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Corvallis High Grads Cram Their Finals With Emotion

May 17, 1987|T.W. McGARRY | Times Staff Writer

To Francisca Thompson Feddersen, it was cheating her granddaughters.

To Jackie Pieper Maguren, it was "heartbreaking--like losing a home that I always thought would be there."

To Patty Voght Bayless, it was an occasion for "sadness and anger--anger because I still don't believe this had to happen."

The women were all part of a crowd saying farewell to Our Lady of Corvallis High School, the oldest Catholic high school in the San Fernando Valley. The school is closing after 45 years, a victim of financial problems brought on by changing demographics, declining enrollment and the withdrawal in 1981 of the order of nuns that founded it.

Feddersen, of Encino, was a member of the class of 1947, only the second class to spend all four years at Corvallis. She sent six daughters there. One of them, Deborah, in 1968 became the first daughter of an alumna to graduate from Corvallis.

"It would have been so nice to be able to send a third generation here," Feddersen mourned as she took a goodby stroll through the polished linoleum corridors and empty classrooms with four of her daughters.

Deborah, now Deborah Bingham, agreed. Bingham had flown in from Twin Falls, Ida., and other sisters had come from Ventura and Bakersfield to join their mother at Corvallis' last homecoming.

Maguren, class of 1952, came from Salem, Ore. "I didn't keep in touch," she said, as she showed her adult daughter the locale for the stories of her teen-age days. "I never thought this would happen, and then I got a letter from the school last fall. You never think of your high school not being there."

"This is a tremendous loss to the community--the only Catholic girls school in the East Valley," said Bayless, class of 1963, who as president of the Parents' Club was part of the group that faced Corvallis' economic impasse in its last few years.

"I'm very sad that we're losing a Valley tradition," said Elisa Pulido-Ragus of Glendale, a member of the class of 1971 who taught at Corvallis from 1979 to 1986. "Both my sisters went here, too. There's a need for quality education for young women that we will miss."

"This school has produced a lot of strong, well-adjusted girls who are very loyal to its memory," said Susan Stafford Davis of Agoura, class of 1957.

Corvallis invited about 2,500 of its estimated 3,000 alumnae--"We've lost track of about 500 of them," an administrator said--to a weekend reunion and farewell.

The school hoped to provide a chance to say goodby and to raise enough money to pay off $40,000 in debts "and go out with dignity," said its principal, Christine Thranow.

"Except for last year and this year, we've never had a deficit, and we're determined to have our bills paid when we close the doors for good," she said.

Friday night, about 85 people showed up at the school for a cocktail party, admission $10. For another $5, there was a student play, "Murder in a Nunnery," a repeat of the school play given by the class of 1976.

Collection of Photos

The alumnae, ranging from college-age grads in miniskirts to businesswomen in suits to graying matrons in sensible shoes, roamed the library and classrooms, exchanging memories, catching up on gossip and exclaiming over the collection of snapshots of students back to the 1940s:

"There's our graduating class, right there. Oh, my God! Look at my hair!"

"And one year we all got together one afternoon, just the women, no husbands. Almost everybody came, and we exchanged what had happened in our lives--gut level, no bull--drugs, divorce, handicapped children, the works. It was so moving. I was in tears for hours."

"She was so cute, one of my best friends. I heard her boyfriend died in Vietnam, and nobody's heard from her in years."

"I think that's the window where your Aunt Carol dropped a book on the nun's head."

Saturday night, 205 people showed up for a barbecue and to see the play.

Sunday's activities, for $10, are scheduled to begin with a 3 p.m. Mass, followed by a dinner at 4 and the conclusion of an all-weekend auction of donated items and Corvallis furnishings and memorabilia--athletic trophies and uniforms, old yearbooks and scrapbooks going back to the 1940s, filled with yellowing newspaper clippings of generations of girls in the school's uniform of blue plaid skirt and blazer, at fashion shows and mother-daughter teas and athletic contests. The master of ceremonies will be actor Joseph Campanella.

Karen King, a California State University, Northridge, education student who graduated last June, had entered the top bid as of Saturday for the 2 1/2-foot-high school seal, offering $50, "because I loved this place."

A special "angel" award will be presented to Mary Tyler Moore, to be accepted by her mother, Margie Moore. The actress for 10 years has paid for an annual scholarship in memory of her sister, Elizabeth Ann, a Corvallis student who committed suicide shortly after graduating in 1975.

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