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Sandy Journal

Brighton alumni circle back to say farewell

Aug 19, 2019 11:49AM ● By Jet Burnham

High school memorabilia collected over the past 50 years is displayed for thousands of former students to peruse. (Photo courtesy Emma Slikker)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Brighton High School was built in 1969. Penny Petersen started working in the front office just a few years later. Known as the Bengal Grandmother, she holds the record for being a Bengal longer than any other staff member.

“I just got here and found out I loved it and loved the kids so I keep staying,” said Petersen.

The 50-year-old school building, known for its unique circular halls, is being rebuilt, one section at a time, over the next three years.

“I’m sad,” said Petersen. “This has been my home for so long.”

Thousands of current and past students and staff members joined Petersen in a farewell celebration July 20 and to walk the circled halls of Brighton one last time. 

Barbara Bate Dillman (’83) was excited for the chance to see the school again.

“It was so fun to walk around and share memories with my sister that went there too,” she said. “I hate to see such a unique school change.”

Amy Coleman Hintze (’94) and her husband, Brian, (’90) appreciated the open house.

“My husband was drawn to it so he could walk through each and every hall, finding all his old classrooms and hangouts, which we did,” said Hintze. “I almost teared up when we thought of them destroying the gym, where we had been to so many games, assemblies, prep rallies and dances.”

Krista Cullimore (’85) of the Brighton Alumni Association (who organized the event) said nearly 3,000 people came ’round to say goodbye to the circled halls.

Once a Bengal, always a Bengal to chat with old friends and teachers. (Photo courtesy Emma Slikker)


“I think the best part of the day was seeing people reconnect with old classmates and teachers, having people wander the halls, and go find their old locker or a classroom that had significance,” she said. 

Students reunited for group pictures with former teams and clubs, and perused displays of school memorabilia celebrating five decades of excellence. BHS athletes celebrated the 120 championships in wrestling, swimming, tennis, golf and baseball the school has claimed in the last 50 years.

Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey wasn’t surprised by the huge turnout from the community.

“The energy that I felt as you’ve come and walked the circled halls and visited with some of the students and visited with each other from the past — it really truly does indicate the Brighton community and there’s none other like it,” she said to the audience during the evening’s program celebrating “Coming Full Circle.” 

The program featured entertainment by alumni band the Black Sheep Brothers, the 1980s men’s drill team, and current and former Madrigals performing “Within These Circled Halls” under the direction of long-time director Tom Waldron (’81–’99), accompanied by Anna Harbrecht Kennington (’86).

“I was so happy to meet up with Mr. Waldron again,” said Hintze. “He made such an impact on my life and the lives of my siblings, friends and husband. It was an honor to stand and sing the school hymn with former Brighton singers, with Uncle Tom leading us one more time — it is an experience I will never forget.” 

Select alumni were invited to share memories of their years at Brighton as they highlighted the five decades of school traditions and activities.

Some students have circled back to the school as faculty, including John Whiting, a member of the first graduating class of 1970 who returned as a faculty member from 1977–87; Marielle Mackay Rawle (’85), a faculty member/assistant principal since 2012; and Natalie Newell Meyer (’86), math teacher and tennis coach since 1990.

“I entered the halls in 1982 as a very scared young freshman,” said Meyer, now in her 30th year and fifth principal at BHS. “It has been a joy and continues to be for me to still be here at Brighton High School.”

Generations of students in families from Cottonwood Heights and Sandy have proudly been welcomed to the Jungle. Many Bengals have circled back to BHS now as parents of students, sharing the experience of searching for the elusive “end of the hallway” with their children. 

The 50-year celebration, which replaced class reunions for the year, also included a golf tournament at Old Mill Golf Course and a Roarin’ Bengal Riders motorcycle group ride up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The farewell celebration was the first event the newly formed Brighton Alumni Association has planned for former students.

“They can count on more alumni events and ways that we as a Brighton community can give back by providing mentoring opportunities and scholarships in the future,” said Cullimore.

BHS alumni are invited to contribute to and to follow Brighton Alumni Association via their website, Instagram and Facebook. High Bengals@Canyons School DistrictCottonwood Heights, Utah