*sidebar by Rose Kanaley
From the class of ‘63 rededicating lithographs for the office conference room to the class of 62’ starting a charity fund for alumni classes celebrating their 50th year anniversary, every alumni group celebrates their reunions in different ways.
The next class to celebrate their 50th year anniversary is the class of ‘69. Alumni Rick Caplan took charge of his class’s celebration committee. Caplan was inspired to celebrate and support East with his graduating class, like the class of ‘62.
“I recognized that our class had the opportunity to give back to this school, more than just having a 50 year reunion,” Caplan said.
Self-appointed Alumni Liaison, Beth Fowler, works closely with each class to plan their reunions. She encourages giving back to the East fund at each reunion, but acknowledges some classes and people, like Caplan and Whitfield, want to make a bigger impact on their alma mater.
“Lots of classes are connected and generous but these three are the ones that stick out for me,” Fowler said. “And each class has a few strong personalities to lead.”
Originally, Caplan and Alumni Susan Whitfield brainstormed the idea of donating something brick and mortar to the school as a gift from their class, but decided on a different path. For a less materialistic and more student focused approach, they chose to fundraise money to donate to three programs they thought most benefit East: SHARE program, the Love Fund, the band boosters and the East Fund.
Around 30 members of the Class of ‘69 have donated to Caplan and Whitfield’s fundraiser. Although it wasn’t their original intention to preach to the current students, they realized through this fundraiser they have the opportunity to change students’ mindsets of being active in their communities.
“We really have observed that [during] the times we were involved in, the late 60s, there was a lot of social activism,” Caplan said. “We had a passion for making the world a better place. My perception of students is different now. We hope that in part we can highlight SHARE where they are helping youth today focus on developing life skills where they are giving back to the community.”
The pair worked closely with SHARE director Krissy Wiggins to find the best use of their donation. They have decided to specifically focus on SHARE’s Pack of Pals group and Unified Teams project — two service projects that combine the students with the special education program. After discussing the amount of money SHARE was in need of, they realized they had raised additional funds that could be given to other groups at East.
“We were thrilled that their class would make [fundraising for SHARE] part of their reunion,” Wiggins said. “I think that is great mentorship and role modeling for [the students] that they moved on, but they still care about East.”
Both Caplan and Whitfield agree that there needs to be more emphasis on giving back. They believe students need to adopt the same mindset that the 1960s presented to them a mindset inspiring students to use their voice to be social activists and stand up for what they believe in.
According to Caplan, students aren’t focused on social justice anymore because of the technology that has developed. He hopes that this donation can be the first step in inspiring students to follow their passions while helping others.
“There is a woman, Helen Wilcott, who once said, ‘If you love this planet, you must act,’” Caplan said. “So I took that to be ‘If you love this school, you must act’ or ‘If you love your circle of peers, you must act’ and ‘If you love yourself, you must act.’ The world isn’t going to change by staying and looking at your phone all day, it literally takes getting up and going out and making a difference.”