In the 1950s, just a few thousand men and women called North Royalton home. Gas and power lines had only recently been brought in and our municipality was still officially a Village and not yet a City. It was a tight-knit farming community, and those enrolled in school shared even closer ties. These relationships continue today in the form of the North Royalton High School Alumni Association.
“All of my classmates were like my brothers,” said member Marlyn Cerino, a 1953 North Royalton High School graduate who earned her diploma that year with less than 50 others. She became an active Alumni Association member in 2003, the same year as her 50-year high school reunion.
Pat and Gary Puntel, who graduated in 1959, were the first class to attend seventh through twelfth grade in the new High School building. The two were high school sweethearts and later married and raised a family in the home Gary grew up in on Royalton Road. The Puntels had so strong a bond with their alma mater, that in 1981, Charles Gibson, a former North Royalton High School principal, asked if they would consider forming an Alumni Association. He also requested help from graduates Clyde and Betsy Bena. According to an archival letter addressed to the Benas from Gibson, “an Alumni Association can assist graduates in communication, profiles, honoring of outstanding alumnus, and featuring appropriate alumni activities.”
Now, almost 40 years later, the Alumni Association is still doing just that, and expanding on these principles with leadership from President Nick Phillips, a 1966 graduate. He is serving his second term as President, a one-year elected post that commences every new school year. Topping his agenda is the release of a new website in 2018 for the Alumni Association that will allow users to maintain an individualized profile, search an online database for other NRHS alumni, and stay up-to-date with posted news and events. The group maintains a Facebook presence via @NRHSAA (and Twitter via @NOROAlumni) and posts regularly about upcoming meetings, informal meet-ups and events. Phillips is also examining monthly meeting attendance.
“Our discussions are questioning whether or not attendance is even necessary anymore in this day of technology and social media,” Phillips said. “If we’re still doing successful fundraisers than maybe we don’t need such a strong emphasis on attending meetings. We can stay in touch via the Internet and social media. People are so incredibly busy these days and already exchange information daily, so maybe why focus so much on taking the time to sit in a meeting when you can just go online and read the comments and meeting notes?”
With the bulk of its meeting attendance from graduates of the 1950s and 60s, the Alumni Association is hoping to garner more participation and presence from graduates of later decades, like the 1990s and 2000s. Meetings will never be phased out, Phillips said, but rather, less focused on attendance. One of its long-term goals is to have a representative from every decade present. Phillips said he would also like all Association officers, including the Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer – to seek out a young replacement for next year.
“Pat and I invited alumni that we knew to come together as a group to enjoy memories of our school days and reconnect and support the needs of the school district,” said Gary Puntel, of the early days of the group. “At inception, the Alumni Association, as I recall, focused on bringing alumni together to reconnect with Royalton schools.”
Membership in the Association is free and essentially begins the moment a graduate receives his or her diploma. Activities include the yearly Alumni Social and Wing Ding events, reunion planning, and the nomination and awarding of the North Royalton High School Distinguished Alumni and District Faculty Award. The NRHSAA is exploring hosting a golf outing as well, and members have a chance to serve on various Alumni Association Committees such as Membership, Bell Tower Garden, Social and Database, which includes more than 18,000 entries from 1907 to present. The Association also takes great pride in awarding yearly scholarships to graduating seniors. In 2018, two $2,000 scholarships will be awarded. Interested high school seniors can check in with the Guidance Office for scholarship application information. Active Alumni Association members receive an annual printed newsletter and all alumni have the option of signing up to receive monthly e-newsletters via a link on the district’s website, 2018 is North Royalton’s Bicentennial, and members of the Alumni Association are discussing celebratory activities that will tie in with the city’s special events.
“We’re not just an exclusive club for old, white-haired people,” Phillips said. “We’re all here because high school is our formative years. I served on the school board for 12 years, and during that time, I never forgot that each day, we are shaping the permanent life memories of our students.”
Marlyn Cerino, who served as Treasurer for more than a decade, said she will never take her education at North Royalton for granted.
“What that school did for me, and what they keep doing for students is just remarkable,” Cerino said. “The schools are always very ready to help any student. They get the potential out of every student. I’m so glad to be a part of the Alumni Association. Anyone who wants to join, we’d love to have you. Your new ideas are just as important as our old ones.”
For more information and to learn more about the North Royalton Alumna Association, email President Nick Phillips at

Contributing Writer