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November 2022

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 7 | Number 6

Welcome to Rise, the voice of Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. We show up every other month in over 7,000 in-boxes bringing you news, views, and memories of GISH. Rise is a publication of the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

We’re wrapping up another year of Rise — our 7th — with some newsy and novel articles. Here’s some of what you will find inside: “At the Top” tries to put us in the holiday spirit recalling a couple musical and drama traditions at GISH and detailing a couple new ones. Jackie Ruiz-Rodriguez’s “On the Island” has a report on a new holiday play about to hit the stage at Senior High. Executive Director Kari Hooker-Leep looks back and forward with happenings at the Foundation. Annual Giving Coordinator Alicia Lechner reminds us that small ripples make big opportunities. 

As usual we’ll remember alumni who have passed recently, see who has reached a Milestone, and keep up on the lives and achievements of Islanders everywhere. All that and the musings of Mike Monk as he takes us back to barber shops; Bianca Ayala tells us why she’s grateful in this season of gratitude; Abbey Kutlas-Prickett writes with her usual eloquence about education’s power of possibility. And yours truly tells you while I’ll be shaving every day in November.

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

  • At the Top

    November begins GISH Holiday traditions

  • Milestones

    GISH Alum has published his 12th book, a crime saga

  • Making Your Mark

    Kari Hooker-Leep reflects on 2022 and looks ahead to what is to come for 2023

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Alicia shares final Harvest numbers and upcoming opportunities to give

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Bianca wants us all to think of 3 things we are grateful for

  • I've Been Thinking

    George shares his thoughts on "No Shave November"

  • On the Island

    Jackie gives us a peek into the upcoming Christmas productions

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike shares stories of his Barbershop visits over the years

  • One More Thing

    Abbey has a great message about remembering the possibilities ahead

  • 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

Old, new holiday traditions at Senior High

November is a gateway to months of holidays, many of which are part of the traditions of the world’s great religions. We start with Thanksgiving, move to January 1, 2023, New Year’s Day, all the way to March when Ramadan begins. Often, these holiday rites and celebrations stir vivid and meaningful memories of holidays past. Alumni of Grand Island Senior are no exception. 

We bunch a number of these holidays into December: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and if you’ve moved north, Boxing Day. The bulk of time off from high school still remains in December and part of January.

Of course, among the more secular traditions associated with the holiday season and vacations days is the want to sleep until noon or beyond among the species known as teenagers. More school-based traditions also continue.

For this writer, three Senior High Christmas events I experienced as a student and as a GISH faculty member remind me of the power of tradition.

Many final days before Christmas vacation, Larry Maupin, GISH’s legendary orchestra director, would assemble a small group of musicians in what was then the main hallway for a Christmas sing along before classes started. The maestro always sported an appropriately funny Christmas tie, perfectly matched with his Santa hat, puckish grin, and bouncing baton leading us in a chorus from “Jingle Bells” to “We Three Kings” to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The main hall was jammed with students and teachers -- some decked out in ugly Christmas sweaters -- belting out carols and putting us all in the holiday spirit. As a GISH teacher especially, I remember so loving the Christmas music but more importantly the gift of that moment of community, the absolute joy the tradition brought to the main hall, and, of course, the treasure that was Larry Maupin.

The tradition continues, too. According to Senior High orchestra teacher Bobby Jacobs, the Islander Mariachi Band plays the main hallway before classes on the last day before Christmas break. “We play sing-along carols and it is a lot of fun,” he said.

I was a member of two of Vocal Music Director Jack Learned's singing groups in the late 1960s. At Christmas, he would combine all the choruses at Senior High to rehearse and then perform the “Messiah,” Handel’s masterpiece that debuted during the Easter season 1742 in Dublin but is enshrined in Christmas traditions across the world.

A high school vocal music department putting on the “Messiah” is not unusual. Learned, however, put an unusual twist into GISH’s tradition. Each year, as the “Messiah” was about to conclude and the singers mustered the energy necessary for the “Hallelujah Chorus,” the concert’s well-known and glorious finale, Learned would invite to the stage any alumni singer to join the many voices already massed on stage. There was more. He also allowed any newly-minted alum singer with the words and music to pieces such as “Glory to God,” “For Unto Us Us a Child is Born,” and Lift Up Your Heads, Oh Ye Gates,” still fresh in their minds to be on stage and sing the entire concert. As a student, I loved all the college singers and community members standing alongside us. As an alum one year I sang the entire piece while still in college. Many years later I joined the group for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Listening to Handel’s “Messiah” can transport even the stoics among us. Singing it can take you beyond that.

While the “Messiah” has not been performed for several years at GISH, the music department's voices will be heard during the holidays. Vocal Music Director Jesse Labrie said, “We do have carolers sing in the halls the last day before Christmas break.”

