As Senior High turns 75, faculty and alumni are planning a yearlong jubilee to celebrate one of the city’s cornerstones.
“Senior is such a part of the community, whether you went here or not,” Senior High English teacher Jenny Fleek Airne said.
Senior is the oldest operational high school in Billings, built in 1940. More than 1,700 students attend the brick, industrial-style building on Grand Avenue.
As many as four generations of families have passed through the school, and numerous alumni have returned to teach there.
The anniversary offers a chance to celebrate those connections and reintroduce Senior High to the community, librarian Lyn McKinney said.
Festivities will be held monthly through April 2015, beginning with a tailgate Friday before the Senior High football game at Daylis Stadium.
Next month, the Jubilee committee will host a golf tournament at Hilands Golf Club. Later events include a musical, Homecoming car show and “decades dance.”
A program later this year will connect Senior High Broncs past and present. Called “Back to the Future,” alumni from the 1940s through the ’70s will be paired with current students for a morning in class.
“To see how things have changed and how things haven’t changed,” Fleek Airne said.
The school is perhaps best known for its diverse mix of students, McKinney said. It has produced a long line of successful graduates, from bull riders to Matchbox car designers.
Bob Nolte is one of several alumni who are assisting a current student in an effort to catalog and restore the more than 100 student murals that adorn the school.
Nolte graduated from Senior in 1959. He edited the student newspaper, The Coyote, and eventually went on to a career in journalism.
Now retired, he still feels an emotional connection to the school, whose hallways have changed little in the years since he left.
“When I came to visit after being gone for 35 years, I kind of shed tears,” Nolte said. “I choked up.”
Other ideas for commemorating Senior’s anniversary are in the works, too. McKinney said public tours of the building are being planned, and Fleek Airne hopes to organize a massive alumni/student photograph on the roof.
The Jubilee committee invites students, alumni and other community members to share their stories about Senior. They’ve set up a Diamond Jubilee page on the school website as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“We want to show our pride,” Fleek Airne said. “So much talent has been generated from this building.”
The group plans to start an online crowd-funding campaign to cover the cost of Jubilee activities. Any excess money raised will be put toward an annual scholarship fund for graduating seniors that faculty have sponsored for more than 40 years, Fleek Airne said.
The tailgate and cookout begins Friday around 5:30 outside the football stadium. It’s free, but donations are requested to cover the cost of food.