A Fond Farewell: Past and present editors recall memories from old PN office

This week marks the first issue of the Prep News to be produced in the brand-new Claude Heithaus, SJ Media Center. With this move comes overwhelming sadness, as it means that J220—home to the paper’s office for over two decades—is rendered vacant. The PN moved to the J-wing some time in the late 1990s, and countless memories were forged in the space, which we hope to suggest below, as current and former editors reflect on some of their most notable moments in the PN room.

To many at St. Louis U. High, the Prep News room is one which is seldom visited, if ever at all. It sits on the second floor of the J Wing, an area typically reserved only for art students, lost freshmen, or recipients of an official SLUH tour. For the 20 or so staffers of the paper at any given time, though, it was an effective second home, serving equally important duties of home to production nights and go-to AP/free period hangout spot. It can be said with utmost certainty that the PN room was unlike any other on campus. Its walls were adorned with two decades’ worth of memes, inside jokes, funny posters, and a parade of Indiana University certificates, which were always certain to spark questioning from any first-time visitor. Complete with three couches, a conference table, and several slow-though-functioning Mac desktops, there was no better place to do (or more likely, procrastinate) homework.

PN 83 production night in J220; included in this photo are Johno Jackson, Carter Fortman, and Ben Klevorn, among others. Photo | Prep News Archives

Jackson Cooper: Although I’ve enjoyed many unproductive free periods in the PN room, my favorite memory from the old office comes from last January, when Nathan Rich and I shared a deep, heart-to-heart conversation about fonts and newspaper layout. Following a weekly editors meeting, in which Mr. Missey had essentially told us that our most recent paper was bad, Nathan and I embarked upon a noble quest of changing up our headline fonts. We sat for at least two hours on that Wednesday evening, testing out fonts in a blank InDesign file until we arrived at the blend of Gloucester MT Extra Condensed, Calisto MT Bold, and Plantagenet Cheroke that now graces the paper each week. It was a task that, like Prep News itself, seems tedious to the point of boredom at surface level. Who would want to pore over hundreds of fonts after school, or muster 750 words about a topic you’d never even heard of before Sunday night? Yet, there is a certain joy that comes from the mundane of Prep News that I cherish greatly. I’ll miss those sorts of moments the most.


Alex Preusser:  My very first visit to the Prep News office is one that I think perfectly summed up the shenanigans of our staff. It was the first week of my junior year, and I had been recruited by Nathan Rich to write my first article. In an effort to gain my bearings in the paper, I decided to make a visit to the office and get to know some of the other guys. I soon learned that Charlie Bieg had put push pins in the Nerf bullets. He insisted that the now-dangerous projectiles be tested on himself, so, at Charlie’s prodding, Roarke Unrau shot him. I remember sitting on one of the green couches, watching in silence as the bullet stuck into Charlie’s lower back and he showed us the little red mark that remained after pulling it free. I believe Mr. Missey confiscated the bullets shortly after.


Ben Croat: My favorite memory from the J220 was Croatia's win against Brazil in this past World Cup. A few of us editors had just come back from a Friday morning breakfast at First Watch—we all skipped our first period, oops—and we all snuck back up to the room to watch the final 15 minutes of the game on one of our monitors. It was right after our Prep News Christmas so, as I huddled down with a pillow to my face—to prevent unwelcome sounds from disturbing Mr. Powers’s art class—nerf bullets whizzed past my face. Of course Croatia pulled through after Marquinhos missed the fourth pen, but my personal viewing experience would not have been possible without the sacred walls of the Prep News Room.


