Construction crews have been busily renovating an unused space inside Asheville High School to create a new alumni center, a unique place of honor for graduates, faculty, staff and administrators who have made their mark on the world.
The alumni center will highlight graduates of all the city schools over the years, said Tim Amos, the school system’s assistant superintendent for business and support services. The city’s schools date back to the 1800s, and the city’s secondary school has been known by other names, such as Stevens-Lee High School and Lee Edwards High School, and has seen other iterations and locations, said Amos. The Asheville High School on McDowell Street has been there since 1929 and was designed by architect Douglas Ellington.
So who are some famous local graduates? Amos ticked off a few: Ron Rice, Lee Edwards class of ‘58, is the founder of Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion company. Frances Nero was a Motown recording artist. Stand-up comedian Shirley Hemphill became famous for her role as the sharp-tongued server on popular television show What’s Happening!! Don Robertson, class of ‘44, was known as the voice of CBS Sports for years, and don’t forget Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. There are many others that Amos said he’s learning about every day.
Amos said the alumni center will feature memorabilia, such as old yearbooks and letter jackets, and will serve as the home for information about reunions. There will be a “secure area” for archiving material and there will be a conference room and school store and gift shop.
Amos credited Tom Williams, an art-history teacher at the high school, for being a driving force behind the alumni center’s creation. Work should be finished in about two months and there will be a grand-opening event, Amos said.
“I think it’s something everybody’s going to be proud of,” Amos said.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor