Wadsworth High School Alumni Association History
Compiled by Caesar A. Carrino ‘48
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The Wadsworth High School Alumni Association started in September 5, 1996, when Alan Easterday ’56 convened a group of students from the class of 1956 to plan a multi-class reunion in 1997, the first ever for the school’s alumni.
The committee consisted of the following:
1950 – Ken Koppes and Donna Freidt Maxon
1951 – Bonnie Lecky Crumley and Janice Beck Clifford
1952 – Jean Alcon Geitgey, Barb Friedt Koppes, Persis Nagel Currens
1953 – Kathryn Connell Leatherman, Eileen Hosfeld Ely
1954 – Betty Coppage Beitzel, Ramona Edis Wonov
1955 – Gloria Kramer Sheller, Marilyn Miller Gordon
1956 – Alan Easterday, Jim Moutes
1957 — Shirley Elliot Gorman, Judy Serfass
1958 – Carol Motzko Birkbeck, NoraBelle Weltzein Hontert
1959 – Marilyn Curtis Oplinger, John Bebout
1960 – Jill Marks, Julie Motzko Ruckman
After several months of planning, 350 Wadsworth Alumni met for dinner at Anthe’s on the Lake in Akron. A severe storm knocked down trees and caused extensive damage that night, but the warm feelings felt by the long-lost high school friends overpowered the gale winds outside.
Chairman, Alan Easterday, suggested there be a Wadsworth Alumni Association formed from this gathering. The idea was met with enthusiastic approval. As a result, on September 23, 1997, the alumni association was formed. Members who paid their $20 membership dues for 1998 were considered charter members. Among this group was 100-year-old Marian Stonier ’16, owner of Stonier’s Jewelry on College Street. The first $500 scholarship was awarded in 1998.
On August 4-6, 2000, the Association held another multi-class reunion. Festivities were spread over several days, with tours of school buildings, a banquet, a picnic and several informal gatherings, with about 200 attending. Superintendent Dale Fortner was the guest speaker and Caesar Carrino ’48, welcomed the group as Mayor of Wadsworth. He did not stay for the dinner since his class was having a reunion in another part of the Galaxy Restaurant.
Alumni came from California, Idaho, Texas and Florida, as well as from far-away cities in Ohio. Some were moved to donate large sums of money to the Association. As a result, the Association was $10,000 richer with their donations, giving rise to awarding $1000 scholarships instead of $500.
In 2002, there was much controversy regarding a school bond issue. Alumni were on both sides, and, as a result, there was a schism of sorts in the Alumni Association as it was formed. Although the Association was not officially involved with the controversy, members were. It was the wisdom of the group to start the Wadsworth Schools Alumni Association [as different from the Wadsworth Alumni Association] as a way of separating the Association from the controversy.
In 2004, Dr. Joseph Arpad ’55, returned to Wadsworth after having retired as a professor in California, and became involved with the Association. He was elected Chair in 2006. Under his leadership, the Association gained 501 [c]  status as a tax-exempt non-profit corporation. At that time, the officers were:
Chair: Dr. Joseph Arpad
Vice-Chair: NoraBelle Weltzein Hontert
Treasurer: Ramona Edis Wonov
Co-Secretaries: Marilyn Miller Gordon and Dona Freidt Maxon
Member-at-large: Bonnie Lechy Crumley
Other milestones that occurred during Joe Arpad’s administration included partnering with the Lion’s Club for a tail-gate party at one of the football games; participating in downtown events; selling hot dogs at Buehler’s; developing a directory of alumni; increasing participation in selecting WHS Alumni Meritorious Hall of Fame candidates; organizing a homecoming reunion for all classes every other year; adhering to a business-like method of record keeping; and developing a data base of over 3000 alumni to facilitate instant and inexpensive communication.
As is the case with many organizations that depend on volunteers for success, the Alumni Association began to lose momentum in the period starting with 2010. People moving out of town, illnesses, deaths and other unavoidable events added to the loss of momentum.
