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FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

Alumni return to FCHS for pep rally, ceremony

The Fort Campbell Courier
Fort Campbell | September 27, 2018

FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

Alumni return to FCHS for pep rally, ceremony

  • Story and photos by Mari-Alice Jasper • Fort Campbell Courier

 

 

FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

Ann Kerr (left), spouse of Bob Kerr, who graduated from Fort Campbell High School in 1967, and Greg Markley, alumnus from the class of 1970, look at dozens of graduating class photos together Friday during the class reunion at FCHS.

 

FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

About 70 alumni whooped and shouted during the homecoming pep rally Friday at Fort Campbell High School. The group of alumni attended the pep rally as part of their reunion. The alumni group also toured the new 21st century school and attended a ceremony establishing the Coach Marshall Patterson Hall of Fame at FCHS during their visit.

FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

 

Haywood Ferguson, Fort Campbell High School alumni from the class of 1974, cracks open his yearbook Friday during the class reunion at FCHS, to show Nathaniel Lake, FCHS junior, some photos of the football and wrestling teams from more than 40 years ago.

 

FORT CAMPBELL HIGH SCHOOL: Homecoming reunion

Jody Chinetti (left), Fort Campbell High School librarian, and Dutch Arnold, FCHS senior, compete against Riley Boyle, FCHS senior, and Alysia Durham, FCHS math teacher, in the golf team obstacle course Friday during the school’s homecoming pep rally. All fall sports were recognized during the event.

With his weathered class yearbook in hand Friday, Haywood Ferguson returned to Fort Campbell High School for the first time since graduating 44 years ago.

About 70 other alumni joined Ferguson at the new high school for a reunion. This alumni group represented a 10-15 year graduation range. Some graduated from the building that formerly served as Wassom Middle School. More recent graduates remember walking the halls of the former FCHS, that is now Mahaffey Middle School, or the building that was replaced this year by the new 21st century building.

The newly constructed $59 million 21st century school is energy and environmentally sustainable. Ninth-12th grade students attend the school.

FCHS is one of only two high schools on Army installations within the continental United States, the other is at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Pep rally

Alumni kicked off the reunion by attending the FCHS homecoming pep rally. As students poured into the gymnasium, music boomed through the halls and the band performed warm up drills. For the pep rally, seniors wore blue and juniors wore gray, while sophomores wore black and freshmen wore white. The alumni were encouraged to wear blue or gray.

During the pep rally, every FCHS fall sport was recognized. The band and choir also performed during the event. FCHS seniors Hannah Duncan and Riley Boyle, members of the student council’s executive board, said having all of the teams represented was a priority for the board.

“We wanted to introduce all of the teams, because we want to give everyone in the school that credit because they are helping the school by representing the Falcons at all of the sporting events,” Boyle said. “It’s only fair that all of our student-athletes get the chance to have their colleagues cheer them on.”

Stacy Daniels, FCHS senior guidance counselor, said it was “amazing” to have the alumni join the students for the pep rally.

“Attending multiple schools as a military child is challenging, at best. To see past military children come ‘home’ to FCHS is a remarkable and unique experience,” Daniels said. “It shows us that FCHS is home to many, and that is a tradition for our staff and students to embrace. We hope to include alumni in many more future events.”

Hosts Ken Jankowksi, social studies and foreign language teacher, and Joel Brown, video production teacher, got everyone up on their feet, cheering for the Falcons. Throughout the pep rally, each of the classes competed for the “Spirit Hammer” by cheering the loudest when called on. The seniors, who had painted their faces and brought handmade posters to the reunion, won the hammer. The pep rally began with a lip synch battle featuring teachers and students. Next, the volleyball and cross country team competed against each other in a tug-of-war. Goalies from the boys and girls soccer team blocked balls kicked by teachers. Members of the football team threw balls to teachers as they ran down the basketball court. Junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders performed during the pep rally. A few teachers and alumni joined the varsity team’s performance. Finally, members of the golf team were joined by teachers to complete an obstacle course in the gym.

“We wanted this year’s homecoming pep rally to be different. We wanted to set a new precedent in our new school,” Duncan said. “This year we had everyone cheering.”

Sitting in the gym, surrounded by excited young people, reminded Ferguson of what pep rallies were like his senior year.

“There’s at least one photo in my yearbook here of [Coach Marshall Patterson, FCHS’s first football coach] at one of our pep rallies. As I recall, the faculty and staff were just as involved then as they are now. It was silly and corny today and it was silly and corny back then,” he said. “We were just as silly back then. If you look at this picture, one of the teachers has climbed a ladder at one of our pep rallies to hit Coach P in the face with a pie. Nothing has changed, we are just a little older now.”

Although his ears were still ringing after the pep rally, Ferguson said he was grateful to have attended it.

