A picture that ran in last week's Maryland Weekly with the story on Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School's 55th anniversary incorrectly identified one of the persons. Alumni award winners Howard Denis and Andrew Sonner were standing with B-CC principal Carl W. Smith. Smith was identified incorrectly as Neal Potter.
In 1926 Bethesada was a semirural community with only 20 retail businesses along its unpaved main street, Wisconsin Avenue. It was during that same year, when Americans knew about only one "great war" and didn't think about economic depressions, that a ninth-grade class was added to an eight-grade school on Wilson Lane. Today that school is Bethesda-Chevy High School.
Last Thursday, some of the school's 20,000-plus graduates returned to their alma mater, along with former teachers, administrators and family members, to help celebrate BCC's 55th anniversary.
The school has come a long way since it first graduated 12 ninth-grade students in 1929. Over the years BCC had three locations, finally settling at its current home on East-West Highway.
The student body now numbers 1,640 adolescents, most of whom are white and upper middle class. Approximately 70 percent of the class of 1981 will go on to college and 15 percent will attend other schools.
The highlight of last week's celebration came as three former students became the first to be inducted into the school's new hall of fame. They were Neal Potter (class of '33), a member of the Montgomery County Council, Andrew Sonner (class of '53), Maryland's state attorney for Montgomery County, and Howard Denis (class of '57), Maryland state senator from Montgomery County's 16th district. All three were on hand to accept their plaques.
Denis' nostalgic acceptance speech was similar to many of the conversations that buzzed throughout the gymnasium:
"As I was listening to the band play, it seemed like years were being stripped away. For one luminescent moment it was 1957 and I was getting ready for the prom . . . the girl I wanted to date said she wouldn't go with me, and it wasn't until 20 years later that she told me why she wouldn't, when she said, 'didn't you know I was dating Warner Wolf?'"
Wolf, who did not attend the festivities, also was a Bethesda-Chevy Chase student and is now a sportscaster for CBS News in New York City.
As the ceremony began, other graduates embraced long-lost friends and former teachers.
One such reunion happened as Jack Crowley, 29, of Kensington encountered Juanita Jenkins, a Spanish teacher who has taught at BCC for 22 years and will retire this spring.
"Oh, isn't it wonderful!" shrieked Jenkins as Crowley walked by, pushing his six-month-old baby in a stroller and followed by his wife Rocky.
"Hi, Mrs. Jenkins, how have you been?" asked an excited Crowley as he reached for her hand. "Here's the little one," he said.
"Look at that, isn't it wonderful!" gasped a beaming Jenkins as she admired the baby.
Outside the crowded gymnasium where the award-winning BCC jazz ensemble played, two more old friends met: Thornton Lauriat, BCC's principal from 1975 to 1980, and Reggie Sanders, 22 (class of '77, of Chevy Chase.
Lauriat is now acting supervisor of secondary instruction for Area III in Montgomery County. Sanders received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Virginia this spring and will be entering medical school at Yale in the fall.
When asked to describe Sanders in high school, Lauriat acted more like a proud father than a former principal.
"He was one of the outstanding scholar/athletes of Bethesda Chevy Chase High School," Lauriat said proudly. Sanders ran track and played basketball at the school and was chosen Athlete of the Year as a senior.
As the pendulum of social change swings, so have the students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School changed over the years.
In some ways the current students at last week's affair were much like students of any year. But BCC students today have many more modern facilities at their disposal, such as a television studio. And most, who will go to business and computer science schools, are more concerned with how the cost of living and inflation will affect them than were their predecessors.
The composition of the student body also has changed; today there are 33 nationalities represented, including 15 Iranians who have had a tough year. Susan Fiaz, 13, of Chevy Chase, summed up what it was like to be from Iran during the hostage crisis:
"There were a few (students) that bothered me . . . but the teacher tried to stop it when they'd start discussing it (the hostage crisis) in class," said Fiaz.
Of the high school's well-known alumni, Penny Babcock Laingen is one of the most famous. She is the wife of Bruce Laingen, former charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Iran who was one of the hostages.
Other prominent grads include international conductor Guido Ajmone-Marsan and Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.).
Lauriat, who has worked in secondary educatiion for 22 years, best summed up how BCC students have changed over the years:
"The main change that I've noticed is that students are much more aware of, and serious about, what happens after high school."
He also voiced a sentiment common to many former teachers and administrators when his eyes took on a sad, distant look and he said, "I miss the kids."