116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As Washington High School (WHS) inducts three new members into its Performing Arts Hall of Fame, it continues the search for information from two past honorees.
“We feel like we’ve gone down the routes of the most logical,” said Hilery Livengood, Patrons of the Performing Arts volunteer.
During the pandemic, school volunteers conducted an inventory of all plaques in their 2003-built display case to update documentation and add information online. In the process, they discovered that eight honorees inducted in the 1990s were not included in the Performing Arts Hall of Fame display.
Because of how the information on honorees was passed down over the years, Livengood said no other information is known about the honorees, who could have been alumni, administrators or parents of students at the school who made significant contributions to the school’s performing arts.
With the help of former administrators, librarians and the school’s alumni office, six new biographical plaques have been created to honor some of the honorees missed:
- Paul Anthony, former music teacher
- Tom Chehak, Class of 1969
- Sharon Garvey Cohen, Class of 1981
- Suzi Sargeant McDonald, former director of drama
- John Quinn, former music teacher
- David Smith, former technical director
But two remain: Karen Hunt and Dr. John Moelnick, inducted in 1995 and 1997, respectively. Anyone with information about either is asked to contact WHS’ Patrons of the Performing Arts online at washppa.com.
New honorees to be inducted
This year, volunteer Mike Sinnott, former assistant technical director and scenic painter Pat Lammers and former lead building engineer Rick Veenstra will be honored during the annual Frankfurter Festival on Thursday. The honorees soon will be among the more than 80 inducted into the Hall of Fame, which honors former students, administrators and individuals who made major contributions to the school’s performing arts department through time, energy, money or other substantial participation.
In 2018, Lammers started painting her own works at home after 25 years of painting backdrops, creating props and working with hundreds of students, parent volunteers and directors. Over the years, she has served as a paraeducator, media secretary, student center secretary and principal’s secretary.
“I considered set painting with students my career,” Lammers said. “I am honored to have experienced working with a diverse population of wonderful kids.”
Sinnott started driving the Warrior Wagon in 1998, three months after graduating high school, and has been at the wheel ever since for band, orchestra and choir events. Since 1992, “Bubba” and the Warrior Wagon have traveled all across the state and road trips crisscrossing the country.
“ (Veenstra) went above and beyond when setting up countless events, adding the extra details as only someone could do after years of experience,” according to a news release from Washington High School.
Veenstra passed away in July 2019 in a boating accident while fishing at Palisades State Park, but leaves a legacy of strong support for the performing arts at the high school.
When: Thursday, May 13, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Washington High School courtyard, 2205 Forest Drive SE, Cedar Rapids
Cost: Free of charge. Freewill donations accepted.
Details: Masks will be required at the event. Food will be available for purchase.
Distinction in the performing arts
Through its continued dedication to honoring a proud performing arts tradition, Washington High School said it often stands out among in secondary education.
“I’ve always said that if you take the pocket of Cedar Rapids schools … that within our radius, I would challenge anyone to find a stronger fine arts program in the country,” said Peter Westphalen, director of choirs for WHS. “It is quite sensational.”
In addition to administrative support and collegiality among fine arts staff, Westphalen credits the school’s long tradition of excellence in the area to a strong arts scene in southeast Cedar Rapids that ingrains music in students’ lives as they grow up, supporting their involvement in it.
The Hall of Fame, he said, inspires them to realize what they can become.
“Whether or not it’s in the field of being a professional musician, teacher, or even not in music, to excel in music to that degree probably means that you’re going to excel in whatever you do,” he said.
“As an alumna of the school, the performing arts have had high visibility and high appreciation. It’s not just academics and athletics,” said Livengood. “For students to be able to witness things that might have been on the horizon — it gives you an idea of whether you could walk in their path.”
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