This interesting history was prepared by David Bishton ‘72, the Founder and longtime President of the ACSAA. It appeared in the Fall 1999 issue of the Gaucho Gazette. Thanks to Dave and all those who helped take a dream and make the ACSAA into an active alumni organization.
While on vacation in September 1978 in the Hawaiian Islands, I ran into Mr. and Mrs. John Wachter, who are parents of Beth Wachter ‘72, a classmate of mine from American Community School in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This unlikely encounter, (because I lived in Arlington, Virginia, and the Wachter’s in Carmel, California) at the Volcano National Park would start the wheels turning for a reunion of the Class of 1972 to celebrate our tenth anniversary since graduation. The Wachter’s were staying at the same hotel I was. I had dinner with them that night and started to ask where some of my classmates were, so I could locate them. That was the start of a mission that would cause profound changes in my life. All I wanted to do was try and find some of the thirty-two classmates and maybe have an asado in a park somewhere. In trying to locate some of my classmates, a network developed of other alumni from Lincoln School. These folks knew of a Latino market in Arlington, Virginia, where you could get all the things to put on a real Argentine asado. These other alumni wanted to join us. Before you knew it a planning committee was formed.
In January 1981, Reunion ‘82 began in earnest. A little newsletter was typed up, as was a list of the alumni who had been found. Those that were instrumental in the that first reunion was Steve Cansler ‘70, Sherry (Dean) Cansler ‘70, Dan Dildine ‘65, Edward Hughes ‘ 68, Jim Miller ‘62, Bill Mohan ‘60, Jim Smith ‘65, and Bob Terzian ‘64. Bill worked for Xerox and ran off copies of what we needed, Jim Smith took the mailings to work and mailed them off. We got legal input from Edward & Bob. Randy Belcher ‘70 was brought in as were other who’s names I’m afraid escape me after nearly 20 years. Reunion ‘82 continued to grow and become more elaborate. By the time Reunion ‘82 took place August 1982 we had gathered a group of 225. Two of our beloved physical education teachers, Herminia “Senora” Granitto and Donato “Profe” Laurita were brought up from Buenos Aires as guests of the alumni. We wanted to show our appreciation and show them what they meant to us. Friday night we took a tour boat ride down the Potomac River, eating empanadas and other finger foods and listening to a loud DJ playing oldies. Saturday, the asado was held in Oakton, Virginia, at a private lake picnic area. Profe and others got a futbol and a softball game going. It was great to see so many having fun andgetting reacquainted. Saturday night we held a Southern Star Ball” at the new Crystal City Marriott Gateway. During this weekend plans were made to hold another reunion in five years.
Reunion ‘87 was held in Florida at the Cocoa Beach Hilton right on A1A and the Atlantic Ocean. That reunion could not have been held without the super effort of Debra Frame ‘70. Being in the hotel business, she was able to arrange just about everything that needed to be done. The July 4 weekend reunion was even more successful then the one in 1982. Friday night we held a Junior Senior Banquet & Southern Star Ball. Debra was able to find a fantastic band from the Orlando area. David Williams ‘70 and a few of his band friends were able to convince the band to let them “jam” while they were on break. They finished up at midnight with “Gloria.” Saturday the asado was held on the very large deck at the Hilton. As in 1982, we had three guests of honor: Joe Czarnick, Iris Lestani, and “Doc” Mittleman. Joe Czarnick said something that stuck. To paraphrase him: “You ‘kiddies’ go off to college and start families and, for the most part, we don’t know what happens to you. With these reunions, we can see just how well our ’kiddies’ are doing.” On the flip side, former students were able to tell their teachers just what they did for them and how they molded them. The highlight of the reunion was when I was able to present “Doc” Mittleman with a receipt from a hospital in Orlando, for several thousand dollars to help pay a medical bill he incurred when he had a heart attack during a previous visit to the Orlando area. Doc was dumbfounded. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room after he gave us his thanks for what we did. I had five years between the first two reunions to continue networking, and the alumni association continued to expand. We now had alumni from the Fifties and the early Eighties, and the list continued to grow. The little newsletter became the Gaucho Gazette thanks to Jim Gill ‘65. We made a few changes such as adding a class reps for each class, who was charged with keeping up with the classmates addresses, trying to locate classmates, and gathering news for the Gaucho Gazette. I also looked to them for ideas, direction, and guidance, an unofficial “board of governors” if you will. As the ACSAA continued to grow we decided to have the spring issue of the Gazette dedicated to the alumni of odd years and the fall issue to even years.
