Skip to main content


September 2022

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 7 | Number 5

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 published by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

Here’s what you’ll find inside: Executive Director Kari Hooker-Leep introduces us to the Teacher of the Year winners and reminds us of the daily champions GIPS has in its classrooms. Annual Giving Coordinator Alicia Lechner has the latest details on Harvest, the grand new Foundation fundraising gala scheduled for September 22, 2022. Jackie Ruiz-Rodriguez introduces us to the new student representative on the Grand Island Board of Education. 

As usual we’ll remember Islanders who have passed recently and see who has reached an Islander Milestone. All that and the musings of Mike Monk, Class of 1967, as he chronicles a summer of reunions; Bianca Ayala, Class of 2005, reports on her summer in Barcelona; and yours truly, Class of 1968, who has a few paragraphs of praise teacher now and then. The Class of 2014’s Abbey Kutlas-Pricket will return with her column in November.

Enjoy. Keep in touch. And remember: Keep pushing on

Kari Hooker-Leep, Class of 1983

Oral History Project

Islander Alumni, 

Grand Island Public Schools Foundation loves our Alumni and we want to get updated information. Have you received your postcard or an email?  If so, YES, it is from us and we are looking forward to hearing back from every Islander alumni. 

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has partnered with Publishing Concepts (PCI) and their Oral History Project to gain access to its experienced, trained staff. Oral History Project associates will listen to your stories and assemble information into a publication. To help you stay connected to Grand Island Public Schools, Oral History Project will also verify and update contact information if you have moved or recently lost touch. 

Looking forward to getting back in touch with all Islanders and hearing all your wonderful memories. 

We have partnered with PCI (also known as Publishing Concepts) to produce an Oral History Publication for Grand Island Senior High. PCI is a family owned business based in Dallas, TX that has published directories for educational institutions, fraternities, sororities, and military organizations across the nation for over 100 years. This project allows us to hear about your personal experiences from your time at Grand Island Senior High and how the school helped shape your life since then. And, while we have you on the phone, we want to make sure your contact information is up to date.

  • At the Top

    An update on the 'State of the Academies' project

  • Milestones

    New football Hall of Fame inductees to be honored

  • Making Your Mark

    Kari Hooker-Leep highlights GIPS educators and staff

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Alicia creates a buzz around Harvest

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Bianca tells about her summer in Barcelona

  • I've Been Thinking

    George reminds us all that praise for our teachers won't go unnoticed

  • On the Island

    Jackie introduces us to Senior High's newest BOE student representative

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike recounts his summer of reunions, both near and far

  • 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

'State of the Academies' reveals progress at Senior High

Dr. Tawana Grover speaking with Mr. Jeff Gilbertson on August 1st, 2022.

The Academies of Grand Island Senior High have good news. The public heard the “report card” of the Academies when Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Tawana Grover, and Academies of Senior High Principal, Jeff Gilbertson, reported on the “State of the Academies” in early August.

Senior High began to move from a traditional high school structure to an academy structure in 2016. The move to academies gives students the chance to explore interests and careers while still in high school. Students still complete the required courses for graduation, but they can also start to develop a clearer post-graduation plan… whether that be college, the workforce or the military. In some instances students leave high school with a significant number of college credits or certification or ready-for-certification in  manufacturing or technology. The result has been increased graduation rates, one measure of a school’s academic success.

For a full report and photos from the Independent on the “State of the Academies” click here.


GISH Football Inducting New Hall of Fame Members

The Grand Island Senior High Football Hall of Fame will induct seven new members at its banquet Saturday, September 24 at Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island. The banquet will start at 11 am. The inductees will also be introduced the night before at the Islander football game against Fremont at Memorial Stadium.

