‘Good to come back to family’ — R.A. Clement alumni event reunites old friends

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 11, 2024

CLEVELAND — The event was a time for remembering and keeping the connections going.

Those are two of the elements that Leonard Hall, president of the West Rowan Neighborhood Advisory Council, mentioned as for what the R.A. Clement High School reunion weekend is about.

Approximately 150 people attended the 26th biennial, two-day event with a theme of “Remembering and Preserving our Heritage, Continuing the R.A. Clement Spirit.” The reunion was held July 5-6 at the historic, partially-renovated Rosenwald School Building in Cleveland where it has been held most recently. Prior to that it was held at Livingstone College, Hall said.

These two days, he said, provide an opportunity for alumni to come back and gather together and where they were treated to a banquet with a guest speaker followed by a dance on Friday and the annual alumni meeting with a cookout afterward on Saturday morning, which also featured a dance to conclude the special event.

These activities are held “to entertain folks that have come back from afar to remember what it was like here before the school closed, keeping the connections going,” said Hall.

Alumni came from the surrounding area and from as far as Georgia, Maryland and New York.

William Luckey Jr. and his wife Sonia, who live in Maryland, were back in the area for the weekend. A member of the class of 1963, Luckey said he had retired after 43 years with the government and eight years in the military.

He said being able to come back home and see these people he hadn’t seen in a long time “meant a lot” to him and that it was “good to come back to family.”

The oldest reunion attendee this year was Eldora Knox Rankin at 101 years old, shared Thomas Powe, president of the R.A. Clement Alumni Association.

Beverly Woods also called her fellow classmates family and said that when they got together, it was like “seeing a sister or brother that you haven’t seen in a long time and you instantly connect, instantly, and it just brings a heart-warming feeling to know that these people, living away for so long, but as soon as you see them, that smile comes, that embrace and it’s wonderful.”

The guest speaker for the Friday evening banquet was Tracea Rice, an attorney with Winston and Strawn Law Firm in Dallas, Texas. The daughter of alumni Kevin Rice and Patrica Jones Rice, she spoke about family, community and continuing the legacy.

Tracea Rice is a past R.A. Clement, George Knox and William Hall Scholarship recipient, having received one when she graduated from high school in 2006. Since 1976, the association has awarded more 164 scholarships to graduating seniors in Rowan County and others throughout the country, noted Catrelia Steele Hunter, in a release. 

She received her bachelor’s degree in computer and electrical engineering from North Carolina State University in 2011, and her J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2019, where she was a member of the Order of Barristers National Honor Society and the Moot Court Board.

In the release it was also noted that Rice received the 2019 Outstanding Student Award from the National Association of Women Lawyers, as well as the Robert Goldberg Award in Trial Advocacy.

The banquet also provided a time to recognize multiple groups including family contributions and additional donors, former teachers, reunion class representatives and current and past scholarship recipients.

Ten scholarships were presented to qualified graduating seniors. Recipients attending this year’s event included William Givens, Zana Smyre Rouse and Kerrington Sturdivant, from West Rowan High School; Dorothy Karma Scott from Atkins High School, Winston Salem; Ayzahane Wells, Salisbury High School; Amiyah Williams, North Rowan High School; Branden Knox, Triad Math and Science Academy; and Denez Chambers and Jakire Robinson, Anson County High School.

Five families were recognized for their financial donations but the Gaither family topped the list with total donations over the years exceeded $41,000, said Powe.

Officer elections were held during the alumni meeting with Powe, who served as president of the R.A. Clement Alumni Association for the past two years, and will continue in the role for the next two. He presided throughout the weekend. Powe, a 1963 graduate of the school, currently resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

In addition to Powe, other officers who will serve until June 2025 are Leonard Hall, treasurer; Dorothy Bost Scott, assistant secretary; Lonnie Gaither, assistant treasurer; Patricia Diana Rice Moriniere, financial secretary; Catrelia Steele Hunter, scholarship coordinator; and Doris Lovell Noble, past teacher’s liaison.

Three positions, secretary, vice president and assistant financial secretary, remain open.

The fundraising arm, which is the alumni portion of the association, focuses on scholarships, said Powe. And the neighborhood portion focuses on restoration, said Hall, adding that the building belongs to the West Rowan Neighborhood Center Advisory Council.

The two entities work together in restoring the R. A. Clement Rosenwald building in Cleveland.

“We are grateful that this project is being supported by several foundations, corporations, alumni and individuals in our community,” said Hunter in the release.

During the weekend, attendees could tour the building and see the restoration work that has taken place.

Hall said that the first phase has been completed, which included the removal and fixing and replacement of some of the windows and the installation of central air conditioning in one portion of the building.

The second phase, he said, would be to continue fixing windows and putting in an HVAC unit to heat and cool the other side of the building.

Hall also pointed out that the East Wing still needed to be renovated with various projects needing to be done including insulating the overhead and under the floors.

Those wishing to donate toward the restoration of the building can visit the website at raclementschool.com and click on donate.

Hall pointed out that the R.A. Clement School, which was built in the 1930s, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior in January 2019.

Some of the history of the school was on display in one of the rooms so that those attending the reunion could read it and look at the photos. Some of these posters included written history and pictures of former graduating classes, teachers, principals, the school’s basketball team and the flattop building, which Hall said became the high school.

Photos and history of Julius Rosenwald, who donated funds for the building and Rufus Alexander Clements for whom the school is named for, were also available for attendees to read.

Throughout the weekend, attendees were treated to meals at the banquet and cookout, both catered by Belly’s Soul Food Diner in Granite Quarry, owned by Linda Knight, who said she had been catering for approximately 30 years. 

Her cooking began in her mom’s kitchen, she said, and then it migrated to Germany and then she said she brought it back here.

I love serving,” she said. “If you know how to serve, you can do anything.”