JUST a few short years ago, the Ocean City Historical Museum had a small exhibit within its walls dedicated to the town’s high school. It featured a handful of artifacts and a bit of written history, and that was that – until Beth Bowman came along, that is.
It was in 2018 that Beth, who started volunteering at the museum in 2016 and joined the Board of Trustees shortly thereafter, decided it was time to shine a spotlight on Ocean City High School history.
And thus, the Ocean City High School Alumni All-Stars was born.
“I got this idea,” Beth said. “Wouldn’t it be fun to tell the history of Ocean City High School through the kids who went to school there and then went out into the world?”
With that in mind, Beth started bringing her idea to life. She reached out to Patricia Gillian, chairwoman of the Night in Venice Pageant Committee, to see if the nonprofit would be interested in donating a cabinet to showcase OCHS alumni.
Patricia spoke to her fellow committee members, and a four-shelf, glass, lighted cabinet was gifted to the cause.
Next up was finding the four alumni to feature, with a shelf dedicated to each person’s photos, memorabilia, artifacts, and story.
“I feel people are the true treasures in our life, and everyone has a story. Everyone,” Beth said. “It’s always fascinating to me when you start talking to people and the stories you get out of them.”
Whether due to busy schedules or modesty, finding willing participants was not an easy task. But Beth got the job done.
THE FIRST DISPLAY
The first year featured: Marian A. Talese ’53, an artist and piano teacher; Patricia Bowman ’86, a model, singer, actress, writer, Emmy-nominated producer, former Miss New Jersey and a Sunshine Foundation Humanitarian of the Year; and Patricia DeFelice ’12, a silver medalist in the North Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championships. The bottom shelf was dedicated to the OCHS Class of ’57, partly to thank the group for donating a large red cabinet to OCHM to house its collection of OCHS yearbooks, dating from the 1920s to today. The individuals included from the Class of ’57 were Judge Anthony Gibson, teacher and coach Charles Bowman Sr. and Professor Michael Varano.
Once on display, the All-Stars exhibit was so popular that the Night in Venice Pageant Committee donated a second cabinet, and Bowman expanded the 2018 2019 display to include: Jay A. Gillian ’83, four-term Ocean City mayor and president of Wonderland Pier; Dr. Matthew Jamison ’84, former OCHS principal and 2018 New Jersey Principal of the Year; and Richard Philippe Coe ’57, educator and administrator of nuclear engineering. Again, the bottom shelf was dedicated to a group, this time from the Class of 1984, including longtime Ocean City police officer and current minister Timothy Bromhead, retired Ocean City Fire Department Deputy Chief William Bowman and ophthalmologist Dr. Eric Dunn.
A CHANGE OF SCENERY
After the success of the first year, Beth planned to feature eight total OCHS alumni in 2020 – four women in one cabinet and four men in the other. Then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It took the wind out of our sails,” Beth admitted.
No one was featured that second year, but there was still an exciting development for the All-Star display.
“We were revamping the museum. Everything old was new again,” Beth said with a laugh.
The 2020 OCHM renovations were wonderful for the museum, but they did limit space inside the facility. Because of this, Beth tried to figure out if there was a better spot for the two All-Stars cabinets. OCHM is located inside the Ocean City Community Center, and Beth thought moving the cabinets to the center’s atrium (“prime real estate,” she called it) would be perfect.
“What better way to promote one of the brightest jewels in Ocean City’s crown, our award-winning high school,” Beth said.
When she reached out to Mayor Jay Gillian, he agreed, and the cabinets moved to just outside the library – another facet of the Community Center.
THE SECOND GROUP OF GRADUATES
As life settled down later in 2020, Beth had to rekindle her momentum. Once again, she was searching for alumni to feature. The 2021-2022 year ended up featuring four women in the first cabinet – Ocean City Aquatics & Fitness Center Supervisor Lisa Rumer ’83, speech-language pathologist Jill Mullen ’96, Ocean City Police Officer Jennifer Elias ’93 and prosecutor and educator Allison Eiselen ’05 – and four men in the second cabinet – Ocean City Schools Creative Director/CEO Steven Trauger ’00, Ocean City Deputy Fire Chief Charles W. Bowman Jr. ’81, educator and businessman Thomas R. Oves Jr. ’81 and artist and carver George Loder Sr. ’55.
Including memorabilia in the displays is key, according to Beth.
“People like artifacts,” she said. “It can be anything that tells your story. It could be things from high school or things from what you’re doing now. Everybody has that item that’s important to them.”
For instance, there are awards and trophies, plaques and citations. Patricia Bowman’s shelf featured one of her pageant crowns. Marian Talese’s showcase included the artwork she gifted to former First Lady Laura Bush, as well as some of her artist pencils and brushes.
Of course, it’s not just about the memorabilia. The alumni stories are naturally a big part of the exhibits, and those are located outside of the cabinets, where viewers can read about the graduates’ accolades, life since high school and personal anecdotes and details.
THE NEWEST DISPLAY AND LOOKING FORWARD
The response, overall, has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Beth.
“I’m just blown away by the whole thing. I can’t believe the amazing response,” Beth said.
The 2022-2023 cabinets feature eight more alumni: Jennifer Crist Bowman ’87, entrepreneur and humanitarian; Jackie Adams ’10, assistant supervisor of the Ocean City Recreation Department; Robin Williams Vitale ’94, of the American Heart Association; Valerie Grimes Savage ’65, educator, author and humanitarian; Michael J. Hartman ’98, Ocean City Theatre Company founder and artistic director, and chief of staff to Pennsylvania State Sen. Carolyn T. Comitta; Donald Michael Pileggi Sr. ’48, former Ocean City Recreation director; Antwan McClellan ’93, New Jersey State Assemblyman; and Joseph T. Kennedy ’55, who developed curriculum for nuclear and explosive devices training in conjunction with United States Department of Energy and Department of Justice personnel.
With this year’s cabinets installed, Beth is already eyeing up her next class of All-Stars. There are two simple requirements for nominations. One, the person must be, naturally, a graduate of OCHS.
“It’s what you have done to bring positive recognition to the high school or the Ocean City community,” Beth said.
This can be through jobs or charity work, hobbies, or special interests. The possibilities are virtually endless.
“We’re just trying to tell Ocean City’s history through the alumni,” Beth said, “and all the great things they have done.”
To learn more, visit the Ocean City High School Alumni All Stars Facebook page. To nominate an alumnus or for questions, email [email protected].
Read this and more in the September/October issue of OC Mag