Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Palm Harbor University High Class of 1999 holds reunion Saturday

Palm Harbor University High School’s first principal, Alec Liem, helped make leaders of the students in 1996, when they had no upperclassmen to look up to.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2004)

Palm Harbor University High School’s first principal, Alec Liem, helped make leaders of the students in 1996, when they had no upperclassmen to look up to.

PALM HARBOR — Imagine attending a high school with no upperclassmen, no clubs or after-school activities and no school traditions.

Now imagine the possibility of being able to create all those things for your class and for generations of students to come.

That was the situation faced by the graduating class of 1999 at Palm Harbor University High School, when the school opened in fall 1996.

"Many of our brothers and sisters had gone to Dunedin High or Tarpon High. Those schools had traditions because they had been around for a long time," said Ashley Chapman Bayer, 28, senior class president of the Class of 1999. "We had nothing to fall back on and did it all through trial and error."

Through his many years of experience as a high school principal, Alec Liem knew how important extracurricular activities and school traditions were to students, their parents and the community.

So, before the school opened, the founding principal and his administrative team held community meetings for all the students zoned for the new school, which started with just freshman and sophomore classes. At those meetings, prospective students had the opportunity to vote on school colors (burgundy and blue) and the school mascot (Hurricanes).

"We had a strong sense of trying to create something special," Liem said. "And we knew to get them fired up we needed to talk about things beyond the classroom walls."

Liem also started a junior varsity football team, with no practice field and no stadium. The team practiced at Palm Harbor Middle School before the high school was completed.

"I believe we went undefeated that first season," he said.

When the sophomore class arrived on campus, Liem realized the students would not have juniors and senior as role models, so he and his staff worked with them to become leaders within the school.

"We were basically seniors for three years," said Greg Vahn, 28, a member of the first graduating class. "And we had the opportunity to form our own traditions."

Among those traditions is that the entire Class of 1999 wore medallions with their graduation robes. The medallion is still worn today.

"Mr. Liem really believed in unity among all the students of the school," Bayer said. "The medallion helped to unify the whole class."

Now the Class of 1999 has the opportunity to create a new tradition. The first 10-year reunion for the high school will be Saturday in Clearwater.

Organizers say it's a way to celebrate some of the traditions they helped create and a way to reconnect with old classmates.

"It's a great opportunity to rekindle old friendships and possibly meet some new friends who you didn't hang out with in high school but you have more in common with now," Vahn said.

He still stays in touch with many of his classmates and is on the reunion-organizing committee.

Liem, now director of school operations for Pinellas County Schools, says the Palm Harbor University High Class of 1999 was a unique group of kids that stood out above the many classes of students he's had the opportunity to work with over the years.

"We gave them the opportunity to experience leadership at an early age," he said. "I think that prepared them well for the world beyond graduation."


If you go

What: Palm Harbor University High School Class of 1999 reunion

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Palm Pavilion Restaurant, 10 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater Beach

Cost: $50 per person

Lost touch? If you were a member of the class but have lost touch with your classmates and are interested in attending the reunion, contact Ashley Chapman Bayer at (727) 224-1482 or e-mail

Palm Harbor University High Class of 1999 holds reunion Saturday 08/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 3, 2009 8:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  2. East Tampa store owner who survived one shooting is targeted again with fatal results (w/video)


    TAMPA — In the 2011 video, Mahamoud Ibrahim stands behind the counter of his tiny East Tampa convenience store, his back to the surveillance camera meant to discourage thieves.

    A memorial has sprouted in front of the 29th Street Store in East Tampa, where a robber fatally shot owner Mohamoud Ibrahim on July 16. Security experts say small mom-and-pop stores in high crime areas are easy targets for robberies and typically don't have the budgets for extra security measures. [TONY MARRERO/Times Staff]
  3. Pinellas superintendent, School Board pen letter to legislative delegation for help against 'unjust' funds for charter schools


    Because of a recent change in state law, the Pinellas County school district will have to shell out $25 million over five years  -- more funding per student than any other large district in the state -- for charter school construction and maintenance projects, and district officials …

    Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Michael Grego during a School Board meeting on August 25, 2015 at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth Street SW in Largo.
  4. AARP still waiting for the two Ricks to send voter education videos


    AARP Florida wants to educate St. Petersburg residents on Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker’s views on how to make the Sunshine City more livable.

    It's been a frenetic St. Pete mayor's race so far. Maybe that's the reason AARP hasn't received voter education videos from the campaigns
  5. Photos: Kehlani packs fans into a sold-out Orpheum in Tampa


    R&B singer Kehlani had to postpone a spring show in Tampa due to illness, but it seemed she was no worse for the wear on Thursday, when her make-up show sold out the Orpheum well in advance. Ella Mai and Jahkoy opened the show. Aubrey Wipfli was there snapping photos; click the headline …

    Kehlani performed at the Orpheum in Tampa on July 20, 2017.