Also, for Islander alums in the area looking for some good holiday music, the GISH Symphony and Chorus will present “Christmas Celebration” on Wednesday, December 14 at 7:00 pm in the GISH Auditorium. The Symphony and Chorus comprises the top auditioned students from the orchestra, band, and choir programs at GISH, as well as the GIPS Children’s Choir. The concert program will include seasonal favorites, as well “Festival de Villancicos,” a world premiere orchestra and choral piece of Spanish Christmas carols by Dwayne Milburn. Admission is a free will donation.

"A Christmas Carol" 2021

Finally, years ago former GISH Theater Director, Greg Ulmer, brought Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” to the Senior high stage. Ulmer’s vision was to have a cast comprising both Senior High students and community members. “A Christmas Carol” regularly packs the Little Theater for three performances. Ulmer’s dream -- now a tradition -- continues again this year with an addition to the playbill: Theater Director Christine Kier has added “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” so holiday revelers looking for some Christmas live theater can find it. See Jackie Rodriguez’s column in this issue of Rise for more details on the plays. 

Holiday traditions, old and new, are alive and well at Grand Island Senior High.


Aldridge’s crime fighter saga continues

Ken Aldridge, Class of 1960, has published “Cold Case 82-3: A Jim Travis Mystery", his 12th crime all featuring a small Texas town Chief of Police, his duties and a little about his love life. It includes the usual cast of characters that interact with the Chief and sometimes help in his police work. The book is available on Amazon.

This one finds Jim Travis noting that police work has slowed for him and his two officers in the fictional small town of Lake City, Texas. He decides to look into a 10-year old cold case about a missing young woman. Through his experience, he guides his officers through some good old police work, forensics and polygraph tests that lead to several suspects. But is the young girl still alive? If so, where is she? Follow the investigation as the story develops chapter by chapter, leading to a suspenseful ending.

Ken grew up in Grand Island with three brothers and a sister. He graduated in 1960 and received a B.A. Degree from Kearney State College in 1964. He served as a Special Agent with the FBI for 24 years. He is married to Vicki Varvel Aldridge and they have three children and seven grandchildren. He and Vicki reside in the Dallas, Texas area. Ken has been a long-time stamp collector and enjoys the challenging games of golf and pickleball.

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Making Your Mark on the World

Looking forward, looking back

Kari Hooker-Leep

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

November is a time of year when I look back and forward. I thought that this would be the perfect time to let you know what the GIPS Foundation has accomplished in 2022 and will be doing in 2023.

The GIPS Foundation mission includes inspiring the power of community to invest in access, equity and opportunity for all GIPS Students. We strive to provide students a rich educational journey with opportunities to thrive and dream big. We are able to do all this through so many avenues. 

The GIPS Foundation believes in teachers being able to expand their own minds while expanding the minds of children. Our Classroom Mini-grant program provides teachers the opportunity to think outside of the box with their teaching and teaching materials, and WOW have they done incredible things. Round one of the Classroom Mini-grants for 2022-2023 will fund nine grants for nearly $10,000 that will benefit over 1,300 plus students. How could you not be impressed by the innovative GIPS teaching staff? This year we were also able to fund an additional request with the generous new Janeth Davis Memorial Fund. 

In 2022 the GIPS Foundation awarded $511,533 in over 150 scholarships. Talk about providing opportunities to dream big. To be part of a family’s dream coming true is one of the best parts of what the GIPS Foundation undertakes. We do not stop just at the students; we also have opportunities for our teaching staff through professional development grants. 

One of the newest accomplishments for 2022 was our Inaugural Harvest Gala. Harvest was a dream for the GIPS Foundation, the seeds were thoughtfully planted starting in 2021, and we reaped the benefits of the incredible support of our own dream in September 2022. We could not be more grateful for the generosity of our District, our Foundation Board and the community.

So what’s on the horizon for the GIPS Foundation? Our goals are lofty. We will be awarding more scholarships both in number and dollars. The GIPS Foundation will celebrate 20 years of Staff Giving. Hall of Honor and Legendary Educator will be celebrated in 2024 with not only new honorees but also a new look and interactive display. 

Lofty goals? Yes, but to grow you must stretch and challenge yourself. We look forward to achieving these goals with you by our side supporting the GIPS Foundation.

Become part of our dream. Consider building your own legacy, support the annual Staff Campaign, nominate someone for Hall of Honor and a Legendary Educator, help us create the new Hall of Honor. Let’s change lives together.

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 Final Numbers

Alicia Lechner

Annual Giving Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

On Thursday, September 22 we hosted Harvest, our very first fundraising gala. It was a beautiful night filled with community support and engagement. We’re so incredibly grateful for all of our Harvest sponsors, donors, bidders, committee members and volunteers. Without them, we could not have been as successful as we were. 