The football HOF inductees are The Gene Wells family (Contributors), and players Clarence Herndon (Legend), Marty Rocca, Chad Murrell, Ryan Rathjen, and Pete Lewis. You can read full bios of all the inductees from the Independent here.

back to top

Making Your Mark on the World

Teacher of the Year, 2022 Edition

Kari Hooker-Leep

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
Oh, a million dreams for the world we're gonna make.

When I read these words, I can’t help thinking of the child who can’t sleep because of the excitement for the first day of kindergarten. How first-year teachers are excited to see the enthusiastic smiles and eyes of their students. Even how parents feel as they drop their children off for the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or even college...knowing those children will soon make their own mark on the world. 

As the new school year begins, students, teachers, and parents look forward to a variety of experiences...such as greeting all those smiles and wide open eyes, setting up a new classroom, buying school supplies, and most importantly meeting a new teacher.

The Grand Island Public Schools has the BEST teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff. I feel that I am 100 percent qualified to tout this because I am a GIPS graduate. I was an Islander from kindergarten at West Lawn with Mrs. Mathews to Walnut Jr. High School with Mrs. Ayoub watching over us to Grand Island Senior High with Mr. Rod Shada counseling me on where to go to college.

Since 2003 the GIPS Foundation has honored those teachers, staff, counselors, and support administration that have the vision for greatness in themselves and all those around them. The GIPS Foundation honors our “Teacher of the Year,” just one small way out of a million to say thank you, that we recognize and appreciate what you do for students and staff. 

This year we received 1,155 nomination forms for 367 staff members. That means that exponentially teachers, staff, and counselors touched so many lives that will be truly be changed forever. 

We want to share who we honored this year and excerpts from their nomination letters.

  • Ms. Asia Thoene, Newell Elementary - Elementary School Teacher of the Year
    Ms. Asia Thoene, Newell Elementary - Elementary School Teacher of the Year

    - There is a saying that “Students who are loved at home come to school to learn. Students who aren’t…come to school to be loved.” This quote always makes me think of this teacher. She loves her students fiercely and treats them with respect, even when they can be difficult.
    - She has been a model of love, respect, grit, and determination through her daily teaching.
    - Her students each year leave her classroom feeling a little more confident, smart, and loved with a sense of belonging.

  • Mr. Andrew Schneider, Barr Middle School - Middle School Teacher of the Year
    Mr. Andrew Schneider, Barr Middle School - Middle School Teacher of the Year

    - This teacher literally changed my son’s life. He has never been into sports or really found his passion until band. I will never forget when he brought home his instrument for the first time (the sound was horrible)! This teacher was so patient and taught him so much.
    - He started high school this year and joined every band possible (no joke)! He tried new instruments and truly excelled because he had a teacher that believed in him and pushed him to be his best.
    - This teacher will forever be a huge part of our son’s heart, and our family will forever be thankful for you.

  • Mrs. Christine Kier, Academies of Grand Island Senior High - High School Teacher of the Year
    Mrs. Christine Kier, Academies of Grand Island Senior High - High School Teacher of the Year

    - She is one of the first teachers I talk to about any news in my life. I can always count on her advice in life, and I feel as though I have grown from those words of wisdom.
    - This teacher is one of the most influential individuals in my life. Not only has she inspired me to pursue a career in acting and film, but she’s inspired me to stand true to my beliefs and morals.
    - She is everything a great teacher should be: Kind, caring, attentive, understanding and intelligent. She strikes a beautiful balance between accountability and understanding.

  • Mrs. Jessica Schroeder, Stolley Park Elementary - Specialist/Counselor of the Year
    Mrs. Jessica Schroeder, Stolley Park Elementary - Specialist/Counselor of the Year

    - She helps set the tone for our building, establishing and implementing school wide expectations – treating students with firmness, yet cushioned with fairness and kindness.
    - She is my go-to person with all questions and always responds with patience, understanding and humor.
    - She will sit with any student who needs an ear to listen. Whether it be a joke, story, or need to share feelings. She is there. She is a go-to person for students and staff alike.

