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May 2024

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 9 | Number 3

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 #3 of our ninth year of publishing the only consistent connection for alumni and friends of Grand Island Senior High. That makes this iteration 51 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'' checks in on the progress of Senior High now as a cell phone free zone. While many high schools still wrestle with what to do about cell phone use on campus, in January, GISH decided it would eliminate them during the school day.

In her “Making Your Mark” piece, Grand Island Public Schools Foundation Executive Director, Kari Hooker-Leep asks members of the Class of 2024 what their legacies will be. On that same subject, our intrepid student correspondent, Senior Avery Rogers, asks some of her classmates what graduation will mean to them as they prepare to move smartly into the worlds of work, military service, college, or whatever the next chapter holds for them.

Mike Monk's “Distant Mirror” writes about the years he was a minority owner of the Major League Baseball San Diego Padres. Wandering Writer Sarah Kuta writes about the 80th anniversary of D-Day and a trip she took there last year.

We have one Milestone this issue, a former Rise columnist is named NCPA High School Teacher of the Year. As usual, in our In Memoriam we have a 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 checks in on the progress of Senior High now as a cell phone free zone.

  • Milestones

    GISH alum and former Rise columnist Abbey Kutlas-Prickett is named the 2024 NCPA High School Teacher of the Year.

  • Making Your Mark

    Kari Hooker-Leep asks members of the Class of 2024 what their legacies will be.

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Mike Bockoven introduces himself as the new Fundraising Coordinator.

  • I've Been Thinking

    George ponders the art of conversation vs. doom scrolling.

  • On the Island

    Avery Rogers asks some of her classmates what graduation will mean to them.

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike writes about the years he was a minority owner of the Major League Baseball San Diego Padres.

  • A Wandering Writer's World

    Sarah Kuta writes about the 80th anniversary of D-Day and a trip she took there last year.

  • 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

Cell phones no longer in use during school hours at GISH

Johann Hari's book “Stolen Focus,’ details how our devices, particularly our cell phone, have eaten into our ability to concentrate. In a classroom setting that situation is obviously exacerbated.

That’s why in January Grand Island Senior High made a considerable policy change: Cell phone use is no longer allowed in school during school hours. The policy reads that “From 8:05 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. all cell phones and personal electronic devices must be in backpacks or pockets, out of sight. Accommodations will be made for students that require a personal electronic device for medical assistance.”

The transition, an obvious sea change for a generation that has never known a world without cell phones, has gone well according to GISH Principal, Jeff Gilbertson.

He told a local media outlet “For the most part our students have been really willing and able to give up that phone when they make a mistake.” He added that to date the few incidents where students have been caught using their cell phones have been positive interactions.

District and school leaders had determined earlier that the use of devices from cell phones to earbuds were outside the scope of good academic practice. Those determinations led to new policy, as did trying to find ways to curtail cyberbullying and maintain “healthy hallways and classrooms.”

Nationally, 77% of U.S. schools say they prohibit cell phones at school for non-academic use, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But for high schools the number is a tick below half.

As an added bonus for GISH, the art of conversation may soon be making a bit of a comeback. “Students are having conversations with one another. It’s like going back in time to before the cell phones were even invented,” Gilbertson said.

(e) Mail Bag




Kutlas-Prickett honored for work in NCPA

Photo courtesy of Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

Grand Island Senior High alum and former Rise columnist Abbey Kutlas-Prickett was named the 2024 Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA) High School Teacher of the Year. Kutlas-Prickett is a dual-language U.S. History teacher, Student Council sponsor, and Academic Decathlon coach at Omaha South.

NCPA scholars nominated her for creating a welcoming and inclusive classroom environment and appreciate the support she has provided for students in Student Council and Academic Decathlon. Letters of nomination noted that she creates memorable learning and leadership experiences for her students.

NCPA selects promising 8th graders from first-generation, low-income families to join a cohort of their peers to complete a rigorous high school curriculum, summer program, service-learning and leadership development. In return, scholars that maintain a 3.25 GPA and demonstrate exemplary commitment receive aid that pays the direct cost of attending the University of Nebraska. Each year at the Senior Showcase and reception, graduating seniors are celebrated, the academic successes of NCPA scholars are highlighted, and those who provide dedication and support to the NCPA scholar community are recognized.

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Making Your Mark

Graduation is about visions, narratives, the future

Kari Hooker-Leep

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

Things that I notice this time of the year:

I am excited to get all those graduation announcements in the mail. I so love seeing the bright faces, smiles and looks of excitement for what is yet to come.

I see lots of neighbors doing house touch-ups and garage cleanouts … readying for those receptions.