However, here at the GIPS Foundation office we’ve got some red spots, are a little dizzy and our cheeks hurt. Have we come down with a bug? Nope! Our red spots are from pinching ourselves in disbelief, the dizziness came from the post event spin and our cheeks hurt because we’ve been smiling… a lot. Building a brand new gala fundraiser from the ground up was a risk that we took on this year. But boy did it pay off! We were successful because of YOUR support. It is my pleasure to announce our final dollars raised in year one. Do me a favor and envision our whole office doing jazz hands as you read these numbers!

Together we raised a total of $141,622.24! These funds will allow the GIPS Foundation to invest more into our programs and build more opportunities for students. Thank you to everyone who helped make year one such a successful evening!

Collectively, the live and silent auctions brought in a total of $38,090. Silent auction bidding took place via mobile bidding. Winners did not have to be present at Harvest to win their desired package. This allowed for a wider audience of bidders. Additionally, 43 donors helped raise $8,775 to invest in the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship general fund. 

Harvest guests wowed us with their love of dessert! The fun and very delicious Dessert Dash brought in a total of $6,086. Talk about a sweet way to invest in students. Several of the donated desserts came from GIPS staff members as well. 

These are just a few of the financial highlights that we wanted to share. Additionally, we would like to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Allen Capital Group for being very invested in this event’s success.

As for now, I think our dizziness has subsided and we’re ready to begin planning for 2023. We’ll have a date for you to save very soon!


Small Ripples Add Up to Big Opportunities

The season of giving is upon us and the end of the year is near. But wait, don’t rush to the finish line too quickly. There is still so much left to celebrate in 2022. I’ve got three small ripples to tell you about that will each add up to big opportunities.

Giving Tuesday - Ripple #1

One specific date I’d love for you to mark on your calendar is Tuesday, November 29, which is Giving Tuesday. This worldwide day of giving was founded in 2012 as a day that encouraged people to do good. Since then, this charitable day, which is always held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, has been a way for nonprofit organizations to highlight their missions.

For Giving Tuesday this year, we’re celebrating in a new way. Join us in giving a GIPS Staff member a High $5! Simply donate $5 on Giving Tuesday (November 29) and leave a note for the GIPS Staff Member of your choice. We’ll take care of printing certificates and sharing the shoutouts with staff. The link to donate will be available on our website all day on November 29.

Thank you to Jimmy & Melissa Reed for their $1,000 Match Gift. The Reeds will match all High $5 donations up to $1,000. That is 200 staff members that we could impact with an encouraging note. Read more about the Reeds and our High $5 campaign on our website.

This small ripple will add up to big opportunities. If you’d like to support the GIPS Foundation on Giving Tuesday but don’t know a GIPS staff member, you will still be able to make a general donation on our website on November 29.

Amazon Smile - Ripple #2

How many of you shop on Amazon? I see those hands in the back. We all do it. But did you know that you can shop on Amazon Smile and choose a charity to give back to at no cost to you? Simply go to on your browser or Amazon Smile can also be updated in your shopping app. Then shop till you drop because Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. I hope that you will update your online shopping to Amazon Smile and select the GIPS Foundation as the recipient. Again, small ripples add up to big opportunities.

Impact Report - Ripple #3

Our office is hard at work compiling audited financial statements from the past year to provide to our donors in our upcoming Impact Report. We’re rebranding our previous Annual Report to become an Impact Report with the purpose to share stories from staff and students on how they were impacted by the GIPS Foundation, while also sharing our financials. With this mailing, you will receive a letter from Vikki Deuel, GIPS Foundation Board President and a pledge card for end of year giving.

What ripple effects will YOU be a part of during the 2022 season of giving?



Shining Bright Since 2005

Gratitude in 2022

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board

Eckhart Tolle said: “Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” I am grateful this past year that I have had many things happen, and that I have been able to be part of them. This is the time of year when we all begin reflecting on how lucky we are. I am lucky to have the best family, friends, and students. 

My family has always been my number one priority and supporter in everything that I do. I genuinely feel lucky that my family encourages me to be the best teacher, leader, and friend in order to have a fulfilled life. This past summer it was scary for my family to know that I would be traveling to another country alone, but they also knew that it was something I needed and wanted to do. Knowing that they were only a phone call away at any time helped a lot. I also appreciate them encouraging me to go back to school to receive my Master’s in Educational Leadership as we all knew it would impact my time with family. Together we make sure to get together on the weeks I do not have class or everyone is understanding if I cannot make it due to school commitments. Lastly, I am thankful for being able to travel to Wisconsin and support my nieces in their running events. Being able to watch my 12-year-old niece receive 5th place at state cross country and be the first 6th grader to cross the finish line was such a blessing. These are memories that I will cherish forever. Thank you to my family for everything.

My friends are genuinely great people and the fact I have been friends with them for over a decade makes it an even better friendship. I value their friendship because we are able to not only encourage each other but also be honest with each other to make our friendship the best it can be. Knowing that I can be vulnerable with them and receive advice to guide me is a great feeling. In our time of being friends, we have been through job changes, family issues, weddings, graduations, and the birth of children so having each other during all these times I believe is what molded our friendship. I appreciate all my friendships.