  • Mrs. Opal Bentley, Principal, Knickrehm Elementary - Administrator of the Year
    Mrs. Opal Bentley, Principal, Knickrehm Elementary - Administrator of the Year

    - She is extremely thoughtful with gifts and kind words.
    - She is always checking on staff to see how they are doing and when she asks, “How are you?” you feel that she truly cares and wants to hear how you are doing.
    - I feel like she has brought the fun back to school for kids and staff.
    - She is amazing, caring, loving, and kind. I am so grateful to have her as a principal.

  • Mrs. Virgie Wheeler, Paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary - Staff Member of the Year
    Mrs. Virgie Wheeler, Paraeducator, Lincoln Elementary - Staff Member of the Year

    - She is the heart of our school and staff and students alike are infinitely blessed to call her teacher, partner, and friend.
    - You can consistently find her studying student math workbooks.

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 Buzz

Alicia Lechner

Annual Giving Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

The GIPS Foundation office is buzzing. The inaugural Harvest fundraising gala is in just a few days, and I can’t quite contain my excitement, or are those nerves? Either way I’m looking forward to this brand new tradition.

You may have seen some of the buzz on social media for our auction items. We’ve been sharing details on our 91 Silent Auction and 12 Live Auction items for a few weeks. Pardon me while I screech for joy because our community is full of fantastic donors. Our office is so excited to have this many auction items in year one. The perfect way to browse all of these fantastic items is on our event site. While you’re there, please note that mobile bidding is now open. Anyone can bid on the Silent Auction packages now through 8:00 PM on Thursday, September 22. 

The buzz on the street is that former Husker football player, Adam Carriker will be the host at Harvest this year. By golly, and wouldn’t you know, it’s true. He will be adding some of his Blackshirt energy to the event. You can catch the first preview of Adam in this short clip he sent us!

You’re a true Harvest insider if you’re familiar with the lime jello mold buzz. In an effort to keep everyone on the same page, I will let you in on this top secret. Guests who attend Harvest will get to participate in the Dessert Dash. Each table will place a bid on how much they’d like to spend on dessert. The highest bidding table will get to send someone to “dash” to the desserts first to select something for their table. The lowest bidding table might get stuck with a lime jello mold. That’s what I call fundraising with a zesty twist.

Although I’m eager for Harvest and all of the buzz, I'm equally anticipating the opportunity we have to share the Foundation’s mission and work with our community. 

If you want to attend, it’s not too late! We have a limited number of seats available. Ticket sales close at 5:00 PM on Monday, September 19.

Together we will be investing in opportunities and creating even more buzz.

Shining Bright Since 2005

Teach In Homestay

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board

Que Tal? Also known as how’s it going. This phrase was the most common phrase I heard as I spent a month in Barcelona teaching English to a family. A dream of mine had always been to study abroad, and I am extremely happy to have made that dream a reality. 

I was able to go through the non-profit organization, Greenheart Travel. Through its website I submitted an application to teach in Spain and after working through some complexities, I was approved. The second half of my application was a personality questionnaire. Many questions asked were my hobbies, eating habits — strongly yes can live with and strongly no can’t live with. Based on the results my application was sent to Spain. The headquarters in Spain matched my application with a family they felt I could live and work greatly with. The family and I emailed a few times, then used the app WhatsApp to video chat. We both responded with agreement and set a date for me to arrive. 

Bianca Ayala spent part of the summer teaching in Barcelona.

Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala

When I arrived, I instantly realized that I was not in Nebraska or my house anymore. I say that because for the first time I had to adjust to living without air conditioning, adapting to new foods, and sharing a living space with people I just met. I can honestly say that I had such an amazing host family and never felt so comfortable. The family explained the bus system, gave me a tour of local favorites of theirs, and taught me new recipes. I learned how to cook tortilla de patata (omelet with potatoes)  and a chocolate torta (dessert). Even after being home for a month, I can still imagine the city of Barcelona and my daily routine. 

