By Molly Seales
On September 10, 2021, in conjunction with Riverdale Academy’s homecoming, a 50 Years of Excellence Reunion and Celebration was held in East Point. The 50th graduating class at RA was the class of 2020, and this reunion had been in the works since Celeste Hanna Huddleston (RA Class of 1996) began forming ideas in her mind in 2019. After Covid-19 struck in the spring of 2020, those ideas were put on hold. Later, around July of 2020, Celeste asked her mom, Wanda Anderson Hanna (Class of 1973) to form a committee and see what kind of plan would work for a celebration. Original committee members were Hanna, Cindy Dupree Coffey (Class of 1974), Suzan Dupree Simpson (Class of 1981), Anna Files Hanna (Class of 1977), Lisa Almond Lester (Class of 1979), Nancy Nettles (Class of 1975), Rhoda Forrest Bethard (Class of 1977), Kim Wood Page (Class of 1978), Mary O. Marston (Class of 1977), Virginia (Vee) Webb (Class of 1972), Millie Cannon Jones (Faculty), and Ann Shaw (Faculty). Toward the end of the planning period, the committee recruited Stephanie Martin Chamberlin (Class of 2000) to handle the entrance door decorations, and she did a wonderful job!
After the committee met in September of 2020, Nicole Page Webb designed a Facebook group so that alumni could begin to be contacted. The celebration was originally planned for the spring of 2021, but that date had to be cancelled, again due to Covid. In May of 2021, the committee reconvened and elected to plan the celebration to be held in conjunction with the homecoming game on September 10. On June 1 of 2021, this new date was published on the Facebook page, and planning got off to a rapid start.
The main objective of the celebration was to give alumni an opportunity to visit and “catch up” with their friends, classmates, and former teachers, sharing memories and funny stories. Mrs. Wanda said that she heard a lot of, “Do you remember…” stories that night. Approximately 250 people attended the reunion, with the oldest graduate attending being Duston Aton. While at the reunion, attendees enjoyed viewing the decade and sports memorabilia table; purchasing cookbooks, yearbooks, yard signs, and note cards; enjoying delicious refreshments; purchasing raffle tickets for a picture of the school, painted by Mary Marston; recording interviews with the KREB news team; taking photos in front of the big balloon-filled “RA 50”; and touring the classrooms to see what changes had been made.
Riverdale graduate Mary O. Marston is a talented artist and painted 2 pictures for the occasion. One of them was of Riverdale Academy and was raffled off. The winner was Pam Beasley Ebey. The other was a painting from a photograph from the 1971 yearbook of Kenneth Bierden and Whitten Foster raising the flag. Both have passed away and were RA graduates. Kenneth’s daughter-in-law, Alicia, works at Riverdale and his 4 grandchildren attend school at RA. The committee decided to present Kenneth’s widow, Karen, with the painting.
Mrs. Wanda said there were so many people that joined together to make this day possible. Current Riverdale junior Luke Greer made delicious cupcakes for the beautifully decorated refreshment table (done by Rhoda Bethard.) Cindy Coffey came up with the idea of a sports team display, and she gathered and displayed uniforms from various Riverdale sports team over the years. She even located a football uniform from the first football team at Riverdale. The jersey was worn by Robert Bethard when the football team was formed in the 1972-73 season.
I asked Mrs. Wanda if there were any special thanks she wanted to give. She said, “First of all, I would like to thank Celeste Hanna Huddleston for her persistence in seeing this project through-from forming the idea in the beginning, to assisting until the very end. Next, thanks to the committee members who went above and beyond what I asked them to do. They each had very creative ideas and did whatever was necessary to implement them. We were extremely fortunate to have the support from so many volunteers. Without their efforts, along with the help from Mr. Danny Rester, Stacey Greer, Joni Riggs, Amanda Shaver Cason, David Campbell, Collin Hesson, Troy Murray, the RRPSO, and others, we could not have pulled this off.”
Mrs. Wanda also said, “I really want to say thank you to those who ‘came home to thee,’ and there were a lot of them. It was heart-warming to see so many familiar faces-some from years ago and some more recent ones. It’s true-we are truly a family at Riverdale! And without the donations made to the Alumni Fund, we would have never been able to pull this off. Thank you so much for your continued support of RA. Any funds left over after the expenses are covered will be left with the Booster Club. Most of you know the Booster Club promotes and encourages academic excellence at Riverdale in a variety of ways. Your contributions help ensure that the funds needed to complete these goals are in place, and we hope you will want to continue your support of the Alumni Fund year after year. Again, thank you to everyone who had any part in making this celebration such a glorious success! Because…#oncearebelalwaysarebel.”
Thank you to Mrs. Wanda Hanna for the information provided in this article! If you would like to watch the KREB Reunion Interview segment, go to YouTube and search for KREB Riverdale News.
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