But above all, I hear countless reflections on senior year experiences and the journey from envisioning futures to achieving milestones.

What's remarkable is how, regardless of graduation year — be it 60 or 30 years ago or in just a few days, it is all strangely and comfortingly similar. Let’s just compare 1964, 1994, and 2024. Each had its own unique but similar political climate that, as newly graduated “adults,” we were involved in. Wars were going on for each graduating class and social injustice was at the forethought of the youth. They saw what was happening, and knew they had a part in righting the way.

In 1964, the age of the computer had just dawned. Yes, it was the size of a small house, but awe-inspiring to all. As time has passed we have seen the advent of the Internet, cell phones, and holding the world at your fingertips with a smartphone today.

One last thing that has not changed is education and career opportunities. We still hold on strong to pursue traditional career fields such as manufacturing, education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship. Yes, things change, but so many things stay similar, and I for one find that comforting.

Photos courtesy of GIPS Foundation scholarship reception

This year, the Foundation provided 190 scholarships to the class of 2024. They were given to students pursuing careers as nurses, engineers, artists, welders, machinists, construction managers, teachers, doctors, and entrepreneurs.

Who provided these scholarships? Many were former GISH graduates who forged their own roads to the same careers. They saw these scholarships as a means to provide opportunities for the next generation of graduates, carrying forward their legacy. The GIPS Foundation has the privilege of connecting scholarship donors with their recipients. We witness both sides sharing their narratives and envisioning the bright futures ahead.

Do the donors hear the echoes of what they said 20, 30, and possibly 60 years ago in the voices of those they support? Undoubtedly.

Things I notice this time of the year. So many things change and so many things remain the same.

Graduates today are sharing the vision of what they see their futures hold, and family, friends, and mentors pass down their legacies. So as you go to the receptions, possibly held in the family garage, listen to the visions. Share your stories as a visionary. Reminisce on your own time as a new graduate and consider how you can provide a resource to help future versions of you -- the lawyers, doctors, business owners, renowned artists, or ground-breaking scientists, possibly through a scholarship.

If you are interested in setting up a scholarship to honor, memorialize, or inspire, contact Kari Hooker-Leep at the GIPS Foundation, and we can guide you through the process.

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.

Coming Back For The Second Day

Mike Bockoven

Fundraising Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

Hello! I’m Mike Bockoven, the GIPS Foundation’s Fundraising Coordinator and I’m writing this on day three of my tenure at the Foundation. You would think after three days in the office I wouldn’t have many stories to tell you about my time here.

You’d be wrong.

Mike's first day
Photo courtesy of Mike Bockoven

On day two, Kari (Director Kari, not Finance Kari) was meeting with Cheryl and Douglas Jensen, the 2024 Staff Campaign Challenge Gift donors. I had never met the Jensens before and, after some introductions, Doug said “you came back after the first day. That’s pretty brave.”

It was a good joke, but there is a kernel of truth in there. In two days, I had already experienced a lot about the GIPS Foundation. I had met the small but mighty team of professionals who never stop moving, working and deeply caring about their mission. I had met some of the generous donors and “friends” of the Foundation, who are extremely dedicated to the cause. And, through delivering T-shirts for the Staff Campaign, I had gotten a look inside the schools and met some of the world class educators who make up Grand Island Public Schools.

When confronted with so much talent, passion and creativity, I can see Doug’s point. It can be intimidating. But I am thrilled to report it’s also infectious and I can’t wait to dive in. In future months you’ll be hearing from me about the Harvest event and other projects the Foundation is working on. If you see me at an event, likely with a camera in my hand, please introduce yourself. I’ve got a lot of people to meet and a lot to learn but I plan on coming back, day after day, to support GIPS as best as I am able. 

GIPS Foundation Celebrates 21st Annual "Add it Up to Opportunity!" Staff Campaign Results

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation proudly announced the remarkable results of its 21st annual "Add it Up to Opportunity!" staff and board member fund drive during a news conference held at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 13. The event took place at the prestigious Bill Marshall/Five Points Bank Champions Hall, within the iconic Memorial Stadium/Jack Martin Field, symbolizing over two decades of unwavering dedication and support from the GIPS staff.

With gratitude, the GIPS Foundation acknowledged the outstanding generosity of its staff, who presented 9,990 reasons to invest in student opportunities. A significant highlight of this year's campaign was the heartfelt gesture from Cheryl and Douglas Jensen who provided a $5,000 challenge gift. Their pledge served as a matching fund for all new and increased contributions towards the 2024 "Add it Up to Opportunity" Staff Campaign. Cheryl and Douglas have been involved with the Grand Island Public Schools since 1971. Cheryl as a Title 1 Perceptual Motor Specialist and Elementary Physical Education Teacher and Douglas as a Speech/Language Pathologist, Program Coordinator of Special Education at the Secondary Level, and a Grand Island Senior High Administrator.

