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Taking Chelmsford's Hall to next level 

CHELMSFORD -- Sitting at his kitchen table Thursday morning, Chelmsford High School Alumni Association Executive Director George Simonian eagerly showed off items from his treasure trove of school artifacts. A 1987 state football championship jacket. An early 1940s wool football cape. A 1927 yearbook.

The association has been run out of Simonian's home for much of its 28-year history. His basement is full of yearbooks, game-winning footballs and basketballs, trophies and other items people find and send his way. "This is made out of wool, so you can imagine when this got wet, what that must have been like -- over 100 pounds," Simonian said, lifting the garment bag on the football cape. "What do you do with this? Who do you give it to? 'Give it to Simonian, he'll keep it.'"

Simonian, who's not getting any younger at 89, acknowledges he won't always be the head of the Association. A dedicated home for all of that stuff -- and a meeting place for reunions and other alumni programs -- is an eventual goal for the Association. But first, they need to make the organization financially sustainable, so that it can one day have a paid director at the helm.

That's where Heather Linstad, the Association's new capital campaign director, comes in. "We need to get things going to the next level," said Linstad, of Hampton, N.H. "That's what the campaign is about, and it's about inspiring people to want to be a part of the Association. " A 1985 Chelmsford High grad and Hall of Famer, Linstad returned to Chelmsford last year to coach varsity softball. She said her coaches and teachers showed her she had potential and how to reach for her dreams, and she's now giving back to the community. "I think we all have some story of how we got to where we are in our career path that you can look and reflect and say, 'That's worth me saying thank you,'" she said.

 Heather George Pic

Chelmsford High School Alumni Association's new fundraising Director Heather Linstad, left, and Executive Director George Simonian, look at a 1922 Chelmsford High School Alumni Association's new fundraising Director Heather Linstad, left, and Executive Director George Simonian, look at a 1922 CHS yearbook in Simonian's basement. SUN photos/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Linstad attended Providence College, where she played hockey, soccer and softball and earned her bachelor in business administration. She coached women's hockey eight seasons at Northeastern University and 13 seasons at the University of Connecticut, and most recently coached the Connecticut Whale, a team of the National Women's Hockey League. In a sport like women's hockey, "fundraising and development becomes part of your job as a coach," Linstad said.

At Northeastern, she participated in the $1 million-plus capital campaign to expand the ice surface at the Matthews Arena. At UConn, she took nonprofit leadership and fundraising courses through the Encore!Hartford program, which led her to a two-year stint in fundraising and development for an after-school program in Enfield, Conn.

Alumni currently pay $10 a year, or $75 to $225 for lifetime membership in the CHSAA based on the number of years they've been out of school at the time they join. The Association wants to become dues-free, so that all alumni immediately become members upon graduation.

Linstad said she is currently revisiting strategies from a 2008 campaign plan, coming up with new ideas and assembling a steering committee for the campaign. Her goal is to connect with more alumni, parents of students and corporate donors who will support the association and its new Lion's Pride Endowment Fund. That fund will eventually cover operational costs associated with the alumni magazine, scholarship awards night, Hall of Fame and such programs as S.H.A.R.E. (Students Hearing Alumni Relate Experiences), a new mentoring initiative started by 1964 graduate Dennis Hunt that aims to give current high school students a window to different professions and college experiences via alumni.

Linstad said it's important to share the Association's story and how it benefits students and alumni. She also wants to compile and share alumni and scholarship recipient stories on the CHSAA website to inspire others to get involved and support its efforts. "They want to know the story of where we've been and where we're going, and what they can be a part of," Linstad said. Linstad is also trying to get used to calling her former Chelmsford High principal by his first name -- he's still "Mr. Simonian" to her.

For more information, to donate or to get involved with the CHSAA Lion's Pride Endowment Fund, contact Linstad at or visit

On or on Twitter @alanamelanson.