Luke Duffy: I remember feeling nervous to join the Prep News my freshman year. I thought it was this insider club, and you had to earn a spot by proving your worthiness. The office represented this exclusivity: it was frequently filled with editors and staff members, hard at work on the next issue of the paper. I couldn’t have been further from the truth: when I finally mustered up the confidence to walk into the office and ask for an article, Johno Jackson and Ben Klevorn, two of the editors at the time, welcomed me into the room, excited that a freshman wanted to get involved. I got an article assignment that week, and pretty soon, I was going up for Thursday production nights. The first night, I remember the room was getting new couches. It was difficult to move the couches in because there were guys crowding the old couches, as there often are. And the “new couches” weren’t new at all: they were heavily worn, green, faux-leather beasts from the basement of one of the seniors. But they couldn’t have been more perfect for an office full of artifacts from Prep News history. This office will always hold a special place in my heart because of all of the memories I have made here, but also all of the memories I know have been made here by Prep News writers for years.

Prep News 82 production night. Photo | Prep News Archives

Jack Figge ’22: One day, I was sitting alone in the office working on an article. Sitting at the computers, I heard somebody walk in. Turning in my chair, I saw Mr. Hussung walk in, carrying his box of trinkets. He set the box down, sat down at the conference table and opened up his computer. Taking out my air pods, I said hello and he said hello back asking how my day was. What followed that was a personal conversation that lasted the rest of the period with a teacher that I rarely talked with. It is a seemingly simple story, but it perfectly encapsulates what the PN office was. It was more than an office, it was a gathering spot where people from all different walks of life could encounter each other and share stories that would never be published in the paper, but that each person would hold onto for years to come.


Nathan Rich ’22: When I first started at the Prep News, before I had fully dedicated the entirety of my free time to the weekly publication grind, the Prep News room in the J-wing was quite possibly the scariest place at SLUH. It was a room I wanted to occupy so badly. Yet, as I peered through the door at the sad looking

couches and picture plastered walls, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the much older, much bigger

students who called that room home.

My first real experience in the room didn’t even happen until I was a sophomore. I was invited to join the staff for their annual Secret Santa exchange but with the surge of extra people, our sacred Prep News room was bursting at the seams. I remember sitting halfway in the doorway on a chair from the art room that had been hastily rolled through the hallway. I had finally made it—but just barely. From that point on, I began my assimilation into the room, not all at once, but gradually, one rolly-chair scoot at a time. The couches became my favorite spot on campus while the people who had once seemed so imposing ended up becoming some of my closest friends.

So tonight, on the eve of the Prep News room’s relocation, I’m of course feeling sentimental for our unique spot in the J-wing that has housed Prep News staff members for decades. However, I’m more appreciative of the incredible people who worked so hard to make that space special just by being themselves every day. That was what really made the old room so special. Otherwise, it’s just a collection of bricks.


Carter Fortman ’21: Saying goodbye to the Prep News room was the hardest farewell after graduation. The room served as a sanctuary during the challenging times of social distancing and strict mask rules. It provided a sense of community when you were lonely and a quiet space when classes got hard. The walls, adorned with memes, past papers, posters, and flags, symbolized the long history of the paper and pushed me to become a better leader. Among my many fond memories, the planning for the STUCO vs Prep News basketball game stands out. Our Web Editor, Carter Spence, had plays drawn up and lineups formulated on the whiteboards; we even planned our LaVar Ball hype video from the green couches. Staffers came in frequently and practiced on the hoop that hung on the door of the room. Although change is difficult, the staff will undoubtedly make the new space feel like home. However, J220 will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to be a part of it. 


Ben Klevorn ’20: One of my most fond memories of J220 was in April of 2020, a month into the Covid shutdown. I arrived at almost a completely empty Backer Memorial to grab some personal items from the Prep News office, but I ended up lingering around the office for well over an hour, reminiscing on some of the great highlights from my four years on the paper. Since Covid happened during my senior year, my Prep News career was over at this point, ending in an abrupt way. It felt as if something I poured my heart into was stolen from me. But as I sat on the couch amidst the still quietness of the room, I realized how fortunate I was to have been involved with such a storied high school newspaper. I learned an incredible amount of writing, journalism, and communication skills. I met so many amazing students, faculty, and staff that otherwise I would have never interacted with. It was really the lens through which I experienced my time at SLUH. I was able to leave the office with more peace and overall a deeper appreciation for my four years on Prep News, instead of feeling bitter about my last quarter of Prep News being stolen from me.


