HARDWICK — From its humble beginnings in September of 2022, when it voted to become an official group, the Hardwick Academy/Hazen Union Alumni Association took quick flight and is soaring along as it heads into its second year of existence.
It was a pretty dramatic rise for this group over a relatively short amount of time. By the time the group met again in December, the association had elected officers, started a Facebook page, established a mailing address database and soon enough registered with the state as an official entity.
Later that month, toward the middle of December, they set up at the Hazen Union Gymnasium when Aaron Hill’s basketball program invited past Hazen Union champions back for the Dave Morse Classic basketball tournament. The association sold Hardwick Academy tee shirts and signed up around 125 new alumni email addresses on its growing database.
By the time the association returned to the Hazen Union gymnasium at the end of the month for Hill’s Purple & Gold night, the Facebook page had grown to nearly 500 members. That evening ignited the alumni spirit in town with many attendees dressed in Hardwick Academy purple and gold tee shirts. The association nearly sold out of its shirts that evening.
Hill had filled the gym hallways with newspaper articles from some of Hardwick Academy’s glory days in men’s athletics. He had invited past Hardwick Academy championship teams to the evening and unveiled a banner honoring past Terrier championship ball clubs.
The community was surprised to see the Hazen Union coaching staff dressed in purple and gold and were thrilled when the Hazen team came out against their longtime rivals, Peoples Academy, dressed in legacy Hardwick Academy basketball uniforms. Former Hardwick Academy players and cheerleaders joined in on the festivities by singing the Academy alma mater and cheering on the young Wildcats after being acknowledged for their past successes.
The association came away from that evening with added momentum. Over the course of the winter, the group developed some ambitious fundraising plans. The association had little money, but donations began trickling in.
From February through April, the association posted, on its Facebook page, pictures and news items from every single graduating class at Hardwick Academy, dating from 1940-1970, and Hazen Union, from its inception in 1971 to the present. This drew interest from alumni and spurred growth in its Facebook page’s membership.
In the early winter, a few members of the group met with current Hazen Union principal, Jason Di Giulio, to try and renew a partnership with the school. The last alumni reunion was held in 2013 and this new group hoped to bring that tradition back. Di Giulio met the group with open arms and together they discussed holding an alumni banquet at Hazen for graduating seniors, guests and parents. There were some hurdles though, one of them being the group had very little money, so they had to trim it down to just seniors.
Through the course of last winter, the group voted to sponsor two $500 service awards for a pair of graduating Hazen seniors in memory of alumni members. They decided this year’s award would honor two 1968 Hardwick Academy alumni, Richard LeCours and Richard Brochu.
After committing to the two awards and also sponsoring a bench to be placed at the newly built Hazen Union bell tower, the association needed to raise funds. They decided to host a chicken barbecue at the Spring Festival in town.
The group planned all winter for what would become a grueling, yet financially successful week in late May and early June. The chicken barbecue fundraiser on Saturday, May 27, was deemed a success despite a rather large hurdle to start the day when the chickens arrived frozen.
The following Thursday evening, the group put on the alumni banquet for a small group of Hazen Union seniors who responded to the association’s invitation.
The group ended an extremely busy week on Saturday, June 3, by hosting its first Hardwick Academy/Hazen Union Alumni Reunion at Ryder Brook Golf Course in Morrisville. A morning and afternoon golf tournament, the Masters Memorial, was held in conjunction with the reunion. Despite a severe cold front that day, the alumni reunion and golf tournament were well attended.
The group had also purchased gifts for graduating Hazen seniors and handed them out at the June 10 graduation ceremonies. On June 18, the association congratulated Lynn Delaricheliere, who became the 1,000th alumni member to join the association’s Facebook page. They still need to gather many more alumni email addresses as that total currently sits at around 400.
The group raised over $15,000 before expenses, and after paying its liabilities, begins its second year with just under $8,000 in the bank.
Heading into its second year, the group is led by President Dr. Brenda Eastman, Vice President Gail Luther O’Brien, Treasurer Mary Jane Fradette and Secretaries Mike Clark and Dave Burnham. Other active members include Debbie Brown, Karen Hall, Lorrie Curtis and Pat Hussey.
The association held its first meeting since summer on October 19. The group discussed how to improve on its performances from a year ago. One option talked about is holding the alumni reunion and golf tournament on different days. The group also wants to bring the alumni reunion back to the Hardwick area instead of holding it at Ryder Brook. They are looking into a couple potential sites.
The group decided to host the chicken barbecue again this year at Spring Festival. Hazen basketball coach Aaron Hill has planned to hold another Purple and Gold night. The team will dress in Academy colors again on January 26 in a home game with Peoples Academy.
Lorrie Curtis is also hoping to organize a special evening for past Hazen Union girls state championship teams in late winter. She is also working with the school to update and improve many of the school’s older state championship banners hanging in the Hazen gym.
Currently Karen Hall and Curtis are surveying elder Academy alumni in order for the group to better reach those who may not have Facebook access. The group hopes to develop an internet website in addition to its Facebook page.
Curtis, who graduated from Hazen in 1975, is the youngest member of the association. With that in mind, the group wants to appeal to younger alumni to join the association. They discussed trying to get two alumni members from each decade on the committee. They are also working on a mission statement. The group has not committed to asking alumni for monetary support, but that could be a future option to help with fundraising efforts.
At the close of their meeting in October, a motion to support moving the Hardwick Academy bell to Hazen Union and having it restored so that the tradition of ringing the bell will continue was unanimously approved. They are discussing ways to equably poll Hardwick Academy alumni to gauge if there is support for that initiative.
The group will next meet on Thursday, November 16. The association urges all alumni to support the group with any new ideas or suggestions.