My students have literally made me the best teacher I can be. Not only do they teach me about all the cultures in the world, but they also teach me how to share kindness at Barr Middle School. On Halloween, the students wanted to build school culture by giving teachers a Halloween treat and the teachers absolutely loved it. One student said, “I liked being the person who made the teacher smile.” By the end of the school day, teachers were thanking our class for brightening their day. This is just one of many examples of my students sharing their kindness with others. I feel lucky to have students who encourage gratitude. 

I challenge you to share with others three things you are grateful for. If we all can share our gratitude, then it will eventually be a way of life.

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I've Been Thinking

‘Imprint’ still works today

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

My goal for November is to get a good clean shave everyday.

Yes, I got the memo. Yes, I get the idea. And, although my wife insists I’m a contrarian, it’s not that either. 

I’m a no show for No Shave November.  Shaving has somehow become part of my DNA. I suspect my formative years — some of which were spent in the hallways of Grand Island Senior High — work against me skipping the morning ritual of dragging a razor across my face.

No Shave November is upon us again. I will admire and in some cases marvel at the month-long flourishes of facial hair that result. What started as a tradition to simply forego shaving for 30 days has grown into a movement generally designed to call attention to men’s health issues and specifically to raise money and awareness to combat cancers in men.

That’s a good thing because as gender, we men have a track record of poor self-care and penchant for avoiding medical care  — particularly when we need it most. The research is clear, too. A study by the Cleveland Clinic revealed that nearly three in four men said they would rather clean toilets than go to the doctor. About two-thirds of us stay away from our physicians as long as possible.

When we get finally get there, our behavior isn’t much better. One in five men reported they haven’t been honest in the doctor’s office. Almost 40 percent of us said we withhold information because we’re not ready to deal what a diagnosis that could result if we’re up front with the doctor. Clearly, No Shave November’s focus is on the mark.

The month’s emphasis on men’s health has nothing to do with me shaving every day. That has more to do with what was imprinted — if I may borrow and misuse a term from psychology — on me when I was just becoming an Islander. Take a shower or bathe, brush your teeth, and get a shave. Otherwise, I wasn’t ready for school or a date or whatever. 

I say this as someone who sported a mustache for years and who once wore a six-month goatee that was whiter than a Nebraska blizzard. Even then, I shaved every day.

The imprinting was more than tonsorial. Senior High had a dress code (few sported facial hair although I can’t really remember a specific prohibition against beards or mustaches) but uniforms were not required. That said, I surely wore one every chance I’d get and laundry days worked with sartorial calendar: penny loafers, Levi jeans, a gray tee shirt and a maroon v-neck sweater. Dozens of other Islanders did, too, with only changes to the sweater and tee shirt colors. I still wear penny loafers (I have two pair) and blue jeans. Someone recently complimented me on my new v-neck sweater (I went with the navy blue this time). I thanked them and told them I was reliving my misspent youth. They stared for a moment and then wisely changed the subject.

My professional life through the years and still today has forced me to keep up with evolving technology, changes in culture and society, chaos and calm on political landscapes, and much of what’s new and newsy in the world. I rather enjoy staying current although the older I get, the more effort it takes. Still being “in the know” enhances my work.

So tomorrow morning, I’m going to read a newspaper on a modern screen device, drink coffee made from a contraption that would make Mrs. Olson faint, and drive to work in an electric car. 

But on the way I’ll be listening to 60s music, tapping toes snugly set inside penny loafers and blue jeans and a v-neck sweater. 

Oh, and I’ll be clean-shaven, too.

On the Island

A story of tricks and mischief will be performed at Senior High this December

Jacqueline Ruiz-Rodriguez

Class of 2023
Student Correspondent

Students at Senior High are performing “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” after years of performing the “Christmas Carol.”

Theater Director Christine Kier said they chose to do something different because it is her last year at Senior High. 

Kier has been working at Senior High for 20 years and will be retiring at the end of this year.

She said she hopes she can relax and do more volunteer work during her free time.

“I’ve had six children and have been doing plays for a really long time, so I’ve never had a lot of time to volunteer,” she said, “I’m excited to move on and relax.”

Kier added that she has always wanted to direct “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'' because it is a heartwarming story that lifts the spirits of many.

“We wanted to keep performing the “Christmas Carol” because it is tradition, but we also wanted to do a separate play,” she said, “We will be performing both plays this year.”

Both plays will be performed back to back starting with the “Christmas Carol'' and then moving onto “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” on December 9, 10, and 11. They are each an hour long.

“We usually do donations because it is the goodwill thing to do and kids will be happy to come, so that's probably what we'll do again this year,” Kier explained.

Kier said that the narrator in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is a sympathetic person and tells the story of the Hermans. 

