Doors closing, Marshall High’s ‘last hurrah’

The word most commonly used to describe this event by those who attended it was “bittersweet”. See what we found, when we visited the last “homecoming” in the John Marshall High School in the Lents Neighborhood …

Even though only a few hundred people originally signed up for it, more than 1,500 turned out to say “goodbye” to Marshall High School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Faces of the participants at the “Tribute to Marshall” program held at John Marshall High School on June 4 expressed a wide variety of emotion. The most evident expressions were tearful smiles.

Marshall Campus – the home of 700 students enrolled in three schools called BizTech High School, Pauling Academy of Integrated Sciences, and Renaissance Arts Academy, plus an alternative program, “Alliance at Marshall” Night School – closes down for good this month.

> East Portland News has covered this story extensively. To see our story, “What’s next for Marshall High”, CLICK HERE.

The Principal of Marshall Campus’s Renaissance Arts Academy, Fred Locke, serves as Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon program.

Just before dignitaries were to speak in the school’s courtyard about the institution’s 51-year history, alumni and their families gathered under the sweltering afternoon sunshine.

One of the many people there we knew was Jim Losk, Attorney at Law, a member of the 1965 graduating class of John Marshall High School. “We didn’t have a senior class when I started attending Marshall,” Losk said, “because the school was brand new.”

About this final homecoming, Losk told us, “It’s sad. But being here brings back a lot of memories. You look at the facility here, and see this is still a very usable educational facility. A lot of fine people have gone to school here and made successes of themselves. It is a focal point for the community – and now, it’s going to be a huge loss for the neighborhood.”

Marshall High’s first principal, Dr. Gaynor Petrequin, talks about his days at the school.

One of the main speakers was the school’s first principal, Dr. Gaynor Petrequin. He’s best known for instituting “Individualized Learning Through Modular-Flexible Programming” at the school in September, 1963 – a system of education that met with varying degrees of success, according to many alumni with whom we spoke.

Petrequin recalled that, when the program was implemented, the basic schedule was changed from the conventional seven-period day to one divided into twenty-one 20-minute modules, with students assigned to classes using a computerized system. Modern, indeed, for the early 1960s, many remarked.

Young Dietrich Burmester gets a guided tour through a yearbook by Cynthia “Cindy” Harmon-Burmester at the 1970s class table.

“A Tribute to Marshall” also included a hot-dog lunch, entertainment, and memorabilia displays set up in the school’s cafeteria.

There, students, current and former faculty members, alumni, and community members looked at yearbooks, and watched multi-media presentations that documented the school’s history. A photographer was set up to snap shots of individuals and groups.

Daniel Cousins ’65, and Alice Basso ’74, compare school experiences while picking up their hot dog luncheon at the buffet table set up in the school’s courtyard.

Classmates and 1980 Marshall High grads, Linda Stiles and Ray Hites talk about old times.

Ray Hites ’80, well known for his work as a volunteer with the Lents Neighborhood Association and being President of East Portland Neighbors, Inc., expressed what was on the lips so many at the event. “It’s a little bittersweet with the school closing. It is great to see the turnout; and to see how excited everyone is when they reunite with people we haven’t seen in years.”

At the same time, Hites added, “It’s kind of hard to see my school close.”

His classmate, Linda Stiles ’80, added, “I’m proud to be a Marshall High graduate. It’s kind of sad, though. Many of our graduates have dispersed, but I’m glad to see them all come back for this event.”

About the school closing, Stiles noted, “I think it’s too bad; I haven’t followed a lot of the political reasoning behind the closure. It’s a shame that the community is going to lose this valuable community resource.”

Tory Campbell, class of ’95, says stepping back in the school gives him “tremendous memories”.

A member of outer East Portland’s first family of barbecue, Tory Campbell, spoke eloquently about his education at Marshall – a school located just blocks away from his family’s business on SE Powell Boulevard.

“My last memories of Marshall, almost 16 years ago, is when we held our graduation ceremonies, right on these steps,” Campbell began. “We talked about the tremendous memories we had here. My class was a generation that saw the Internet become part of Marshall High School.  I remember the [weight lifting] pit downstairs, and I remember my teachers.”

His statement, “I think our class, 1995, was one of our best classes of leadership,” brought a couple of cheers, and he continued, “We had amazing assemblies, and turned [the courtyard] into a play area and had volleyball, hopscotch, and water balloon tosses.  I just want to say that it is tremendously exciting to think of all the memories we’ve had at Marshall, but it’s also very sad.  Don’t let the memories die.  Continue to keep them as you go forward in your life,” admonished Campbell.

The heat of the day prompted many folks to return to the school’s halls and cafeteria – and by mid afternoon, the event was over.

No longer will student directories, like these, be published at Marshall High. This fall, most of the current Marshall freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, will be attending Franklin or Madison hHgh Schools.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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