Where Did You Go to School?

It’s one of the first things we ask new acquaintances: where did you go to school? And we’re not asking where that person went to college. It’s all about high school. In Southwestern Indiana, each high school comes with its own identity. Being Panthers, Knights, Tigers, Bears, Pioneers, Vikings, Wildcats, or Huskies still means something, even years after graduation.

When Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp.superintendent David Smith says the loyalty to our high schools is because of the great mascots, he’s only partly joking. “No seriously, think of our city,” says Smith. “It really is a big, small town — where people care and relationships matter — and the same can be said about our high schools. It’s the focal point of one’s life. It’s where friendships are developed that stay with you the rest of your life.

“And just like Evansville, our EVSC high schools represent the best of both worlds: they are large enough to have the diversity of thought and ethnicity that helps to fully prepare students for their future; and small enough that you often know most of your classmates, and have developed friendships with many.”

So in this issue, we celebrate what we loved about our high schools, and what makes each one of them special.

Benjamin Bosse High School

When it opened: January 1924

Who it is named after: Benjamin Bosse, who served as Evansville’s Mayor from 1914 until 1922, when he died in office. Bosse helped with the early funding for the school, which would eventually bear his name.

Enrollment: 712 (Making it the smallest of the five EVSC high schools.)

Notable academic programs: The International Baccalaureate: According to the EVSC’s website, this is a “comprehensive liberal arts program for high school juniors and seniors.”

Academic achievements: Bosse’s band marched in the Orange Bowl in Miami on New Year’s Eve in 1971. The band also marched in the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games on Aug. 26, 1972, in Munich, Germany.

Sports achievements: In 1944, Bosse was the first Evansville area school to win a state championship in boys’ basketball. The Bulldogs also won boys’ basketball titles in 1945 and 1962.

Honors and awards: U.S. News and World Reports awarded Bosse with a bronze rating in 2013 and 2014.

Fun fact: Enlow Field, Bosse High School’s football field, was not yet constructed when the school opened.

Adjective to describe the school: Historic. The school is located in the Lincolnshire Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Information provided by Lydia Biggs, Hannah Langford, and Alexis Grimwood.

Castle High School

When it opened: 1959, as a consolidation of Newburgh and Chandler high schools. The original building is now Castle North Middle School. The new building opened in 1975. Additions were completed in 1986, 2004, and 2009.

Who it is named after: John H. Castle, who donated land for the original school.

Enrollment: 1,938

Notable academic programs: Castle has concert, marching, jazz, and pep bands. It also offers five drama classes, three curricular and two extra-curricular voice ensembles, a popular intramural sports program, industrial technology classes, and much more.

Academic achievements: Students won hundreds of individual awards during the 2013-14 school year in the University of Southern Indiana Foreign Language Bowl, concert band, concert choir, percussion ensemble, newspaper, yearbook, mathematics, winter guard, show choir, and more.

Sports achievements: The volleyball team has won 20 consecutive sectional titles, tying the state record. Castle has won state championships in football (1982 and 1994), boys’ soccer (2000), softball (2001), and girls’ basketball (2006).

Fun fact: In April, a Castle teacher took some students to Southern Illinois to watch a snake migration, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Words to describe the students: Energetic, active, involved, dedicated, understanding.

Central High School

When it opened: Sept. 4, 1854. Originally named Evansville High School, it received its designation as Central when Reitz High School opened in 1918. The current building opened in 1971.

How it got its name: It was called Central because the school was, at that time, located in the center of Evansville. Today, the site is a parking lot for the YMCA.

Enrollment: 1,109 (In 1854, when the school first opened, enrollment was at a total of 17 students.)

Notable academic programs: Central has more than 12 Advanced Placement courses as well as partnerships with local colleges that provide the Bears with the chance to obtain dual high school and college credit. Central also offers the Early Childhood Education program.

Sports achievements: Boys’ basketball state finalists in 1936, 1946, and 1948. Girls’ soccer state finalists in 2005 and 2006. Baseball state finalists in 1987.

How it got its mascot: Central students have been called the Bears since the mid-50s. Central purchased its first Bear mascot costume after moving to a new building in 1971.

