The culmination of Grace Community School’s 40th anniversary celebration will come on Thursday with a program featuring former President George W. Bush.
Bush will serve as the keynote speaker at the event that is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in The University of Texas at Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center.
The program will include musical performances from Grace Community School’s state-recognized fine arts department and a multimedia presentation recognizing the school’s founders.
Grace Headmaster Jay Ferguson said he thinks the former president will talk about his time in office and what he’s been doing post-presidency.
In addition, he might provide some thoughts on leadership. Ferguson said he and Bush also are expected to participate in a question-and-answer session with pre-planned questions.
“I hope that (attendees) enjoy hearing from the former president,” Ferguson said. “Having him there adds such kind of a special weight to the event and we’re so grateful to have him.”
Bush, who was raised in Midland and Houston, served as the 43rd president from 2001 to 2009.
Prior to that, he served as the governor and was the first governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive four-year terms.
After the presidency, Bush and his wife, Laura, founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. The center is home to the Bush Presidential Museum and Library and the George W. Bush Institute.
Ferguson said the school already has celebrated its anniversary in several ways, including a tailgate party and fireworks at football games and a birthday soiree for families of Grace alumni.
This week’s event provides another opportunity to celebrate the school’s 40 years and tells its story in an abbreviated but compelling way, he said.
Grace serves 970 students in K4 through 12th grades. This year’s seniors will be the 15th graduating class.
Grace Community Church founded the school in 1973 with 60 students in second through 12th grades, according to the school’s website.
The high school closed in the 1980s when the oil bust hit Tyler, but the rest of the school remained open going through the eighth grade. The high school reopened in the 1995-96 school year. Almost 700 students have graduated from Grace in its history, Ferguson said.
“I think Grace’s real legacy has been helping kids to have an integrated view of their faith and how their faith applies to every single thing that they do in their life,” he said.
Moving forward Ferguson said the school will continue to grow and strengthen all of its programs, but keep as its focus its purpose the teachings of Jesus.
“That’s something that’s crucial to us,” he said. “It’s something that’s meaningful to u. It’s something that’s always been meaningful to our school, and it’s something that we have to keep at the forefront of what we do.”
Tickets still are available for Thursday’s event. Grace supporters have covered all costs associated with the event so the full purchase price of every ticket sold will go to the Grace Fund, which is the school’s annual fund that provided needs-based financial aid and education enhancements for students.
In the past five years, more than $2 million has been given to The Grace Fund. Visit GraceTyler.org for more information or to purchase tickets.