Buffalo's Grover Cleveland High School stands proudly on 14th Street on Buffalo's West Side in the shadow of Kleinhans Music Hall, beautiful 100-year-old homes and gracious, mature trees. Earlier this summer, the final class of graduates participated in the 80th commencement ceremony at the Allendale Theatre. Grover is no more. The campus is now officially known as the International Prep School.
I am a proud 1949 graduate of Grover Cleveland High with many wonderful memories. A dear friend of mine, from the same class, joined the Marines before graduation. Of course times were different then and Dominic Telesco, like many others, spent three years serving our country. The service provided him an opportunity to receive high school accreditation and the finances to pursue higher education.
In recent years, Dominic and I and some other buddies formed the first Grover Cleveland High Alumni Association, which now stands 300 members strong. We felt it was important to honor the school named for the former mayor of Buffalo, sheriff of Erie County, governor of New York State and the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, Stephen Grover Cleveland.
Dom is the founder and chairman of the alumni group, and his love for the old school and desire to become a "true" graduate became a reality when our Alumni Association presented him, after 60 years, with a bound, official diploma draped in the school colors of green and white.
In June, as the senior class of 2011 prepared to graduate, Dominic had the special honor of meeting the grandson of President Cleveland. George Cleveland was in Buffalo to make the commencement address. He showed a genuine interest in the school history, its graduates and the fact that Dominic lives on the former Grover Cleveland estate in Amherst, adjacent to the popular Grover Cleveland public golf course.
Cleveland was impressed with the news that his famous grandfather had owned a home on a neighboring street. And school Principal Kevin Eberle and senior class adviser Richard Pryszczek enthusiastically looked at the first Grover yearbook, in black and white, from the class of 1935, given to Dom by a late cousin. When Cleveland spoke to the graduates and their families, he was kind enough to introduce my friend, who was then greeted with warm applause and accolades.
The names of neighborhood friends who graduated in 1949 were mostly Italian: Anzalone, Vitale, Testa, Millitello, Sawyer and Harkness -- a contrast from the 2011 graduates of the International Prep School with surnames representing different backgrounds, cultures and continents.
However, these teenagers, like my classmates many years ago, will need to work hard to achieve their dreams, and the dreams of their parents. This next era for my former high school offers many great opportunities for its students -- the promising, hardworking leaders of tomorrow who will move our great city and country forward with their knowledge, patience and tenacity.
So as I approach my 80th year, my fond memories of the old Grover, sprinkled with genuine support for the new generation of eager Prep School students, are as strong as they were decades ago.
"Hail to thee our alma mater
Grover Cleveland dear
Pledge we our loyal hearts ... "
Leonard A. Testa, of East Amherst, is a former Buffalo teacher, principal and proud graduate of Grover Cleveland High School.