Education — The NHS reunion for graduation classes of 50-plus years set to welcome graduates from 1963 at annual event in August

It’s been a long time, 53 years in fact, since anyone referred to the Newberg High School class of 1963 as freshmen, but at the Newberg High School Alumni Golden Gathering, that’s exactly how previous NHS classes will see them come August.

That’s because in addition to celebrating its 50th high-school graduation an­ni­versary with a reunion all its own, the class of 1963 will, for the first time, be eligible to at­tend the Golden Gathering, a social event reserved for classes removed from their commencement by 50 years or more.

“We put name tags on everybody and take a lot of pictures, but mostly just let people talk,” Golden Gathering chairman and 1953 grad Bill Killen said. “Once in a while we have some entertainment, but generally it’s just recognition of the new ‘freshmen’ class that comes in each year.”

The event was started in 2000 by the class of 1950, marking its 50th reunion, and has grown steadily as classes have been added and word of mouth has spread, drawing a record 367 alums to last year’s event.

After deciding it could do more than just socialize, the organizing committee, which involves about 20 locals operating like a board in the form of several committees, decided to fund a scholarship through the Newberg Education Foun­dation.

For the past six years, the Golden Gathering has awarded $1,000 to a graduating senior, but will offer two scholarships next year.

This year’s scholarship winner was Megan Tucker, one of the class of 2013’s valedictorians. Tucker, who competed in cross-country, track and lacrosse, was a member of National Honor Society and helped organize the an­nual Alz­heimer’s Walk. She will attend Notre Dame in the fall to study pre-medicine.

She re­ceived her scholarship at the annual Awards Night event, where the Golden Gathering has become a fixture among the scholarship-giving organizations, helping to raise the group’s profile in the community.

The group meets once a year to critique and improve the event, but also puts out the Newberg Echoes newsletter, which is produced by 1953 grad Dave Servine, who now resides in Yakima, Wash.

The latest edition, for summer 2013, features stories on last year’s event, Tucker, former football coach Ralph Davis, centenarian Isabel Gill and the construction of Austin Hall at Oregon State University. Using the lexicon of its members, the high school is often referred to in the publication as “NUHS” be­cause it was then called Newberg Union High School after absorbing schools like Dundee High after World War II.

This year’s event will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 11 at the A-dec Inc. company cafeteria, which has been the home of the reunion for years thanks to fellow NHS grads Ken and Joan Austin.

With her recent death, Joan Austin’s absence will certainly loom large at this year’s event, but considering how many contemporaries and classmates of hers the Golden Gathering attracts, should be countered by fond memories and much reminiscing.

And while the organization will always have to balance the inevitable losses from older classes with the inclusion of new ones each year, Killen said he believes it has built up enough momentum in numbers, scholarship funds and awareness in the community that it should continue on in perpetuity.

“It will go on forever,” Killen said.

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