Country’s Oldest Alumni Association Celebrates This Saturday
Stevens High School Marks 146th Consecutive Reunion
If it’s June in Claremont, that can only mean one thing, besides Stevens High School graduation: the annual SHS Alumni celebration. The year 1871 marked the high school’s first graduation; an unofficial alumni association was born and thrives to this day. Stevens High School became a reality through the generosity of Paran Stevens, a resident of Claremont who owned The Tremont House, a well known hostelry. After leaving his hometown, he became successful in the hotel business, owning several hotels in Boston, New York City and throughout the country.
In his later years, he had a desire to give back to his native town of Claremont with a donation of $10,000 to found a high school, and with another $15,000 voted on at a town meeting, Stevens High School became a reality, the name coming from its founder, Paran Stevens.
The school officially opened Sept 7th, 1868, with 98 students; the alumni association has now grown to over 7,200 active members. This year commemorates the 146th consecutive reunion, the oldest, active in the country. The annual event draws alumni from as far away as Alaska, California, Hawaii, Canada and, yes, sometimes from Europe. They come for class reunions, the banquet, and for the parade that draws visitors from around the Valley as well as graduates from near and far. Five-year classes plan their reunions with a float, party and reminiscing of their years at Stevens High School in mind. Five trophies and five $200 cash prizes are given to winning floats chosen by a committee the morning of the parade. The cash prizes are sponsored by LaValley’s Building Supply, The Insurance Center, Stringer Funeral Home, NFR and Golden Cross Ambulance Service.
The parade, which starts at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, has grown to a major event, costing from $16,000 to $18,000 a year. Each year a different theme for the event is chosen: This year’s is “Popular Movies/Shows from your Graduation Year”. In recent years, the survival of the parade was in question, due to rising costs, but extra fundraisers have helped put the association back in the black. Parade entries include horse-drawn wagons, floats, a wide range of bands, local groups, clowns, and special guests from time to time, including Pat, the New England Patriots mascot, and some of the team’s cheerleaders. Bektash and Shrine units are also annual participants, delighting children in particular.
But the weekend is really about coming together for a special reason, to reminisce and see old schoolmates and chums, to celebrate being a member of the country’s oldest alumni association, to present scholarships to graduates--last year the association presented $65,100 to 34 seniors and 25 post-secondary students--and to savor the togetherness of this very special weekend born of one man’s dream many many years ago.