The day started off with tours of the Forest Hills school and an alumni mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church before a night of dinner and dancing.
Principal Anne Zuschlag said the party is part of a campaign to create a connection between the school and its former students.
“We’ve been an institution in our community for 90 years, but we’ve never really made the concerted effort to reach out to our alumni,” Zuschlag said. “We know about them, they stop by to say hello, many are still in the community, but we really want to start a formal process.”
Kathy Scapp, OLQM’s administrative secretary, worked with interns and the diocese last summer to gather alumni information. They took names from handwritten rolls from as far back as the 1940s and put them into a spreadsheet before sorting through the information.
“We sent out 2,700 invitations and many responded,” Scapp said. “We asked that if they could not make it, they could update their contact information, so we hope that this is the jump-off point for the alumni association.”
Students from as far back as the class of 1946 attended Saturday's event, with some traveling from as far away as Texas and Florida.
“It’s been very positive and everyone’s been very excited,” Zuschlag said. “All the alumni are telling stories and meeting up with people who they haven’t seen in a while and sharing memories.
“It’s nice to see their joy in reconnecting with people, especially with the different generations,” she added.
AnnMarie Foertsch has been teaching at the school for 36 years, and is now teaching alongside former students.
“It’s very interesting that someone I had in kindergarten is now my colleague,” Foertsch said. “We have parents who then bring their children to the school, so now you’ve taught parent and child. It means we’re doing something right.
“When I ask people what’s different, a lot of people talk about the vibrancy,” she added. “Years ago, you just went in and did your business, but there is all of the colors, brightness and cheeriness in the classrooms that we take for granted.”
Denise De Maria, who still lives in Queens, said she’s gained perspective of the school’s changes from fellow students who left town and returned for the party.
“I’ve been in and out of the school since I’m right here, but I can now see it through the eyes of the people who are only now coming back after 30 or 40 years,” De Maria said.