The mood inside of the SPSJT Lodge on Beall Street in the Heights was somewhere between a class reunion and a rally, as Reagan High School alumni united across generations to protect the name of the school they feel may be wrongly changed.
The rally attracted about 300 people Tuesday afternoon, as alumni from across several generations gathered to show their support for keeping their alma mater’s name. HISD recently passed new guidelines for the potential renaming of schools in the district named after Confederate figures, including those for the Heights school which bears former Confederate States postmaster John H. Reagan’s name.
Howard Moon, one of the leaders of the rally, called the event a kick off for the group’s petition which attendees could sign. T-Shirts were also available for purchase.
“It’s our plan to continue getting the petition signed and then getting together and presenting it at one time to the board,” Moon said. “This is really a starting point and I love it because we had far more people here than we thought we would. I am just elated at the number of people who came.”
Alumni also had the chance to look at old yearbooks collected by others, along with photos, newspaper clippings from past issues of The Leader, old sweaters and other items from the school’s history. Moon said the group is feeling optimistic about the name and thinks the HISD Board of Trustees needs to keep in mind the many donors and voters who live in the Houston area and abroad.
“The donors that are giving money, once they change the name and change the heritage, might not be so anxious to give as they’re taking an incentive away,” Moon said. He also implied that local alumni might not be supportive of future bond issues.
However, Stephen Marmion, president for the John H. Reagan Golf Tournament for Scholarships, says that won’t be the case for his organization.
“Our [non-profit’s] mission will not change, whether or not the name of Reagan High School is changed,” Marmion said.
Marmion, along with the rest of the board of directors, will also be sending a letter to the HISD Board of Trustees about their organization and its ties to the school’s namesake. In the letter, Marmion says the golf tournament is comprised of 80 volunteers, all of whom graduated from Reagan between 1945 and 2003, and the group has awarded over 100 scholarships over the past 25 years. Of the money raised, 85 percent is given in scholarships to Reagan students.
However, Marmion says he and others are still disappointed about the efforts to change the name of their school.
“We can see no merit or justification for this, including proposed political justifications regarding events that took place over 150 years ago, which actual history cannot be sanitized,” Marmion said. “If this name is changed, you will discourage donations and other contributions of time and resources that have contributed to Reagan students going to college.”
Marmion said this would particularly hurt Reagan graduates, as many recipients are from “Mexico, Central America and even Iran.” He pointed to a “strong sense of family” among those involved with Reagan High School throughout its history as part of the justification for keeping the name and implored trustees to maintain the name.
“We ask for your help in continuing the legacy of John H. Reagan High School, with its rich history and strong support of the students, the parents, the teachers, and the alumni,” Marmion said in the letter. “We believe that what is most important is the future of the students and helping them to have a better, more productive and more purposeful life.”
The name change policy was not on HISD’s meeting agenda Dec. 10 and it’s unclear when the item might again come up for discussion.