Fun fact: The first sport played at Central (then Evansville High School) was football in 1896. The team was made up of 13 students and two teachers.

Adjective to describe the school: Supportive.

Information provided by Devon Bray and Josh Campbell.

Evansville Day School

When it opened: 1946. It started solely as a preschool. Grade levels were later added to the school until it became what it is today, preschool through grade 12.  

How it got its name: The school was patterned after New England schools at the time, which were called country day schools.

Enrollment: 328 in preschool through grade 12, 102 in high school.

Notable academic programs: There are 75 academic offerings, including AP, CAP, independent study, and off-campus university classes. There is an international student program, required college counseling, required research papers for all graduates, required speech classes, and senior projects that allow students to shadow professions for two weeks.

Academic achievements: The school has a 100 percent graduation and college acceptance rate, and was the 2013 Science Academic Superbowl champion.

Sports achievements: 2012 boys’ basketball sectional champions, two golfers advanced to the regional round of the state tournament in 2014.

The mascot’s name: Ed the Eagle. The Eagle is seen as a high-flying, independent bird that shows outstanding leadership.

Fun facts: In 1958, the school added primary school grades and moved into the former Austin Igelheart family residence at 800 Sunset Ave. At the time, it had 80 students. The current location on N. Green River Road opened in 1968, and recently completed a large expansion.

Adjective to describe the school: Independent.

Information and photo provided by Emily Shockley and Kate Meacham.

William Henry Harrison High School

When it opened: September 1962, making it the newest high school in Evansville, six years younger than North.

Who it is named after: William Henry Harrison, who was a general in the War of 1812 and a territorial governor of Indiana. In 1840, he was elected as the ninth president of the U.S. He died of pneumonia after a month in office.

Enrollment: 1,040

Notable academic programs: The Randall T. Shepard Law Academy, which now is offered to all grade levels. The CFCO — Center for Community Outreach — connects students to organizations in the Evansville area that help the community. Harrison also is home to the EVSC JROTC program.

Sports achievements: Girls’ golf state title in 1988 and boys’ golf state title in 2012. The boys’ track team has won nine regional championships.

How it got its mascot: Harrison became the Warriors with a student vote held in the first year the school opened. The school colors were chosen in the same manner. The original official mascot was an American Indian named Little Red.  

Adjective to describe the school: Diverse. The students are all Warriors and all come together to create one tribe.

Information provided by Sarah Loesch.

Mater Dei High School

When it opened: 1949

How it got its name: Mater Dei is Latin for “Mother of God.” She is the patroness of the school.

Notable academic programs: Every student takes two semesters of theology per year and is encouraged to complete 50 service hours by the time they graduate. The school has a strong theater program. The student council is modeled after a U.S. city council.

Academic achievements: The supermileage team earned $4,500 in the Shell Eco-Marathon in 2014 in Houston. They won first place in a category this year, and have won as many as four in past years. The school newspaper won 22 awards in 2014 at the University
of Southern Indiana’s Media Day.

Sports achievements: The girls’ basketball team won class 2A state championships in 2012 and 2013, and finished as the class 3A runner-up in 2014. The wrestling team has won 12 team state championships. The school also has won state championships in football (2008), boys’ basketball (2004), and baseball (1999).

The mascot’s name: Willy the Wildcat.

Fun fact: Mater Dei nearly closed in 1972, but the Area Catholic School Board voted 7-4 to close Rex Mundi High School instead.

Adjective to describe the school: Proud.

Reitz Memorial High School

When it opened: Jan. 5, 1925. Boys and girls were taught separately. It was dedicated by Bishop Chartrand of Indianapolis Jan. 1, 1925

Who it is named after: Francis Joseph Reitz, an Evansville banker, civic leader, and philanthropist, who donated the money for the school and picked out its location. It took Reitz nearly a year to choose the site, which he wanted to be accessible by streetcar.

Enrollment: 725

Notable academic programs: Dual Credit (Bridge Program) with local colleges, various Advanced Placement courses offered, Medical Practicum, and a growing Special Education Program.

