Hey, Tucson High Badgers. Have you talked to Jerry Strutz lately? Haven’t? You should.
The guy’s got a ton of passion for the old school. Get him talking about Tucson High and he won’t quit. Loves the school. Loves the people who went there. And he wants to help the students, staff and faculty who are there now.
Seriously. The dude is all Tucson High, 24-7.
Funny thing is, Strutz didn’t go to Tucson High. Nope. Not even for a day.
“But he’s a true, true Badger. He’s from Wisconsin,” said his wife, Margie Navarro Strutz, who graduated from THS in ’64.
Yup, this University of Wisconsin Badger is all in for Tucson High Magnet School, and as chairman of the Tucson High Badger Foundation and its board of directors, Strutz is leading the effort to reinvigorate the group with new members and increased funds to support the students.
“Everybody I talk to from Tucson High has so much pride,” said Strutz.
As well they should.
As the city’s oldest high school — in fact, Tucson is the state’s oldest high school — thousands of Tucsonans, here and elsewhere, are alumni of the grand school on East Sixth Street and North Euclid Avenue. As a magnet school, its programs in media arts, sciences and math, and language arts have produced numerous outstanding graduates.
Strutz and the foundation’s board of directors are looking to tap the alumni and ask them to give back to the 110-year-old school.
“A lot of people, graduates of Tucson High, don’t even know what the foundation does,” said Strutz, who for 40 years had an insurance business on North First Avenue.
Among its activities, the foundation provides grants to students who are unable to pay for Advanced Placement tests and other academic fees, or costs associated with music and dance programs. The foundation also gives two annual scholarships to Pima Community College. And annually the foundation recognizes top students and their parents for their accomplishments, and elects former alumni, staff and faculty to the foundation’s Hall of Fame.
The foundation could do so much more if it had more members who could help the Badger support group increase its reach.
“It’s been the most gratifying volunteer opportunity I’ve had,” said Barbara Escobar, who graduated from Tucson High in 1983. Her husband, Martin Escobar, is also a Tucson grad. Their son Levi graduated in 2014 and daughter Miranda is a junior.
At 51, Escobar is one of the younger members of the foundation board. Recruiting new members is hard, she said, because of time commitments. But Escobar emphasizes to her family and friends that they can make a difference, direct and immediate, in students’ lives.
There are now about 500 foundation members, but at one time there were twice as many, said Strutz. Members pay $25 a year.
The foundation relies on the interest generated from a $150,000 endowment to pay for scholarships and grants. It also sells merchandise at sporting events, and sells commemorative pavers for $150. The bricks are engraved and placed on the campus.
The school was created in 1906 and in the first two decades, classes were held at several sites, including the present Roskruge Bilingual K-8 School on East Sixth Street and at 1010 E. 10th St., where the Tucson Unified School District offices are located. Tucson High at its present location, with its magnificent columns adorning the main building, opened in 1924.
The school’s graduates include a who’s who of well-known Tucsonans. It would take several columns to list them all.
But it’s not just the well-known Tucson grads the foundation is seeking as new members. The group wants any and all who want to support the students and staff, and in doing so make our town that much better.
“You gotta make people believe,” said Strutz in his best sales-pitch voice.