Monday through Friday I would teach the family’s two daughters English. I taught each daughter for 90 minutes, and it was individual to meet their learning needs. With one daughter I was able to really focus on writing with details and with the other daughter we focused on reading with proper pronunciation. Luckily these girls usually have a teacher living with them to teach them English, and I feel that is one reason they were able to progress so quickly. Not only were the girls learning English, but they were also learning Catalan language with a weekly tutor and their first language is Spanish. I felt blessed to be surrounded by cultural children. 

I will always remember my time in Barcelona and especially the relationship with my host family.

back to top

I've Been Thinking

Time to embrace teachers, teaching

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

If you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes and read Foundation Executive Director Kari Hooker-Leep’s piece in this Rise on the Teacher of the Year ceremony held a few days before classes began for Grand Island Public Schools students. 

The annual festivities lauded the best and brightest among faculty and staff dedicated to GIPS students and their futures. As I read her article it struck me how teachers in particular have undergone a profound reversal of fortune in the last few years.

When the pandemic struck and parents saw first-hand the demanding, sometimes arduous work teachers sign up for everyday, praise rained from the heavens. And rightly so. Even though COVID was a unique event, what was laid bare was both the importance of a quality education, but also the rigor it takes to provide one. At that core principle stands a classroom teacher.

Yet just two years later teachers are being maligned, called names by some, accused of simply despicable behavior without evidence by others, and demeaned by politicians from governors to would-be school boards members. Damage has been done, too. Many school districts are suffering teacher shortages. As has been reported, many are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a small vocal minority bent on demeaning an entire profession. Add that blather to the demands brought on by the stop and start of the pandemic and many students woefully behind because of such a disjointed couple years schools had to navigate.

One of the very first columns I wrote for Rise was an homage to a handful of teachers at Senior High who changed my life. Among them were Mr. Kral, my senior English teacher; Bob Hansen, my track coach; Lilian Willman, my American history teacher and Judy Barth, my journalism teacher. They were exceptional teachers …and people. No, they weren’t perfect, no one is, but their dedication to education and their students was unwavering.

Mr. Andrew Schneider (right) receives his Teacher of the Year award from Lynne Werner and Kelly Enck (left) with First National Bank.

I wonder what people would write about them, the way they wrote about the award winners Kari detailed in her article? I wonder how many, like me, owe them a debt of gratitude for their work. But most of all, I wonder what they would think of schools and education today and the continued --  and in many cases unwarranted -- criticism aimed at their chosen profession?

Clearly every generation of students has teachers who change their lives, who inspire them, who move them, who challenge them, who make them better. That was on display at the Teacher of the Year ceremony. But my sense is that inspiration goes on every day in classrooms across the GIPS district and districts across the country. 

Teachers do hard things. They deserve not our spite and malice — especially the poorly informed nonsense now available on a social media platform near you — but our appreciation. Like the quartet of heroes I mentioned above, no teacher is perfect. But let’s rededicate ourselves to being on board with support and respect for a profession that makes all the other professions possible.

On the Island

Meet Senior High's new student representative

Jacqueline Ruiz-Rodriguez

Class of 2023
Student Correspondent

Senior Zach Cloutier promises to try his best to live up to his new role as student representative on the Grand Island Board of Education. 

Cloutier will be formally announced as the new student representative on Sept. 8 at 5:30 pm in the Kneale Administration Building.

“A big part of why I wanted to go out for this position is because I have a lot of connections with people and can get genuine feedback from the student body,” he said.

Cloutier explained that the application process is quite similar to a lot of other student roles such as president and vice president of the Senior Class, but there was no election process involved.

“I went through an interview process with (principal) Jeff Gilbertson and a few of the other board members,” he said.

He said he was both excited and nervous to be selected. 

“I don’t want to treat this position as a resume builder or a checkmark on a box. I want to do a good job because it is an important role,” Cloutier said.

