Ravenscroft alumnus Michael Woodson '07 has been named head coach of Baylor University's mens tennis team.
“A Real Spirit of Excitement”
Ravens Remember Creating the Alumni Council and Planning First Reunions
By David Klein | Back to Table of Contents
Ravenscroft is more than 150 years old, but it wasn’t until 1973, following the relocation of the school from its downtown location to its current North Raleigh campus, that the school graduated its first senior class. Many alumni from those early classes remained deeply committed to their alma mater in the years that followed, but they missed the sense of connectedness they’d had here as students.
In 1988 — 15 years after the school first graduated a senior class — a few determined alumni decided to do something about that. With support from school leadership, they created a new organization to help them honor and build upon their commitment to the school: the Alumni Council. In just a few short years, the council would bring hundreds of alumni back to campus and create traditions that continue to connect and inspire Ravens today.
This photo from “The Story of a Southern School” features members of the Class of 1973 — Rick Reddick, Tyler Street, Billy Troxler, Ben Kilgore and Billy Poole — at their 20th reunion, held April 16-17, 1994.
Wanting to connect
A decade after his graduation, Kenneth Mayer Jr. ’77 was living in Greensboro and feeling cut off from the school he loved. One day, he invited Jim Hendrix, Ravenscroft’s newly appointed headmaster, to lunch.
“I told him, ‘Look, the school was a big deal to me, and I only hear from them in requests for donations. Can we get something going that involves the alumni, perhaps talking to kids about careers?’” Mayer said.
Hendrix soon invited a group of alumni over to his house, including Mayer, Michael Mangum ’77 and Billy Troxler Jr. ’73. They quickly reached consensus that the school needed a more formal body to coordinate outreach to alumni.
As Mangum recalled, “We reached out to friends and friends of friends, and that’s when it really began to take root. Because everyone had the same reaction: ‘I love the school, I had great years there, it got me off to a great start. I’ve gotten started in my career, started a family, but I feel disconnected.’”
Mayer remembers “a real spirit of excitement” at the first meeting. “I didn’t mind driving to night meetings back and forth from Greensboro. It was a way to keep in touch with the school. Even though I was an hour and a half away, I felt like I contributed, and the school was just very receptive.
“Jim let it bubble up and evolve, made it fun and engaged a lot of Raleigh alumni,” he added.
The May 1988 Ravenscroft Reports newsletter features these Alumni Notes, including a description of the first alumni-related planning meeting and a call for interested alumni to join the committee. Many of these original volunteers would become officers in the Alumni Council later that year.
Held at the school’s original downtown location — now St. Savior’s Center — the 2012 Tucker Street Celebration brought together alumni and guests.
Ravenscroft’s earliest alumni, those who attended primary school at the Tucker Street location, quickly seized the momentum of the Alumni Council in planning a reunion for themselves. As Ravenscroft’s official school history book, “The Story of a Southern School,” recounts:
The second of Ravenscroft’s monumental reunions took place a few years later, on Nov. 5, 1993. This time, the alumni group [that] came together under the dedicated leadership of Tucker Street alumna Margaret Park Ray ’64 was even more intimately acquainted with the school’s history ... The association that these alumni had with Ravenscroft went back, in some cases, to a time 30 years earlier, when the school still operated in the spare rooms of a church building. Although the alumni were clearly impressed with the beauty and spaciousness of [the new campus’] modern buildings, the weekend was spent reminiscing about Ravenscroft’s Tucker Street days, and those who returned for the reunion even made a nostalgic visit to the old campus during their stay.
The school has hosted a number of Tucker Street events since, including a reunion at the original school in downtown Raleigh in celebration of Ravenscroft’s 150th anniversary in 2012. Alumni Engagement Officer Dan Ressner ’99 is working with Tucker Street alumni including Smedes York ’59 to plan another reunion once it is safe to do so.
The first reunions
The Alumni Council had its first official meeting on May 25, 1988, electing officers and creating bylaws that continue to guide the group today, and members quickly set their sights on another goal: the first Alumni Reunion Weekend.
Troxler, who served as the council’s first president, remembers a sense of determination. “Everybody who was involved in trying to put together the Alumni Council and the first reunion really wanted it to happen. We took it and ran with it,” he said.