“It feels like it’s been a very long time since I’ve been to a pep rally,” he said. “This was very impressive though. I could tell the seniors were most excited about it, because even though they were the smallest group up there [in the bleachers], they showed the most enthusiasm and they were the loudest.”

Boyle and Duncan agreed it was interesting to have the alumni attend the event.

“It was kind of cool to have them here,” Boyle said. “I don’t know if they had pep rallies back then, but I’m sure it was interesting for them to see how the school has changed and how the students have changed.”

This was one of Duncan’s first encounters with FCHS alumni.

“As military kids we don’t grow up ever really meeting the people who went to our school before us. At past towns I’ve been to, people will say ‘I went to your school when I was younger,’ but that meant nothing to me because I was only going to be there a year,” Duncan said. “[FCHS] is just so different though … it’s home for a lot of us. I think that’s how the alumni feel too. It’s great to have them here and to see them back home.”

Coach Marshall Patterson Hall of Fame

After the pep rally, the alumni, football players and cheerleaders gathered in the school’s theater for a ceremony establishing the Coach Marshall Patterson Hall of Fame at the school. A few alumni spoke during the ceremony, reflecting on their time with the late Coach P.

Patterson died Jan. 19, 2014, after battling a long illness.

Patterson became FCHS’s first football coach in 1962. He held the position for 32 straight seasons, winning two Class 1-A state titles in 1976 and 1978 and one Class 2-A state title in 1979. During his tenure he amassed a 227-120 all-time record, which ranks 24th in state history. Patterson also initiated the school’s wrestling program, that claimed a state title in 1971.

“Several alumni contacted our school because they were interested in establishing a hall of fame at the new high school building to honor a beloved coach of years past, Patterson,” Daniels said. “We quickly saw the degree to which they loved FCHS and how they wanted to share a portion of their spirit with current students and staff.”

The hall of fame is prominently displayed outside the school’s gym.

“The Marshall Patterson Hall of Fame will be the platform where the school will honor former FCHS athletes who have accomplished amazing athletic feats,” Daniels said. “A list of criteria for nominations will be published in the coming months and Falcon fans will be asked to complete nomination forms for persons they feel would be worthy recipients.”

Reconnecting

After the ceremony, alumni, football players and cheerleaders enjoyed a barbecue dinner together. Ferguson said he felt a bit nostalgic as he spoke with other alumni during the dinner. Ferguson was motivated to take part in the reunion after recently attending the funeral of a classmate.

“I wanted to reconnect. I was interested in seeing old faces again,” he said. “Being an Army brat, it’s kind of special. I went to three different high schools growing up. I’m probably never going to go back to Stuttgart High School where I was a freshman, but there’s just something about FCHS. It’s just different. My classmates and I scattered to the winds after graduation, so it’s good to see some of them again.”

Ferguson transferred to FCHS halfway through his junior year of high school after his father returned to Fort Campbell after a deployment. His father retired from the Army in 1975 as a master sergeant.

During Ferguson’s schooling at FCHS, he competed on the wrestling team. His senior year, he was voted as wittiest in the yearbook superlatives.

“I am blessed with the gift of gab,” he said. “I was always running my mouth and saying things I probably shouldn’t have.”

After graduation, Ferguson joined the Air Force. Twenty years later, he retired as a master sergeant. For 12 years of his tenure, he served at an isolated Air Force radar site that operated out of Richmond, Kentucky. After retiring from the Army, Ferguson graduated from Eastern Kentucky University. He also has a 30-year career as a high school sports official with the Kentucky High School Athletics Association.

After dinner, the alumni group toured the new school building. Ferguson was astounded by the size of the new 184,000-square-foot, two-story facility.

“It’s beautiful,” he said.

Alumni from the class of 1965 and high school sweethearts Stan Nelson and Barbara Scharn Nelson, agreed the new facility was impressive. During the tour, Barbara tried out one of the wobble chairs used to help student focus in the classroom while maintaining activity.

“This is just so cool. When we were in high school you would get in trouble for even moving in your desk. I love this,” she said.

In high school, Barbara was a cheerleader and Stan was a full-back on the FCHS football team. His father was a master sergeant and her father was the Army inspector general.

“We have fond memories of FCHS,” Barbara said.

After graduating, Stan attended Tennessee Tech University and joined ROTC. When he graduated with a civil engineering degree, he was commissioned. Stan served 42 months in the Army in the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion. During his service, Barbara taught at Department of Defense schools. After serving in the Army, he moved into engineering private practice.

Barbara and Stan have attended every reunion this group has hosted. The first reunion was held in 1985. Since then, the group has come together at least every other year to watch the FCHS homecoming football game.

“I enjoyed every minute or every day I spent at FCHS,” Stan said. “I knew this place was special.”

The couple intends to continue attending class reunions in the future.

“Old friends are great friends,” Barbara said. “Reunions are a time to reflect on good times and how nice those days were and what good friends those people were. It’s just awesome to get to see everyone again.”


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