With great enthusiasm, Wadsworth began planning for its Bi-Centennial celebration in about 2011 for an astounding blast-off in March, 2014. Several people in the City thought the alumni should be part of the festivities, and, as a result there were word-of-mouth meetings that began to assemble, mostly because the three chairs of the Bi-Centennial Committee – Mayor Robin Lesser Laubaugh’79, Jack Ollom ’69 and Roger Havens ’74 encouraged it.
The first officers were Lori Hanna McIlvaine ’04, Chair; Jennifer Gill Frisby ’85, Vice-Chair;
The original website was designed/created/maintained by Scott Wolf (WHS Class of 1965) in 2008. The iteration was created by Kyle Fuson, Jaret Martin, and Nick Ludowese, all members of the WHS class of 2016. The current website was created by Alex Coiner and Carson Sherrill, both members of the WHS class of 2018.
[Ed. Note: Portions of this abridged history are excerpted from the original research conducted by Eleanor Iler Shapiro, a Wadsworth English teacher, who directed her English classes of 1936 to undertake the project as a class assignment. It was first published in Center to City in 1937. All references made following 1937 are from documents from the Wadsworth Board of Education, the Wadsworth Banner Press, the Wadsworth New-Banner, research conducted by Charles Aukerman (former Editor of Sun Newpapers), Sandra Hall (Wadsworth Public Schools) and research undertaken by Caesar Carrino.]
Early School: The State of Connecticut sold the Connecticut Western Reserve property for $1,200,000, and deposited all of it in the educational fund for the State. Not one penny of the money from the sale was given to the Connecticut Western Reserve for education, however. This meant that an area from the eastern border of Ohio westward to about one-hundred-fifty miles had to raise money to educate the children who would be coming to the area. Wadsworth fell into this category.
It was not until 1824 – ten years after the first settlers arrived in what is now Wadsworth, that there was a tax for education. Before that, the process was simple: Families put their meager funds together and hired a teacher, usually a person who had more education than the oldest child in the school. “Funds”, in this case, meant potatoes, garden vegetables, some butchered meat and corn. There was no money per se that was offered.
The first teacher was Miss Harriet Warner, who taught in a double log cabin in 1817. It is uncertain where
this cabin was located, but it would have had to be in the east end of Wadsworth, since that is where the first settlers landed. The next year, 1818, the first ‘public’ school house was built on a cleared piece of land that is located at the intersection of what is now Broad Street and Hartman Road. Dr. Marcus Brown, son of Judge Frederick Brown and nephew of John Brown, the abolitionist, was the first teacher in that school. The next teacher was his sister, Catherine Brown, and later Mrs. Timothy Hudson.
This school was called the South School. A year later, it became necessary to build a larger school, because the South School was too small. The North School was built at what is now the intersection of Hartman Road and Route 261. Of course, there was no Hartman Road at that time, nor a Route 261. Lodemia Sackett was the teacher in the North School. She had twenty pupils, children of some of the more prominent people in the new settlement. Miss Sackett admitted that she did not have to pass any exams to become a teacher and taught only reading, writing, and geography. School was not held every day, and students were not obligated to attend regularly. Miss Sackett further observed that if the children did not gain the knowledge that was imparted, they at least had a warm place to stay while their mothers carried on the household chores and helped the men with their work. She made $1.50 per week in addition to her room and board. She boarded with Captain George Lyman, and had to walk nearly a mile from his home to the school and back each day. She actually earned about eighteen dollars for teaching, but was paid in corn because of the lack of money.
To say there was no Hartman Road at that time is an understatement: Children had to forage their way through the heavily wooded area to get to the school. They marked trees and made a beaten path to assist their memories of how to get to the school and back. Students paid for their education by the day. Many could not pay, so they were ‘loaned’ to various settlers to do community work, most of which was to clear the extremely thick forest of hardwoods, such as ash, maple, chestnut and oak. The land owners would then pay the school.
School in the Center: By 1820, some of the “center” of town was beginning to grow. The reason “center” is in quotes is that the charter for the Connecticut Western Reserve mandated that the Sixteenth Section [center of the township] was relegated to schools, government and religion. The actual Sixteenth Section in Wadsworth is where Isham School is now located. There is no written evidence as to why the center is where it is today, but some theories abound that the area where Isham School is located flooded frequently, so the built the center on top of the hill.