The board of education does a lot behind the scenes to tackle any raised questions about students or staffing during a meeting held every month, he said.

“We also help construct strategic planning for the long term goals we try to uphold at our school. A lot of talking and planning goes on at meetings that a lot of students don’t know about.”

Cloutier’s role as a student representative is to be the voice of the student body and report his findings to the rest of the board members.

He’s already attended one meeting before his formal introduction on Sept. 8, “This last meeting I didn’t get to do much because it was my first time being introduced to everyone, but I’ll be giving a report on what I see and hear in the school during September,” he said. 

Cloutier added that the board members value his advice.

“I’ve talked a lot with (board president) Lisa Albers and Gilbertson, who work closely together. They definitely take what I say seriously and take into consideration everyone's point of views and standpoints so that they can make the changes they need to,” he said.

Gilbertson said that he believes being a student representative is an important role at GISH because it allows students to have a stronger voice with the board of education.

“Zach has a wide vision in the school. He has a positive attitude and wants to contribute to positive outcomes for his fellow peers,” he said.

New Board of Education student representative Zach Cloutier and his parents Paul and Carla, with Dr. Tawana Grover and Lisa Albers

Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools

Gilbertson said that he believes being a student representative is an important role at GISH because it allows students to have a stronger voice with the board of education.

“Zach has a wide vision in the school. He has a positive attitude and wants to contribute to positive outcomes for his fellow peers,” he said.

Gilbertson added that Cloutier is eager to know more as a learner and has high standards for his own college and career goals.

“Both of his parents are educators, so he has lived and breathed education as a student and as a family member,” Gilbertson said.

Cloutier explained that he tries to stay away from the politics that are talked about in the school because that is not where he is needed most.

“My biggest passion is the students, so the most important thing for me is being fair and accurate in how I represent everybody,” he said, “You’re not supposed to go into a meeting with a certain agenda or motive because it creates things like gridlock and polarization.”

There are certain topics like student education where board members can’t afford to bring their biased opinions, he said.
Cloutier said that he believes the hardest part about being a representative would be balancing genuine raw feedback from the perspective of someone who doesn't necessarily have insight on what the board does.

“Keeping the political maneuverability that you need to be an effective board representative is going to be a challenge because I want to be able to represent students as fairly and as accurately as I can,” he said.

Cloutier is in the Technology and Engineering Pathway. His current goal as a senior is to apply to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy. 

He said he hopes he is accepted into the Air Force Academy. 

“My cousin served as an officer for the Air Force and is a really big inspiration for me. Flying planes is also something that I am really passionate about,” he said, “That is where I see myself in the next few years.”

For now, Cloutier said he wants to focus on making his last year at Senior High a good one. He wants to be able to provide as much information as he can to the school board before leaving, so that all students feel seen and heard.

A Distant Mirror

Reunion Summer

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

This was a summer of reunions for me. I attended not one, not two, but three major reunions. First was my 50th Harvard College reunion for the Class of 1971 in Cambridge Mass., held in early June. This reunion was delayed a year by COVID, but rescheduled for this year with a full schedule of reunion activities. Then in late June I attended the gala 55th reunion for my class of 1967 at good old Grand Island Senior High. Finally, on July 22, my wife Janet and I hosted a reunion at Lake Okoboji, Iowa, for Janet's mother's side of the family, the Vestegens. Thirty-five relatives converged on Lake Okoboji, where Janet and I reside most of the year. As I look back, what a cavalcade of joys these three reunions provided. 

People have many different views of reunions. Some embrace and look forward to them. Some avoid them like the plague.  Some attend, but with trepidation and concerns. How will it go?  Will I feel comfortable? Will my friends be there? Will I look too old, too fat, or too pathetic? Will that one person who plagued my high school years be there? Will my old flame be there with her husband, or alone, or not at all? What should I wear? I think even the most self-confident among us have some nervousness about how things will go. But in virtually every case, once one gets to the reunion, it is a pleasure and can be very meaningful.

