Bethlehem residents and district officials gathered around Oct. 15, 1967, as Vice President Hubert Humphrey spoke at the Freedom HS and East Hills JHS dedication ceremony. His speech is still available for reading online to this day. In it, he applauded the two schools as the finest he had ever seen, saying to all involved that, “You have decided to equip those children for success – successful employment, successful college careers, successful participation in American society.”
Humphrey’s words did not fall on deaf ears, and 50 years later to the day many former students and educators, some whom listened to that original speech, returned to Freedom and East Hills for a rededication ceremony. They returned as educators, politicians and examples of the caliber of students produced by the Bethlehem Area School District.
The ceremony began with the East Hills MS and Freedom HS bands leading a procession of district staff and honorable guests onto the field. Choirs from both schools then led a performance of the alma mater and the national anthem. Among the speakers were current East Hills Assistant Principal Patrick Tannous, Freedom Principal Michael LaPorta, East Hills Principal David Horvath, and School Board President Michael Faccinetto.
District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy had the honor of introducing the keynote speaker, State Senator Lisa Boscola who attended Governor Wolf ES, East Hills MS and Freedom HS. Being asked to speak at the event was one the greatest honors she had ever had, Boscola said.
She joked about her time throughout the Bethlehem schools, but attributed her successful political career to the education she received in those buildings. The principles of hard work, putting your mind to it, and that not trying is worse than losing, guided her throughout her career. She looked at this moment as a time to celebrate public education, and it’s critical importance to the success of the entire community.
The event wrapped up with speeches from all of the former principals of Freedom HS. Joseph J. McIntyre, Freedom’s first principal, was represented by his widow, Jean McIntyre and their children. The crowd broke into applause upon hearing Mrs. McIntyre is preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday in December.
Former principals Villani, Jay, Washburn and Bentkowski all reminisced about their time and accomplishments at Freedom. The district also received proclamations from Boscola, Pa. House representatives Samuelson and Hahn, Fire Chief Achey on behalf of Mayor Bob Donchez and others.
The final revelation was that earlier in the week, a 1967 time capsule was discovered, and the district quickly planned an extraction and unsealing, so that the contents could be put on display.
Principal LaPorta showed off a handful of the items, including a necktie worn by Principal McIntyre, a yearbook, a Patriot hat, and other paper mementos. He added that current seniors are working on a plan of items to place back into the time capsule, before it is resealed for another 50 years.
The event closed with a procession of all the attendees, and celebrations of food trucks, band performances, dance team performances, and games and activities for children. While the event area was being cleaned up, a private view into the time capsule was offered.
Ro Faulkner, head custodian of East Hills, and custodian Melissa Sule carefully displayed the items, which mostly included booklets from plays, performances and events held throughout the first year at the school. They took a momentary break from cleaning up to pose with some of the items, and Ms. Sule was speechless when she found her mother’s 1968 senior picture in the yearbook.