Ties That Bind: Tech Alumni and Parents Stay Connected to their School Through Giving Back

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Many colleges aggressively solicit donations from their alumni. High schools, particularly public schools, generally don't do this type of outreach, but that hasn't stopped some fiercely loyal 1950s Oakland Tech graduates from helping current Tech students in concrete ways.

Graduates create a foundation
Ernie Goldsby (OT '58) and his wife Henrietta and a group of 1950s alumni including Suzanne (OT '54) and Lauralee (OT '57) Westaway, lifelong Rockridge residents, have helped students graduate and go to college and, in the process, have touched countless lives.

Ernie Goldsby had two passions at Tech: baseball and music. When he started at Tech, he had been playing baseball for years, but had never played an instrument. At Tech he learned to play both trombone and tuba; his dance band was so good, it was hired to play at other schools' dances. After graduation, Ernie played a year in the Minor Leagues, served in the Army, and worked for the post office. In 2004, his wife Henrietta, who grew up in Tennessee, wanted to mark Ernie's "big birthday." At a surprise party attended by his Tech baseball buddies, she presented him with a letterman jacket and a college scholarship in his name for a current Tech baseball player. A few years later, Henrietta took up painting. People liked her art so much that she decided to sell it to create a more permanent scholarship at Ernie's old school. With proceeds from online and gallery sales of Henrietta's "modern folk art," the Ernest and Henrietta Goldsby Foundation has awarded college scholarships to eight Tech students. In 2012, the foundation "Art for Catching a Dream" (http://www.artforcatchingadream.org) was awarded 501(c)(3) status. Its mission is to help Tech students "catch their dreams," just as Ernie, with dreams of his own, caught baseballs years ago at Tech.

Class of '54 saves accreditation
When Tech's class of 1954 had its 50th reunion, classmate Henry Ramirez, then a counselor at Tech, told the group that problems with Tech's library were putting the school in danger of losing its accreditation. The class formed a nonprofit and raised over $24,000 to purchase a copy machine, bar-coding machinery, and books. The school's accreditation was saved and the Library Fund turned to funding an after-school peer tutoring program. Academically successful students were hired to tutor struggling students.

Over 20 years, the OT Alumni & Library Fund raised over $100,000, primarily from alumni of the 1950s. Lauralee and Suzanne Westaway, lifelong Rockridge residents, have been active members. Suzanne utilized the skills she learned as editor of the school newspaper, Scribe News, to create a library fund newsletter to keep classmates connected with the school and to solicit donations. Classmates Elaine Selle Gallaher and Roberta Christianson served as secretary and treasurer and their friends Lily Brooks Toney and Katy Hollis Emerson threw themselves into the effort as well.

Library nonprofit broadens
The group is now "graduating" from its fundraising and passing the baton to the newly formed Tech Parent Emeritus Committee, made up of parents who want to give back to the school that launched their children.

The Parent Emeritus Committee is organizing a celebratory fundraising event open to all and tied in with the school's Centennial- the Technites Past and Present Talent Showcase on February 8 in Tech's newly refurbished auditorium (another PTSA fundraising effort). They have lined up amazingly talented singers, dancers, and musicians from the 1940s on.

For more information, or if you are a Tech graduate and would like to perform, contact techtalentshow@gmail.com.

So, it isn't only colleges that keep their alumni involved. Tech has a growing community of involved and inspiring alumni right here in Oakland. Join in by supporting these two great programs so they can continue to support Oakland Tech students.