High school reunions are fascinating to me. At the five-year reunion, classmates are bursting with new experiences to share about college, jobs, romance, and even marriage. By the ten-year reunion, we are now a bit more competitive, and start subtly, or not so subtly, comparing jobs, houses, cars, travel, and family. There is always the ordinary fellow or girl in high school who shows up looking fantastic, with an attractive spouse, and new-found dancing skills.

The 20-year reunion, perhaps a bit more than others, tends to involve "unfinished business." There are those who developed athletic prowess late in life, or who always thought they had some skills. They are now itching to compete with the former high school stars in pick up basketball games or on the golf course. I have seen high school bullies confronted both verbally and physically by their former victims. I have seen people with regrets about high school behavior apologize to classmates and ask for forgiveness. And there are always the assertions of past affection that was not returned, "I would have loved to have dated you" followed by the response, "Why didn't you tell me that then, since I would have loved it too." I even have heard, "Well I didn't know how well you would turn out."   

At the 30th reunion, many tend to be in the prime of their careers and working hard, with the pressures of family and financial obligations. Some of the flowers have faded a bit, and some of the plain ducklings have developed into beauties.  

By the 40th, 50th, and 55th reunions, somehow everyone seems more at ease. The die is cast. We have come to grips with who we are, for better or worse. We know what sparks joy in our life, and to the extent we can indulge in it, we do. "Give me my usual, the #4 combination with the cheese enchiladas."  We appreciate the friendships and memories of the past more.  Money, status, and professional success seem less important than family, health, and friendship. We share the joys of the grandparent zone.        

By the 55th reunion, we start to marvel at what we have gone through, that we are still living, and the miracle of mere existence. We compare hip replacement surgeries, hearing aid choices, and Medicare supplement plans. I spoke at our 50th GISH reunion and expressed the following: 

"As I age, I more and more get this strong feeling of wonder about the life we have lived and the miracle of existence. I experience this mystery -- some call it God -- in the unfathomability of time and space; in art and beauty and nature; in the existence of love and friendship; in the existence of anything. I experience them with awe, reverence, and gratitude."

Jeff Greenberger (left) and Mike Monk bring Carnac to the Class of 1967's 50th reunion

This year's 55th reunion for the GISH Class of 1967 was terrific. As in the past, classmates Ken and Trish Ross did a great job organizing the reunion, with help from others. And Diane Kenyon graciously arranged for us to have the reunion at the Riverside Golf Club on Friday and Saturday nights.  Saturday morning, we had a tour of the renovated Memorial Stadium (which is fantastic and wonderful), guided by the charming and engaging Cindy Wells, the current GISH Athletic Director. My classmate and life-long buddy Jeff Greenberger and I were asked to present the program, as we had done for the 40th and 50th reunions. We usually do a bit of stand up, some survey questions (how many with more than 10 grandchildren?), and pose some high school trivia questions (who was Sancho Panza in our Senior Class Play, Don Quixote?).

This year Jeff and I did a mock Tonight Show, mimicking the late Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. We had a desk and chair, and a couch on the stage. I introduced the show and said, "Here's Jeffrey!" Jeff then did an amusing and timely monologue, a la Johnny. After that I appeared in a turban and cloak as "Carnac the Magnificent." Jeff explained that Carnac would divine the answers to the questions sealed in envelopes without ever knowing the questions.  And I did.

A couple of examples, the answer is … "Zippidy Do Da." I then open the envelope, and the question is, "What do I tell Jeff to do when his "Do Da" is open?"  Next, the answer is … "Hickory Dickory Dock."I again opened the envelope and the question is, "Who do you go to when you have a pain in your Hickory Dickory?" And, the answer is "Michael Wayne, Pepe Le Pew, and Brad Pitt." I open the envelope and the question is, "Name a Monk, a skunk, and a hunk." When the audience on one occasion did not laugh sufficiently, I said, "May your daughter be engaged to a bed wetting Bedouin!"