The Herman siblings are a group of really naughty, mischievous, and poor children who enter the play not knowing anything about The Christmas Pageant. Their play and auditions are being held in the town's church. The siblings initially decide to go to the church because they want to eat the food people are providing. They end up staying for the pageant auditions and want to get the lead roles. The siblings threaten to beat up anyone who wants to take the lead parts away from them. Some characters have more patience with them then others, but in the end the Hermans do end up being the leads in the play. 

While their naughtiness never subsides, they do get a deep lesson and understanding on how to be a part of play productions, Kier said.

Kier added that the main message of the play is being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

“Whether the Hermans come out believing or not is not important; the important thing is that the other kids realized that they are different from them and need to be kind,” she said.

Senior Carley Pool plays Imogene Herman and freshman Nolan Kier plays Ralph Herman in the play.

Pool said she believes that Imogene goes from being a really mean person in the beginning to learning more about Christmas and believes more in the end.

“The Hermans in general grew up very poor and have an absent father who has been stuck in jail,” Pool said. “As a whole, they were not raised properly so they steal things and do what they need to do in order to survive.”

She added that the main message of the story is that people can change their perspectives at any time.

“For example, the Herman kids come to church and that changes their perspectives in life,” she said. “The other characters change their minds as well when they realize that the Hermans are helping their play become even better than it was before.”

Nolan said he believes the audience will enjoy seeing the more comical side of the play.

“It is very interesting and full of many jokes. One joke in particular has already been edited because the character can’t say it with a straight face. They always burst out laughing,” he said.

He added that it has been an amazing experience so far to be able to work with other students who have been acting for a lot longer than he has. 

“All of the other actors have done a lot more than I have and it shows in how they act. They are really good at showing their emotions, and it’s been really nice working with them so far,” he said.

Kier said she hopes people in the audience chose to come to both shows.

“Put together they are not much longer than a normal show would be. It will definitely lift people’s spirits, and it’s a really amazing story that I think everyone will enjoy,” she said.

A Distant Mirror


Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

The role of the neighborhood barbershop is a treasured one in American history and lore. Particularly in small towns, barbershops were, and are, places for socializing, relaxing, and keeping up on the local news and gossip.  

Barbershops are celebrated in art, television, movies, and fiction. Norman Rockwell's 1936 painting, "Barbershop Quartet," is a wholesome and sentimental look at four men singing with gusto in the barbershop. The charming tradition of a barbershop quartet with beautiful harmony is less common today, but still exists.

On television, in the 1960-1968 “Andy Griffith Show,” Floyd's barbershop in Mayberry was a local gathering spot. At the barbershop there was always some local gossip, or Deputy Barney Fife cooking up some hair-brained (pun intended) scheme.

The 2002 movie "Barbershop," embracing the culture of a barbershop in a Black community, is a more modern version of this social center. A variety of amusing characters and events liven the movie.

The great Ring Lardner's 1925 short story, "Haircut," is a fascinating look at the culture of a small town barbershop in the early 1900's. The story is humorous on the surface, as the first person barber narrator tells stories of a town jokester.  But the short story later darkens as the wisecracking bully tells jokes that are always insults, and we learn of his cruelty to others.

Mike getting his first haircut on 4th Street, with his father holding his hand

My first memories of getting a haircut are when I was a second or third grader at Howard School in 1956 and 1957. We lived at the corner of North Cedar and Seventh Street, just two blocks south of Howard School. Three blocks farther south was the corner of Fourth Street and North Cedar.  Fourth Street was a thriving area with Third City Meats, the Handy Grocery store, Bowen Drug Store, Bost Drug Store, and the Island movie theater all nearby.

On the corner of Fourth Street and North Cedar was a small neighborhood barbershop. Some kids were frightened of the barber, but I was not. The male barbers were friendly and kind. I always got some small candy treat afterwards.  The little shop had two barber chairs, with a few seats for waiting customers or the parents of a young boy getting a haircut. I most frequently got a "buzz" cut, or on occasion, a "flat top."  Sometimes the barber would finish off the cut by putting "Butch Wax," on my hair.

That barbershop had a large painting of Custer's Last Stand, i.e. The Battle of Little Big Horn. I faced this painting when sitting in the barber chair. The painting was large and remarkably detailed and gory. The bottom of the painting was littered with fallen soldiers, many of whom had been scalped. While I loved the barbershop, I was always a little freaked by the painting. I tried not to look, but it was like a car accident where you can't look away. To this day I do not understand the wisdom of a barbershop having a painting showing soldiers who had been scalped. 

In my high school years, Shirley Greenberger, the mother of my 1967 classmate and buddy, Jeff Greenberger, would cut my hair. She was a sweetheart, and it was an excuse to spend some time with Jeff. In college and law school, the 1967-1974 period was a time when males let their hair grow long, initially spurred by the Beatles. So I rarely got haircuts. I did get one from a college classmate, Scott Moody, from Greely, Nebraska. It was so bad I had to have it salvaged by a real barber. 

