Class of 1975 reflects on high school triumphs, future

By Mary Ann Van Osdell
via The Forum

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Three classmates from the Class of 1975 (Greg Barro, Keith Hightower, and Dr. David Thoma) walk the halls of Captain Shreve High School reminiscing about their teenage years.

There were 406 in the Captain Shreve High School Class of 1975, and July 25 and 26 we celebrated our 40th reunion.

Dr. Sandra McCalla, principal of Captain Shreve High School retiring this year, taught us advanced math in 1975. McCalla said the quality of the Class of 1975 is evident, given that so many sought and achieved their career goals.

“As I browsed the 1975 yearbook, I remembered the class as intelligent and fun loving,” she said. “The level of high values for community service was evident.”

As juniors, we won the football state 4-A championship. The Gators went undefeated until the playoffs our senior year, a 24-0 streak.

“We rejoiced at the winning of the State Football Championship in ’73, and we cried when we lost in the playoffs of ’74.” Stewart Rose said.

In every reunion booklet we have done, a majority of the class mention the football games as their favorite memory of high school. Valerie Vernon Rogers brought a scrapbook of every single newspaper article on the games, spirit ribbons, football programs, etc.

But my classmates were winners off the football field, too. It was Kay McDaniel who was voted “Most Athletic.” After high school, she competed in a number of Wimbledon championships.

“I was a dreamer,” McDaniel said, “and those years were foundational in igniting my dreams. I passionately set lofty goals to become a world’s professional tennis player. Winning the state championships for Shreve each year was a stepping stone to this path. Three years later, I was competing against Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf at Wimbledon.”

After high school, classmates also were involved in politics like Keith Hightower, who was elected mayor of Shreveport in 1998 to 2006. He had a campaign to “Bring the Kids Home” after many young adults left for economic reasons.

Greg Barro was a state senator for District 37 from 1992-96, and Dr. Todd Thoma is the Caddo Parish coroner. Thoma said his high school science teachers laid a foundation for his career path.

At the reunion, the class was able to identify 66 classmates still living in Shreveport-Bossier City. “A lot stayed here, thank goodness and have contributed to the city’s growth,” Hightower said.

Five classmates are physicians in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and Washington D.C., and one resides in Israel. Two classmates live in Alaska. Of the 215 names found, the Class of 1975 lives in 27 different states and Canada. At the reunion, Joe Wilkinson came in from Kazakhstan, on break from work at a Chevron oil field.

Six classmates have worked in ministry.

Kim Grann Oden joked that perhaps some of her classmates’ careers in ministry was because they often visited the Christian Union Building, code for the Cub. “I’m ashamed to admit this, but on almost every Friday and Saturday night, we’d go to the Cub. My mom would ask where we were going and I’d reply, ‘The Christian Union Building.’ She thought it was an older youth group gathering,” Oden said.

Kathy Whitaker said the reason we are who and what we are is because of who our parents were and what they taught us. “We were told to be independent, get an education and to not be afraid of anything or anyone except the Lord,” Whitaker said. “He has led us through seen and unseen, and we have grown in our ways and our success I give to them.”

The Rev. Pattie Morrison Kitchen said high school for her was a unique period in history “as we experienced the everexpanding influence of racial diversity in our lives.” She remembers being puzzled by the intensity of the desegregation rage all around.

“We were raised in the ’60s, the last of the Baby Boomers,” Rose said. “We learned about civil rights. We were the last group of young men to be part of the Vietnam draft [my number was 75]. We saw the assassination of a president [John F. Kennedy]. These are just a few things that come to mind that helped mold us, the Class of ’75, into what we are today.”

Our class became teachers, nurses, business owners, dentists, veterinarians, artists, retirees, even grandparents. Our valedictorian, Wayne Rigby, of New York, has had 14 U.S. patents issued – most of his recent patents have to do with correcting ultrasound technology, intravascular ultrasound imaging and methods for inverted beamforming.

Some of us took to working in television and publishing.

Pam Walker Eigo, also of New York, has worked for Viking Press, Penguin Books, as a story editor in the production offices for Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford and Norman Lear, for Warner Brothers and HBO. She’s also assisted with the estate of William Randolph Hearst, working with Sotheby’s and the family to sell off assets.

Dennis Bounds has a doctorate in Cinema-TV at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s sold one book – “Perry Mason: The Authorship and Reproduction of a Popular Hero” and three entries in “The Encyclopedia of Television.”

The teachers had a lot to do with shaping our future.

“Dr. McCalla’s investment of personal time and insistence upon excellence had one of the most powerfully positive impacts on my life,” Sid Galloway said. “I was a rebellious, apathetic youth, who did not care about school. She pulled me aside privately and shared her grief that I was failing to live

up to my potential. She then promised to do whatever it took to motivate me, and it worked. As a result, I’ve been able to fulfill many dreams, including being a zookeeper, a Christian family counselor and a biology teacher.”

Former teachers Bob and Judy Horne said they remember the Class of 1975 fondly.

Judy, a former Spanish teacher at Captain Shreve, worked with her husband, Bob, who taught science at the school. As it turns out, a former student of Bob’s later became his chemotherapy nurse. Judy said Susie Fox Wiggins, the oncology nurse, went above and beyond for her patient and former teacher.

Our class also had some pranksters. “I got into a lot of trouble in Latin class,” Dr. Mike Lewis said. “We played plenty of pranks, especially at the state conventions. We needed a scapegoat, thus Ralph Peters [who had quite an imagination].”

Jay Sawyer and Barbara Bradley Choate were voted class favorites in 1975.

Jay Sawyer and Barbara Bradley Choate were voted class favorites in 1975.

Of course, every graduating class has their share of successful professionals. Our careers don’t necessarily make us a success – there are those who support their community, tithe or anonymously pay someone’s fee to the reunion.

“We have all accomplished something in some way, shape or form,” Thoma said.

Dot Sibley, who taught English and drama at Captain Shreve for 20 years, said this particular class did more plays than any other she recalls. “They were go-getters,” she said. A production of “Passionella,” a modern retelling of “Cinderella,” won the State Dramatic Presentation Award.

Terri Lyle Landry, who loved the Drama Club, remembers talking in Georgia Lee’s American history class, after President Richard Nixon’s resignation. “She impressed upon us how we were living in the present of what would become a great part of history,” Landry said.

History became a strong part of the class, as I personally recall recreating a Civil War newspaper in history class and Helen Tindel remembers Holocaust survivor Rose Van Thyn speaking to us.

And of course there were high school sweethearts. Four couples were married from the class. Donna Morrison has been married to Creighton Kent 37 years. The couple wed while at Baylor University. “Having shared experiences and values have helped us get along,” Morrison said.

Others are planning to wed. Kim Wallace said she will probably be the first in the class to have a same-sex marriage Oct. 10 when she marries Kellie Acosta.

Some of my classmates still take time to visit Shreveport.

“I get to Shreveport about once a year and spend as much time at Strawn’s as is humanly possible,” Eigo said. Dr. Robin Baker of Washington, D.C., said he has never missed a trip back for Christmas.

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The class of 1975 groups together at their reunion after 40 years.

Sixteen out of the class are deceased. “As I reflect on the Class of 1975, I still remember the gift I was given as a firstyear teacher to teach such an elite group of students,” Gaye Gannon Ledford, a former journalism teacher at Captain Shreve, said. “Everyone knew those 1975 graduates would be highly successful in so many arenas.”