By Jessica Mckay
On Wednesday, April 29th, nearly 50 alumni from George Washington (GW) High School gathered at Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Va. to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the class of 1945. GW’s 1944-1950 Reunion Committee hosted the event, which welcomed alumni spanning more than 20 years in graduation dates from the class of 1941 through the class of 1962. Nearly half of the GW alumni attendees for the event are currently residents at Greenspring.
According to the history detailed on GW’s alumni website, GW first opened in Alexandria in 1935, merging the city’s two high schools: Alexandria High School and George Mason High School. During the 1960s, the City of Alexandria was planning for the integration of the public schools and in 1965, T. C. Williams High School opened. GW was integrated and remained a four-year high school until 1971 when the city’s secondary schools were reorganized. In 1979, GW became a junior high until finally being restructured as a middle school in 1993, as it remains today.
While many famous alumni attended GW, such as Willard Scott (’51) and Jim Morrison (’61), many of those alumni who attend the event on April 29 are notable in their own right. Some of the alumni are couples who met at GWHS and are still married today like Austin (‘43) & Barbara Murray (‘44) and Zander (’48) and Nancy Wilke (‘48); Nancy Wilke is the Chairman of GW’s 1944-1950 Reunion Committee and largely assisted with the coordination and registration for the April 29th event. Both the Murrays and Wilkes currently live at Greenspring, along with Mary Sue Garner (’61) who was joined by her sister Margaret Bell (’62) at the event. Garner was an educator in Alexandria City Public Schools for 45 years before retiring in 2010. Six members of the class of 1945 were in attendance at the 70th anniversary event including Richard and Eleanor Schoen, Elizabeth O’Sullivan, Frances Dudley, Jimmy Herbert, and Ralph Mills.
When asked what they remember most, many GW alumni say simply, the “Old Oaken Bucket,” which was a trophy received from an annual Thanksgiving Day GW vs. Washington-Lee football game. Today, alumni Austin and Barbara Murray still keep an Old Oaken Bucket replica in their kitchen.