Thursday, May 29, 2008

Two Years in a Flash

It's been two years since a couple of great teachers, Frank Robertson and Margaret McClatchey, retired from Shawnee Mission North. I went to their retirement party at the school on May 30, 2006 and wrote this letter to mutual friends about it afterward.

It was great to see you Tuesday. I had a wonderful time at the McClatchey/Robertson retirement program and reception at the North auditorium. I was thrilled to see that they renamed the little theater in honor of Mrs. McClatchey.

I appreciate your words Joe, coming from someone who has talent and maturity, about the things that the teachers instilled in us in performance that carry over. Same for you Rick - I'm glad that Ms. Davis allowed you to speak at the end of the evening. You made some great points about commitment and team work, and your Cinderella carriage story was great. Jay T., although you didn't take the podium, it was nice to see you again, to meet members of your family, including your niece who is taking Frank's position at North in the fall. Plus, for those who weren't there, Jay showed up in a photo that was included in Mr. Robertson's video montage - not bad!

I learned some interesting facts about Mrs. McClatchey and Mr. Robertson. For instance, Mrs. M. did 116 shows during her tenure at North that spanned parts of four decades. And did you know that Mr. Robertson taught in California for a time before coming to Kansas? Mr. McClatchey did a great job on assembling the life story montages of both honorees.

There were some other nice speeches and performances as well. About 36 people paid tribute during the 2.5 hour program. Students from the class of '75 through the class of '08 were among those who toasted. No other class had as many speakers as the class of '83 did (three). Maureen Davis put us in a specific order for the evening, reverse order chronologically, except in the case of duets or group presentations.

There were five musical performances. My favorite was Cathy Barnett's ('78) rendition of "Before the Parade Passes By", a number she did for Mr. Robertson. He gave that one to her to learn when she was a student. Cathy also did a killer impression of Mrs. McClatchey, astonishing given the limited contact since graduation.

My speech consisted of some jokes - a jab at the tech theater kids, a bit about doing unsanctioned theater work in the parking lot "Death of a Six Pack", a remark about seeing a local weather anchor in her underwear during a Robertson directed play (Julie Broski, The Philadelphia Story, 1985) and a faux Oscar acceptance speech where I thanked a special teacher at North - Vern Bonar from Woodworking. When I saw Mrs. McClatchey laughing, it reminded me why I was there in the first place. I felt a surge of positive energy, the kind you sense when you're surrounded by people who believe in you, and that's a good feeling.

Cookies and refreshments on stage followed the speeches. Maureen Davis (who assumes the title of grand dame of the North theater department with 20 years in service on her own) told us that they're getting ready to raise the roof on the auditorium to provide more headroom for a pulley system and enhanced stage capabilities. The district also tore up the tennis courts, apparently a gym expansion is happening too.

Well wishers surrounded the two guests of honor. Jennifer Troughton ('84) was there and my old neighbor Margie Vusich ('79) too. We chatted for awhile with everyone and I was the first from our class to leave. Mr. and Mrs. M. are moving to Colorado soon and it struck me that this was probably the last time I'd ever see her - there in the auditorium, as she leaned against the stage surrounded by students. That's how I'll remember her, and the laughing too.

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