An open letter to the Sullivan Central High School Class of 2004


Fellow Cougars of 2004:

I first want to address calling ourselves Cougars, still, after 10 years. Some of us think it silly to identify oneself, at almost 30 years old, with a long-gone part of our youth.

But make no mistake we are still, all of us, Cougars.

That name doesn’t have a thing to do with sports, even though I played football. “Played” is a term I use loosely in my case, but you get it. It’s not about what remains the most successful football season since, or one of the most successful basketball season since, or even one of the most decorated iterations of the band in the ten years since we left.

What it means to be called “Cougar” after all these years is shared experience. Commonality. Camaraderie. Community.

It means that we, all of us, stood in the stadium for hours on end, or sat in stationary school busses, or in the field house, half of us still with our lunch trays in hand because of bomb threats. It means that not one of us minded the realization that Coach Stephens was ever-so-lightly mocking us all; his wife’s brownies softened the blow. It means that we, together, sprinted to a 25-minute lunch period that, somehow, began at 10:30 in the morning, from the desolate corners of the 400s.

It means, too, that our collective heart broke when, in the span of sixteen months, we lost three people that we loved. Mourning Wayne, Joseph, and Nelson together bound us together in a deeply sad way. There is no separating people who endure that together.

In light of all that, I’m pleading with you all: come to this reunion.

Because these nights in September that are planned for us are not about how much “school spirit” we had. Or how much we’ve accomplished since. Or how much we wish we’d have accomplished by now. These nights of reunion that are planned are about our family. A huge, dysfunctional, widely dispersed family.

I’m not so naïve as to think that every single person in our class will rally around gathering together with people they were all too happy to be rid of, but the things that kept us apart from each other when we were in that building together for four years are trivial. They are nonsense.

I desperately hope that the thread that has quietly bound us together for these 10 years will show itself strong.

I’ll see you in September.



A Cougar, forever,
Ryan Lee


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