In my early years as a lawyer in Los Angeles, men began to go to "Hair Salons," where a fancy lady would cut your hair. She would first give you a shampoo, and then the cut, replete with smelly lotions and after shave. One of the senior lawyers I worked with called these haircuts a "Mr. Phyllis" cut, thinking they were too effeminate, too "froufrou" for men. They were also far more expensive, at $30-$40.

I eventually found a more traditional barbershop in Santa Monica. The barber was an old timer, and used the same jokes every time. "Well, that will look good at the beach" (told to me, an middle-aged balding man who spent little time at the beach), and "Well, that should be good for another 100,000 miles."

In recent years, chains like "Super Cuts" and such sprang up, and I will, at times, go to one in Santa Monica. The one I frequent has all female hair cutters, and they ask me, "Do you want a number 3 on the side or a number 5. I always reply, "You are the expert, just make me look handsome, which shouldn't be hard to do."

When my daughter and family lived in Minneapolis, they would take my grandson Leo, a sports fan extraordinaire, then five years old, to Dick's Sports Barbers in Edina, Minnesota. A sports fan's dream, this barbershop has about eight barber chairs, and is decorated with sports jerseys, posters, and other sporting paraphernalia. It also has about six or so television monitors showing current and past games. Leo loved the place. His older sister Victoria did too, since for a quarter, you could get a big gumball out of a massive gumball machine.

One day five year old Leo was talking with his barber. At that age, Leo constantly asked people how old they were. He was once with me in the Minneapolis Club's men's locker room, after swimming.  He quickly approached a naked old guy who just got out of the shower and asked him his age. He once asked the Green Monster mascot at Fenway Park in Boston how old he was. In this spirit, he asked this barber, "How old are you, since you look about the same age as my Grandpa (me), who is 70. The barber, who was in his 50's or so, was not amused, and he became noticeably upset with five year old Leo. My daughter thereafter requested a different barber for Leo at Dick's Sports Barbers.

After I mostly retired several years back, we began to spend most of the year at Lake Okoboji in Iowa. This is definitely small town America. I first went to an old time barber in nearby Spirit Lake. He was about 80, and had a small shop and was a decent barber. Once he saw me lock my car just outside his barbershop.  

When I entered, he said, "Oh, you must not be from around here," implying that a local would know locking the car was unnecessary. He later quizzed me on the 40 years I had lived full time in California and gave long speeches attacking California. There was another barber a couple of blocks away, but his haircuts were terrible. The only safe approach with him was to get it unpleasantly short.

Stan, of Milford Iowa, giving a customer a haircut

About two years ago, I discovered Stan's Barbershop in Milford, Iowa, a thriving metropolis of 3,015 people, just south of Lake Okoboji. Stan is in his late 70's, and his shop has a single barber chair. When I go there, usually one or two customers are present, and I am often the youngest of the group. Stan gives a good haircut, and will chat if you feel like it.  

His shop is in a somewhat dilapidated condition (don't ask about the bathroom), but very comfortable. He has a bulletin board with the business cards and advertisements of local merchants, customers and others. Many look like they have been there for 20-30 years. He also has a number of cute sayings posted.  "Ve get too soon oldt and too late shmart" and "One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives" are two examples. In this shop there are discussions of Iowa sports teams, the weather, the joys and perils of aging, and, upon occasion, politics. Stan is very cautious about addressing politics these days, however. The best part about Stan is that he charges $14. When I give him a $5 tip he thanks me profusely.

I end with a story from my good buddy and 1967 GIHS classmate, Dr. Dennis Hickstein:  

A man getting a haircut tells his barber he and his wife are planning a trip to Italy. He says they intend to visit St. Peter's square in Rome to see the Pope. The barber tells him that this is a terrible idea. The flight over will be expensive, miserable, and crowded. You will be jet lagged. Rome is crowded and dirty. The city will be packed with tourists. Upon his return from Italy, the man returned to the barbershop. The barber asked sarcastically how the trip went. The man said "It was terrific. The flight was nice, since we got bumped up to first class, the hotel was wonderful, and the food in Italy was amazing. We also got up at 2 a.m. on Sunday and got a front row position at St. Peter's square to hear the Pope speak.  After the Pope spoke, one of the Cardinals approached my wife and me, and another couple. He asked if we would like to meet the Pope, since the Pope likes to meet a few members of his flock after each service. We were ushered into the Sistine Chapel. The Pope came in, and we knelt down to pray together. After the prayer, the Pope actually leaned over and said a few words to me." The barber, now mesmerized, then asked. "What did the Pope say?" The man replied, "He said where did you get that crappy haircut!"

One More Thing

The magic of possibilities

Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

Class of 2014
Rise Contributor

I had never imagined myself coming back to high school.