The Foundation has given Cheryl and Douglas many memorable experiences. Cheryl and Douglas have had the opportunity to participate in nearly all of the committees associated with the Foundation and to see the impact it has provided the students and staff of the Grand Island Public Schools. Cheryl was able to see a teacher selected as a Legendary Educator that she helped nominate. Douglas personally saw the results of the Foundation’s recognition when he was awarded Administrator of the Year in his final year as Grand Island Senior High Principal.

The Jensen’s note that the Foundation is a vehicle for change that supports not only the students at all levels within the district but also the people who keep our facilities clean, work as aides, teach, and administrate. It is important to do those things that bring you joy, and supporting innovative teachers and their students brings us joy.

Running from March 25 to April 22, the campaign witnessed remarkable engagement, with a 85% participation rate. Together, the staff and board members of Grand Island Public Schools and the GIPS Foundation raised an impressive $91,183.59.

The proceeds from the campaign will further enrich Foundation programs, including the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship and Teacher of the Year initiatives. Additionally, the funds will bolster Foundation operations, endowment efforts, and the Classroom Grant program. During the 2022-2023 school year alone, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation invested an extraordinary $1,418,061 into various programs, scholarships, and grants benefiting students.



2024 Go Big Give a Success

The 1970s clinched the spotlight in the inaugural Go Big Give Rock'em Clash, securing both the highest number of votes and the largest sum raised. Congratulations to Bohemian Rhapsody, and a big thank you to everyone who added to the excitement of Go Big Give.

Go Big Give 2024 was a triumph, with our alumni and supporters generously contributing over $14,018.00 from 64 donors.

Each dollar counts. The Foundation extends profound gratitude to our alumni and community for championing our mission to ensure every student's success. Together, we have the power to achieve remarkable feats.

For over three decades, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has helped support the students and staff in our community. We fund additional opportunities for students and staff through programs such as Classroom Grants, Teacher of the Year, Scholarships, Legacy Grants and other needs as they arise.

This fall, the GIPS Foundation plans to host our annual fundraising event in hopes to expand our programs. We are asking that you make an in-kind and/or monetary donation to our auction. Our goal is to raise $170,000 so we can be agile in our approach to meet the needs of our students.

With your help we will be able to build a memorable and successful silent and live auction. Our goal is to have around 50 silent auction items and 10 live auction items. 

All gifts of goods, services or dollars are tax deductible as allowed by law. The GIPS Foundation’s 501(c)3 number is 47-0735201. All donations will be receipted.

There will be more information on this event announced in July. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for September 26, 2024! We look forward to partnering with you on this event!

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I've Been Thinking

The art of conversation vs. doom scrolling

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

I find myself disagreeing with myself when it comes to cell phones and classrooms and growing up.

As noted in this issue’s lead story, Grand Island Senior High has banned the use of cell phones in the building during school hours. All those Instagram messages, TikTok videos and texts are just going to have to wait until after school. Surely a policy to keep cell phones in backpacks and out of sight during the school day is on solid pedagogical ground.

I can attest to the competition cellphones present in college classrooms, too. The technological computer-in-a-pocket wonders are always vying for students' attention, while I slog my way through the joys of rhetoric or the elements of news.

Obviously, part of that is simply respect, although I suspect -- through experience and observation -- that we’ve ceded some of that high ground. Nor is answering the phone and carrying on a long, loud discussion to which most of the restaurant is privy the mark of maturity.

For details, check out cell phone use the next time you’re at a restaurant, where couples stare at their screens instead of each other, where conversations stop and start based on who’s getting messages, where eye contact loses to YouTube, X or even Facebook. Or, perhaps, you get to be part of a conversation to which you were neither invited nor would have accepted if you were.

I know much of this because I find myself spending way too much time doom scrolling or texting or checking sports scores because I have a habit of doom scrolling, texting and checking sports scores. Perhaps it’s FOMO, perhaps it’s a way of the modern world, perhaps, perhaps it’s something else altogether, some socio-psycho conditions of which I’m unaware. Or, as my mother, god rest her soul, might tell me in no uncertain terms, perhaps it’s simply bad manners.

Still, imagine you encounter a long line, a 20-minute wait or more -- and you left your phone in the car. The horror! And even though I’m more keenly aware than ever of the error of my cell phone etiquette, I occasionally still drop a conversation to check my phone. Sorry, Mom.

