destinations I’d spent hours researching or do the activities I’d been so looking forward to, like snorkeling with stingrays in Bora Bora. But once those plans went out the window, I decided to embrace the opportunity to have a rare, unscripted adventure—in a place that very few people get to visit.

The Notre Dame Cathedral on Nuku Hiva.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kuta.

(The Marquesas are located farther from a continental landmass than any group of islands around the world—the nearest neighbor is the west coast of North America some 3,000 miles away on the other side of the equator. They’re so far away they even have their own timezone, offset by half an hour.)

Over the next few days, I hiked through the islands’ lush vegetation, lounged on a black-sand beach, feasted on poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk) at a mom-and-pop restaurant, visited a centuries-old archaeological site and watched powerful frigatebirds soar overhead. It was truly the trip of a lifetime—all because a cyclone knocked out our original plans.

So, the next time your flight gets canceled or the interstate shuts down, try not to get upset. Instead, consider what new adventures might lay ahead of you. In my experience, a travel snafu is just the start of a new journey—one that might end up being even better than anything you could’ve planned.

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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. Send your email address to Donna Weaver Smith for monthly communications at:

  • 1966

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

  • 1979

    The class of 1979 will hold their 45th class reunion on August 23rd and 24th, 2024.
    Casual gathering on August 23rd, 5:30-12:00, at Platt-Duetsche.
    Dinner Buffet on August 24th, 5:30-12:00, at Riverside Golf Club.
    Cost (covers both nights): $50 per individual, $90 per couple. Pay by check to 1979 Reunion Account, Sheryl Knuth, 822 Pleasant View Dr., Grand Island, NE, 68801. Or pay by Venmo to @Sheryl-Knuth-1
    RSVP by June 1, 2024
    Please note the Nebraska State Fair is scheduled for August 24-September 2, 2024. Hotel options can be found at

Update Your Alumni Contact Information 


Click the button below to update your contact information with the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Updating your information will ensure you receive class reunion mailings, emails, and updates from us. Let us know if you have a new email, address, phone number, or name.


In Memoriam

January and February memorial list of GISH Alumni

Dianna (Boersen) Leach, Class of 1962, died December 24, 2023 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 81.

Frankie (Brumbaugh) Peterson, Class of 1960, died January 1, 2024 in Boise, ID at the age of 81.

Bradley Czaplewski, Class of 2004, died January 2, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 41.

Mark Brammer, Class of 1968, died January 7, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 73.

Mary (Schweiger) Obermiller, Class of 1945, died January 15, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 96.

Marilyn (Beck) Sok, Class of 1965, died January 18, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 76.

Dave Stump, Class of 1958, died January 23, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 83.

Larry Schuppan, Class of 1966, died January 24, 2024 in Omaha, NE at the age of 75.

Robert Priess, Class of 1954, died January 24, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 87.

Herbert "Herb" Roeser, Class of 1963, died January 28, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 78.

Donald Jelinek, Class of 1956, died January 28, 2024 in Omaha, NE at the age of 85.

Bob Eihusen, Class of 1970, died January 29, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 71.

Jerry Honeycutt, Class of 1965, died January 29, 2024 in McCook, NE at the age of 76.

Bob Loewenstein, Class of 1966, died January 30, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 75.

Don Olson, Class of 1956, died January 31, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 86.

Linda (Wells) Wolff, Class of 1962, died February 1, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 79.

Cheryl (Wiles) Dubbs, Class of 1961, died February 1, 2024 in Fremont, NE at the age of 80.

Ralph Granere, Class of 1962, died February 2, 2024 in Kearney, NE at the age of 79.

Erma (Kruse) Wissing, Class of 1950, died February 8, 2024 in Hastings, NE at the age of 90.

Rachel (Scott) Gosda, Class of 1977, died February 13, 2024 in Ravenna, NE at the age of 65.

Vernon Vodehnal, Class of 1964, died February 23, 2024 in Omaha, NE at the age of 78.

Jarrett Hare, Class of 1952, died February 24, 2024 in Lawrence, KS at the age of 89.

Dorothy (Haile) Enck, Class of 1948, died February 26, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 93.

James "Jim" Hehnke, Class of 1955, died February 28, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 86.

To report an alumni death since February 2024, 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.


  • GISH Alumni Classes, as proud alumni, you have a unique opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and make a significant impact on future GISH graduates. Following in the footsteps of the Class of 1964 and 1973, who have established scholarships, the GIPS Foundation encourages you to create your own Class scholarship fund. By doing so, alumni can provide a chance for students to pursue their dreams. Together, you can make a difference in the lives of GISH graduates and leave a legacy that will be celebrated for years to come. Please contact Kari Hooker-Leep ( at the GIPS Foundation to discuss how to get started.

  • Angel Velasco (GISH Class of 2015), joins the "The GIPS Cast" to share how Career Technical Education changed his life. Along the way, he speaks about the importance of finding construction opportunities in high school, how two teachers saw his potential, and how cool it is seeing the community enjoy his work in downtown Grand Island.
    Because there's a lot to be proud of when you build things with your own two hands.

  • Brandy Guerrero returns to GIPS as the first PathBack Program recipient to graduate and be hired by GIPS since the program’s inception in 2018.

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