Mike Hostetler, class of 1972, part of Wayne High School's first graduating class after opening in '71, said one of the best things about transferring from Elmhurst High School to Wayne was the cool air.
“It was great because it was air-conditioned all throughout,” Hostetler said, standing in the area known as the Commons, close to the entry. Hostetler and his wife, Denise Hostetler, visited the school Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The event also gave visitors a chance to look at diagrams of a $40 million makeover project that will begin next year.
“We had brand new football equipment,” Hostetler said, and the new student body was composed of students from Elmhurst, South Side and Central high schools, which made it more exciting.
Five members of the Wyss family, boosters for their alma mater, also arrived in a group. The graduates included Jessica, 1999; Jake, 2001; Katie, 2004; Kristie, 2006; and James, 2011. The activities included signing the alumni bench, snapping a selfie with General Wayne and leafing through yearbooks piled high on a stand.
“It's part of our history,” Katie Wyss Kiel said, speaking for the family. “We pretty much grew up here.” While it was exciting to see the proposed changes that include a collegiate-style media center, Kiel said “it was a little sad, too. It's not the school we knew.”
All the Wysses “played two to three sports when we went here,” Jake Wyss said.
Wayne principal John Houser led people through the various renovations, most of which are inside the building. He expressed his enthusiasm for the upgrades, including the new safe entry.
In the media center, walls and old spiral staircases will be removed, but there will be a “grand staircase,” Houser said.
“There will be no more isolated hallways,” Houser added. When students walk through the new media center, they will interact with people, collaborate with others and be surrounded by books. The solid walnut bookcases will mostly stay, he hopes.
Another major change will be the planetarium, which will be turned into an auditorium for small speakers, presentations, Ted-style talks and a black box theater, Houser said.
Two Wayne graduates from Design Collaborative downtown will feature prominently in the design and execution of the renovation. Ron Dick is the principal architect, and Jeremiah Hatfield is leading the design team.
Wayne High School is also the alma mater of two NFL players, Jason Baker and Roosevelt Barnes; actress Molly Hagan and Sweetwater Sound's founder, Chuck Surack.
Eddie Davis, class of 2001, is loyal to Wayne, even though his children attend South Side and Northrop.
“Oh yeah,” Davis said. “I'm a General, and I'll stay a General.”
Davis recalled students hanging out in the Commons during lunch, a place that will be replaced by the new media center after the renovation.
“The first morp I ever went to was here,” Davis said. Morp, the word “prom” spelled backward, is a casual dance where the girls ask the boys, Davis explained alongside wife Amy Miller Davis, also an alum.