An idea that started as an email message over a year ago came to fruition over Fur Trade Days weekend, July 11-13, when nearly 80 Chadron State College fine arts graduates and friends from the 1960s and 1970s gathered for their first reunion. Eighteen states and England were represented.
CSC alumni Jann Reichenberg, Bob Reichenberg, Jennie May Donnell, Patty Theos McDonald and David Starkweather met at the Reichenberg's home in Oregon in the fall of 2012 and began discussing how much they would like to see their friends and classmates.
“I told Jennie May: ‘I’ll get them there and fed if you will entertain them.’ It started small but then grew and grew. We scanned photos from yearbooks and started a Facebook page,” Jann Reichenberg said.
Jann Reichenberg said the CSC Alumni Office was helpful, the food served by CSC Dining Services was excellent and expressed thanks to Mimi Wheeler Groves who opened her house on Main Street to the group during the Fur Trade Days parade.
The group did more than just talk about their prior performances. Donnell asked classmates to perform, accompany, manage the stage in the Student Center Ballroom and facilitate interactive events like sing-alongs and a joke contest over the three-day event. Performances included vocal and instrumental music and readings.
“We decided we would build the rehearsals right into the performances. Some let us know they just wanted to be in the audience and that worked out fine, too,” Donnell said.
Grechen Golden Wheeler led a toast to life and the arts and thanked those who have established scholarships for the arts. “We are all held together by the arts, education and Chadron State College,” she said.
Donnell said it was particularly rewarding for her to see one of her former students, Shawn Marie Dillinger, and meet one of Dillinger’s students, Travis Hencey, who helped provide music for the event.
Alumni involved in theatre also reminisced about building the first stage at the Fort Robinson Post Playhouse west of Crawford and recalled how their involvement in the summer production was pivotal to fostering a lifelong love of theatre, Reichenberg said.
An art show Saturday in the Memorial Hall Main Gallery featured a broad range of work by nearly a dozen alumni including photography, textiles, bronze, drawings and paintings. Several types of leather items including boa, teju lizard and stingray were on display. Pieces created by deceased classmates and professors were also exhibited.
Barnie Sherman Hensley coordinated the show which was part of a Memorial Hall Open House organized by Kim Huckfeldt.
“It’s been a labor of love. We needed to bring together our friends before we got any older,” Hensley said.
Sunday morning, the group paid tribute to numerous deceased classmates and mentors as well as honoring four living mentors.
Con Marshall received an award for the many years he publicized theatre productions, speech and debate contests, concerts and art exhibits. Dr. Carol Pratt, Bill Crenshaw and John Lurvey were honored for inspiring and mentoring many students during their careers.
After receiving her recognition, Pratt commented on the other institutions where she taught.
“LSU and Arkansas State might be bigger but they are not better than Chadron State,” she said.
Pratt’s former student and fellow honoree Lurvey went on to earn two degrees from Chadron State and joined the faculty after earning his master’s degree.
“Many times I’ve stood before actors and technicians, but none better than you,” Lurvey said.
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