by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Hayden High School here has much to be grateful for during this year’s Catholic Schools Week.
In December 2021, the school completed a year-long celebration in honor of its 110th anniversary. Founded by Father Francis Hayden, the school opened in 1911 with 30 students. Today, the school has over 350 with a student-teacher ratio of 14:1.
Principal James Sandstrom said he really enjoyed last fall’s reunion celebration held the weekend of September 24-26.
“It was fun and exciting to see alumni from years ago before I was here and to see alumni that I had the pleasure of teaching,” he said.
In addition to traditional homecoming activities, the weekend included a Grotto Blessing, the announcement of the Hayden Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, and the official launch of “Honoring Our Tradition.” Investing in Our Future,” the school’s $2.5 million stewardship campaign.
Then, on December 4, the one-year anniversary celebration ended with a banquet where the Hayden community came together to honor the first five members of the Hayden Hall of Fame.
Last summer, the entire Hayden community was invited to nominate Individuals of Distinction who fell into one of four categories: Alumni Achievement, Athletic/Activity Student Achievement, Staff Achievement and contributor success. A questionnaire detailing the achievements of each nominee had to be completed and submitted by August 15.
In the area of personnel achievement, the inaugural class of Hall of Famers included two honorees: Ken Bueltel and Ben Meseke.
Bueltel, who coached men’s basketball from 1953 to 1972, compiled a record of 309-152. Additionally, he taught history, served as the school’s athletic director, and helped raise funds for the activity complex that now bears his name.
Meseke also coached the men’s basketball team. During his coaching stint, Hayden High School played in 13 state tournaments, winning six championship titles, including one at the end of a perfect season in 1983. He also coached 19 of 20 cross-country teams. country to qualify for state competitions. These teams won six more state titles. Additionally, during the two decades he spent at Hayden from 1973 to 1997, he taught advanced math courses. Towards the end of his high school days, Meseke served as vice principal.
According to Shelly Buhler, President of Hayden, approximately 150 people attended the inaugural banquet which was “a great evening of celebration and remembrance, simply acknowledging the contributions of these people to Hayden and thanking them for their contributions”.
Accepting on his father’s behalf, Mark Bueltel said his father was a humble man and “probably would act like he wasn’t thrilled, but in his heart he would be very grateful for the feelings people gave him back” .
Class of 1976 member Rick Strecker received the honor for his alumni achievements.
In his senior year, Strecker served as student council president and athlete of the year. After college, he returned to Hayden where he remained for 33 years, serving as a science teacher and head coach of women’s basketball and track and field, leading the teams to five state championship titles. Additionally, he served as the school’s president for more than two decades.
“I was lucky enough to go to high school here and then work there for 33 years, and those were great years,” Strecker said. “So to receive this kind of honor with the amazing people who are also being honored is really special to me.”
Ken McGarity, who was honored for his accomplishments, volunteered at the school from 1977 to 2017, accumulating more than 16,000 volunteer hours in a variety of fields, including concessions, spiritual clothing and PACE (Parents and Alumni for Catholic Education).
Finally, Mark Turgeon was honored for his achievements as a student-athlete at Hayden. A member of Hayden’s class of 1983, Turgeon played on the men’s basketball team that won back-to-back Class 4A championships in 1982 and 1983, then played for University of Kansas coach Larry Brown in the 1986 NCAA Final Four.
Building on the success of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural banquet, Buhler said, is important.
“It is important to celebrate Catholic education, to celebrate our 110 years and the importance of our alumni and the Hayden community, and to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of our Hall of Fame members and what ‘they returned to Hayden.”
To that end, both Buhler and Sandstrom said it was important not only “to honor our traditions, but also to invest in our future.”
The current campus is over 50 years old and needs infrastructure updates, as well as educational improvements in areas such as computer lab upgrades and science lab updates. Most importantly, however, Buhler and Sandstrom said it was vital for Hayden to continue to exist, especially as the capital’s only Catholic high school.
As part of the stewardship campaign, at least $500,000 will be set aside for the Hayden Catholic High School Foundation, which serves as the school’s endowment. Nearly one in three students receive some form of tuition assistance through the endowment and its many established scholarships. And that, according to Buhler and Sandstrom, will certainly invest in Hayden’s future.
“If Hayden’s impact ends when our students graduate,” Sandstrom said, “then we haven’t done a very good job. There’s a sense of pride on the part of teachers, alumni current students and students when there are Hayden graduates who are doing great things in multiple ways, including serving others and, in turn, serving God.