The first school at the center was taught by Dr. William Welton, and was a log house owned by Judge Frederick Brown. Other teachers were Captain George Lyman, Lemuel North, John Nesmith and Sherman Loomis, who married Lodemia Sackett, the first teacher in the North School House.
It was not until about 1829 that the Village needed a more expansive educational system to serve the influx of new settlers. To accommodate the new students, the Village leaders established twelve districts, each given a number from one to twelve. The original schools were log, but were later replaced with frame buildings. The first such structure was built on Bender’s Court [no longer there], that was located behind the church that is presently at the corner of College and Pardee Streets. It is not clear when the school was built, but, it had to be before 1826, because Joseph Smith, the great Mormon apostle, spoke in it that year. The other eleven schools were built as needed. Some still exist to this day and are in use as private homes or other private structures.
In about 1854, a larger school was built to house the growing number of students attending on a regular basis. It was built on the northwest corner of what is now Boyer and High Streets, and was called the Long School because it had two rooms instead of one, thereby making it ‘long’. The younger students were in the ‘small’ room and the older ones in the ‘big’ room, both heated with individual pot-bellied stoves. The Long School functioned until the Union School was built in 1869 on the site where the present Central building now stands on Main Street at the end of the business block. The Long School was moved to Pardee Street and is still in use as a double house at 166 and 168 Pardee Street.
The original Union School was a wooden structure that cost about $25,000. There is some evidence that much of the money came from coal-mining entrepreneur, Erastus Loomis, who also built the first three-story building in Medina County, the Odd Fellow Building, on the west side of Main Street in the center of the business block.
Compulsory attendance was not a law until many years later; however, community leaders were passionate that Wadsworth’s children receive a solid education. As a result, they urged parents to send their children to school on a daily basis and to keep them in school until they were at least in their teens. It was not until 1921 that the Bing Law came into effect in Ohio, requiring all children from ages six to eighteen to be in school on a daily basis unless otherwise excluded by reason of occupation – mostly farming. It was this law that mandated that a student had to have completed the eighth grade and be at least sixteen years of age before he/she could quit school.
The Academy: In 1830, the Congregational Church was being build. Various community leaders reckoned that the building would be used only on Sundays and, perhaps, one night during the week, so they recommended that the church be used as an academy for those who wanted to learn beyond the elementary level. Instruction was free, but students had to provide their own chairs and desks. The school was in session only during the winter months, when students were not so heavily involved with farming. George Banes, a student at Western Reserve College in Cleveland, was the first teacher. He was followed by two other WRU students, Loren Kennedy and Isaac Van Tassel.
The Academy lasted until 1834. At that time, John McGregor, who had been the teacher at the academy in Sharon Center, came to Wadsworth to head the school. With his background as a known and erudite scholar, the school gained a great deal of status, to the extent, that people came from other communities to attend the Wadsworth Academy.
The Congregational Church building became too small and was not designed as a school, so in 1839, the Wadsworth Academy built an octagon structure to serve as a school. Dr. George K. Pardee paid fifty-dollars for the land and Andrew Mays built the structure. There was a total of 267 students enrolled in the octagon building, 189 from Wadsworth and 78 from other communities. The curriculum included grammar, arithmetic, geography, logic, philosophy, chemistry, surveying, algebra and Latin. Later, Mr. McGregor was urged to give lectures on morality and good behavior. The first group of students were all male; later, the Academy became co-educational.
McGregor left Wadsworth in 1846. Several teachers followed him as teachers in the Academy, but were not nearly so successful in motivating attendance. The school closed in 1850. Ten years later, after the building had been vacant all that time, the newly organized Reformed Congregation purchased the building for their church services.
Knowledge begets knowledge. This was true for Wadsworth residents. With the advent of the Academy and having received a higher level of instruction, students wanted more. Finding highly educated teachers was difficult, but the resolve of some of the graduates of the Academy were pioneer students at Western Reserve College in Cleveland.