Reunion ’91, the third reunion, was held at the Saville Beach Hotel at 29th Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, Florida. What a great location. Peter Wallin ‘67 was instrumental in locating the Saville-the owner of the hotel was Peter’s neighbor. (I might add, in the small world department, he is the same fellow who owns the “Embers” in Acasusso and in town B.A.) Patty Cook ‘59 who lives in Puente del Este, just happen to be driving by the Saville and saw the hotel marquee “Welcome ACS Alumni Association” and stopped by to a very big surprise. The reunion was moved up a year because the alumni felt that every five years was too long to wait. This time the guests of honor were Don Hannon and Walter Leibling (a member of the Class of ‘49 who still teaches at Lincoln). The number of alumni continued to grow, as did the class years that were represented. Bob Maddock ‘38, whose father was principal at the American Grammar and High School in Belrango, unknowingly was a tremendous help in locating the alumni from early classes. About this time, someone gave me Bob’s name. I called him in California and, as always, asked who he might be in touch with. Bob gave me a number of names, which led to other names, and then to even more names. These alumni were for the most part alumni from the A.G.H S. This opened a whole new door and chapter in the ACS Alumni Association. Most of us knew about this other school because some of our teachers-Mr. Liebling ‘49, Mrs. Ezegelyan ‘36, and Mrs. Louise Balsa ‘35-were alumni of the A.G.H.S.
Reunion 95, the fourth Reunion was held once again in the Washington, D.C., area in July 1995. Headquarters was the Colony Inn in Alexandria, Virginia. This was by far the most successful of the reunions. The Junior-Senior Banquet & Southern Star Ball on Friday night accommodated 460 participants. This was the first time we had to turn away alumni who showed up at the last minute because the ballroom had a capacity (fire code) of 440. The following day the asado was held at the same private park as in 1982. This asado had 626 attendees. The asadador played every bit of the part of a Gaucho. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought we were at an estancia. Jack Schliemer ‘42, who lives in Argentina, paid me the greatest compliment by saying this was one of the best asados he had ever attendanted. This reunion had unsung heroes as had other reunions in the past. This most successful reunion to date could not have been the success it was if not for the help of Steve Cansler ‘70, Will Cantrell ‘70, Sherry (Dean) Cansler ’70, and Sam McTyre ‘70. The two original two guests of honor were to be Mrs. Virginia McIntosh and Miss Alice Massey, both of whom were unable to attend due to health problems. Miss Margarita Stamatiad our dedicated librarian and Graciela Liotta, high school office staff extraordinaire, were brought up as our guests from Buenos Aires. This was Graciella’s first and only trip to the United States. The third guest of honor was Robert H. Whinery, the superintendent at Lincoln in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His attendance was possible to the kind effort of Bill Franke ‘55 of American West Airlines. By 1995 the ACS Alumni Association list of alumni had passed the 3,000 mark of names appearing in the directory. The name of the association took on a new meaning because of all the A.G.H.S. alumni who had joined the association. The name American Community Schools of Buenos Aires Alumni Association became the “official” name of the association. The American Community School “ACS” no longer exists, and is now “AEL” Asociacion Escuelas Lincoln. Times continue to change.
