[Alumni Edition] Ernesto Cruz’s (’97) Time at IMSA

Throughout the history of IMSA, some clubs, teachers, traditions, and classes have stayed the same. Some have changed and some have disappeared. Madison McTaggart (’24), Editor-In-Chief for The Acronym, interviewed Ernesto Cruz (’97) to gain an understanding of IMSA in the past and what clubs existed back then. Ernesto Cruz was involved in a now-extinct club known as Club Pseudo.

Club Pseudo

M: Can you tell me [about] your club? What was Club Pseudo?… What did you guys do?

E: The easiest way to explain it was it was kind of an open mic night…[It] happened one Friday a month and there would normally be like two or three seniors in charge. And your job was to pick the dates that you would have it book the AC pit and then one of you is in charge of the banner and we had a big banner that we hung above the cafeteria…We’d tie it up there and then everyone knew it was Friday night and to start getting [their] ideas together. It was one Friday a month just bringing whatever creative thing they’d been working on. And it was, yeah, it was kind of goofy and fun and I got into it my first year.

M: So could anyone present at the open mic or was it just people in the club?

E: No, whoever wanted…

Memories from Club Pseudo

E: [One time] we found ourselves in possession of a key to the copy room and we printed probably 300 flyers for the meeting and there were these cubies by the AC pit…and we just…wrapped them in the flyers.

E: We had one woman who was [an] amazing, amazing oboe player. One month she played something phenomenal, prepping for a solo ensemble. Sort of get the jitters out of doing the competition. She comes to see who does it. The next month [I say] “So Jo wants to come back, but she’s really nervous.” [I told] everyone to close their eyes and she’s gonna come out and she’s not there and…we came out we played something on the kazoo. You know, it was just stupid goofy stuff like that.

E: So yeah, thinking back, those are the things that really stand out.

Club Pseudo died in his junior year because of board fighting. To bring it back, Ernesto Cruz said he would get the banner:

E: If you had the banner you were in charge so [I just said], “Listen, I will figure out a way to steal the banner back…We will restart and then I’ll walk away.”

It was revived, but the club eventually died in 2007.

IMSA Experience

IMSA used to have regular wing dances on Friday or Saturday nights, and Ernesto Cruz played a significant role in those as a DJ.

E: [There were] two speakers and a mixer and you could check it out. You had to be certified on how to use it and you could check it out and then you could just throw a party in your wing. Normally it would be in the wing [commons] and you set up one corner but you turn off the lights. Everyone had a black light in their room because it was the 90s and everyone owned a black light…And you just put a bunch of black lights in there and…you put flyers up all over campus on Tuesday night…you just throw these big dance parties. And there were a couple of groups of DJs around campus…so my roommate, Carl, and I, we DJed and we got paid in pizza…

E: And we had a great time doing it. They were just part of the culture because again, nobody’s going home. And there’s no Hulu, right? There’s no Snapchat, you’ve got nothing but your dial-up internet that’s all text and whatever movies you rented from the video rental place across the street.

E: And I’m using [the speaker] by myself. And they gave me the most ridiculous playlist of songs…the whole night, Dawn, the RC, was like, “it’s not loud enough…” and I had to go to the bathroom so bad. I’m like, they requested “American Pie” which is like 9 min and 34 sec long or something like that? I’ve got like at least a good three minutes [to use the bathroom] and all of a sudden it gets real loud. And then there’s a pop. And nothing. And so I said the party’s over, [but the RC is] like, “Aren’t you guys all smart kids or something, can’t you fix it?”

So Ernesto Cruz agreed to try to fix it, but:

E: If anything goes wrong, I am telling [the dean], this is your fault. And she’s like, “Fine, fine, make it, make it happen.” So I bypassed the blown-out part with a bunch of aluminum, go through the night, everything’s fine, turn it in. Wednesday I get called into [the dean’s] office. At this point, why lie, right? I tell him the whole story.

It turns out he did fry the speaker and it was about two grand to replace or fix it.


M: Besides Club Pseudo, were you in any other clubs on campus?

E: Oh man, I was in the orchestra. So like I did a lot of music stuff [as a] percussionist even to the point where when I was in college, the music department chair at my school knew that I was super into pep band in high school and so junior year the athletic director was like “We need someone to restart the band” because there hadn’t been a band at basketball or football games since 1965.

School Day

M: What about like a typical weekday? So the weekends you guys are doing all this stuff. What was your typical school day like?

E: Oh man, get up, head over to class. I had the same roommate for two out of three years and we were wingmates in tenth grade, he’s still one of my best friends. I’m the godfather to his son…Then you go to class. If you have time between classes you had your particular U-Bench that you hung out at.

M: Was there a popular one?

E: I mean like every kind of clique had theirs. The super popular one was right by where the hamster ball is and the area up by the pillow wall, right? My friends…[the] theater nerd kids, we’re the one by the AC pit under the stairs there and if you had a free mod you’d hang out there.

E: We’d grab lunch at some point. If you need to take a nap, you just jump behind your U-Bench that your friend hung out at and just like crash out…

M: Could you go back to the dorms?

E: Yeah, you could. There were folks called day hall monitors. [They would] hang out in the dorms and make sure we’re loosely supervised. And then afterward, if you had sports practice, you’d go do that. [If] you’re a musician, maybe at the practice room. Go to dinner and then head home and do homework, right? And then just be back by 10 check…If you got done with stuff early, there were always a couple of guys that were learning to play guitar who’d hang out in front of that space between 04 and 06.


M: So you said you majored in history and film. So where did you go to college?

E: I went to Carlton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I took a job as an RA at the Missouri Academy, which is no longer open. It closed a couple of years back. I did that for two years and then I went to grad school at the University of Kansas and didn’t finish my PhD…but [I] got married and went back to teaching high school and I’ve been doing that ever since. I taught high school in Kansas and New Mexico and then I’m back now in Chicago teaching high school history and I taught Spanish. I’ve tried a whole bunch of different stuff. Oh, but history is the thing I like teaching and I teach the most of…

M: So have you used anything you learned from being in Club Pseudo to help you succeed in  college or your career or anything like that?

E: The confidence to be able to walk up in front of people and not be afraid of looking ridiculous has been invaluable. I learned how to not be so self-conscious about things. And I also learned how to work with other people. The people would play improv games and [you learn to] listen to other people. Also appreciating what people bring was a great skill to have learned.

Memories and Advice

M: I know you’ve been telling me lots of stories, but do you have a favorite IMSA memory?

E: Lots of great ones. My birthday was always a big deal. My roommate took up a collection from everybody I know in life to buy me the speakers I really wanted for my stereo and I still have them. They’re over in the corner over there. I remember walking into a surprise party. I walked into the lounge it was just the nicest kindest thing ever. In my life. It’s such an important memory for me, right? And just that kind of kindness was indicative of my, experience.

E: One of my best friends from the class of ’99 lives 10 min away from me. We’re going to see [a movie] together next week. You know, because that’s what we do.

E: And reunions are super fun. So you’re gonna graduate in a few months and you’re gonna see your core people, you’re gonna see them for the rest of your life. [It] goes without saying you’re gonna go on vacation with these people, you’re gonna cry at your parents’ funerals together, you’re gonna hold their children. But then you go to the reunions and it’s the folks that aren’t part of that and you get to have these conversations with people.

M: Do you have any advice for current IMSA students or the seniors leaving soon?

E: For seniors, it’s to hang on to each other. You all are going to be scattered to the winds in a few months, but it’s legitimately easier than it’s ever been to hang on. Don’t stop growing because you’re hanging onto these relationships, right? But hang on to each other because you fundamentally understand each other in a way that very few people in your life ever will. And I’ve got friends from all the places I’ve stopped along the way who are incredible, important people but none of them knew me. Something I always tell my students [is] you’re in the process of becoming what you will someday be so hold on to the people who knew you before you.

E: To so many of my friends and for underclassmen, taking advantage of the time that you’re there isn’t just taking all the classes. The opportunity you have, to live in a community that’s predominantly people your age is really special. And the sooner you can find opportunities, to find joy in that situation, the better off you’re going to be take advantage of that, right? It’s like Lord of the Flies, but in a positive way where Piggy doesn’t die, right? So sorry, spoilers. So really take advantage of that and that was one of the things that all of the [stories] that I’ve talked about tonight were just teenagers taking advantage of their situation, right? We are here together. There is just enough adult supervision for things not to get…bad. So enjoy that, right?


E: Club Pseudo was such an important part of the early years at IMSA. From Charter until 07. We felt that we were letting Charter down. And you guys are so far removed from the charter class and they’re old people in their fifties at this point but they were young so we had to keep it going because it was such a part of the early years of the institution. And so that’s why it was important to keep it going, but I understand things come and go, right? So it would be kind of silly if it were still around in 2024, but also a little bummer that’s not still around.

Thank you so much Ernesto Cruz for sharing your IMSA experience with clubs and campus activities and good luck on your teaching journey.

About the Author

Michelle Fanjoy
Hey! I am a sophomore at IMSA ('26) and I live in 1503. I enjoy playing tennis and the flute. I also love watching Formula 1, but most importantly, I love writing! I am looking forward to working as a staff writer for The Acronym this year.

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