The St. Rita Gymnasium at 7740 S. Western has hosted countless, memorable sold-out events during the last 25 years, but April 15 was a special one. The 80th Annual Alumni Banquet saw over 500 Ritamen from dozens of different classes spanning from 1945 to 2019 pack the gym, the St. Rita Museum, the St. Rita Shrine Chapel, the McCarthy Center, the Van Leuven Family Research Center and the hallways. The capacity crowd filled every available seat in the house. The classes of 1956, 1966, 1976, 1991 and 2006 came out in especially large numbers thanks to the work and planning of class representatives. This year, more alumni than ever made use of social media to gather their Ritamen brothers together at the banquet.
From the time students first enter St. Rita as freshmen, they learn that "Tradition Never Graduates" at St. Rita. The annual spring tradition that is the Alumni Banquet is the personification of this theme. The Augustinian school spirit and St. Rita brotherhood displayed during the Friday-night banquet was palpable--some Ritamen even dusted off old letterman sweaters and jackets for the night.
The event began with a cocktail hour at 6:30, which allowed the families of our award winners and honorees to enjoy a private reception in our school’s McCarthy Student Center. The 50th Anniversary Class of 1966 got together in our the Van Leuven Center for a private pre-banquet reception. After taking turns checking out the yearbook and viewing a special home movie (provided by St. Rita Hall of Famer Dennis Lucas '66) of some of the last days of the 63rd & Claremont campus the 1966 class gathered for a reunion photo.
Eventually, when the cocktail hour ended at 7:30 p.m., the attendees leapt to their feet as the Class of 1966 was led into the gym by the St. Rita Marching Mustangs playing St. Rita Fight Song.
While a delicious three-course dinner from Country House Restaurant was being served, everyone watched a 25-minute video presentation made by St. Rita graduate and 2002 alumnus, Javier Solorio and narrated by St. Rita faculty member, baseball coach, football coach and 1993 alumnus, John Nee.
The video presentation featured pictures and biographies of all St. Rita Alumni Banquet Award Winners and Honorees. Mr. Nee and Mr. Solorio captured the highlights and key moments of each Ritaman with pictures from their days as St. Rita students, their old pictures with family and friends, and their current photos. The video was a major highlight of the evening for many of our guests, including 2016 Man of the Year Fr. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A. '83.
Thanks to all the Ritamen who attended the 80th Annual St. Rita Alumni Banquet. Your camaraderie is what makes the banquet the special event it is.
Up next, mark your calendars for the 41st Annual St. Rita Scholarship Golf Outing, on Friday, July 22, 2016 at Gleneagles Country Club in Lemont, Illinois. All St. Rita Alumni, Friends and Family are welcome for 18 holes of golf, fun on the course, raffle and door prizes, excellent food and drink packages, and much, much more!