In my continuing effort to get the Argentine alumni to become more active, Reunion de La Plata ‘97 became a reality Easter weekend. This was a good excuse for many of us who lived in the United States to return to Argentina for the first time since graduation. Bob Johnson ‘64 organized this reunion from the beginning. On his first trip back to Argentina, he made arrangements to make side trips to Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu. The Castelar Hotel on Avenida de Mayo, downtown, was the base of operations. Iris Lestani, Ann (Wittman) Manoukian ‘58, Debbie (Hallett) Stuart-Milne ’71, and Maria Cristina (Fiorda Kelly) Pedazzini ‘58 were the local heroes as was superintendent Gloria Doll, who opened the doors to the school to us. We held our Junior-Senior Banquet & Southern Star Ball in the old cafeteria, and the asado was there the following day. A number of teachers, current and retired, came-Miss Alice Massey, Sra. Granito, Profe, Joe Czarnick, Walter Leibling, Alice Ezegelyan, Iris Lestani, Graciela Liotta, Mireya Monteagudo, Ernie Griffin, Reed Miller, and Mark Luther. The Class of 1972 collected money to purchase a bust of Abraham Lincoln to replace the bust of George Washington that disappeared in the early 1970s. The bust was presented to Gloria Doll on behalf of the Class of 1972 for the 25th anniversary of the class’s graduation. The school was also presented with a painting by the late Frank M. Pannier ‘64 on behalf of his family. At times over the years various reunions have been held: the 1997 Reunion in the Rockies was held in Colorado, sponsored by the Class of 1968. The Classes of 1947, 1948, and 1949 held a fiftieth anniversary reunion in New York City in 1998. The Class of 1964 held a get together at Ven Lee’s house in Palo Alto Hills, California. “Mini reunions” have been held in Washington, D. C., area over the years as well. This to me is what the ACSAA is all about.
Reunion by the Bay held in San Jose, California, the weekend of July 30, 1999, was our first West Coast reunion. A number of alumni pushed and pushed for a West Coast reunion. The DoubleTree Hotel by the San Jose airport was the site of Reunion ‘99. Joan (Lugo) Wilkinson-Steele ‘62 and Bob Johnson ‘64 were the co-chairs for the event and formed a very capable reunion committee of Laura Goderez ‘64, Betsy Hartwell ‘48, David Lee ‘56, Gus Meyer ‘69. Mimi Monahan ‘57, Betsy Sanders ‘65 and Jade (York) Burns ’82. Our guests of honor were Iris Lestani (who has retired after thirty-three years of service to Lincoln School), Sra. Granito, and Profe. Ed Hardwick (this was Ed’s fourth reunion), Joy Dickens, and Frank O’Donnell rounded out the former teachers who attended. A meeting was held by the class representatives at the reunion to begin the process of formalizing the alumni association. Bylaws were passed. Wendy Ponte, a member of the Lincoln School Board of Governors and former PTO president, attended the board meeting to give us an update on the school and the plans for an Alumni Office at Lincoln.
Phil Joslin, the superintendent of AEL, is putting into place an Alumni Office at Lincoln. Iris Lestani, who has been the backbone of the school, will be a part of the transition group. This was something I asked for about fifteen years ago. The alumni office will be the conduit between the school and its students once they leave AEL. One of the programs I hope will be put inplace and proposed twenty years ago is a mentor program. The idea is to have a network of alumni who are willing to be a mentor to a recent graduate who is in college and away from home. Be there for them in a time of need when no one is there to turn to, or maybe provide a home-cooked meal. With Mom and Dad still overseas, not knowing anyone at the college, a mentor, who has been there, done that, can give a helping hand. The ACSAA has grown too large for one person to handle and grows larger every year with each graduating class. There are alumni in almost all fifty states, most provinces in Canada, and more than twenty other countries. I am grateful for all the positive feedback I have received over the years. It really has been a pleasure bringing folks together. It has been wonderful to be able honor the teachers who helped shape our lives. In 1998 the process was begun to formalize the ACSAA as an organization with a board of governors and officers who will take over the various duties. Steve Krazter ‘72, who took over as editor of the Gaucho Gazette from my brother, Michael (postgrad ‘69, ‘70), passse the baton of editorship to Frances “Muffin” Milligan ‘72 in fall 1998. The 1999 Alumni Directory will be the last to put together by Mike, who has done a wonderful job putting together the directories and who has done so as a personal favor to me. In 2000, a new chapter will begin in earnest. With the cooperation of the AEL, the School Board, the Alumni Board, and the alumni, the association will continue to grow. For most of us the school is the one common thread that runs through each of us. That time in Argentina affected us in different ways. For me and a majority of the active alumni, it was a very special time in our lives. As we grow older the memories may fade or a new spin might be put on a memory. For most it is a memory that gives us a smile and is remembered with a warm fuzzy feeling.
David L. Bishton ‘72
Founder and President
ACS Alumni Association