Sports achievements: State championships: baseball (1978, 1989, 1993), girls’ soccer (1997, 2008, 2012), softball (2002), girls’ tennis (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2012), boys’ soccer (2007, 2008), girls’ basketball (2011). Also won titles in football, girls’ soccer, and boys’ soccer before the IHSAA state tournament was started.

How it got its mascot: In 1925, when Memorial opened, boys at the school were taught by the Brothers of the Holy Cross. That same year, the Brothers sent missionaries to Bangladesh, where they marveled at the wild tigers.

Fun fact: Memorial didn’t have its own varsity gymnasium until 1969, when a new wing was added to the school.

Vision statement: Providing an environment where God inspires, we educate, students thrive.

North High School

When it opened: Sept. 4, 1956. It was the first new public high school to open in Evansville since 1924. The new North High School building opened Jan. 2, 2012.

How it got its name: It was constantly referred to in school board meetings as the “new North Side school.”

Enrollment: 1,535 (Enrollment for the first school year at North in 1956 was 1,072 students with 58 teachers.)

Notable academic programs: North was the first high school in Evansville to have a musical. The school is divided into SLCs (Specialized Learning Communities): STEM, Business and General Studies, and Arts and Humanities.

Sports achievements: The baseball team won a “mythical” state title in 1962, five years before the IHSAA state tournament began. North also won a boys’ basketball state championship in 1967 and a boys’ golf state title in 2000.

How it got its mascot: The Husky name won a vote by students in 1956. The colors also were voted on, and green and white were chosen to represent evergreen trees and snow, in keeping with the North theme. The other option was the Rams, with colors of black and gray.

Fun fact: Ralph E. Legeman, the architect of the former North High School (on Diamond Avenue and Stringtown Road) also designed Roberts Municipal Stadium, which was razed in 2012.

F.J. Reitz High School

When it opened: 1918, but was not fully accredited until 1921. The school board was very reluctant to build Reitz High School. It was a group of women known as the Centennial Club, claiming that Evansville High School was too far away for West Side families, that finally won approval. The building underwent a major, badly-needed renovation in 1998.

Who it is named after: Francis Joseph Reitz, a banker, civic leader, and philanthropist. Reitz financed both F.J. Reitz and Reitz Memorial high schools.

Enrollment: 1,350

Notable academic programs: Project Lead the Way (Engineering & Biomed), almost 40 Dual Credit Classes, the Feel the History video series, BPA Global Marketing Team state champions for the 2008-09 school year, and IHSFA (speech and debate) state champions in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Sports achievements: Football state champions in 2008 and 2010. Also won “mythical” football state championships in 1933, 1940, 1948, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1961, and 1971, before the advent of the IHSAA playoff system in 1974. The 1961 team was not scored upon in any game.

Fun fact: Reitz Bowl, which opened in 1921, was only partially complete for the first season. When it was finished in 1922, it cost $52,964, about $30,000 over budget.

Information provided by Allie Busch.

Signature School

When it opened: 1992, as a half-day program. Signature’s charter was approved in 2002 and it started as a full-time high school that August.

Who it is named after: No one in particular. Signature is named to recognize the signatures on the charter and the agreement between the students and staff to pursue excellence.

Enrollment: 330

Notable academic programs: The school has both Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Academic achievements: Signature has had nine National Merit finalists, one semifinalist, and five commended scholars. It is the top-ranked high school in the Midwest, according to U.S.News and World Report. The Washington Post named it the sixth-most challenging high school in the nation. It has 100 percent senior Advanced Placement participation, and 72 percent of exams were a 3 or higher. In 2013, there were 46 AP Scholars, 11 Scholars with Honor, 48 AP Scholars with Distinction, and 14 National AP Scholars. Students at Signature have earned nearly $16 Million in scholarship dollars since it opened.

Sports achievements: Signature does not field teams in most sports. One student has qualified for the girls’ cross country regional, and two students advanced to the girls’ golf regional.

Fun facts: Signature School does not have a cafeteria. Students either bring a lunch or eat at a Downtown restaurant. The main building is attached to the Victory Theatre and was originally the Hotel Sonntag.

Adjective to describe the school: Dynamic.

View more from our feature:   • Notable Alumni   • High School Memories   • Closed Schools
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