Even when I decided to pursue education, I thought I’d work in museums. Then middle schools — I was the rare bird in my graduate program who didn’t do a single practicum for my secondary education degree in a high school. I spent four delightful years in the world of pre- and early-teen chaos, watching kids ride the personality carousel, the emotional roller coaster, and wait for them with my feet planted, ready to help them process and grow.

I had never imagined myself coming back to high school, so imagine my surprise a few Tuesdays ago when I found myself sitting backward in a chair in a high school chemistry classroom, proctoring the Pre-ACT for a group of sleepy sophomores, as part of my “required extra duties,” as I am now … say it with me … back in high school. Or rather, new to high school, although it immediately felt like home.

I don’t need to tell anyone that it’s hard to be a teacher. It’s always been hard to be a teacher — the responsibility, monumental and sometimes crushing; the prep work, arduous; the hours, seemingly endless. During many days of teaching one’s sense of purpose and impact can feel hazy or wholly absent. Some say teaching is harder now than it used to be, and no one can agree where to point fingers and how to fix it and what the point of school is, anyway, and what our goals should be. I have my own opinions, but I’m tired of hearing other peoples’ opinions. You probably are too. Instead, I want to turn your attention toward a feeling I had so often in high school, so often when I was in my graduate program; a feeling that might be the answer to so many questions about education right now: possibility.

My apologies to Amy Voss for that last sentence. Mrs. Voss, I do not remember how to balance equations, and I do not remember how many valence electrons certain ions have (and I do not even know if I used any of those words correctly.). What I do remember is what I think you really cared about me remembering — the glimmer of possibility I felt when I could puzzle my way through balancing an equation with less and less help. It’s the same glimmer I got when I could finally (kind of) solve an integral without Mr. Kush handing back my paper for corrections. Or when I wrote a poetry explication for Mrs. Butters that really felt college-level (though upon entering college, I quickly realized I had no idea what college-level writing was). It’s the flicker of, “Oh, I can do this. What else can I do?” that spurs on every learner, at every level, when given support and encouragement.

I’ve spoken of possibility frequently in the last month, the concept flying around at parent-teacher conferences and on progress reports and in a recurring conversation I’ve had with a handful of juniors in my World History class. I’ll be the first to admit that pitching events from 1,000 years ago as crucial information to 17-year-olds with the internet in their pocket can be a hard sell. I try to make the information feel as relevant as possible — the Black Death is really making a comeback in our curriculum — but most days, my main focus is to help create a sense of possibility for my students, as many of my teachers did for me. 

If you’ve met a teenager or been a teenager, you know that goal isn’t so easy. Even if you are a certifiably Very Cool Adult (ME …  I think.), who works very hard to build authentic relationships with kids, and holds kids to high standards, and does whatever you can to help kids reach those standards, chances are good that the teenagers will still find you (mostly) annoying. They will, at least outwardly, resist your mentions of possibility. I know this. I embrace this. And yet, I still let this bother me at the beginning of October, when I sidled up to two young people who are failing my class. They are failing my class with great effort — it must be hard to ignore a person standing right in front of you, attempting to give you sentence starters and wearing polka-dotted pants. And yet, these two are failing big. It takes everything in me to resist lecturing them, to listen to their rationale that, because one is going to work for his dad in construction after graduation, and the other will be a mechanic, high school diplomas simply aren’t necessary. Here it is, I think. Time to bring up the magic of possibilities! I reason with them that sure, it doesn’t seem necessary; that knowing about Mansa Musa’s epic pilgrimage across the Sahara may only serve them when helping their own children with homework someday; but what about wanting to someday expand the construction business? What if an associate’s degree becomes a goal of yours in 10 years? I even uttered the infamous clause: When I was your age. (I’m rolling my eyes at myself.) At 17, I thought I knew what I wanted to do and be; even just 10 years removed, my life is so different from that teenaged vision, and I am so glad it is. I’m so glad I had choices. I’m not saying our choices will be the same, I tell them, or that that 4-year college is the end-all, be-all. But what I really want them to think about, I say, is holding space for as many possibilities in their lives as possible. To experience the feeling of doing something you didn’t want to do, something you didn’t think you could do, and wondering what’s next. To look down the long hallway of your life and see lots of open doors.

The teenagers were, predictably, annoyed with this short speech. I think. One nodded, the other smirked. 

But they both did half of the assignment the next day (a win). 

I had never imagined myself setting foot in a high school chemistry classroom again until last Tuesday; had never imagined that, while willing myself to remember the elements on the periodic table, I would catch the boomerang of possibility thrown almost a decade ago; had never imagined that seeing the words “cations” and “anions” would make me think differently about the purpose of our great project of public education. My path forward, my students’ paths forward, all of our paths forward must buzz with possibility, not just in terms of available classes and state-of-the-art facilities or test-score floors and ceilings, but with the feeling of knowing there can be more than we once imagined — that our horizons expand further than we could once see. That no matter what doors we choose to enter, we can always walk out and choose another. That we will be supported, even if we make mistakes. It’s not just the structure of possibilities, but the personal experience of possibility that should be our focus, even if that experience was long ago for many of us adults. There is still possibility within each of us.