Old-fashioned legwork also helped get the endeavor off the ground. Newly designated class agents worked to reestablish contact with missing alumni and update the school’s mailing lists. The work had a sense of urgency, with the first-ever reunion for the classes of 1973 through 1984 scheduled for Aug. 26-27, 1988.
The event, attended by more than 300 alumni, also provided the opportunity to honor Ted Stefanou, who had served as head coach of the varsity football team for five years, culminating in the team’s first state championship in 1978. Stefanou, who had since been paralyzed in an accident, took to the field to cheers from more than 100 former players, including the entire 1978 team. The Alumni Council raised money to fund a granite marker recognizing Stefanou’s role in building the football team. The football field was later named in his honor.
Many alumni from the 1970s remember that special event from their first reunion weekend.
“I talked to Coach Stefanou at the reunion and reminded him of an exchange we had when I was in middle school playing JV football,” Adam Jones ’82 recalled. “‘I hope you’re half the player your brother was,’ Coach Stefanou said, referring to my big brother, Davis ’75, who started for him at quarterback. ‘That's about right,’ I replied. We both had a good laugh.”
The council also assisted in planning reunions for more recently graduated classes that year. Alumni marked another significant milestone in 1994, when the school’s first two graduating classes — 1973 and 1974 — returned to campus to celebrate their 20th-year reunion.
Left: This photo from the 1989 Corvus yearbook captures the moment when former varsity football coach Ted Stefanou, shown here with Coach Willy Winstead, was honored during the first Alumni Reunion Weekend.
Right: After the original plaque honoring Stefanou was damaged, alumni had a new monument made in the early 2000s that still honors his contributions today.
The work continues
Since those first reunions, more than 30 additional senior classes have joined the Ravenscroft Alumni Association, and the Alumni Council has continued to connect them to one another and to the school. Today, the council facilitates class and association communications, reunions and networking events, mentoring opportunities, and philanthropy, with many members going on to serve on the school’s Board of Trustees.
The council’s work has been particularly important since the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated closing campus to visitors and cancelling plans for in-person reunions for the time being. Current president Watts Winston ’10 said that the virtual meetings necessitated by these restrictions have inspired the council to “expand its ability to offer opportunities for talented alumni to join the council and be involved. Embracing a changing, virtual world is going to be a net positive for us,” he said.
Alumni Engagement Officer Dan Ressner ’99, who acts as a liaison between school leadership and the Alumni Council, confirmed that the pandemic has unexpectedly helped the group expand its vision. “It opened up the Alumni Council to being something that could be national. So, an alum on the West Coast can now be involved, which wouldn’t have been as viable pre-COVID.
“That’s something we’re really excited about.”
As part of the 150th celebration, alumni including Neal Hunt ’60 (with wife Duden) gathered at Carolina Country Club for a night of dining, dancing and sharing memories.
Enjoy alumni’s memories of Coach Ted Stefanou and the first Alumni Reunion Weekend in this Feb. 24, 2021, post on the Alumni Facebook page.
Within that first year, members of the Alumni Council started a new tradition by honoring alumni for their contributions to the school and the greater community. The Distinguished Alumni Award, given first to Vic Bell III ’74 in 1989, recognizes distinguished service and loyalty to Ravenscroft and/or outstanding professional, civic and personal accomplishments. The Alumni Association has since created additional alumni awards: the Alumni Sports Hall of Fame Award, the Alumni Fine Arts Hall of Fame Award and the Class of 1862, which bestows honorary alumni status to non-alumni who have provided outstanding service to the school.
In this photo from the 1984-85 Annual Report, then-Alumni Council president John Parham ’84 (at right) inducts Ravenscroft’s legendary soccer coach Bill Holleman as the first member of the new Sports Hall of Fame.
The Alumni Association also hosts Ravens on the Road regional reunion events, an annual Legacy Lunch that brings together alumni and their children who are also Ravens, and a Welcome Dinner for graduating seniors, at which they receive a Ravenscroft scarf to recognize the next phase of their journey.
Members of the Class of 2012 kick off a new tradition with Ravenscroft scarves, given to them at their Alumni Association Welcome Dinner at the North Ridge Country Club.