HOULTON — The Ricker Bulldogs will descend on the Aroostook County shiretown this weekend as alumni from Ricker College, and its predecessor, Ricker Classical Institute, enjoy their annual reunion.
Ricker closed its doors in 1978, but the spirit of the school continues to be felt in the town of about 6,000 people, many of whom went to school there.
At least 150 people from all along the East Coast, and as far away as California and Nova Scotia, are expected to attend the reunion, said Charles Upton, a member of the Class of 1968 and the town’s community development director.
“It’s an effort by a group of people to keep Ricker alive; to enjoy some memories of their time at Ricker and their time in Houlton,” he said.
More than $1 million in scholarships have been awarded by the school’s still-active board of trustees, a continuing tradition of the school along with such local attractions as the annual Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race and the Houlton Children’s Theater. These ideas and events were started by the school’s students and faculty and still remain popular.
Ricker got its start in 1848 as Houlton Academy, when residents became concerned about the lack of educational facilities in Aroostook County beyond the grade-school level.
The academy was the first secondary school in Aroostook County.
After falling on hard times and closing for a year when the Legislature authorized pubic schools in 1873, the academy was re-established as a preparatory school in 1874 by the Rev. Joseph Ricker, a professor at what later became Colby College.
In 1887, the school was renamed Ricker Classical Institute in honor of Ricker.
The school became a junior college in 1926 and a four-year liberal arts college 23 years later in 1949.
The school fell on hard times in the 1970s and was forced to file for Chapter 11 protection in 1974. The last class graduated four years later.
Reunion activities will get under way Friday, July 28, with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Houlton Lodge of Elks.
The Houlton Country Club has been reserved for the day Saturday, July 29, for picnics and other activities by fraternities, clubs and classes.