All-year reunion to connect Lisle High grads for school's 60th anniversary

There are people who imagine their high school reunion and picture themselves trapped in conversations about the past, listing names of classmates and teachers.

"There're a lot of people who say, 'I'm not the reunion type. I snap off the rearview mirror,'‚ÄČ" said Jay Grochowski, who is organizing a reunion Saturday, Oct. 7, for Lisle High School.

But to those naysayers, Grochowski says there's a reason many of their fellow alumni wouldn't miss a reunion and make impressive efforts, including cross-country trips, to be there. And then there are those whose attendance at a reunion has resulted in life-changing events.

"I think we even got one marriage out of it," Grochowski said. Bill and Amy Carpenter, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, met at the 2010 reunion and married three years later.

This year's reunion, unlike most class reunions, is an opportunity for reconnection with a twist.

For the fourth time since 2008, it will be an all-year reunion. Alumni from all of Lisle High School's history are invited, not just those from a graduating class or two hitting a milestone anniversary. So far, Grochowski said, alumni from as far as Dallas and Las Vegas have purchased tickets.

Barb Roberts, president of the Class of 1982, said she is preparing to travel from her home in the Minneapolis suburbs to attend her first all-year reunion at Lisle. She did the planning for and attended her 10- and 20-year class reunions, missed her 30-year reunion, and is heading up efforts for a mini 35-year reunion to be celebrated within the all-year reunion.

"I have my own Facebook group. We're sharing photos and memories," she said. "I really take pride in our class. A lot of lower classmen looked up to us."

Roberts said she remembers how the football team won the October 1981 Arboretum Bowl trophy - made from a tree branch from the Morton Arboretum - in a game against crosstown rival Benet Academy.

"It wasn't a conference game," she said, adding that the game was arranged by coaches' agreement. "We beat Benet 10-0. It was a huge thing to win against Benet."

Roberts said she was on the drill team/pompon squad, which won state titles in 1981 and 1982.

"I absolutely loved it," she said.

She is intrigued by the idea of bringing graduates from all years together.

"I think it's a really great idea to get the whole school together. Your friends aren't just in your class," she said.

As the youngest of seven siblings, all of whom graduated from Lisle between 1970 and 1982, Roberts said she's urging all of them to attend. Even her parents were involved with Lisle High; her mother was the cafeteria's head cook and her father was on the school board.

Grochowski said the success of the inaugural all-year reunion in 2008, which drew about 800 people, inspired organizers to present an all-year reunion in 2010, followed by a third in 2012. After this year's big reunion, the next all-year reunion probably won't be scheduled until 2020, he said.

The appeal lies in the fact that, as a relatively small school, Lisle students often have the opportunity to forge friendships with students both older and younger than they are through activities, sports and clubs, he said. Because of the modest size of the student body, both freshmen and upperclassmen often find themselves involved, together, in a variety of pursuits such as theater, band, chorus and athletics.

"They counted on people wearing lots of hats. You end up being friends with different categories or cliques that are inevitable at any school. It's a small community. Lisle is kind of Mayberry-esque. Everybody knows everybody, everybody grew up together," he said. "The all-year reunion made sense."

A Class of 1977 graduate, Grochowski and classmate Kurt Grutzmacher were looking for ways to honor retired football and track coach Carlin Nalley. Both Grochowski and Grutzmacher were high school athletes who played on teams Nalley coached.

Grochowski said Nalley, who celebrated his 80th birthday in February, also served, at one point, as the school's athletic director and as district superintendent and was instrumental in the formation of the Lisle Park District.

"He's a Lisle legend, (Illinois Coaches Association) Hall of Fame coach, a much-beloved man about Lisle," Grochowski said.

Grochowski and Grutzmacher launched the Carlin Nalley Foundation, a nonprofit organization that recognizes alumni achievement and grants scholarships to Lisle High School seniors.

The all-year reunion idea came about as a way to help fund those scholarships and the foundation's outreach programs for alumni, he said.

This year's reunion coincides with the school's 60th anniversary, so a slate of other special events are planned around the main reunion Saturday, Oct. 7.

When the Lisle Lions football team takes on the Westmont High School Sentinels on Friday, Oct. 6, at Benedictine University's stadium, military veteran alumni will be honored along with alumni and coaches from Lisle's athletic history as part of Alumni Night. A special tribute also will be paid to the five Lisle Lions who lost their lives in military service, Grochowski said.

Saturday morning, reunion attendees will tour the district's schools before former football players and track athletes gather for group photos with Nalley. Garage bands from back in the day will get back together for a music fest at 1 p.m. at BaseCamp Pub in Four Lakes Village. The reunion, which will feature light snacks and drinks, begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Krasa Center on Benedictine University's campus.

Grochowski said students from many classes, including the first graduating class of 1958, are expected to attend.

"The Class of '72 is having their 45th reunion, wrapped inside of ours," he said.

There is no dress code, so attendees may wear anything from a tux to a T-shirt.

"Kids are way more judgmental when they're 17 than when they're 57," he said.

Couple found love at Lisle's all-year reunion

If you go

What: Lisle High School All-Year Reunion and 60th Anniversary

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

Where: Krasa Center, Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle

Tickets: $40


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