Frank Lupashunski has always been there for Howard High School's most memorable occasions, and today he will help the school celebrate another milestone -- its 40th anniversary. When the festivities get rolling this afternoon, Lupashunski will be there front and center as master of ceremonies.
"The main thing is that he remembers the bonds of friendship that go back," said Linda Wise, a guidance counselor and chairwoman of the anniversary committee, on which Lupashunski also serves.
Lupashunski began teaching social studies at the school on its opening day, and continued until his retirement 10 years ago. He knows much about the history of the school and was the logical choice to be master of ceremonies, she said.
"Mr. Lupe" -- as students call him -- remembers when "My golly" and "Holy whiz" were favored expressions among students, when the school had a six-man football team, and when teachers were paid $2,600 a year.
There were 108 graduates in the first Howard High School class, and he knew every one of them.
"It was very emotional," said Lupashunski, who is 66. "We made a big deal about it being the largest graduating class in the history of Howard County." This year about 250 students will graduate.
Construction on the school began on May 14, 1952, and it opened in September. At that time, the county was an agricultural community with a population of 30,000. Many youngsters were being trained to go into farming.
"We used to raise chickens and pigs at Howard High School," he laughed.
Lupashunski -- who later became the social studies department head at Howard -- recognized the importance of teaching subjects like government, economics, sociology and political science, as well.
Lupashunski's students in 1963 were widely recognized for circulating petitions opposing the abolition of school prayer. The students gathered 15,000 signatures to present to their congressman, an effort that coincided with Madelyn Murray O'Hair's campaign against prayer in schools. The students were invited to Washington to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, Lupashunski recalled.
"In my own mind, as I look back, that was a lesson in how government works," Lupashunski said. "The purpose,was how do you get something done politically? They would run me out of town if I tried that today."
Patricia Stackhouse, now a secretary at Howard High, was a student of Lupashunski in the early 1960s.
"I have never talked to anyone who had him as a teacher who hasn't walked away much better educated," she said. "He had a lot of knowledge about government, and he had respect for his material. He believes that the ideas he was communicating were important, so you believed it."
At the end of every year when his students received their report cards, Lupashunski received his, too -- an evaluation form he gave each student asking that they rate him. The students were not required to write their names on the sheets.
"That is how I learned," Lupashunski said. Although he says he had the opportunity to become a vice principal, he chose to remain in the classroom, where he could do what he loved best.
He said his students have included former state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, county Planning and Zoning Director Joseph Rutter, former county District Judge Diane Schulte and former county Police Chief Robert O. Mathews.
"We also have to take credit for our failures, too," Lupashunski said. "Some kids I never reached, like the bashful one who sat in the back of the room. He's in prison now. Somewhere along the line, I couldn't get to him."
As current president of the county's Board of Elections -- a political post appointed by the governor -- Lupashunski's priority is still education.
"One of the problems in government and politics is that young people, ages 18 to 24, are alienated. They do not take a real interest in voting or politics. Because of that fact, I have taken advantage of my position," said Lupashunski.
Last May the former teacher visited eight high schools in the county to talk to students about the importance of voting. By his count, he registered 95 percent of the graduating students.
"As president of the board [of elections], I took advantage of this," he said. "I still have connections with the schools, and when I talked to the principals [about registering the students to vote], they were more than willing to allow my visit."
Lupashunski and his wife, Anna Mae, live in Ellicott City and have three grown daughters: Diane McAllister, a department head and teacher at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City; Judy Mauer, a former elementary school teacher who works as a day-care provider in her home in Ellicott City; and Joan Becker, a lawyer who lives in West Friendship.
Lupashunski taught all three of his daughters in his classes.
"Our family has invested over 100 years of education into Howard County. I get invited to reunions every year and it's always a joy," said Lupashunski, who has taught children and even grandchildren of his former students.
"I gave a farewell speech to the class of 1983, and I gave them an assignment: I wanted them to invite me to their 20th reunion in the year 2003," Lupashunski said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Howard High's 40th
Howard High's 40th anniversary celebration will begin at 1 p.m. today in the school auditorium. The 30-minute opening ceremony will include presentation of a plaque to the school by the student government association, and of a dogwood tree by the 40th graduating class of the National Honor Society.
Afterward, a wing of the school will be designated "Memory Lane," where school memorabilia will be on display. Also on exhibit will be artwork by students and films from the 1950s. The JROTC Drill team, Pep Squad and a dance troupe will perform in the school gym, and wandering performers -- madrigal singers and an instrumental ensemble -- will provide music throughout the school.
All visitors will receive wooden nickels with the school seal as mementos.