WRU actually started in Hudson, Ohio, but was moved to Cleveland in 1882. Both Eugene Pardee and Edward Brown attended WRU at Hudson, came back to Wadsworth and became an attorney and a minister, respectively.
There were several efforts to aggrandize the educational system from the 1850’s until the Union School was built in 1869, but there as many failures as there were trials. The main reason for the failures was that there were very few scholars who had an advanced education. Many who could have taught were fighting in the Civil War, and, as a result, finding teachers to teach the more advanced students was difficult. This does not mean that there was a hiatus in education, only that the methods of educating students reached a plateau for a period of time.
Post Civil War Education: Beginning in 1867, shortly after the Civil War, there was a resurgence in interest in education. Edward Roland Sill, a great poet of the day, was one of the teachers who came to Wadsworth to teach.
He taught until 1869, after which he went to Cuyahoga Falls as Superintendent. There is a middle school in Cuyahoga Falls named in his honor. During his tenure in Wadsworth, however, he published his first book, The Hermitage and Other Poems.
Wadsworth has always been known for good schools. This tradition started after 1866, when Wadsworth was incorporated as a Village. The main reason it sought incorporation was to get the benefit of public education funds from the State, something that would not have been available to the Village without Corporated being affixed to its name.
Population was exploding – relatively. At least, it was exploding in the school system, so that it became necessary to rent various spaces to house students. This also meant there had to be an organized system put in place since the Village was now part of the public school system in Ohio. John A. Clark taught advanced pupils, but was also the Superintendent, a requirement for an Ohio public school. As such, albeit part-time, John A. Clark is regarded as the first Superintendent of Wadsworth Schools.
The Village wanted students housed under one roof, rather than in rented space throughout the Village. The one-room schools in the Township had to remain because of transportation hardships, but those living closer to the center of the Village needed to be in one building. Despite differing views on where the school should be located, Isaac Griesmer and J. K. Durling made it easier for the Village to decide: The two men purchased land on what is now the Central School in Wadsworth for $1200.
The Union School: Construction for the new Union School began in 1869. Colonel Simeon C. Porter of Cleveland was the architect. Although this is of minor importance, Colonel Porter’s name is mentioned here because he married the grand-daughter of Philemon Kirkum, a prominent pioneer in Wadsworth and among the first teachers. Philemon Kirkum was from the east, was an attorney, was an egregiously volatile barrister that got him thrown out of court every time he entered it, started a cooperative grocery store that failed, and came to Wadsworth. In Wadsworth, this man with a basso profundo stentorian voice, tall and elegant, and who rode a white horse everywhere he went, captivated the students to the extent that he became a legend in Wadsworth during his life time. He even has an elevated stone in the cemetery.
The Union School was a three-story building, with the third floor used as an auditorium. Later it was made into classrooms. It opened in 1879, with Superintendent Marion C. Lytle at the head, [he also was the head of the Grammar Department.] Louisa Hinsdale was head of the Intermediate Department, and Sadie Lytle and Hettie McDougall, the Primary Department. Louisa Hinsdale was the sister of Burke Hinsdale, then president of Hiram College. Burke Hinsdale followed James Garfield [later President Garfield] as Hiram’s president, having been Garfield’s assistant for a few years before being recommended for the presidency.
Prior to 1870, students were taught on the basis of how much ‘schooling’ they had had. In 1870, Superintendent Lytle and J. D. Ross of the School Board, met in Ross’ drug store and formulated the course of study for students grades 1-12, the first time the term ‘grades’ was used in Wadsworth Schools. To give the curriculum authenticity, they asked Superintendent Finley of the Akron Schools to review it. He assured the men that the curriculum as they had devised it was sound for all grades.
Although we now have a K-12 system in Ohio [and everywhere else in the United States], only eleven years were necessary in the late 1870’s until the very early 1900’s. In 1902, the Village required four years of high school, thus offering the opportunity for the school to boast a 1-12 system.