 Nicholas Dalaviras ’20: One day, my swimming and diving co-writer Joe Feder invited me to join him on a late night in J220, and I was hesitant. All I knew about the atmosphere of Prep News room on Thursday nights was that it was tiny and packed with about twenty sweaty and tired guys. Nonetheless, I entered J220 for the first time and was greeted to a finely choreographed disaster. A massive round table consumed the majority of the space in the room—cluttered with documents, newspapers, Big Gulp cups, and snack wrappers. Around it, a bunch of guys were scribbling onto pages and screaming at one another across the room. Others sat on couches on the perimeter and played music and provided comedic commentary to those working frantically. In the midst of the madness, Mr. Missey sat at his spot on the couch right by the door, ignoring it all and carefully making his edits. It was like an academic party of sorts. The scene was beautiful, and I will never forget it. Rest In Peace J220–to an even better home for the best Thursday night academic party west of the Mississippi!

This office will always hold a special place in my heart because of all the memories I have made here, but also all of the memories I know have been made here by Prep News writers for years.

- Luke Duffy

Johno Jackson ’20: Much about the old Prep News office struck the average passersby as special. The homey couches, multifarious decor, and dried up Mountain Dew-sticked surfaces spoke to the room’s status as a sanctum for a lucky cohort of SLUH students. One aspect of the room required a more intimate relationship with the place to understand: the air. After hours of Thursday night teamwork and collaboration, the air in J220 changed. It got warm—maybe even hot—and started to smell funky. If you stayed in the room, as most of us did, you’d hardly notice. If you left and came back, the sensation could whack you before you get settled. It was evidence of our community, commitment, and (though the editors denied it throughout PN84) need for a larger, better ventilated room. Sometimes, Mr. Missey would leave to tend to other business, and someone would ask me why he left. I’d look at his spot on the couch, shrug, and say, “fresh air?” Many will remember how J220 filled their hearts. I’ll remember how it filled my lungs, too. 


Galen Bacharier ’17: At some point during the run of Prep News Vol. 81, the speaker that had been hooked up in the office gave out (someone had played "Chill Bill" by Rob Stone too loudly). I don't remember the 'who' or 'how' but within a week or two, someone on staff had somehow obtained even larger, high-quality speakers second-hand, which were promptly placed in the office and used every following Thursday night.


That happened a lot in that J-wing office. Things would just … appear there, on the walls and shelves or in the drawers. It wasn't just a place where a bunch of kids scrambled late at night to put together a newspaper, though it was that. It was where I laughed and argued with best friends, slowly discovering what I wanted to do with my career amid a mess of whiteboard scribblings, posters, printouts and other unexplainable relics. It was a strange, wonderful museum to the newspaper and to its devotees, and there was no more fitting place to create the first draft of SLUH's history, one week at a time. Cheers to you, J220—you'll live on in memories, paper and ink.


Sam Hatfield (formerly Chechik) ’17: It is a beautiful thing to see the exterior of a thing transform while its essence remains. The Prep News office was a time capsule within a time capsule, that old J-Wing, the original and oldest SLUH building. Each successive generation that built on top of the prior—memes plastered over memes, a new row of journalism camp awards, perhaps even a new couch to put to death that old plaid raggedy loveseat that had been there far too long—made their mark, busted their guts, and literally wrote their stories. One day during volume 81 we even found a time capsule tucked away within our precious sanctum, in that corner space below where the two desks crossed. In it was a note, some papers and photos from probably over a decade before, but it was a new discovery after months of basically living in that office pumping out papers. So we added to it what was uniquely ours and tucked it back away. Ancient secrets, hallowed traditions, and the energy of a freight train packed into the equivalent of a New York studio apartment, this office was home. You laughed with friends, you sweated the Thursday nights away, and perhaps you even found in that community, in that loving family, a reflection of God. It’s hard to see that place so well-loved by generations cease to be that which it had always been, but as long as the spirit of the truth proceeds, the Prep News will always have a home.

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