Emerson High School, Class of 1965
This list of Emerson High School graduates is based primarily on the content of yearbooks published between 1911 and 1974, with some exceptions. The three members of the Class of 1909 actually graduated from “Gary High School,” located in Jefferson School (since demolished), which opened in 1908. Prior to moving into the Jefferson School building, high school students attended classes in William A. Wirt’s office in the Phillips Building at 5th and Broadway (still standing). Emerson School (K-12) opened on September 13, 1909. The nine members of its first senior class graduated in 1910. Although no yearbook was published in 1910, the names of the three 1909 “Gary High School” graduates and the first nine Emerson graduates of the Class of 1910 were included in the first Emerson yearbook published in 1911.
Yearbooks were published continuously from 1911 to 1932. No commercially published yearbooks were produced during the Depression years of 1933-1937. In at least two of those years (1935 and 1937), the senior classes produced more modest mimeographed yearbooks which lacked photographs (such yearbooks may exist for the other years as well). The names of members of the class of 1935 were obtained from one of these mimeographed yearbooks. The names of members of the 1933, 1934, 1936 and 1937 senior classes were obtained from the Gary Post Tribune commencement articles. Consequently, with the exception of honor students, the names of graduates in these years are not accompanied by a list of their activities.
Yearbooks were also published continuously from 1938 to 1981, although we have, thus far, been unable to locate yearbooks for the years 1975-1981 (the year the original Emerson School closed). We are seeking the assistance of members of these seven classes who would be willing to have their yearbooks photocopied for us to complete this project.
We understand that there are undoubtedly omissions from this list, resulting primarily from the fact that some graduates were not represented in their senior yearbooks, either by photograph or name, and that the names of others may have been omitted from the commencement programs. And while we are in possession of some commencement programs, we did not attempt, for reasons of time, to compare the names listed in those programs with those appearing in the yearbooks. Based on the experience of the Class of 1965, we are also aware that it may not be possible to secure a definitive list of graduates of most classes at this point in time. Therefore, we urge those whose names are omitted to contact us so that we may update the individual class lists.
At some future date, we will also list the graduates of the Emerson School for the Visual & Performing Arts, which graduated its first class in 1988. The last Emerson VPA class to graduate from the historic Emerson building did so in 2008. A total of 72 classes graduated from the original Emerson High School (1910-1981), and an additional 21 from the Emerson VPA, prior to its relocation to Kennedy-King School in Miller in 2008 and the Wirt High School building in the fall of 2009. Thus, over the 100 years of its existence (1909-2009), Emerson has now graduated 93 classes.
The historic Emerson School structure at Seventh and Carolina Streets was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1995. Thus, unlike Froebel School (which was demolished in 2004), Emerson is protected by law from the same fate. This is only fitting, as Emerson is one of the twentieth century’s most famous public school buildings, and the birthplace of the century’s most significant educational experiment, William A. Wirt’s “Work-Study-Play” system of education. What will be done to preserve the building from decay, however, remains to be seen. A Gary historical and educational museum would be a fitting use for this historic structure. As time and decay cause Gary to lose more of the precious historical legacy which made it unique among 20th century cities, Emerson School still stands as a testament to the days when educators from around the world flocked to this building, and hundreds of school systems emulated the educational practices which it pioneered.
Of additional concern to Emerson alumni is the continued preservation of the historic Emerson art collection which once graced the second and third floor hallways. Initiated with the donation of a copy of Rembrandt’s “Mother” by the Class of 1911, the Emerson art collection grew to include a number of paintings by noteworthy regional artists, including dunes artist Frank Dudley.
Finally, with the closing of the building at Seventh and Carolina, the status of the Emerson trophy collection, which was housed on the third floor, is a matter of concern. We hope that this trophy collection will be preserved intact and spared the fate of the trophies which were lost with the closing, and eventual demolition, of Froebel School.