It is a special treat to read this speech, for Jim Arneill speaks so eloquently about his years at Graland and his friendship with Mrs. Gorham.
How special to receive this award, especially after such an amazing video that helps show that Mrs. Gorham was “the epitome of Graland’s best,” a quote from Frank Shafroth, one of the earliest students to attend Graland, and son of one of the co-founders, Abby Shafroth. I know that many of you here, including Mr. Hickey, are still inspired by our wonderful relationship, friendship, and memories we had with Mrs. Gorham.
How fortunate I was personally to have had Mrs. Gorham as my 7th grade English teacher and to have been close to her in later years when she served as the alumni liaison and head of archives here.
I have had many special teachers during my span at Graland, the Gunnery, and Denver Country Day, and Mrs. Gorham is at the top, not only with the skills I learned from her, but also for the love of learning she helped instill in me and many of my classmates, several of whom are here tonight.
My class of 1966’s 50th Reunion helped bring back many of us together again. Last night at Jill Nelson’s home, we had a magical party. Other than having so much fun that we failed to take photos, it couldn’t have been any better starting with our arrival at Jill’s with the green and white helium balloons on the street and Jill’s 5th Grade Knighting Shield mounted on her front door. And of the remaining 28 classmates from our graduating class of 32, we had 16 there last night. Some had come in from Washington, California, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey, and Utah, as well as long drives within our state. Among our group were several who left Graland before 9th Grade, some spouses, and younger class members, so we had about 40 celebrating our special reunion last night. Every single person was glad they came to our 50th!
One quick reference to the number 50 this year - besides being our class’s connection to the school, how about those Broncos winning Super Bowl 50! Thank you to those who helped provide the Bronco bus for tailgating - it looks like it was a real hit. There actually are a couple interesting connections with our class to the early Broncos. Classmate Don Dodge’s mother, Katie Dodge, who is a Master Teacher and was our librarian had a brother, Cal Kunz, who was the first president of the Denver Broncos in 1960. And one of the original early owners of the Broncos before the Phipps family was Walter Emery, father of our classmate Vicki. A little history is kind of fun, isn’t it Mr. Masters!
Another reference to history needs to be made going back to my class’s 7th Grade Year with Mrs. Gorham, and her teammate Mrs. Chambers. Back then there were two sections at each grade level instead of the current 4.
Mrs. Gorham was instrumental in helping us develop our writing skills and our love of language. Personally, she would jot down encouraging comments on my papers and made me feel good about my ability to spell and diagram sentences. I can still visualize this fairly skinny maroon-colored book that she assigned homework in for diagramming sentences. She insisted we use lined notebook paper, a sharp pencil, and a ruler, and for each sentence and neatly put all the words in the correct place on the paper.
Beyond the classroom, I know that several of my classmates and I both share cherished memories of other parts of our experience here, including the old holiday programs around Christmas in the Elmer Nelson Gymnasium. We pulled logs and carried wassail bowls, sang songs and danced, and one of the larger 9th Graders came in at the end dressed as Santa Claus with a large sackful of presents— and he would carry away one of the younger, smaller students!
Back in the early 1980’s when Mrs. Gorham was the alumni liaison, I looked forward to coming back to Graland each December for the program, but mainly to see her. She would always take an interest in what I was doing, and she was very pleased that I had gone into teaching. (She really appreciated many of us alums coming back to Graland, and I mainly remember Mac Toll and me as being two of her “regulars.”)
I will be brief but I would like to share with you a few other bits of Graland History before ending with some thank yous.
In this small box contains four precious items I have saved from my years at Graland:
1.) My 7th Grade Vocabulary Word Box - Yes, this is it from 1963, and Mrs. Gorham in English class had us study 10 word cards a week, not too different from the vocabulary books students in the Middle School are currently using. I will confess that the first section looks pretty used and worn —and don’t think we made it past the first couple inches.
2.) A Bowl made in Shop with Chester Preisser. We were so fortunate to have known Chester Preisser, who after Mrs. Gorham and Mrs. Priest, was one of the longest-serving teachers at Graland. He was our P.E teacher, coach, shop teacher, and outside of Graland he did amazing magic shows and was a main swim instructor at the Denver Country Club. You can see the layers of wood glued together before preparing to put it on the lathe. It is good to see a lot of shop skills continued in the Gates Invention Program.
3.) Field Day Ribbons - Our class loved field day back then and having the field set up for running races, broad jump, high jump, shot put, discuss, and relays! They were competitive and no matter how many ribbons anyone won, it was a thrill to compete as a class. While this has become a more cooperative event at Graland, it is great to see the the school emphasizing physical fitness and activities.
4.) Last, but not least, this is a letter that Mrs. Gorham wrote to me in July, of 1987, she addressed the letter to me as from Mrs. Paul Gorham, alums/archives.
Dear Jim, How good it was to see you and your family! It always is a joy! What a great class that 1966 group was! (We did have quite a class - besides all the other wonderful parents, we had these with Graland connections - headmaster Mr. Comfort, master teachers Lynette Emery, Sally Bisbee and Katie Dodge, 6th Grade Teacher Diana Vatter, and two lecturers, Dr. Theodore Puck and Dr. Henry Kempe. So, our class was kind of “loaded.”)
Mrs. Gorham then enclosed replies that Mr. Kent, also a master teacher and the former head of Upper (Middle) school, had written to us individually and sent to Mrs. Gorham to distribute to us, and then said, “You alums mean a great deal to him.”
She closed by saying, and I think she was 83 at the time, “I’ve just returned from taking a group of alums (high school) to China. It was really great. I’ll look forward to seeing you at the Christmas party and I’ll tell you about it.
Love to you all,
Another great thing about my saving this nearly 30-year-old letter from her is that my wife admitted she wouldn’t hassle me as much about all the stuff I tend to keep and not be able to part with.
So, in my closing, I want to thank the school for bestowing this special award to me - I have really enjoyed coming back to substitute teach here since I retired after a 30 year career in education as a teacher and administrator. The teachers with whom I have been able to work are amazing, as are their students.
I also have enjoyed serving on the school’s Alumni Board and being the old-timer in the group. Thank you, Kristin, Jason, Kim, and the rest of our board for your support and for being here tonight.
This school is very special place. Ronni with the other administrators and trustees are steering it in a very positive and purposeful direction in which Graland is on the cutting edge of educational practices and philosophies and creatively blending in many of the great traditions that my classmates and I enjoyed when we were students here over 50 years ago.
A final special thank you to all the grandparents who helped provide the Graland experience to so many. My grandmother, Joyce Arneill, supported my education from kindergarten here through graduate school at Northwestern University, and I would hope that receiving this special school award, would make both her and Mrs. Gorham proud.
Thank you very much for being here tonight and for what each of you does to help make Graland such a special treasure!