All of which leads me to the first disagreement I have with myself about cell phone use: While the new GISH policy reflects the correct balance that must exist between academics and socialization at a high school, cell phone problems are not solely an issue for young people, including college students in writing classes. Plenty of adults are overly tied to their phones, whether in the office, on the job or enjoying an evening with friends at a local eatery.

While the research is clear that all this dependence on technology has reduced our attention spans and diminished our ability to focus, our ability to converse in person -- face-to-face I think is the technical term -- has also taken a hit. Senior High Principal Jeff Gilbertson said students are learning to have conversations with their peers. Unlike those of us of previous generations, this generation of Islanders (and others) have never known a world without cell phones. We know, or should know, that being skilled at face-to-face conversation has value in any line of work or any social setting … eye contact included.

For those of us with a few miles on us who have lost a step or two in many areas, we might want to consider whether we’ve also dropped a couple notches as conversationalists. That’s more than just a gift of gab; it’s a real-life, in-the-flesh human connection.

That’s something Senior High students now have the opportunity to practice and Senior High alums, if they’ve lost it, have the opportunity to find again.

And something on which I can agree with myself.

On the Island

Graduation, Class Day highlight seniors’ goodbyes

Avery Rogers

Class of 2024
Student Correspondent

Welcome back, readers of Rise. This month, the school year draws to a close. The last day for seniors is May 8, and everyone else leaves on the 22. I wanted to take this opportunity to look at graduation with my fellow class officers. This year, we organized several events for the senior class, including a Senior Sunrise, Class Barbecue, and Prom. That’s not all, though. The class officers were also in charge of putting together Class Day.

Class Day is an extraordinary day for seniors. They came on the morning of May 9 to watch a presentation that the class officers and I had put together, and then we headed over to the Heartland Event Center for graduation rehearsal.

This year, for Class Day, we have quite a few fun activities lined up. The morning starts with donuts and then into the usual welcome speeches and the national anthem. Then we have some more fun activities and games planned. We have a fun quiz game with some trivia about our years in high school. We also plan to have a few little mini-games sprinkled throughout the day, such as charades. The class officers and I also took the liberty of filming and preparing a goodbye video from teachers throughout the school with the help of Christopher Holton and Joana Reyes. Reyes is a staff member through the Gear Up program at GISH, but she has also stepped up to help us organize Class Day this year. With her help, we were also able to come up with some fun superlatives and send out a survey to the class. I’m thrilled we could coordinate such a fun morning, and loved sharing it with the rest of the class.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share a little more about the class officers. They have done a great job helping our class come together this year. I wanted to shed light on each of them individually, so I asked them a few questions about their experience.

First up is Kevin DeLeon, the Class of 2024 president. Kevin shared that winning class president was one of the highlights of his high school career. He said that he loved growing a bond with the other officers. When asked what he’s most looked forward to about Class Day, he said,” I looked forward to being all together one last time, to value our memories, as we all embark on our new journeys ahead.”

Elli Ward held the position of vice president. Elli’s favorite part about being the vice president was collaborating as a group to make our fun ideas come to life, primarily through the senior events we hosted. Her favorite part about senior year was exploring future career options through the Architecture and Design Pathway. That’s what she plans to study next year when attending the University of Kansas. As for Class Day, Elli said she was most excited to see how the rest of our class reacted to everything we had planned for them, particularly the senior superlatives.

Adi Beltran was this year’s student school board representative. Every month, she would write a report about what was happening at GISH and bring it to share at the school board meeting. When asked about her experience this year, she said, “I’ve loved being the student board representative. Being a class officer has opened up many opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t one. Though the favorite part of mine was being able to form closer relationships with the other class officers, senior class sponsor, and principal.” She also explained that she most looked forward to sharing the teacher goodbye video that we filmed for Class Day.

Finally, I was the class secretary. I have also really enjoyed my time as a class officer. It was fun to act as a representative on behalf of my class. I also really enjoyed establishing a greater bond with this incredible group of people. I was so excited for Class Day. We’ve been working towards this day all year, and I couldn’t wait to show off everything we had prepared.

After Class Day, seniors prepared for graduation and graduation parties, and of course, there are still AP exams left to take. However, it was over before we knew it.

This year has gone by in a flash, and I can’t believe we have finally reached the end of our high school careers. I am so proud of all we have accomplished as a senior class. Although graduation can be scary, I’m also super excited to see what our class will go out into the world and do in the future. I know we will achieve great things.

A Distant Mirror

The San Diego Padres

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

From 1990 to 1994, my wife Janet and I were minority owners of the San Diego Padres. I have not written about this amazing adventure, not wanting to appear immodest or self-indulgent. But the experience was so fascinating, I think and hope our loyal Rise readers will enjoy it.

