Gerhardt holds a special place in Naperville North history— she is responsible for the iconic Huskie mascot.
"My sophomore or junior year, they wanted to create a mascot, so they did a contest with the students and they asked the students to submit names,” Gerhardt said. “My English teacher and I were throwing around a lot of ideas. Huskies was one of them that I wrote down, and then they made an announcement on the intercom that they had decided on a name and they said ‘thank you’ to me for choosing that name.”
The “huskie” mascot is one thing that has stayed constant throughout the years, and it serves as a symbol of the various sports teams that make up a big part of North. Paul Ryan, an NNHS teacher from 1975 to 2009, also served as a football and baseball coach in the infancy of North’s sports programs.
“The very first years, we weren’t very good because we didn’t have seniors in my first year as a varsity coach in baseball,” Ryan said. “I remember it was difficult in whatever sport we were doing. We were trying to fight our way in, just to be recognized.”
Girls’ athletics at NNHS in those times were constantly evolving, especially with the introduction of Title IX, a piece of federal legislation that protects from sex-based discrimination, in 1972.
“Title IX was coming into effect, and seeing that blossom was a nice experience. It was nice to see where women were able to be as competitive as they are now,” Ryan said.
She also reminisced about the connection between the staff, especially during the first years of their hiring at the school.
“After a football game, a bunch of faculty would go out for pizza or something like that,” Laurie Ryan said. “I don’t know how much of that is still happening, because everyone’s wound up into getting everything done. Teachers are so busy all the time.”
Although there are always noteworthy things happening at North, the nature of class pranks used to be a lot more chaotic, likely as a result of a more lax environment. Mary Roesler, a student from 1976-1980 and a math teacher at North since 1989, described some of her favorite memories of these pranks.
“Someone released birds in the small cafeteria, one kid drove a motorcycle through the hallway,” Roesler said.
The amount of pressure also has to do with the courses that are available for students to take. With a higher capacity to “achieve,” there is more of a push to do so.
“A big thing was that at the beginning there were no AP classes offered, and there was no weighted GPA. So that was a big change. I think just because we were a smaller community at the time, that just changed as we grew. We added AP courses over time,” Roesler said.
Over time, the academic obligation for each student grew. Laurie Ryan remembers this beginning to happen during her career at North.
“The push from parents was intense, the pressure was there. I think that started turning in the late 90s. That’s where it really, really got pushed that way. I feel fortunate that our two daughters, who graduated around 2000, didn’t have to experience it that much. That pressure was ramping up at the time, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. I don’t know how students now survive,” Laurie Ryan said.
That, too, changed with the academic-centric lens that became prevalent at North and in education generally.
“Early to mid 90s, they started phasing out things like woodshop and auto mechanics. We used to have a great trades program at North. There was that push towards everyone having to go to a four year college, and the trades started losing ground,” Laurie Ryan said.
Students took various paths through their high school career with more flexibility and less credits required for graduation. Although many students now work during the school year, these jobs are typically after school so that students can still take a full load of classes.
“We had more students that would graduate junior year and go out and work, or more kids that would do a co-op program where they were at school half of the day and working with a business for the other half. Now that there are more credits required, kids don’t do that as much,” Roesler said.
When Lori Gerhardt first attended NNHS as a freshman in 1973, she was a part of the first class of students that would spend all four years at North.
“When I was a sophomore it was just sophomores and freshmen, when I was junior it was juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, and so my class was the first senior class graduating. We kind of felt like we owned the school,” Gerhardt said.
In 1975, when Waubonsie Valley High School was established, students who would graduate from different high schools no longer had to attend Naperville North as freshmen. They finally had enough room for students to spend all four years at one high school. NNHS became completely independent, made up entirely of Huskies.
Mark Rowzee, a current physics teacher and former student from 1985-1989, returned to teach in the building in 2005. Rowzee has witnessed the school grow and evolve throughout his time in the building.
“When I went to school here it was a good place to be and I still think it’s a good place to be for students around now.”
While on the surface it appears that North is nothing like it was 50 years ago, these returning students know the similarities between the decades better than anyone else.
“We had the same slang, like, for the U-Hall, we called it the U-Hall.” Roesler remembered.