Marion Lytle was followed by a series of Superintendents: J. H. Meyers, 1873 only; Aaron B. Stutzman, 1874-75; Edward Henry, 1875 [introduced football to Wadsworth High School and marched students up and down Main Street when they appeared to be sleepy]; Hiram Sapp, 1878-1882; Arthur Powell, 1882-1888; Frank Plank, 1888-1901.
Mennonite College: At the same time Wadsworth schools were expanding, both in physical facilities as well as in curriculum and extra-curriculum activities, the large Mennonite population in Wadsworth was the magnet for the General Conference of Mennonites to establish the Mennonite College in Wadsworth, where Isham School now stands. Reverend Ephriam Hunsberger, the founder and pastor of the First Mennonite Church in Wadsworth, purchased a 103-acre farm for $6,695, preserved twenty-four acres for the Mennonite College and sold off the rest as lots on West Street and other areas around the school. The College building was thirty-four by fifty-four feet in area, and was three stories high, with the third floor used as a dormitory, floors one and two as classrooms, and the basement as a kitchen and dining facility. The official title of the new College was: THE CHRISTIAN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION OF THE MENNONITE DENOMINATION. It was always known as the Mennonite College, however, even to this day. Tuition was $100 annually, but students had to work around the College in addition to paying the $100 tuition.
Teachers were hard to find, but in 1868, Carl Justus van der Smissen came to Wadsworth from Friedrichstadt, Germany to teach theology. Professor van der Smissen was a hard-driving taskmaster and made no allowance for the lack of vigor on the part of the students or the fact that other faculty members were not on the same level as he. Needless to say, he was unpopular and did not stay here long.
The first commencement of the Mennonite College was held on June 22, 1871, with five men being graduated from the three-year theological course: Samuel F. Springer, John S. Hirschler, S. S. Henry, William Galle an Jacob S. Moyer. Samuel F. Springer eventually became a physician while the other four, ministers.
Finances were meager and enrollment was small – two factors that impact negatively on an institution of higher learning. The addition of German as a major helped attendance slightly, but it was still weak. The college needed an infusion, so A. B. Stutzman, a one-time superintendent of Wadsworth Union School , started a normal school to prepare teachers in 1876. Stutzman was followed by A. B. Shelly and his brother, Daniel. Enrollment reached sixty students.
The Mennonite Conference realized the curriculum, which consisted of Theology and then German, was not viable, and that more were interested in becoming teachers. As a result, the Conference voted to close the college in 1878 and to sell the building. The only vestige of the college today is that the street was named College Street, thinking that the Mennonite College would be a continuing venture.
The Normal School: M. D. Dague,of Doylestown, purchased the building in 1879 for $5,000, leaving the unpaid Mennonite debt at $700,which was paid off almost immediately. Dague’s entry into the education field was ill-timed, in that the State was promoting high schools and Wadsworth had one. As a result, the school struggled for students who could get the same training at a ‘free’ high school rather than to pay $200 for the academy which was purported to prepare students for college and the real life.
Dague kept the school and building until 1885, when J. B. Eberly, from Smithville, purchased the building to bring his 100-student normal school from Smithville to Wadsworth in 1885. The name was changed from Mennonite College to Wadsworth Normal School. The Wadsworth Normal School lasted until about 1896. The building remained empty for another seventeen years when it became the Centralized School in 1915, housing students from Wadsworth Township.
Wadsworth Township Centralized School: Wadsworth had the distinction throughout the entire United States as having the first Mennonite College in the country. Unfortunately, the community did not take advantage of it or it might have been an icon of Mennonite education and Wadsworth would be the focus.
When the Centralized School was first opened, it housed all grades from one to twelve, but there were no seniors during the first few years. By the third year of operation, Centralized School finally had seniors to graduate.
Wadsworth Centralized School served two purposes: First, it consolidated the one-room schools into one building, thereby bringing all the Township students together; and, second, provided transportation for those living in the far-reaches of the Township. Heretofore, all students had to walk to school, and, when the distance was too far, some students simply did not attend classes. Horse-drawn ‘kid buses’ were extant until 1927, when the first motorized school buses became the norm for all Centralized students. The motorized buses were a chassis upon which a carpenter would build a box that would hold about twenty to thirty students, with wooden benches on either side and a bench in the middle where younger students sat, one side facing the left and the other side facing the right.