Thereafter, we introduced, brought up to the stage, and interviewed six classmates. We asked for volunteers who would be willing to be interviewed.  Deb Heimbuch, Joe Calhoun, Marc Stelk, Tim Smith, Jim Schroeder, and Dave Glass volunteered. We interviewed each of them, one by one, with a double-header of Jim and Dave at the end. They were all fabulous. We even pulled Deb's husband Rob Heimbuch out of the audience to explore the circumstances under which their romance began. Jeff and I thank these classmates, and Rob, for making it a lot of fun.

Enjoying the Class of 1967's reunion were, front row from left Rob Heimbuch (Class of 1966), Mike Monk, Lana Wiese Lofgreen, and Dee Crist. (back row from left), Diane Kenyon, Debbie Heimbuch, and Jeff Greenberger

My Harvard College reunion in Cambridge was enjoyable as well. Janet and I joined a boat tour of the Charles River on the first day. We attended lectures, a dinner dance, and other activities. The highlight for me was dinner with the six of us who were suitemates in college. Our group of six is composed of a retired ophthalmologist, the Chairman and Executive Director of publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, a USC professor, the co-owner of the Boston Red Sox, the former CEO and Chairman of City National Bank, and yours truly.  

The reunion of Janet's family at Lake Okoboji was also joyous.  We had dinner for 30 at our cottage Friday night, and a party boat brunch ride on the lake Saturday morning. Then followed a dinner with speeches and family history on Saturday night.  Prior to the dinner, a professional photographer took pictures of the whole group and then each family. Janet's cousin's wife did an exhaustive family history research. Among other amazing facts that surfaced were that (1) in the 1700's, the Verstegen family once owned and lived in a castle in the Netherlands, and (2) at one point the Verstegens operated a horse business and, get this, sold horses to Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars and also sold horses to King Louis the XV of France. Who knew?

My final suggestion to anyone pondering whether to attend a reunion is "Yes!!!"  Go for it!

Mike Monk can be reached at

back to top

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.




  • 1951

    The Class of 1951 will have their 71st class reunion on Friday, September 30, 2022 at the Liederkranz.

    Jim Marsh - 702-946-1000

  • 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 Midtown Holiday Inn at 6:00 pm.

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

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

  • 1960

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

  • 1965

    The Class of 1965 will be gathering on September 23rd and 24th of 2022. We will be celebrating our 57th reunion as we turn 75. Details will be coming via email. See you in September!

    Contact for more information or to update your email:
    Paul Schneider -

  • 1966

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

  • 1970

    Save the Date for our 50th Class Reunion: Friday, Sep. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Riverside.

    Click this link to download the Reunion Signup Sheet:

    Our class email is That will be a busy weekend in Grand Island, so we recommend that everyone please get online and get your rooms booked today. - Craig Paro, Database Capt.

  • 1971

    The Class of 1971 will have their 50 +1 Reunion Get Together on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2022. Friday, Sept. 30th at Fonner Park Bosselman Center on 700 E. Stolley Pk. Rd. from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Appetizers from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm, $25.00 per person. Event is casual with a cash bar. Saturday, Oct. 1st at Tommy Gunz on 1607 S Locust St from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Beef and Chicken Dinner at 6:30 pm, $35.00 per person. Event is casual with a cash bar. Harvest of Harmony parade gathering details soon. New Stadium Tour is Sunday, Oct. 2nd.

    Linda Nelson Lenz -
    Cathy Christensen -

In Memoriam

July and August memorial list of GISH Alumni

LEONA (SKALKA) JANDA, Class of 1981, died June 25, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 58.

DELBERT “DEL” HOSELTON, Class of 1968, died July 8, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 72.

