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Alumni Association Revived, Planning June 3 Reunion

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Members of the newly-formed Hardwick Academy/Hazen Union Alumni Association toast the start of a new sugaring season at their February 16 meeting with a shot of freshly-produced maple syrup from the Fradette Sugar House. They are (left to right) Debbie Brown, Mary Jane Fradette, Mike Clark (his birthday), Lori Brochu Curtis and Pat Hussey. Member Brenda Eastman listens in to meetings through the speaker on the table. Missing is Gail Luther O’Brien and David Burnham.

by Patrick Hussey, Community Journalist

HARDWICK – Back in 2013, the Hardwick Academy/Hazen Union (HA/HU) Alumni Association hosted its final annual banquet and, shortly afterwards, the Association dissolved because of a wane in volunteer interest. Until now.

A full 10 years later, the HA/HU Alumni Association has made a comeback. The reorganized group is working feverishly toward making this year’s Alumni Reunion, which is slated for June 3 at Ryder Brook Golf Course in Morrisville, a signature event. It is open to all HA/HU classes.

The revival of the HA/HU Alumni Association took its first step in September of last year when a small group of interested alumni gathered at the River House in East Hardwick. They discussed many things that day and concluded their meeting by reinstating the HA/HU Alumni Association.

Things have developed rapidly since that first meeting. The group met monthly in December, and on December 3, they elected officers. Brenda Eastman, from the HA Class of 1969, was elected president even though she had gone south for the winter. Gail Luther O’Brien, also a 1969 alumnus, was elected vice president.

Mary Jane Fradette, former manager of the Merchant’s Bank in Hardwick, was elected as treasurer. Fradette is in the process of registering the association with the Secretary of State.

Mike Clark and Dave Burnham, 1972 HU alumni, were elected as co-secretaries. Also at that December meeting were HU graduates Debbie Brown, Lori Brochu Curtis, Gary Brochu, Pat Hussey and Patty Lemay.

O’Brien put the association on the map when she created a Hardwick Academy/Hazen Union Alumni Facebook page. It has exploded in popularity. The page currently has over 860 members and seems to grow daily.

The old alumni address book that Lorraine Hussey cared for, when she was an alumni volunteer, has recently been updated by Carmeline Williams. The association hopes to bring those addresses into a database eventually.

Another goal is to get an email address for every HA/HU alumni. The association currently has around 368 alumni email addresses that Burnham is organizing. He recently sent out his first group email with forms for the alumni reunion and Masters Memorial Golf Tournament.

“I’m hoping we get to 400 pretty quick,” said Burnham. “We are counting on our alumni to not only get their emails to me, but to also encourage their classmates to do the same. We need their names and maiden names, their emails and the year they graduated.”

Alumni can send their email addresses and information to Dave Burnham at bulle54@yahoo.com or by private messaging him on the HA/HU Alumni Facebook page.

The association set up a table at a December 16 Hazen Union basketball game when coach Aaron Hill hosted his past Wildcat state championship teams. With many alumni in the crowd, the association sold Academy T-shirts and set up a computer to add email addresses. They got 75 new emails that evening.

Then on December 30, when coach Hill hosted his Hardwick Academy Purple and Gold Night, in a game against Peoples Academy, the group sold out of all their Academy T-shirts. The Hazen Union boy’s team came out for that game in newly purchased Hardwick Academy purple and gold uniforms.

Cheerleaders from the Academy era sang the HA alma mater and cheered on the Hazen boys. A new Hardwick Academy championship banner was unveiled as Hill invited past members of Hardwick Academy’s state championship teams to do the honors. Alumni pride was palpable that evening.

“It’s always been about history,” said Eastman about the group’s reorganization. “The past bonds, the friendships and the confetti of memories. And it’s also about forging a bond with Hazen Union. These students are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Hardwick Academy alumni. It’s important to bring them aboard in a shared Alumni Association.”

