Former students of Tupou College are so loyal to the Tonga high school that they travel from around the world each year to get together and sing its praises.
Next week, a few thousand of them are expected to attend the annual general meeting and celebration of the Tupou College Alumni Association, being hosted by the organization's Salt Lake City chapter. The distinguished guest of honor will be Queen Mother Halaevalu Mata'aho of Tonga.
"She really loves it here," said Taniela Lavulo, a Utahn and retired U.S. Army captain who is helping coordinate the visit. "Utah has one of the bigger concentrations of Tongans in the United States. She loves the attitude with which her people receive her here."
Lavulo said alumni of Tupou College an all-boys' Methodist boarding school that was founded in 1866 by Rev. James Egan Moulton will be coming from Tonga, Australia, New Zealand and other points on the globe for the July 19-22 gathering.
The official hosts will be 'Aisea Nai, president of the Salt Lake chapter, and Rev. F. Havili Mone, an alumnus and former professor at Tupou College and pastor at the Tongan United Methodist Church at 1553 W. Crystal Ave. (2590 South) in West Valley City, where the meeting and celebration will be held.
The primary purpose of the alumni association is to fund student scholarships and capital improvements to the high school, Lavulo said, and the group reached this year's goal of raising $1 million.
The activities next week will include church services, singing, dancing, feasting and gift giving. A choir from each alumni chapter will perform, Lavulo said.
Mata'aho came to Utah last year to help mark the rededication of the Tongan United Methodist Church, which was celebrating paying off the mortgage on the building. The 86-year-old queen will stay at a private residence during her visit.