Bettie Luke ‘59 embraces Vivian Lee ‘55, two friends of over 25 years who met through the UW Multicultural Alumni Partnership, which Lee co-founded with Larry Matsuda — another Garfield Alum. Photo by Carmen Hom

It was a purple and Bulldog tidal wave at the Garfield Centennial Celebration

The energy was boisterous as alumni, grandparents, family, children, and students gathered at Garfield High School to celebrate its 100th year anniversary on Saturday August 27, 2022. There was an air of nostalgia and novelty, as old friends reconnected at decade reunions while new friends introduced each other and their connection to Garfield. One person who came to do both was Vivian Lee ‘55.

She was dressed in a purple monochromatic outfit: from her matching blouse and trousers, to her earrings and her shoes – every detail was a subtle nod of pride for her alma mater. She chose an uncrowded table to sit at, with a few unfamiliar faces, and eased herself into the conversation by confidently introducing herself.

On the front steps of Garfield is where Vivian Lee ’55 used to sit quietly to study and eat lunch. She started her Garfield years shyly, having just moved to the US from Tokyo. Today, she stands on these same steps, proud of her accomplishments as a holistic student leader who was involved in tap dance, honor society, the foreign relations committee, and many more. Photo by Carmen Hom

Soon, the table became full. Friends, old and new, laughed while stopping by to share their memories of high school. Lee shares why she attended the Centennial today. 

“I came back today because I’m from the class of ‘55 – we were a very close class that had many reunions. I honor Garfield because it seems like the one that remembered me.” 

She remembers the weariness of moving from high school to high school in the Seattle area. She was looking for a place to call home — when Garfield became one. Garfield’s significance became even more profound, a symbol uniting her to her late husband, Owen Griffin Lee. Although their timelines were different, it was strictly a coincidence that they both had a connection to Garfield, one as a student and one as an administrator. They met through family, and were married for 41 years.

Lee holds a draft of the memoir of her late husband, Owen Griffin Lee, who became Garfield High’s first Black Administrator in 1967. The next year, he became the first Black Vice Principal. “People forget about the history of educators and administrators,” she says, “they gave their lives to the students of Garfield.” Photo by Carmen Hom
Two classmates from the Class of 1958 stand in front of the steps of Garfield High. Pictured: Lynn Jaffe and Keiko Yanagihara. Photo by Carmen Hom
A little girl smiles and looks at the camera with her family in the back. Photo by Carmen Hom

The day’s crowd was intergenerational and diverse, a reflection of the rich history of the Central Area as a neighborhood once home to notable populations of Italian, Japanese, Jewish, and African American folks.

For Harald Hyllseth ‘15, the former 2014/15 ASG President, this history is inextricable from Garfield’s cultural imprint.  

“What this school means to the community is…like you see it here,” Hyllseth continues, “lots of young people, lots of elders. The school (before gentrification happened) was a cultural icon: MLK spoke here, Barack has spoken here. We have a lot of history of social activism, sports, and music. It’s a magnet school for a lot of different things — the culture is Garfield. So, Garfield is the culture.”

Bradley Kim ‘15, Tyler Bui ‘15, and Harald Hyllseth ‘15 laugh and reminisce their Garfield memories at a familiar hangout spot next to the baseball field. Photo by Carmen Hom

Noah Sheehan ‘16 decided to volunteer today to give back to a community that raised him. 

“Garfield is the center of the community; it’s not just a school. It’s the Central District. It’s where I grew up, and it’s been good to see everybody — even people I didn’t know from high school. We all have something invested here; we’re all neighbors.”

Noah Sheehan ‘16 smiles as he volunteers for the celebration by answering questions at one of the information booths. Photo by Carmen Hom

Although this community has spread out, and not everyone lives in the Central District anymore, this gathering was a reminder of the people who once comprised this neighborhood and the celebration of Garfield as a symbol of community, collaboration, and culture.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell speaks at the celebration. Photo by Carmen Hom.
Photo by Carmen Hom.

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