So today, as we gaze into the Distant Mirror, we travel back to 1990. In early Spring of 1990, I was awakened by an early morning phone call from my cousin Randy Garroutte (GISH class of 1970) in Denver. He told me he had just read that my former Harvard College roommate, Tom Werner, was going to purchase the San Diego Padres. Tom was then a very successful TV producer, having created a string of successful sitcoms including ‘Oh Madeline,” “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World,” and “Roseanne.” 

I called Tom, and he confirmed that he and another college roommate, Russell Goldsmith, along with a number of prominent San Diego business leaders, were negotiating to buy the San Diego Padres. 

Jack Murphy Stadium, circa 1990
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk

I was and am a life-long baseball fanatic beginning with the first pickup game I saw as a five-year-old in Amherst, Nebraska.  I later played for the North Side Little League Yanks at Grace Abbot Park, and for the Little Bigger League Nats (along with teammate George Ayoub). I then played one year with the American Legion Midgets. I was also part of a fantasy baseball league which had been going strong since 1979. To have a close friend purchase an actual major league team was a minor miracle. I wrote Tom a poem celebrating this purchase. When I presented it to Tom, he said “If you feel this is so attractive, we could use another minority owner.”

While I did not have Tom’s wealth, I then embarked on a month-long effort to raise enough money to buy in as a minority owner. In 1960, a Grand Island kid who wanted a new baseball glove might get an advance on his allowance, mow some lawns, sell his marble collection, and help out on a paper route. I did the adult version of that, mortgaging our home that had appreciated in value, cashing out most of our investments, getting a loan, and getting my father-in-law to join my wife and me in the investment. Low and behold, when Tom’s group closed the purchase in June of 1990, my wife, father-in-law, and I were 4% owners of the San Diego Padres.

 A cavalcade of wonderful experiences soon began. I attended our owners’ meetings at Jack Murphy Stadium. The new game program sold at the Stadium contained my picture and biography along with those of the other 11 owners. I regularly watched the home games from the owners’ box, though I could sit right behind home plate if I desired. I could watch pre-game batting practice behind the cage on the field.  Tom and I had lunch with Vin Scully, the long-time iconic announcer for the Dodgers. I sat with the National League President Bill White at a spring training game in Yuma Arizona.  Well before the internet, I would receive copies of local and national news articles about the team faxed to my law office.

The Grand Island Independent interviewed me and wrote a story about my purchase. My former English teacher Elmer Kral wrote a story for the Omaha World Herald about the local boy who purchased part of the Padres. 

Jack Murphy Stadium hosting the 1992 All Star Game
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk

When I entered the stadium, showing my parking pass, the parking attendant would say, “Hello Mr. Monk.” Each owner was given a National League Season Pass, good for two tickets to any National League regular season game. I had access to World Series and All Star Game tickets. When the Padres hosted the 1992 All Star Game, I obtained 100 tickets that I gave to family and friends. I attended the 1993 All Star Game at Camden Yards, the 1990 World Series in Oakland, the 1991 World Series in Minneapolis, the 1992 World Series in Atlanta and Toronto, and the 1993 World Series in Philadelphia. These opportunities were beyond my wildest dreams. 

The best part of being an owner, I came to learn, was sharing the experience with others. I had a host of close friends from my fantasy league whom I knew to be avid baseball fans. I arranged for these and other friends (including my intrepid buddy George Ayoub and his wife Jackie), to join me to see games from the owners’ box. The owners’ box had free ballpark food and drinks, although as Tom once said, “They are the most expensive hot dogs I ever bought.” I had friends join me on the field behind the cage and watch pre-game batting practice. When son James was entering seventh grade, he hosted a group of future classmates in the owners’ box and on the field to watch batting practice. The whole experience was mildly surreal.

As I got to know the other San Diego owners, I also was asked to do legal work for them, so I ended up with law offices in both Los Angeles and San Diego. I often would spend the day working at my San Diego office, then proceed to the Stadium for that night’s game. During a home stand I would at times stay in a Hilton near the Stadium, a hotel owned by one of the other owners.  

Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk

Our ownership held social events with the players, where I got to meet and get to know some of my heroes like Tony Gwynn, Fred Lynn, Fred McGriff, Bruce Hurst, and others. Virtually all the players were cordial and pleasant. The late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was a completely gracious, good natured, gregarious, and modest man. He was a true gentleman, my favorite of all the players. At one picnic event, my son James, then about 14, came over and breathlessly announced that Fred McGriff had asked James to get him a steak from the barbecue. 

During the off season, I had access to the owners’ box for concerts held at Jack Murphy Stadium, and I had family, clients, and friends join me. My daughter Susannah brought a group of high school friends to see The Eagles. I saw U2 with a law partner and Pink Floyd with a client. I was also able to secure the owners’ box also for Motocross events, since I had a few friends who were serious fans. 