ANN (TYSON) HUEBNER, Retired Teacher and Coach for GIPS, died July 9, 2022, in Loveland, CO. She was 88.

EDWARD MOHR, Class of 1950, died July 9, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 90.

NANCY (CONKLIN) MEYER, Retired Teacher at Knickrehm, died July 12, 2022, in Papillion, NE. She was 87.

ELMER STELK, Class of 1944, died July 15, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 96.

PHIL SPIEHS, Class of 1949, died July 17, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 90.

MARILYN (HARRISON) BLOOMQUIST, Class of 1950, died July 18, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 89.

GENE SCHUYLER, Class of 1969, died July 21, 2022, in Durango, CO. He was 71.

BETTY JO (CARLYLE) SHUMAN, Class of 1951, died July 21, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 89.

JUDITH (LOCKENVITZ) JOSEPH, Class of 1961, died July 22, 2022 in Nixa, MO. She was 79.

DENNIS LINKE, Class of 1969, died July 22, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 71.

CRAIG ROBERTS, Class of 1981, died July 24, 2022, in Jackson, WI. He was 58.

CHRISTOPHER “CHRIS” MARCELLO, School Resource Office at GISH, died July 27, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 42.

MICHAEL “MIKE” MEDJO, Class of 1992, died July 27, 2022, in Castle Rock, CO. He was 48.

SUSAN (URWILLWER) WURTELE, Class of 1968, died July 28, 2022, Grand Island, NE. She was 71.

CHALIE EDWARDS, Class of 1999, died August 1, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 71.

DEAN BOLDT, Class of 1972, died August 2, 2022, in Parkville, MO. He was 68.

HUBERT “HUGH” O’BRIEN, Class of 1955, died August 5, 2022, in Sioux City, IA. He was 85.

DAVID “DAVE” JENSEN, SR., Class of 1973, died August 6, 2022, in Elba, NE. He was 67.

ROBERT IRWIN, Class of 1956, died August 9, 2022, in Hastings, NE. He was 83.

DOUGLAS MUHS, Class of 1986, died August 11, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 55.

JANICE “JAN” (REIFF) RANDOLPH, Class of 1968, died August 12, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 72.

BETTE LOU “LA LA” (JELINEK) PLUMMER, Class of 1972, died August 19, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 68.

DONNA (BILON) MOYER, GISH Alumni, died August 20, 2022, in Wood River, NE. She was 93.

NATHAN “NATE” ZRUST, Class of 1998, died August 28, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 43.

SHARON (HAMMER) WERT, Class of 1963, died August 29, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 76.


To report an alumni death since August, 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.


  • 1992

    Hilary Hamilton, class of 1992, has been busy writing and publishing books. In 2019, she published a health book entitled, "Hilary's Health Haven Handbook". This year she published a Young Adult Fiction book entitled, "The Journal of Elora". You can find both of her books to purchase on Amazon.

  • 2016

    Alec and Adan Redwine, twin brothers from the class of 2016, have both graduated with Bachelor of Science Degrees in Biological Systems Engineering from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May 2021. Before that, they spent a year at the University of Nebraska-Kearney where they played football.

  • 2016 - Alec Redwine

    Alec is now currently in his second year of dental school at UNMC in Lincoln, and has married his high school sweetheart in June 2020. They recently bought their first home and enjoy home makeover projects and spending time with their dog, Gus.

  • 2016 - Adan Redwine

    Adan is finishing his Master of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering at UNL. He is currently working with the USA Bobsled team doing design needed technology for the team. Following completion of his Master of Science program, Adan plans to attend medical school.

  • 2017

    ZitaAnne Reno, class of 2017, graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in English Literature and minors in Spanish and Business and Law. She has been accepted into the University of Nebraska College of Law Class of 2024. She is currently a second-year student and working as a clerk for Fye Law Office out of Holdrege, Nebraska.

back to top
© 2024 Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

Powered by Firespring