Commentary, Guest Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

“Once a Warrior, always a Warrior.”


That’s the slogan of the impressive Wakefield High School Education Foundation, whose autumn newsletter shows off what I believe is tops-in-the-county dedication for a high school alumni group caring both for fellow graduates and current needy students.


The all-volunteer 501(C)3 just underwent a change in leadership. New president Jim Jones (Class of ’86) took over for Conchita Mitchell (’66), who ran things for 20 years in the footsteps of Peter Arnston (’56), who helped launch the foundation in 1986. Mitchell, a former school board member involved from the beginning, helped grow the program 230 percent, raising $250,000 from donors in 2022, for a total of $3.3 million over the decades. She personally aided over 500 Wakefield Warriors with higher education. Scholarships start as early as sophomore year, and students remain eligible for four years after graduation.


The foundation recently received a $1 million matching grant from Henry “Ric” Duques (’61), and his wife Dawn.


The Yorktown High School alumni, with whom I am active, has a Hall of Fame and Inspiration and runs a website updating reunions and deaths. But Yorktown students seeking scholarships depend on the Arlington Community Foundation.


Same for the Washington-Lee Alumni Association (it hasn’t changed its name to Washington-Liberty), which showcases school history and compiles an excellent class-by-class database going back to the 1920s. Private Catholic high school Bishop O’Connell runs a Knight Fund for which more than 1,200 parents, alumni, faculty and friends donate yearly. There’s a sports hall of fame.


But the Wakefield alums are best at blending a focus on the past with the present. “Amazon Partners with Wakefield to Build the AWS Think Big Lab,” reads a newsletter headline. Quotations are posted from scholarship winners interviewed by president Jones. Detailed lists of donations from friends, family, parents and staff are listed on an “Honor Roll,” including donations made in memory of departed individuals. I was pleased to see my old Williamsburg Junior High gym teacher Tom Hawkins (Wakefield ’59) listed as giving building tours.


The foundation offers a digital museum, exhibits, oral histories, yearbooks, class-by-class news items, and obituaries of deceased alumni and staff. Particularly moving is a new compilation of “Wakefield’s Fallen Warriors—Vietnam” which begins with an inscription for Glenn Mann (Class of ’58), who died 11/23/65, up through William A. Fraught (’69) who died 7/25/1970.

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Get set for more freedom to drink in Arlington parks. A proposal to allow permit-holding applicants to serve beer and wine during events at Long Bridge Park and Penrose Square was cleared for a vote coming at the Jan. 21 county board meeting.


Recommended in the 2019 Public Space Master Plan, the idea is to expand to five the parks for which event hosts can obtain a banquet license and reviews by police to serve adult libations. (Parks already “wet” include Fort C.F. Smith, Gateway Park and Clarendon Central Park.)


“During the public engagement process, concerns were raised about public health and safety, but these have not been ongoing issues,” I’m told by Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Martha Holland. “Each special event permit is reviewed by a county-wide committee on a case-by-case basis with consideration for any previous infractions by the organization as well as proposed mitigation measures.” Little fiscal impact is expected.


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One of Arlington’s most high-impact developers died Jan. 1 at the age of 95. Preston Caruthers, whose kids I grew up with, made his mark in the 1960s constructing Southern Towers on Shirley Highway (I-95). He continued with other residential and commercial projects from his Caruthers Properties LLC in Ballston, where I interviewed him in 2015.


The Oklahoma-raised farm boy and self-made philanthropist was prominent in the Washington Golf and Country Club (which he helped integrate), helped fund Arlington Public Schools Outdoor Lab (as a school board member), bought Glebe House for the National Genealogical Society, and donated to Marymount University, where the Caruthers name graces a building on Yorktown Blvd.