During the first two years of our ownership, the Padres did well. We were in the pennant race for much of 1990, and in August of 1991 we were just a few games out of first, behind the Atlanta Braves. But in late August we faded. Each game was exciting to watch, whether from the Stadium or from afar. Each game the Padres won was a glorious high. Each loss was a painful stab in the heart. I nervously monitored our daily attendance, acutely aware of the financial impact. I remember being at a game in San Diego where our center fielder and shortstop collided on a pop fly. Both left the game injured. It was like a business owner watching two of his buildings explode.

Photo courtesy of Mike Monk

The goal of our ownership group was not to make piles of money, but to at least break even and enjoy the ride. This happened nicely in 1990, 1991 and 1992. But by 1993, the salary structure of Major League Baseball had exploded. We were paying far more in salaries, while our revenues remained about the same. To avoid major losses, we were forced to trade a couple expensive players, and the team in 1993 slumped. We were heavily criticized by not only the local papers, but nationally. 

Then came 1994, when a labor dispute ended the season prematurely, and the World Series was canceled. When play ended in August, our revenues from games also ended, but our expenses did not. As a result, each owner was required to contribute in response to a “capital call,” which was most unpleasant. But we scraped together the funds to pay the monthly capital calls and survived. 

The bleeding finally stopped when, in December of 1994, in the middle of the labor stoppage, our group sold the team to John Moores. While many groups who have owned teams have sold with great profit, our sale basically allowed us to break even. Under the sale agreement, our group retained a very small ownership stake and continued to get National League Season Passes and access to Padres’ tickets as long as John Moores owned the team.

But breaking even was wonderful given the experiences, opportunities, and joys of the five years when we owned the team. Each day we write a page in the book of our life, and those five years enabled me to create some terrific pages in that book.

While my time with the Padres was a glorious experience, I would trade it in a heartbeat for the experience of fellow Islander Jeff "Whitey" Richardson. Jeff played 10 seasons of professional baseball, including three seasons in Major League Baseball, for the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and my beloved Boston Red Sox. That experience would have been a dream come true.

A Wandering Writer's World

D-Day at 80 reminds us of the sacrifice of so many

Sarah Kuta

Class of 2008
Rise Contributor

Photo courtesy of Sara Kuta

I didn’t expect to become so emotional while visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

But as I stood gazing up at “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” a bronze statue created by American sculptor Donald De Lue, I couldn’t help but cry. The monument depicts a young, healthy man with his arms outstretched above his head, his gaze skyward as he leaps into the air.

De Lue’s compelling artwork represents the thousands of American soldiers killed during the D-Day landings of World War II, many of them just 19 or 20 years old. Not far from the statue, 9,386 identical white crosses mark the graves of the men who gave their lives to help end the brutal conflict.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the famed Allied invasion of Normandy that eventually led to the liberation of Europe. On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 Allied troops stormed into Nazi-occupied France on five code-named beaches: Omaha, Utah, June, Gold and Sword. “Operation Overlord,” as it was called, was the largest amphibious siege in military history, involving soldiers, pilots, paratroopers, sailors, medics and many other brave personnel from the United States, Britain and Canada.

I visited the cemetery last spring on a trip I took with Russell and my parents. We’d sailed west from Paris aboard a river cruise ship, stopping at various small towns along the Seine until we could go no farther. At Rouen, we piled into buses and continued west toward the English Channel. In addition to visiting the cemetery, we also took a guided tour of Omaha Beach and visited the Caen Memorial Museum, which offered a detailed exploration of the D-Day landings and World War II more broadly.

Ever Forward at Omaha Beach

Photo courtesy of Sara Kuta

Another work of art, called “Ever Forward,” evoked similar feelings. Located just off the sand of Omaha Beach at the Vierville Draw, it’s a green metallic statue that depicts a soldier dragging his fallen camarade forward. He’s mid-stride, holding a rifle in his right hand and grabbing onto his friend’s jacket with his left hand.

The piece commemorates the 29th Division's 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, whose members were some of the first to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. More than 800 of them were killed or injured that day, but their bravery and selflessness paved the way for tens of thousands of additional troops to land and continue the mission.

One of our guides that day shared a story that will always stick with me. Several years ago, an American veteran who’d participated in D-Day returned to France to see what Omaha Beach looked like in the modern era.

It was a hot day in July, and the beach was full of people laughing, swimming, sunbathing and building sandcastles. The veteran looked out over the sunny scene and began to cry.

