Southland, LeRoy-Ostrander seniors graduate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Now, Southland and LeRoy-Ostrander high school graduates are marching into the new millennium.

Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Now, Southland and LeRoy-Ostrander high school graduates are marching into the new millennium.

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Southland Independent School District graduated 72 seniors Sunday afternoon. LeRoy-Ostrander Independent School District graduated 41.

Each district’s class of 2000 added a flair to their commencement exercises. The Southland graduates wore tricolored red, blue and silver gowns. The LeRoy-Ostrander graduates left the ceremonies with a rock ‘n’ roll anthem playing in the background.

In each case, the graduates made a memorable experience more memorable in their own way.


Gerald Wellik pounded home a message that basic values should not be forgotten in the rush to use technology.

Wellik was Southland’s commencement speaker Sunday afternoon. Fifty years ago, he graduated high school at nearby Elkton, where his father, Anton, was chairman of the board of education.

"Despite the advancements in technology in the way we learn and live today, let’s not forget there are many values that are the basic foundation of life and learning that should not change," Wellik said.

He listed family values, the quintessential three Rs of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic with special emphasis on writing and "work hard and never give up."

Wellik, founder of LSI of America Inc., started Southland’s successful scholarship program in 1987.

Now, he has endowed a similar scholarship program in the Grand Meadow school district in honor of his father.

Cyle Erie, president of the Southland senior class, gave the invocation before a packed school gymnasium crowd.

Larry Tompkins, superintendent of schools, welcomed guests and gave the familiar invitation heard so many times before to the graduates.

"Southland will always be here for you," he reminded the graduates.

Josh Wilson, one of 11 graduates to receive highest honors for a cumulative grade point average of 3.8 or above, gave the senior class address on behalf of the class of 2000’s many outstanding academicians.

Wilson noted the graduates’ parents "had the biggest impact on our lives," but singled out the district’s faculty for "really caring about us."

Jordan Hessenius, another member of the highest honors group in the class of 2000, also expressed her appreciation on behalf of the graduates, for parents’ and teachers’ support and encouragement.

While high school graduation is a day of celebration, Hessenius noted, she said no one can predict the future and, therefore, memories will be important.

"Nothing can take away our past," she said.

Twenty-three scholarships were presented this year to Southland graduates, plus other special recognition awards announced by Principal Larry Croker.

Chairwoman Carol Matheis and Director Dee Hamilton presented the diplomas and Sally Chilman, senior class vice president, gave the benediction.

Then, Southland’s first graduates of the new millennium left the gymnasium for the ritual of open house graduation parties and, later, the first steps into their future.

On the Memorial Day weekend, the district also recognized veterans, who were not able to complete their high school education during World War II, but received their diplomas later. They included Elgar K. Bjerke, Jack O’Brennan, Wilbur C. Kraft, Donald E. Krebsbach, Byron L. Lewison, Harold R. Rubin and Robert H. Wigham.


Proud parents, other relatives and friends of the LeRoy-Ostrander High School class of 2000 were greeted by a glimpse of the past Sunday afternoon.

When visitors entered the school for commencement exercises, a quilt decorated by the class of 2000 when they were kindergarten students was on display.

Tammy Knight, then a kindergarten teacher in 1987-88, had each member of the class at that time decorate a block on the quilt.

Bob Pike decorated his block with two smiling faces, which look a lot like graduates in their mortarboard caps.

Clint Hodgdon and Kelly Davis were among those to choose rainbows and Cory Wilharm drew a tall boy and a tree.

Like trees, every member of the class of 2000 has grown through the years and Steve Harter said there is more growth to come.

"They really came together this year," said Harter, the school’s principal. "I think they are starting to realize their potential as seniors.."

"They are a close-knit group and there is some tremendous leadership in this class," he said.

"If anything sets this class of graduates apart it is that they know what they want to do. They have goals. I think we can expect to see some very successful individuals come from this class of graduates," Harter said.

Nineteen scholarships were distributed among the class Sunday, including the district’s ever-growing Dollars For Scholars awards.

Superintendent John Varner, who is stepping down from his post this summer, welcomed guests.

Special music filled the Cardinals gymnasium, featuring soloists Katie Payne and Amanda Bakken, plus the Senior Mixed Choir, accompanied by Jessica Johnson and Nina Bucknell.

A slide show recorded memories of the graduating seniors.

Clint Hodgdon, valedictorian, and Jolene Keim, salutatorian, gave their commencement addresses.

Harter announced the honor award and scholarship recipients, as well as athlete of the year honorees.

When it came time for the diplomas to be presented, Alice Kempe, a retired teacher whose career spanned four decades, shared honors with the school board members much to the delight of everyone who gave Kempe a standing ovation.

When commencement ended, the seniors left the gym to the strains of "Hangin’ Around" by Counting Crows and the class of 2000 left its mark on their high school alma mater.