COLUMBIA—Mike Gonzales flew all the way from Chicago to spend a few last hours at his high school.
He joined about 200 other people who flocked to Cardinal Newman School on June 6 for the “Farewell to Forest Drive” event that offered alumni, faculty and staff a chance to say goodbye to the school they used to call home.
Classes will cease forever at the Forest Drive location — which first opened in 1961 — after the fall semester. Students will move into a new building off Alpine Road in January 2016.
Gonzales, a member of the class of 1987, was overjoyed to see other classmates.
The group called out to each other, shook hands, hugged and laughed in the parking lot as they prepared to take a last tour of the buildings and grounds. Similar reunions took place all over the campus.
“I’m so excited to see all these people and to remember those days, the classes, the dances and other activities we had here,” Gonzales said. “As a dad, I can see the advantages this school gave us in our lives and our futures. We were a very close-knit class, we were taught values and we had great teachers.”
Current students led tours through the main high school building and the former Ursuline convent that now also holds classrooms. Gonzales and his classmates peered into the rooms and remembered their favorite teachers. They walked around the now quiet football field and recalled practices in sweltering heat and cool fall nights spent watching games.
Suzy Logan, who also graduated in 1987, drove in from Memphis, Tennessee, for the event. She and classmate Wendy Galloway, from Myrtle Beach, recalled a favorite Spanish teacher and dances in the former school gym. There were also charity events such as an overnight dance-a-thon and a rock-a-thon, where students raised money by constantly rocking in chairs for hours.
“I just remember how small our class was and how close we were,” Logan said. “I think it’s cool and exciting that they have the new building, but I’m sad this campus is going away.”
After the tours, attendees migrated to the gym, where pictures from past yearbooks flashed on video screens.
The evening also drew alumni of Ursuline and Catholic High Schools, which were located in downtown Columbia and were the direct ancestors of Cardinal Newman.
Carmella Martin graduated from Ursuline High in 1942 and sent all four of her children to Cardinal Newman. She recalled the small classes at Ursuline, with about 40 students and 11 in her graduating class.
“It was just like one big family. The teachers took such interest in us and taught us to love God and our neighbors,” she said.
Her daughter, Sara Martin McAllister, graduated from Cardinal Newman in 1968 and said the school gave her the same experience her mother treasured at Ursuline.
“The teachers were wonderful, and you felt like you knew everybody on campus,” she said. “Everybody in your class was your friend.”
Photos: Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss