Three generations will soon watch their 18th member graduate from Woodrow

When Woodrow Wilson senior Merritt Shaw attends her graduation ceremony this month, hers will be just one in a sea of capped heads.

But there’s something a little more poignant about Merritt’s graduation from Woodrow: She is the 18th member of her family to walk up to receive her diploma from the school.

In the Shaw family, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers have all chosen one academic destination — Woodrow.

“That’s where everybody went in the neighborhood. You couldn’t wait to get to Woodrow,” says Sally, Merritt’s mother.

Her daughter shares her affections for the school and feels honored to be part of such a legacy.

“It means a lot to me. My whole family has graduated from Woodrow,” Merritt says.

Funneling that many family members through one school has resulted in some hilarious moments. When Sally was set up on a blind date with Craig Shaw, who’s now her husband, she had never even heard his name. But her mother almost fainted when she answered the door — she recognized Craig because she had dated his father during her own high school days.

“It’s almost incestuous,” Sally jokes. “Our families had known each other very well.”

Three generations of Woodrow grads have allowed the Shaws to watch the school evolve over the years. The number of students at the school has increased, of course, since Elaine Northrup Loyd, Merritt’s grandmother, attended Woodrow. And in her day, all extracurricular activities were held at the school.

“We had our Friday dances and social activities during the week at the gym,” Elaine says.

Other altered traditions have been harder for the Shaws to adjust to, such as modifications to the drill team uniform.

“They’re trying to make [the uniform] more modern, changing everything they have been doing all these years,” says Emily, Merritt’s sister. “Merritt and I were upset about that. Our mom was there. This is how it’s always been.”

But no matter how the Shaws feel about the changes, they wouldn’t trade their days at Woodrow. And at times, their memories spark emotions.

Sally remembers attending Elaine’s 75th reunion and experiencing a sense of déjà vu.

“I thought, ‘My mom and I are going to the same reunion,’ ” Sally says. “It was very touching to envision her and dad walking down the hall, and me, my children, all sitting probably in the same old chairs, same old classrooms.”

Sally believes Merritt will be the last of the Shaws to attend Woodrow because her children will probably settle outside of Dallas.

But those who were once Woodrow Wildcats will always share a unique bond.

“It’s a special school to have gone to,” Elaine says. “All in our family have that value that we all know what each other is talking about. It’s a norm in our family.”

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.