“He came with a friend of mine,” our guide told us. “My friend was very embarrassed and he started to apologize. He said, ‘Those people are disrespectful. They don’t understand what you’ve been through. We should go, I’m sorry.’”

But when the friend turned to look into the veteran’s eyes, he saw that the elderly man was smiling beneath his tears. The veteran explained that he was not crying because he was sad, but because he was happy.

“Because for the first time in his life, he understood what he fought for,” our guide told us. “He fought for freedom. All of these men and women fought for our freedom. They sacrificed their tomorrow for our today.”

Photo courtesy of Sara Kuta

I’d learned about D-Day in school, of course. But walking on the sand of Omaha Beach and standing among the gravesites at the cemetery made this momentous day in world history real in a way that simply reading about it never could.

Instead of thinking about the casualties as mere statistics, I imagined what it would have been like to have been so young, so afraid, and yet courageous enough to have leapt out of a ship and into the chilly waters of the English Channel. What must have been running through their minds as they waded through the waves wearing a heavy pack toward the beach—and toward near-certain death? How did they manage to keep going?

And that’s one of the many reasons we travel—to experience first-hand the sights, sounds and smells we’ve read about in history books or seen in photographs and movies. To immerse ourselves in an environment so that we can deeply contemplate the past and truly understand its significance. To foster connections across cultures, time zones and eras. To empathize. To feel something.

Sure, mindless vacations with palm trees and umbrella drinks are nice—and I enjoy them as much as the next person. But there’s also something to be said for taking trips with a bit more intellectual and emotional heft. These types of trips are not always sunshine and rainbows, but they’re almost always worthwhile. Though painful at times, travel can help us learn more about ourselves and about the human experience more broadly—if only we open ourselves up to its teachings.

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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 meets the first Wednesday of each month at Tommy's Restaurant at 11 a.m. Join us for lively conversation and a good time. 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!

  • 1974

    The Class of 1974 will hold their 50th reunion on August 2nd and 3rd, 2024. Tickets are $65 per person (includes Friday and Saturday events and digital memory book). Tickets will NOT be available at the door. RSVP and purchase tickets at
    Main Event: Saturday, August 3 / 5pm-11pm at Riverside Golf Club, 2820 Riverside Dr., Grand Island
    Attire: Dressy Casual
    Meet & Greet: Friday, August 2 / 5pm-11pm at Prairie Pride Brewing Co. 115 E. South Front St., Grand Island
    Attire: Casual
    Questions? Contact Sheree Wagner Giesenhagen at (308)380-0555 or

  • 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

In Memoriam

March and April memorial list of GISH Alumni

Greg Hupp, Class of 1973, died March 3, 2024 in Hastings, NE at the age of 68.

Gary Mettenbrink, Class of 1969, died March 7, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 72.

Jerry Smith, Class of 1973, died March 11, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 68.

Teresa (Potratz) West, Class of 1975, died March 15, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 67.

Colleen (Sanders) Cummings, Class of 1953, died March 15, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 88.

Barbara (Perrel) Thornton, Class of 1961, died March 17, 2024 in Phillips, NE at the age of 81.

Sue Ward, Class of 1973, died March 21, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 70.

Dwayne Terry, Class of 1983, died March 22, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 58.

Leland Dennhardt, Class of 1959, died March 22, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 81.

Garrett Luther, Class of 1984, died March 23, 2024 in La Vista, NE at the age of 58.

Alice (Laursen) Gray, Class of 1970, died March 23, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 72.

Mike Morledge, Class of 1968, died March 23, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 74.

Sandra (Mchugh) Collins, Class of 1966, died March 24, 2024 in North Platte, NE at the age of 75.

LaVonne (Christensen) Knuth, Class of 1951, died March 24, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 91.

Don Robertson, Class of 1952, died March 25, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 89.

Ladonna (Bockmann) Halstead, Class of 1957, died March 31, 2024 at the age of 84.

Robert Colgan, Class of 1984, died April 3, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 57.

Inez (King) Rohrich, Class of 1950, died April 6, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 91.

Robert Wicht, Class of 1969, died April 10, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 72.

Jeffery Halm, Class of 1979, died April 14, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 63.

James Doty, Class of 1969, died April 15, 2024 in Lubbock, TX at the age of 73.

Gary Shafer, Class of 1961, died April 15, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 81.

Jerry Case, Class of 1955, died April 15, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 87.

Norma (Kenyon) Wiig, Class of 1952, died April 15, 2024 in Brookings, SD at the age of 89.

Jeanette (Kiolbasa) Kemper, Class of 1955, died April 16, 2024 in St. Libory, NE at the age of 86.

Daniel Mars, Class of 1985, died April 17, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 56.