Because of inadequate housing and minimal curricular offerings, the high school students were sent to the Wadsworth Village High School on tuition paid by Wadsworth Township in 1927. At that time, the State of Ohio had in place the 6-3-3 system, i.e, six years of elementary school, three years of intermediate school [called Junior High School for many years and reverted to Intermediate School in the past few years], and three years of high school.
As a result, Centralized had grades one through nine and those students who were in grades ten through twelve went to the Village High School. The last principal of Wadsworth Township Centralized School was Vernon V. Isham, who served from 1919 until 1957, when he died. Isham School is named in his honor. The Township and City Schools consolidated in 1957.
New Union School: In 1907, the Union School was considered unsafe and a new brick structure – still standing – was built to replace it. The first phase of the new structure was considerably smaller than the present structure. With the addition of the Township students and the increasing number of people moving to Wadsworth, Central School had to be enlarged. In the early 1920’s, the Board of Education voted to add twenty-two more classrooms, a large auditorium seating 1135, and a basketball court/physical education venue that doubled as a stage when the moveable wall was lowered. Beneath the stage was a swimming pool. An orchestra pit was located in front of the stage.
More Schools: Meanwhile, Wadsworth population was expanding to the extent that the Wadsworth Village Board of Education in the early 1910’s began thinking of adding elementary school in the north and south ends of the Village, thereby lessening the number of elementary students in the Union or Central Building. Franklin School in the south and Lincoln School in the north were built in 1915, each consisting of four rooms. Additions to both schools later raised the number of rooms to eight in 1919. In 1949, seven classrooms, a cafeteria and a multipurpose room were added to Lincoln School, and a multi-purpose room and a cafeteria were added to Franklin School in 1950. Both buildings were razed and rebuilt in 2001, Lincoln on its original site and Franklin about a mile south of the original site.
In 1954 Overlook School was built on the Keller Farm across from Durling Drive. It was conveted into the Charles Parsons Administration Building when all the new schools were built during the early 2010 years. Valley View School was built in 1958 to accommodate the growing number of people in the north end of Wadsworth. The ‘new’ Wadsworth High School, consisting of six separate units, was built in 1960. The separate units were later connected by covered walkways. Construction for a ‘new new’ school started on the site of the ‘new’ school in the early 2010’s.
When the ‘new’ school began being occupied in 1960, the Central building became a Junior High School and remained such until a new Middle School was built in the early 2000’s. The Central building was completely remodeled in 2001. It is now Central Intermediate School.
In 1949, Sacred Heart elementary school was built on the corner of Humbolt and Broad Streets. The first building was one floor, but a second floor was added about ten years later.
The first graduating class was in 1877. William Bergey, Mary Lytle, Ella Koplin, Emma Peper, Clara Lytle and George Wuchter were the first graduates.
John A. Clark ……………… 1870-1871
Marion C. Lytle ………….. 1871-1872
J.H. Meyers ……………….. 1872-1874
A.B. Stutzman ……………. 1874-1875
Edward E. Henry ………… 1875-1878
Hiram Sapp ……………….. 1878-1882
Arthur Powell ……………. 1882-1888
F.M. Plank ………………… 1888-1901
W.U. Young ………………. 1901-1903
A.W. Breyley ……………… 1903-1905
Frank L. Lytle …………….. 1905-1914
W.A. Elliot…………………. 1914-1921
Paul V. Kreider …………… 1921-1924
M.C. Avery ………………… 1924-1926
Frank H. Close …………… 1926-1946
M.H. Burkholder ………… 1946-1963
Dr. Dick I. Rich ……………. 1963-1965
Harold Fix …………………. 1965-1981
Stanley H. Coon …………. 1981-1986
Charles R. Parsons ……… 1986-2001
Dale Fortner ……………… 2001-2013
Andrew J. Hill ……………. 2013- Present