Saturday, August 28, 2004
Academy Marks 50th Year Early
By Russell Contreras
Journal Staff Writer
Blacking out in class is what former teacher Bill Weir remembers.
Only one girls' bathroom on campus is former student Denise Baker's memory.
A best friend who died just days after graduation is who Chamisa Atencio-Pacheco recalls when she walks on campus.
These were just a few Albuquerque Academy stories that former faculty and students shared Friday with current pupils of the Northeast Heights private school. The forum connecting Albuquerque Academy's past with its present was part of the school's kickoff to its yearlong 50th anniversary commemoration.
"It was cool," said Jennifer Perry, a seventh-grader. "Some of the stories were interesting."
That's what school officials hope others think about the school's anniversary events, which will range from jazz concerts to film festivals to reunion hikes.
"This school has a lot of history," said Lisa Myhre, the school's dean of students for grades 10-12. "We have an endowment with the future in mind and an impressive student body."
Albuquerque Academy, founded in 1955 as a school for boys, is now one of the more diverse private prep schools in the nation, said Myhre. It is evenly divided between males and females, and students of color represent a third of its enrollment of about 1,000 students, Myhre said.
Myhre said Albuquerque Academy's large endowment allows it to give 30 to 40 percent of its students financial aid.
Between 1957 and 1964, New Mexico financier Albert G. Simms and his wife, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, gave the school more than 12,000 acres of land. Most of it has been sold and has helped the school raise a $200 million endowment.
Myhre said most of the school's graduates immediately attend four-year universities that range from the Ivy League to New Mexico colleges.
Chas Eberle, a senior, said events like the forum remind him how fortunate he is to be a student at the school. "The work here was hard, but I'm glad I stuck it out," said Eberle, who started as a sixth-grader. "It was worth it."
Laura Perea, a seventh-grader, said she couldn't recognize the campus in old photos of the school shown at the forum. "This place looked so different."
Perea said if she ever has children, she wants them to attend the school.
Baker said Albuquerque Academy has changed for the better since she was a student in 1974.
"It was tough," said Baker, who was one of five females at the school at the time. Looking out into an auditorium that was half-filled with females, she said, "I'm glad to see that things have changed."