Saying that no new leaders have emerged, the nine-member board of the nearly 24-year-old Hewlett-Woodmere Alumni Association announced that the brunch and Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Hewlett High School on April 29 will be the organization’s last.
“To tell you the truth, it was not easy to decide this at all,” said HWAA President Susan Love Wilker, a 1957 graduate of Hewlett High, who taught special education at the Franklin Early Childhood Center for 25 years in a 30-year career.
She is also a 2000 Hall of Fame inductee. “We’re all older, and all the work that has be done, we can’t get new blood. Without new people, it’s impossible to go on. It was a very hard decision because this was a very gratifying experience.”
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, Wilker said. She credited then high school Principal Dr. Donald Robbins 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 we walk through the halls and see the alumni, there is a great deal of satisfaction that we brought these people back,” said Woodsburgh resident Carol Harrison, class of 1964, who grew up in Hewlett and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Harrison, who edits the group’s Connections newsletter, said she would miss writing and communicating with Hewlett High graduates. “I loved printing human interest stories, class news and the achievements of our graduates,” she said.
The Hall of Fame includes 151 graduates representing classes from Hewlett and Woodmere high schools, from 1927 to 1999. The honorees range from Dr. Philip Askenase, class of 1957, inducted in 2016, to Alan Zweibel, class of 1968, inducted in 1998.
Askenase’s medical career spanned 50 years and included identifying the inflammation component of asthma that is susceptible to steroid treatment and discovering the essential role of allergy mechanisms in response to parasites.
Zweibel is an award-winning comedy writer and television producer, who wrote for and performed on the original “Saturday Night Live” and collaborated with Long Beach’s Billy Crystal on “700 Sundays,” a play that Crystal performed as a one-man show on Broadway several years ago.
Teena Ditchek Korman, a class of 1972 graduate and 2010 Hall of Fame inductee, has served on the Hewlett-Woodmere Alumni Association executive board for 18 years. She said she has enjoyed every induction ceremony, hearing the honorees speak, helping to provide scholarships to high school students, seeing students perform at the ceremony and writing the biographical summaries. Korman said she believes recognizing the alumni serves a purpose.
“My main focus of volunteering with the HWAA has always been to let students know they can be anything they choose to be with a Hewlett-Woodmere education as their foundation,” said the Hewlett native, who now lives in Gibson.
Lynbrook resident Richard Braverman, class of 1958, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, said he is “really concerned” and a “little bit disappointed” that the alumni association is shutting down. “I think it was an important adjunct to the school system and kept people connected to the school district that would not have been,” he said, adding that he would like to see the group continue as a part of the high school or the district’s central office.
Volunteers are being sought to try to keep the HWAA going as well as Hall of Fame nominations. Email Connectionseditor@oscworld.com.
To see the complete Hall of Fame list, go to www.hewlett-woodmere.net/Page/9016.