“We want our alumni to not only reconnect with old friends and classmates,” she continued. “But to also meet and get acquainted with folks you never knew or barely knew. Because here in Hardwick and in our surrounding communities, we’ve had a special close school history with connectedness.”

At that December Association meeting, the group also committed to awarding two Hazen Union students a pair of service-recognition awards, totaling $500 each. They purchased one of five benches that will be installed near the new bell tower in front of the Hazen Union gymnasium. And they decided to host a chicken dinner fundraiser on May 27, during this year’s Spring Festival weekend.

By the time the group met in January, they had established a post office box in East Hardwick. Debbie Brown had put together a form where the Hazen Union faculty will nominate students for the two recognition awards they are giving out. And they are developing another T-shirt to sell at the alumni reunion.

In late January, a few members of the association had a productive meeting with Hazen principal Jason Di Giulio. He offered the school’s full support and committed to helping the association in any way they could. The group discussed the possibility of a banquet for this year’s graduating class and the possibility of Hazen Union hosting future reunions.

“We are grateful for Hazen Union and its administration’s embrace of our newly formed HA/HU Alumni Association,” Eastman continued. “Coach Aaron Hill, a dedicated Hardwick Academy supporter, surprised the community and especially HA Alumni, with his tribute to Hardwick Academy and its sports history, replete with his Wildcats coming out in purple and gold uniforms, our Academy cheerleaders there to cheer them on . . . that was just a very emotional night for all of us.”

At the February meeting, the association was informed the Hazen Union Chorus and band will perform at this year’s reunion. The Association has been featuring a plethora of graduation classes on their Facebook page lately, dating back to the 1940s, to help promote interest in both school’s history. It seems to be working.

“It’s been so much fun to see our growth,” said Mike Clark. “We are probably still trying to play catch-up to all the veterans who came before us, people like Lorraine Hussey, Richard LeCours and Richard Brochu . . . all our predecessors, but we are gaining momentum. It just feels so good that so many folks are regularly visiting our Facebook page. It’s creating a lot of alumni fun.

“And having Hazen on board with us and supporting us is just so good,” he continued. “They are now working with us to put on a banquet at Hazen for this year’s seniors, and that is so cool.”

Clark was part of an initial effort to re-establish the alumni reunion back in 2017. He and Burnham were hoping to celebrate their 45th class reunion that year, so they decided to host an event. Pulling in Pat Hussey to help, in May of 2017, the three decided a golf tournament was the best way to start up a reunion. They also decided early on to invite all HA/HU classes, not just the five year reunion classes, to draw in more people.

With just a month to plan, they pulled off a golf tournament they coined the Master’s Memorial, which paid tribute to area golfers who had passed on. It attracted 60 golfers to Mountain View Country Club in Greensboro that June. They wanted the reunion to be a part of the event, and that first year they attracted a sprinkling of alumni.

The event grew in popularity in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, they drew around 90 golfers and many more alumni. Because they required more golf carts, the event was moved to Ryder Brook Golf Course in Morrisville in 2019. That year was a smashing success. Again, they drew nearly 100 golfers, but they attracted many more alumni, estimated at over 150 people.

The COVID pandemic got in the way and the event had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021. But the Masters Memorial and Alumni Reunion returned this past summer. They didn’t match 2019’s success because of a couple conflicts that day, but they did encourage people to help them build on their past successes. The result was that September meeting and the rebirth of the association.

The group’s next meeting is scheduled for March 30, at Hazen Union. There are a few more goals yet to reach: an internet website in addition to the Facebook page and younger volunteers who are tech-savvy who could help.

The association also needs to build financial health. A yearly dues for alumni has been discussed and alumni are encouraged to donate to the association to help fund their two service awards and the banquet for this year’s senior class. Donations can be mailed to the HA/HU Alumni Association, PO Box 143, East Hardwick, VT 05836.

The group encourages all alumni to forward any feedback or suggestions. The association is off to a roaring start and they want to keep their momentum going strong.