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Once a Rocket, Always a Rocket: Rockingham Middle School Welcomes Back Class of 1972

The Rockingham Middle School advanced chorus, under the direction of Lauren Lutz, performs for the class of 1972.
Photo courtesy of Alex Gardner.

ROCKINGHAM – It was a reminiscent atmosphere Saturday as the Rockingham High School class of 1972 came back to see the school from which they graduated 45 years ago.

The current Principal, Dr. Theresa Gardner, opened up the program with an informational speech on what is now happening with the school.

In her speech, Gardner explained that Rockingham Middle currently boasts almost 700 students. Operating as a true middle school, the hallways are divided up by teams, and students change classes within those teams.  

The school also offers a wide variety of encore classes, which include the arts, career and technology classes and physical education.  Gone are the days of home economics and shop classes, programs that were once offered at the junior high level as the school moves into teaching students to be 21st Century Learners.

This summer, Rockingham Middle was awarded the title of “Schools to Watch,” which there are just under 500 named schools across the nation.  And just this past week, the school was notified that they will be receiving Green Ribbon Recognition, in November, for their Positive Behavior Intervention and Support efforts.  PBIS, as the staff calls it, is a proactive approach to behavior, with embedded character education.

Rockingham also offers an array of athletics for its students to participate in.

“Rockingham Middle School proudly honors the past by maintaining the fine auditorium and the classrooms attached to it,” Gardner said. “We still have our classrooms over at the gymnasium, and me, being in love with the past, feel like I am stepping back in time when I enter some of those classrooms that still have the amazing bones of construction and may even offer you a look at wallpaper from your time spent here.”

With that, Gardner directed attention over to Richmond County Schools’ “teacher of the year” Lauren Lutz, and Rockingham’s Advanced Chorus. The chorus performed “I’ll Be There” for the guests of honor.

Jim Pippin, who put the reunion event together, spoke about his memories of the school. After graduating from the high school, Pippin returned to the junior high school to teach. He recalled looking out the window one day to realize one of the building roofs had “The Class of 1972” spray painted across it.


Pippin and the Class of 1972 presented Rockingham Middle School with a picture drawn by a former principal of the school, which featured the front of the former main school building, with Coach Kelly to the left. 

Coach Kelly was a coach that took the football team to play a game in Fayetteville in the fall of 1942.  That particular year, Richmond County had told them there would not be football due to money having to go to the war effort. Several families pleaded their case and offered to pay all medical bills for injuries on the field or in practice. They even got a produce delivery driver to agree to transport the football team to away games. 

The coach was expecting a little over $100 from their half of the gate fees from the game in Fayetteville, so he and the team stopped off at a sporting goods store.  The store owner and Coach Kelly struck up a conversation that resulted in the owner offering uniforms that another team had ordered but been unable to pay for.

Rockingham’s starting lineup for the game, which had always worn black and gold (the original team colors), dressed out at their next home game in orange and black for the very first time.

The other side of the drawing has two other people drawn, Kate Finley, herself, and a beloved teacher of many years, Ms. Garrett. The class also donated three name plaques for the portraits of three principals in the Auditorium foyer:  Mr. Mulkey, Dr. Langley and Mr. Huffman.

The event was a collaboration of the past, present, and future. Rockingham Middle School has a long and beautiful history, but the future is looking brighter and brighter for the school with every passing year.

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