BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — The Class of 2015’s senior class gift was hiding in plain sight throughout graduation at Proctors in Schenectady on June 25.
Leaning against the podium where Rachel Padula offered the commencement address and Gilbert King accepted his induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame was a round crest that looked deceptively like the one that has decorated official ceremonies for more than 30 years.
Upon inspection, though, the new crest is lighter and flat. It was designed to look like its hand-carved, wooden predecessor and appears three-dimensional from a distance.
Niskayuna’s district crest has a history as long as the high school’s. Though the district itself was founded 60 years ago, the high school wasn’t completed until 1957. Around that same time, Ada Louis, wife of then-Assistant Superintendent Dr. William Louis, drew a crest with four quadrants. Her original drawing hangs on the wall in the district offices today.
The crest has inspired celebratory projects, like the class gift, for decades. In 1983, the school’s 25th anniversary, an English teacher at the high school carved the crest into wood. That same crest has been toted along to various school and district events for 32 years.
However, during recent renovations at the high school, the wooden crest sustained a crack. This worried Student Activities Coordinator Vince Bianchi, who has held various roles in the district since 1969, from Spanish teacher to assistant principal to coach for several sports. So when the Class of 2015’s advisers asked Bianchi if he had any ideas for a meaningful gift they could make, he brought it up.
“We knew that the original crest, which is now mounted at crossroads in our school, it really got deteriorated, plus it was really heavy to lug around,” Bianchi said.
After considering a number of ideas, officers for the Class of 2015 decided to go with Bianchi’s suggestion. They paid to have the historic crest renovated and hung in the busiest part of the school with a historical plaque mounted beneath it, and they ordered a new sign from a company in Burnt Hills. A school district carpenter constructed a mount for the new crest. The whole project cost about $1,500.
“The restoration was relatively inexpensive and they did a great job with that. I was amazed,” Bianchi said. “It looks brand new.”
In line with a tradition that’s been going strong at the school for about a decade, the officers used the balance of their class account after the gift to honor their advisers and help the incoming freshman class get their start. They made donations of $250 each to various charities in the advisers’ names, and also surprised Bianchi with $500 toward a memorial scholarship in his wife’s name. She was a teacher at Shenendehowa.
“Bringing me up on stage was a really special surprise,” he said.