The Hewlett-Woodmere Alumni Association will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year as the current school district Board of Education vice president and a previous Parent-Teacher Association member have stepped forward to be co-presidents of the HWAA.
Melissa Gates, now in her third three-year term as a board trustee, and Maryann Ferro, will take the reigns from Susan Love Wilker, the most recent alumni association president and a 2000 HWAA Hall of Fame inductee, and Teena Ditchek Korman, who was involved with the association since 1999, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2010 and served on the district’s Board of Education from 2002 to 2011.
“I was very saddened to read the article [“Hewlett-Woodmere Alumni Association shutting down,” Feb. 1] stating the association was going to shut down as the then executive board was ready to move and was unable to finds volunteers to help,” Ferro said. “In the past, I was very active with PTA and thought I would offer to help. I feel it’s important to want to help the community, and If able to, I will.”
Founded in 1994 by several Hewlett High 1963 graduates, not long after their 30-year reunion, the organization worked to connect the past, present and future. Then high school Principal Dr. Donald Robbins is also credited with helping to start the group.
Three years later, the Hall of Fame was created to honor alumni who had not only succeeded in their chosen fields, but also had contributed to society. Annually, the HWAA would seek Hall of Fame nominations and select several inductees, whose photos and biographies were placed on plaques that line the high school walls. District officials said that the plaques will remain.
“When they made the announcement that the alumni association was folding a lot of people were very, very, very upset, and I was unhappy about it,” Gates said. “I approached them. Our district needs an alumni association.”
The Hall of Fame includes 157 graduates representing classes from Hewlett and Woodmere high schools, from 1927 to 1999. This year’s class, which could have been the last, included Stuart Weitzman, class of 1959: Considered a “shoemaker to the stars” he is a global leader in the footwear and fashion industry. Founding HWAA member Arnold James Rabinor, class of 1961: The posthumous recognition is because of a lifelong commitment to charitable efforts and his inspirational leadership to many community service organizations. Ilene Kain Gabel, class of 1968: Taught science in the school district for 47 years, and is considered an inspiration to her students and colleagues. Dr. Mel Pohl, class of 1968: Chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Recovery Center; Iris Terens Dankner, class of 1974: who has devoted more than 10 years to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; and Greg Abramson, class of 1988: was the first Hewlett High Athlete of the Year in ’88.
“Up until the past couple of weeks, I didn’t really know anything about the association or that it existed,” Ferro said. “In just a couple of meetings and listening to the past members speak so highly of their accomplishments, I knew I wanted to help to do what I can to keep what they worked on alive and running.”
Hitting the ground running, Gates said, her and Ferro are looking into expanding the organization’s membership and increasing awareness of the scholarship it awards and the community outreach the group does. “We will continue things that are already established that’s number one,” Gates said, “and we do have a lot of ideas.”