A group of "antique" Wampus Cats gave a gift Friday night that will help generations of future Wampus Cats.
For 20 years, the Antique Wampus Cat has been a newsletter for Conway High School alumni who graduated in 1940-1950. After recently publishing its last issue, the alumni decided to donate the remaining contributed funds to the Conway Public Schools Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides grants for teachers, student organizations and other areas to improve education. The donation was almost $7,000.
Beau Wilcox, a member of the board of the Conway Public Schools Foundation, said the organization needs to raise $10,000 within 24 months of its inception to get an endowment with the Arkansas Community Foundation.
He said of the donation, "For the foundation, it’s a huge deal, and we’re really excited to receive that money and put it to good use."
Wendy Holbrook, president of the Conway Public Schools Foundation, said recently, "We are just shy of $6,000. You need $10,000 for it to be endowed, and we start to reap the financial benefits."
She added, "Brad Etters (a teacher at Bob Courtway Middle School) was the first recipient of a grant from the Conway Public Schools Foundation. We will award many grants to teachers. Our teachers are like magicians. You give them $250, and amazing things happen. It becomes a super incentive plan for students.
"We are hoping that we’ll be able to give some (grants) in the spring, at the latest in the fall. We’re wanting to get that grant process started and reach that endowment so that money starts to work for us."
Holbrook said of the Antique Wampus Cats, "We’re excited that they thought of us."
Eleanor Opitz has been part of the Antique Wampus Cat staff since 1991. She said the alumni have a history of giving to the school. In 1995, members of the 1940-1950 graduating classes donated $5,000 toward the construction of the field house.
Alumni gathered in March for the rededication of the old high school building at the Conway High School-East campus. Opitz said Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent, was responsible for a renovation of the building that restored a auditorium that had been converted to the media center and classrooms.
"They decided to bring back the auditorium, and it was more beautiful than when it was built in 1937," she said.
Murry told the community about the foundation at the dedication that day, Opitz said.
"There were a lot of Antique Wampus Cats there. We knew we had money accumulated," Opitz said. "We knew we were approaching the end of the road for the Antique Wampus Cat. What better place to place that money than with the people who had given us back our auditorium. The timing was right. The idea was right. This is the only thing we considered."
She added, "We came from a time when church attendance was a given, you loved and honored your parents and respected your elders, and your high school was the center of your universe. Conway High School is a wonderful memory for the Antique Wampus Cats. Another thing — it’s strictly an educational donation. That’s important. It was the most appropriate thing we could think of."
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)