Georgene (Rasmussen) Allen, Class of 1946, died April 19, 2024 in Grand Island, NE at the age of 95.

Dorothy (Hill) Partridge, Class of 1959, died April 22, 2024 in Wahoo, NE at the age of 83.


To report an alumni death since April 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.

  • 1959

    Robert D. Shanks Jr. PhD, Class of 1959, has published two books "A Father's Stories for His Children" and "An Awakening at Nain". Both are Christian books. His third book is due out in a month or so and it is entitled "Tales from Northern Arizona". The publisher is Writers Publishing House.

  • 1965

    Jim Hanna, Class of 1965, has been deeply involved in a project in David City with his former GIHS physics teacher, Allen Covault. Allen retired back to his family home after retiring from GIHS. About 10 years ago, he and his wife founded the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City, the only art museum exclusively devoted to art related to farming, ranching, and rural life. The museum is currently housed in a small downtown storefront. Jim got involved by volunteering to serve on the museum board of directors. About 3 years ago the board had concluded that more room was needed, and planning for a larger museum began. After 2 intense years of fundraising, acquisition of a historic building, and design work to remodel it, in December 2023 work commenced. By the end of 2024 the museum will be housed in a beautifully restored 22,000 square foot structure, more than 10 times the size of the old building.

  • 1974

    Joyce Vasquez Sohl, Class of 1974, was inducted into the UNL Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center Hall of Fame. At UNL, Joyce served as President of the Mexican American Student Association. Following graduation in 1989, she taught at King Science Center, Omaha, and two years later she was hired by Lincoln Public Schools. During her 30 years as an educator, she taught staff development sessions about Latino Culture and led diversity classes/workshops for LPS, UNL, and Concordia College. Although she retired in 2020, she returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher. Looking back she is proud to have witnessed staff and students demonstrate cultural competency to navigate our changing world successfully.

  • 1988

    Alison Larson, Class of 1988, has been appointed the executive director of the EPIC Discovery Center. Throughout her career, Alison Larson has held multiple different roles, including senior vice president, marketing director and investments operations manager at Equitable Bank. She has also held leadership positions in several non-profit boards, such as Heartland United Way, Equitable Charitable Foundation, Howard County Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Larson served as the Board Secretary for the Grand Island Children's Museum from 2021 to 2023 (now known as EPIC Discovery Center). However, she resigned from the position to pursue the Executive Director role. Larson is still actively engaged in her community and serves on the board of the Grand Island Public School Foundation. As executive director, Larson will lead EPIC Discovery Center's capital campaign, building development project and daily operations.

  • 2014

    Congratulations to the GIPS Educators and Board Member who were named to the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce Top 35 Under 35 class of 2024! Jacob Morrow, Class of 2014, Westridge Middle School Counselor (not pictured - was out coaching track!); Eon Lemburg, Walnut Middle School Social Studies Teacher & A.D.; and Eric Garcia-Mendez, GIPS Board of Education.

Islander Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 Announced


Jerry Ball - Jerry Ball was a 2-way standout for the Islanders during the 1950’s. Ball earned All-State honors in 1956 and went on to an outstanding career at Kearney State College, earning All-Conference honors in 1959. Ball enjoyed a tremendous career as an educator and coach.

Jared Goodwin -  A standout running back and linebacker for the Islanders, Jared Goodwin rushed for over 1,000 yds. during the 2000 season and played in the 2001 Nebraska Shrine Bowl. Goodwin went on to an outstanding career at UNK earning All-RMAC honorable mention honors.

Paul Hoos - An outstanding offensive lineman for the Islanders in the late 1980’s, Paul Hoos earned All-State honors in 1988 and was an anchor for some of Ken Fischer’s great teams of the late 1980’s. Hoos went on to a start as an offensive lineman at UNK.

Darrel Pinkston - A star in the Islander backfield in 1953, along with “Islander Hall of Famer” Claire Boroff, Darrel Pinkston was always a threat to go the distance. Pinkston earned All-State honors in 1953 and helped lead the Islanders to the State Championship.

Ed Richards - An outstanding player for legendary Coach Jerry Lee, Ed Richards was a bruising fullback and linebacker for the undefeated Islanders of 1958.

Chad Vokoun - A standout lineman for the Islanders, Chad Vokoun helped lead the Islanders of 1990 to a State Runner-Up finish. Vokoun went on to a standout career at UNK earning first team RMAC honors in 1995.


The Team of 1990 - One of the greatest teams in Islander history, the 1990 team finished as the State Runners Up. Led by Islander FB Hall of Famers Phil Ellis, Ryan Rathjen, Chad Vokoun and Matt Vrzal, the 1990 team finished an impressive 11-1.

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