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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:

  • 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

September and October memorial list of GISH Alumni

GEORGE MICHAEL “MIKE” HOLDER, Class of 1973, died April 13, 2021 in Grand Island, NE. He was 65.

VICKI LYNN REYNOLDS, Class of 1973, died May 23, 2022, in Omaha, NE. She was 67.

MICHAEL “MIKE” TOCKEY, Class of 1973, died June 14, 2022, in Brady, NE. He was 66

ROSEMARY (WILLIAMS) GRANT, Class of 1958, died August 13, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 82.

JOAN WELTON, Class of 1936, died August 29, 2022, in Aurora, CO. She was 86.

JAMES NOVAKOWSKI, Class of 1989, died September 1, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 54.

RHONDA (BOURKE) BALDWIN, Class of 1975, died September 4, 2022, in Meeteetse, WY. She was 65.

MICHAEL “MIKE” KULLY, Class of 1958, died September 9, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 82.

VIRGINA “GINNY” (MEINKE) CARLISLE, Class of 1957, died September 10, 2022, in Rochester, MN. She was 83.

RICHARD PEDERSEN, Class of 1951, died September 12, 2022, in Littleton, CO. He was 89.

MARY BETH (DOTY) VAUDRIN, Class of 1971, died September 14, 2022, in Fuquay-Varina, NC. She was 69.

PHYLLIS ADDINK, former GIPS staff member, died September 16, 2022, in St. Paul, NE. She was 93.

CHRISTOPHER SNYDER, GIPS alumni, died September 17, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 51.

ROGER ANDERSON, Class of 1962, died September 22, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 78.

KIM HANSEN, Class of 1974, died September 23, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 65.

ANGELICA “ANGIE” LEMBURG, Class of 2015, died September 25, 2022, in Durham, NC. She was 24.

LOUISE (VAN BIBBER) ANDERSON, Class of 1966, died September 26, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 73.

JANICE SPERLING, Class of 1978, died September 26, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 62.

J. DELORES “DEE” RODGERS, former GIPS staff member, died September 29, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 88.

JANET (HALSTEAD) HERNDON, Class of 1949, died October 3, 2022, in Hastings, NE. She was 91.

RANDY STOLTENBERG, GIPS alumni, died October 3, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 65.

RANDALL “RANDY” MILLER, Class of 1973, died October 4, 2022, in Hastings, NE. He was 67.

JOANNE MEINKE, former GIPS staff member, died October 6, 2022, in St. Paul, NE. She was 92.

MICHAEL PHELPS, Class of 1980, died October 6, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 60.

ROBERT “ROB” WIESE, Class of 1964, died October 12, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 76.

JOHN JANULEWICZ, Class of 1969, died October 13, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 72.

JOHN SHULTZ, Class of 2018, died October 14, 2022, in Kearney, NE. He was 23.

MICHAEL “MIKE” EVANS, Class of 1985, died October 15, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 55.

ROBERT MCCULLOUGH, Class of 1983, died October 58, 2022, in Genoa, NE. He was 58.

JAMES MCELROY, Class of 1947, died October 16, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He as 92.

PAMELA (GOODRO) PETERSON, GIPS alumni, died October 16, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 60.

JAN MOORE, former GIPS staff member, died October 27, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 82.

DAVID “HUEY” JAKOB, Class of 1970, died October 29, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 70.


To report an alumni death since October 2022, 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.


  • 1973

    Linda Syverson Guild, class of 1973, shared with us that she had an article published in the September issue of Art Quilting Studio magazine. In her article, she writes about how her two interests of architecture and sewing have been able to combine into one as she sews quilts with architectural inspiration. Her work can be seen on her website,

  • 1974

    Virgina (Lathen) Fahnestock, class of 1974, received a third place ribbon this year at the Nebraska State Fair in the quilting competition for a Crown Royal themed quilt.

  • 2008

    Jimmy Reed, a GISH graduate and Grand Island real estate agent, volunteered to help raise money for the family of the late GIPD office, Chris Marcello. The catch was that he wanted to be both tased and pepper sprayed on Facebook Live for viewers to watch and donate money. On the evening of October 10th, Facebook Live viewers would be able to watch the event happening from wherever they were at in the world, and were encouraged to donate $20 for an entry towards a $1,000 gas gift card. Jimmy's goal was to raise $20,000 to give to Officer Marcello's family. According to the GoFundMe set up for the family, they were able to raise just over $11,000.

  • 2022

    The 2022-2023 GISH Football team made it to the playoffs for their 10th consecutive season this fall. The Islanders made it to the final four before falling short to Omaha Westside on Friday, November 11.

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