Sydney’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-aunt, among many other family members, have all passed through the halls of Marietta High, starting with the graduation of her great-great-grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth Moor Tomlinson, in 1923.
Sydney will wear Tomlinson’s ring during Saturday’s ceremony in historic Northcutt Stadium, which hadn’t yet been constructed when the first members of her family attended the school.
Sydney’s grandmother, Patsy Oliphant Carlton, recalls her great aunt Elizabeth’s pioneering spirit. “She was really innovative, and just a woman ahead of her time,” Carlton said of her aunt.
Among other endeavors, Tomlinson was one of the first women to own a business in Atlanta, and helped found the Cobb Symphony in the years after graduating from Marietta High.
Tomlinson’s niece and fellow Marietta High alum, Sara Tomlinson Oliphant, went on to teach biology at the school until her death in 1972. The school’s beta club is named for her.
Sydney’s grandmother, Patsy Oliphant Carlton, recalls attending the school while her mother was a teacher.
“Of course, I didn’t misbehave,” she said. “With my mother there, I knew I’d get double trouble.”
Carlton graduated from Marietta High in 1961. Her favorite thing about her graduating class has always been the camaraderie they share, she said.
“We all — most of us — started kindergarten together and went all the way through school. We’re great buddies,” she explained.
Those friendships have endured more than 50 years, as Carlton says that members of her class still get together about once a month in different places around town.
Sydney’s mother, Sylvia Foster, graduated from Marietta High in 1981 and agrees bonds among her class still exist.
“I go to a football game or go to an assembly, and it’s like a reunion,” she said, adding that many of the parents of Sydney’s classmates graduated alongside her more than 30 years ago.
Sylvia Foster marvels at how much of the school’s culture has endured.
“For me, it’s not so much what’s different, but what’s still the same,” she says. “There’s still teachers there that taught when I was there. There were teachers, when I was there, that had been there when my mother was there and who knew my grandmother and taught with my grandmother.”
Sydney agrees that Marietta High’s family atmosphere is one of the best parts of attending the school.
“The whole school is a family. As an individual, if you let it be,” she said. “By senior year, you’re basically a family. You know everyone.”
Carlton, Sylvia Foster, and Sydney each carved out their own niche during their time at Marietta High. While Carlton was athletic, playing basketball on the school’s team, Foster participated in the band and the yearbook committee and Sydney was active in the sports medicine program.
Foster said she feels a sense of disbelief that her daughter is graduating from high school this year.
“I’m going to feel old,” she joked. “It seems very surreal to me. I don’t know how this child has gotten this old this quick.”
After graduation, Sydney plans to work full time and pursue her dream of working in Romanian orphanages before attending college in a year. To date, she has made two service trips to Romania.
One day, Sydney says she plans to send her children to Marietta High and carry on her family’s long legacy at the school.