- Ravens Rewind
Part of a yearlong celebration, the 1997 image captured by Ray Barbour ’77 pays tribute to Ravenscroft’s 25th year in North Raleigh and its first graduating class.
Throughout the 1997-98 school year, Ravenscroft proudly celebrated the 25th anniversary of graduating its first class of seniors and the special history of the North Raleigh campus. The festivities included a play about the school’s transformation since its Tucker Street days, a ceremonial run from that downtown location to the North Raleigh campus, and an all-school gathering that saw two skydivers land on the football field to deliver a congratulatory message from Gov. Jim Hunt to Headmaster Jim Ledyard.
As the members of the Class of 1973 now look toward their 50th reunion in 2023, we take a look back at that anniversary year, which has been immortalized in a photo taken by Ray Barbour ’77: all 800+ students, faculty and staff, and many parents standing in the shapes of a “2” and a “5” as well as an outer ring on the football field. That photo, which was printed on posters shared widely throughout the school community, not only captured an exceptional moment in the school’s history but continues to illustrate the unwavering spirit of the Ravenscroft connection — more than 50 years in.
The “25” photograph taken by Barbour was printed as a poster and shared with Ravens across the community to commemorate the school’s 25th anniversary and celebrate the Class of 1973.
Getting the “25” image
Barbour, a Raleigh-based photographer, remembers the challenges of getting that aerial image on Sept. 12, 1997, which was well before the advent of drones and digital photography. He described climbing in a basket and being hoisted up by a 100-foot crane positioned at the 50-yard line. The basket then had to be stabilized with ropes to keep his shot steady in the wind.
This detail from the aerial photo shows the many individual Ravens who joined in the photo shoot that day.
Initially, Barbour shot Polaroids so others could see what he was viewing from above. “I’d have to wait two minutes for an image to process, look at it and let it flutter down so those on the ground could see it. We were all having fun … The ladies below were trying to catch these Polaroids flipping in the wind from 90 feet up,” he said with a laugh.
He used four rolls of film to ensure a quality shot, including a backup roll in the event of a lab processing error. “This was a one-and-done situation, so we had to get it right. What you see is pretty much the raw photo. The kids were excited to be out there, but I’m not sure they comprehended what they were part of at that time. Looking back, they probably have a little more appreciation for it now,” Barbour said.
One of those kids was Dan Ressner ’99, who now serves as Ravenscroft’s Director of Auxiliary Services and Summer Programs and is coach of the boys varsity soccer team. “I’d look at that picture every day in my office, but I could never figure out exactly where I was in it. I was 16, and I remember every kid in the school being there and that being a unique thing because there weren’t a lot of times that every single student was located in the same place on campus,” he said. “It brought the community together, so that was pretty special.”
Many parents whose children attended Ravenscroft at the time are also in the photo, including Frank Turner ’73. “It was a youthful experience for me. I was with my daughter, Elizabeth ’10, who was five at the time. We were running into people we knew and having a time trying to keep our young children in order and to stay still for a bit,” he chuckled.
In this photo from the 1998 Corvus yearbook, Lower School students and teacher Grace Hancock line up on the field to form the shapes for the “25” photo.
Memories of a yearlong celebration
Of course, the photo wasn’t the only way Ravenscroft marked the anniversary. Director of Civic Engagement and College Counselor Bill Pruden, who has been at Ravenscroft since 1991, said the school’s 25th-anniversary celebration was notable because it encapsulated the school’s past and its modern history.
During the A.E. Finley Day celebration on Dec. 3, 1997, Ledyard (at back) recognizes faculty and staff — George Joyner, Rebecca Bradley, Margie Reid, Janie Rogers, Barbara Jean Warren, Clyna Chavis and Mollie Walker — who served the school for 25 years or more.
Following the 1997 A.E. Finley Day reception, former faculty and staff gather in front of the Bell Tower for a photo.
Phillip Simson ’00 was also on field that day, but it’s a different part of the celebration that holds a special place in his heart. “What I remember more than anything is the run from the former Tucker Street campus to the Falls of Neuse campus to celebrate the 25th anniversary. It was a lot of fun to run across the city of Raleigh, and there were more than 80 participants including students, faculty and alumni. We did this when carrying the torch for Special Olympics, as Ravenscroft has a long tradition of hosting the event,” he said.
Running under the Raleigh Beltline at Wake Forest Road while holding the torch was an unforgettable moment for Simson. “I remember making the left turn into the main campus gate, and it was quite an adrenaline rush to see friends cheering you on after the lengthy run from downtown Raleigh to the North Raleigh campus.”
At an all-school gathering on May 1, 1998, Ledyard receives a congratulatory message from Gov. Jim Hunt that was delivered to the football field by skydivers.
Runners including Athletic Director Ned Gonet, board chair Lacy Presnell, Phillip Simson ’00, Dan Ressner ’99, Alex Cerwin ’98 and Robbie Hukill ’99 bring the Special Olympics torch from Tucker Street onto campus on May 7, 1998.
The school even staged an original play about Ravenscroft’s history — the brainchild of trustee and alumni parent Barbara Helton. “Looking Back,” written by drama teacher Charles Martin, featured performances by students and faculty members including fine arts teacher Bradley Kraemer and Lower School science teacher Andrew Gatt. Ledyard himself played Robert Holding, one of the North Raleigh campus’s earliest champions and a visionary trustee.
Faculty including Ed Yohman, Jim Kababik, Bradley Kraemer, Lynne Sizemore, Andrew Gatt and D.J. Himes prepare to take the stage for “Looking Back.”
Middle School students sing and dance during their participation in the commemorative play, captured, along with other special events, in the 1998 Corvus.
“In the play, we were commemorating 25 years and talking about the Tucker Street location,” Kraemer said. “We were trying to create a little episode of that early time and had some of the young people dressed up with straw hats in a chorus line. Everyone enjoyed it.”
Gatt recalled, “We only rehearsed a few times. I remember that [Middle School counselor] Jim Kababik and I were in a scene acting out a meeting that happened during the planning of the expansion of the school to include a high school. The play made great use of the rotating stage, and each set would rotate into view and then back out of view at its conclusion. During our meeting scene, we were suggesting what the new campus should include. As our scene concluded and we started to rotate out of view, I added a line that wasn't in the script, ‘and a rotating stage!’ Jim and I thought that was hilarious.”
In this photo from the 1997-98 Annual Report, Bill Kilgore ’73, Billy Troxler ’73 and Frank Turner ’73 are pictured with their own young Ravens after attending a 25th anniversary event. Photo courtesy of Mike Bayley
While the Class of 1973 was small in size, its members forged a tight bond that endures today. As they approach their 50th reunion in 2023, those days at Ravenscroft still spark fond memories.
“It was a unique experience to be in the first graduating class, and we’re all very proud,” Turner said. “As students then, we could see what the future held with all the facilities that were being built at that time. It’s a great legacy to leave to my own children.”
The Class of 2012 at their Alumni Association Welcome Dinner
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Alumni Remember Historic Moments on Campus (Spring 2019)
Enjoy more stories exploring Ravenscroft’s history and nostalgia in our Throwback section.