Friday, July 8, 2016

Longview public schools launches "Longview Luminaries" project | The Latest |

Longview public schools launches "Longview Luminaries" project

When Longview schools recently began creating a list of notable alumni for their new “Longview Luminaries” blog, the first choice was an easy one.

Kent Weeks, a 1959 graduate from R.A. Long High School, was selected as the inaugural candidate for the school district’s new project, which aims to educate Longview visitors and natives alike about the outstanding individuals the community has produced.

A world-renowned Egyptologist, Kent Weeks made headlines in the 1990s with his discovery of KV5, the tomb of the dozens of sons of Pharaoh Ramses II in the Valley of the Kings. The find was so significant it was on the cover of Time magazine.

The “Longview Luminaries” project consists of a 12-person task force dedicated to sharing the accomplishments of those raised and educated in Longview.

“It’s not a hall of fame or awards ceremony,” said Sandy Catt, director of Technology and Communications for Longview Public Schools. The criteria are intentionally loose, Catt said, because the ultimate goal is to create a database of alumni that can be sorted by school, graduation year, or field.

The project aims to identify alumni, like Weeks, who have made outstanding contributions to their field on a state, national or international level.

Though he made his discovery thousands of miles away, Weeks got his start right here in Longview. He was born in Everett and moved to Longview in the seventh grade. He still remembers several of his instructors fondly.

“My history teacher, Maclyn Burg, was a very strong influence in my youth,” Weeks said in a phone interview from his home in Connecticut. “He accepted my interest in ancient Egypt enthusiastically.”

Burg also made himself accessible outside of the classroom as well.

“I remember he had at home a small library of Egyptology books. I also remember that his wife made very, very good chocolate chip cookies,” Weeks said. Weeks would spend hours in Burg’s library, learning about discoveries a world away.

Weeks recalls that all of his teachers supported his dream of becoming an Egyptologist.

Weeks was a keen learner, and his interests didn’t constrain themselves just to the history of Egypt. The sciences fascinated him as well.

“I had a chemistry teacher, whose name I have forgotten now, who got me extremely interested in chemistry, due mainly to the fact that he was just an excellent teacher,” Weeks said.

It wasn’t always about academics for Weeks. The Egyptologist describes his younger self as a “hellion.”

“I wrote letters to the editor of The Daily News at the time, complaining about the inability of the R.A. Long administration to keep students in line at the auditorium,” Weeks recalled. “That got me in some trouble.”

In response to the school, Weeks ordered anonymous Playboy magazine subscriptions and had them sent to the school library as a practical joke. The interview was the first time he revealed the scheme.

“I think there’s a statute of limitations on pranks like that,” Weeks joked.

After graduating from R.A. Long in 1959, Weeks enrolled in the anthropology program at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology. He traveled to the African continent shortly thereafter to work on archaeological sites in Egypt and the Nubian region.

On one of his many return visits back to Washington, Weeks recalls, he ran into Burg in Seattle.

“I went back to the UW to have lunch with the chair of the history department, and lo and behold [Burg] was there. He had become a graduate adviser to the graduate students at UW,” Weeks said.

The two were able to catch up and share stories from their respective careers, Weeks recalled.

“I’ve always been grateful for him and his encouragement,” Weeks said. Burg died in 1994.

It’s stories and memories like these that make the project worthwhile, organizers say.

R.A. Long alumnus Gerald Flaskrud, a member of the task force, thinks that it might take a while to get the project off the ground. There’s no set schedule to how often Longview school graduates are added to the blog. But he believes that the effort is worth it.

“It’s interesting,” Flaskrud said. “Names are popping up and we’re going ‘Oh yeah, I remember that person. Wow, they did that?”