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JFK School 50th Anniversary and FunDay

The anniversary on October 1st 2010 started for me with helping passing out the T-shirts that the alumni sponsored for the current students. I wound up helping pass out T-shirts to the 11-13th grade girls. Actually, classmates were doing the distributing and us alumni representatives simply supervised and directed the girls to their corresponding pick-up points. I had assisted Christina Frangenheim from the alumni association the past months in producing T-shirts for this distribution to current students as well as market them to the alumni. Together we participated in the JFK school's planning meetings for this celebration.

With the several other alumni members, I was then at the greeting table in the hall to the aula to pass out the reserved tickets to the alumnae and other guests coming from overseas. Surprisingly, quite a number were not picked up. Some students would have liked to get in, but this was by invitation only. The big gym would have held many more people, but for safety reasons that wouldn’t be authorised, besides the new floor wasn’t finished either. The students were able to watch the ceremony on large video screens distributed around the campus. Heard though that they did get bored by all the speeches.

Went to participate in the celebration then, Ute had saved a seat for me in the third row. Max Enthoven, the HS student president was one of the two MCs (read about him in the Morgenpost article, see below). Musically, it started off with a stage full of elementary Suzuki violinists. After Principal Roth’s welcome, we were interested in hearing good old Rudolf Bewer tell about the adventures of starting up the school and pointed out some of the “pioneer” teachers with us, such as Bäbel Sotschek, Frau Adams, Ms Hagen and Ms Adam. U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy, actually speaking in German too, told us how he was meeting other American ambassadors and proudly telling them about our school. The Berlin senator for education Jürgen Zöllner brought greetings from Mayor Wowereit. He pointed out how JFKS has always be such a special model, showing for decades how things can be done, which are only now being implemented in Berlin schools. (I heard soon afterwards, however, that Zöllner now wants to significantly change the special law concerning the Kennedy school; the worst of which would be a drastic limitation of the freedom of the school in selecting its American teachers – the parent council and others are hopping mad about this!)

The older elementary kids gave a rousing number singing “We are JFKS!” After so many praises for our old school, I felt like starting all over again with first grade! Most entertaining were Principal Charles Hanna’s anecdotes about recruiting trips to the USA with a German representative and having interesting “meetings” with the police. He also simply read off a list of names of significant persons and families of various organisations that are part shaping the JFKS community. Goldschmidts were also mentioned; too bad my classmate Dorothea wasn’t there, but at the reception afterwards Ute and I met Dorothea’s sister Susanne – we sent greetings. We also met André Garleitner, Claudia Peters, and Ilse Groß (geb. Müller) there. I went around gathering principal/principle autographs; that is, of the principals as well as the principle (i.e. first) teachers.

I'm visible on the left; Ute seated to my right. These are screenshots from the 2-hour video made of the commemoration. It is available at

Everyone received a commemoration booklet. I wrote the biography on John F Kennedy for that.

Quite interesting was a booklet “Wir Kennedykinder” written and sold by the “pioneers”; Bewer and the teachers and students of the first couple of years. Bewer writes for example that he had the idea of giving the school the name of Kennedy already on his way to sign the condolences book just hours after the assassination was announced. One thing I miss in all this celebration is information on some of the significant step on founding the school in the first place: who were the initiators, how long did it take, what were the hurdles. Maybe the administration will respond to my query (some day).

The celebration continued on Saturday with FunDay. The alumni had a table and a booth there where Christina Frangenheim was selling the T-shirts to alumni (and alumni only!) and John Hagen was making his famous Caiprinhas. Met Ute and Andrea there as Ute was picking out her T-shirt. A large sign-up poster was poster where alumni could write where and when then could be found at FunDay. I set up a croquet set for alumni entertainment. However, other kids where playing with it and several of the balls got lost in the jungles in front of the school building or otherwise even reputably on the roofs! In the meantime, I was offering voter registration at a table at the front corner of Haus Reil with the help of some members of my voter registration team. Registered 18 people.

In the evening then, we had our party: the Alumni Dance "50 Years JFKS" at the Salz Club on Salzufer in Charlottenburg. The turn-out was pretty good; it got quite crowded. Ute and Andrea weren’t there, but André and Claudia were present again along with Martina, Uli, Ilse, Karsten, and Oliver showing up. I made sure everyone got to meet the others of our class (of '77), so we kind of convened in the middle room. The big front room was loud with John Hagen’s disco and the busy bar and the back room was least crowded with the smokers in it. You could go outside as well.

What was good about this big party was that we could make and renew contacts across class levels. Some of the guys for instance met others with whom they had played basketball. I think our class was well represented compared to others. Tom Scherer was from the class ahead of us and was glad to hook up with us, because there is not much going on with his class of ’76. He, in fact, comes from Washington DC to Europe once a year and now came especially to Berlin for this celebration.

I danced too, to the “Musik aus unserer Jugend” and then left to catch the last bus. Others stayed until they were kicked out a 5 in the morning.

A final highlight was the sold-out concert held on October 7th in the Gethsemaniekirche. The music department outdid itself once more with Rhapsody in Blue and Carmina Burana with a huge chorus and a full orchestra. Loved those kettle drums in O Fortuna.

References and Links

John F Kennedy School

Official site: JFK School 50th Anniversary

Alumni Association

The 50th anniversary in the press

Morgenpost from 1 October 2010: 40 Nationen lernen unter einem Dach; scanned article top, bottom.

Tagesspiegel from 28 September 2010: John-F.-Kennedy-Schule feiert 50. Geburtstag

Berliner Zeitung from 23 September 2010: Einmal JFK, immer JFK

FAZ from 23 August 2010: American Spirit schon für Erstklässler JFK School 50th anniversary video .
(2 hours long)