Somebody to Lean On: Alumni Gather for the Annual Banquet

Committee member Trudy Powles Sutton (1964) and attendee Gail Duerr (1963) head for the Parker’s Smokehouse buffet line as emcee and committee member Debbi Miller Fontenot (1970) looks on.

Former Lions celebrated their fond memories, recent achievements, and the chance to get together once again.

The crowd was all smiles on Saturday, May 27, as over 100 Louisville alumni and guests gathered for the annual Alumni Banquet. An eight-member committee worked for months preparing the catered event, which they hosted from the high school commons area and gymnasium. Louisville celebrated its first graduating class in 1896, making 2023 the 127th year LHS has welcomed a new class of graduates into the alumni fold. 

After having to cancel the banquet in the face of COVID-19 for 2020 and 2021, the planning committee was thrilled to bring it back just last year for 2022. The banquet enjoyed a record number of attendees, but organizers felt the strain of inflation and other rising costs among the pandemic’s lingering challenges. 

Two of the organizers, Jean Knutson Heim (1962) and Susie Meyer (1972), discussed the challenges with local business owner Mark Leibman. To give the organization time to rebuild, he suggested Leibman Financial Services sponsor the event for 2023, 2024, and 2025. With banquet costs covered, all ticket proceeds benefit future efforts of the Alumni Association. Combined with the always-appreciated support of community and individual donors, the organization is now in a more sustainable place to continue its work into the future. 

In the spirit of a reunion, the annual banquet takes time to recognize special groups of alumni. Honored classes this year included those celebrating 25, 40, 50, 60, and 70 years since graduation. The committee also recognized the oldest alumni in attendance as well as those who traveled the farthest. Many guests joined the party from just down the street but also from as far away as California, Virginia, “that other Louisville” in Kentucky, and Colorado. 

Another feature of this year’s banquet has become a fan favorite: on the night of the event, the honored classes choose a representative to speak to the crowd. Each rep introduced their classmates, gave some updates about their peers, and shared special memories that were coming back to the group. 

It was during these round-robin addresses that the audience learned what good company they were truly in. 

Debbie Dobbs O’Driscoll (1973) spoke briefly about her sister, the late Patsy Dobbs Sawyer (1960) who had served on the alumni planning committee and in other groups in the community. Debbie also showed the crowd the program from her graduation day, a memento that Patsy had asked her to autograph. 

“She saved everything,” Debbie said of her late sister. She recalled other special milestones for the audience, too. 

“We were blessed to be going to school when Title IX was passed,” she reflected, referring to the landmark education amendment that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. One of the immediate effects of Title IX, in many places, was the addition of women’s athletics and activities. 

The women in Debbie’s class were some of the first at Louisville to play volleyball and run track, and by their senior year, they had their own basketball as well. Classmate Jackie Meisinger (1973) was the first young woman at Louisville High to take woodshop. 

The audience got to hear about classmates who had become dentists and doctors, about alumni who had just become new grandparents, and that one of this year’s scholarship recipients was actually a fifth-generation Louisville graduate. Piper Meisinger (2023) attended with her father Mark Meisinger (1983) and grandmother Julie Johnson Meisinger (1959). Piper shared about her intentions to study psychology and to support women and children. 

“There’s a stigma around getting help,” Piper said, “and that’s something I want to work on.” 

The other scholarship recipient, Kole Albert (2023), was also able to celebrate with his grandmother, committee member Donna Tlustos Albert (1964). Kole graciously thanked the association for his scholarship and shared that he’d like to complete his education to become an electrician. 

Three alumni were invited to attend as guest speakers. Jodi Josoff (1993) spoke about the importance of community and her role as president of the Louisville School Foundation. Doug Martin (1983) reminisced about his time at Louisville and his experience having a superintendent for a father. Caitie Leibman (2007) reflected on how her educational journey brought her full circle: she attended the 2023 banquet both as an alum and as Communications Director of the sponsor, Leibman Financial. 

“We were so happy to get involved,” Caitie said. “Our work as a registered investment advisor is all about connecting clients’ money to their real lives, and this sponsorship is another way of doing that. Now your entire ticket price goes toward the future of this organization.” 

Jodi’s remarks also focused on the future. She talked about the multidecade history of the School Foundation, especially its efforts to fund scholarships for graduating seniors. 

“I wanted to share with you a note the Foundation received from one of this year’s recipients,” she told the crowd. The graduate in the letter wrote that she was the first woman in her family to go to college—and that this was a gift she meant to make the most of. Jodi urged the audience to remember what their work in the community means to today’s students. 

“The message is hope—that their community believes in them, their skills, and their future,” Jodi said. 

Doug shared about his late father, former Louisville Superintendent Jerry Martin. While it wasn’t always easy having an administrator as a parent, his father left an impression. He remembered his father going out to check the roads before he would declare a snow day. 

“He would drive the bus route himself,” Doug said. “If his vehicle got stuck, no school. I think some people in this audience probably helped pull him out.” After the banquet, other community members said they remembered “Mr. Martin” shoveling sidewalks outside the school and making sure students had rides to football games. 

Doug encouraged the audience to think about the value of their experiences at a small school. He credited his time at Louisville for a lot of the skills and opportunities that served him well in later years, including in his career as a physician, medical director, and educator. 

The youngest listening in the crowd were the servers for the evening, current students who had volunteered to help. Dessert included special cupcakes created by Nola Nelson, owner of Nola Mae Bakery. Nola started her business in 2021 and will be a junior at Louisville this fall. 

As the alumni and new graduates went their separate ways for the summer, the committee heard nothing but good things about this year’s banquet. Ahead of the 2024 event, committee members will be hard at work again helping to update alumni contact information, maintain the group’s online presence on Facebook, and engage younger alumni in the planning process. 

With a new sponsor and new energy, the Alumni Banquet is on track to help the community remember: we could all use somebody to lean on. 

What’s next?

  • “Like” the Alumni Association Facebook page (@LPSLionAlumni
  • Consider a donation to the Louisville Alumni Association or the Louisville School Foundation 
  • Update your contact information with the association: you can use the form here.

Mark Leibman (R) catches up with alumni committee member Elaine Beck Storovich (1971)
The alumni banquet planning committee. Front, L to R: Susie Meyer (1972), Donna Tlustos Albert (1964), Elaine Beck Storovich (1971), Trudy Powles Sutton (1964). Back, L to R: Debbi Miller Fontenot (1970), Peggy Maier Anderson (1972), Jean Knutson Heim (1962), Jean Johnson Buskirk (1964).
Director of Communications Caitie Leibman (2007) was one of the invited alumni speakers.