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Hoosier History Live

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July 20, 2019- coming up

Broad Ripple High School history

Broad Ripple High School's rich history came to an end with its closing in 2018, but its influence lives on. One of the city's oldest schools, BRHS opened at a nearby location in 1886 and moved to its Broad Ripple Avenue spot in 1914.

Notable BRHS alumni include David Letterman, who looks like he's planning a joke in this photo from the 1965 yearbook.The fate of its high-visibility site on the northside of Indy has been a question mark since the closing of Broad Ripple High School in 2018.

But there's no questioning the high school has a rich history that sometimes seems to have changed course with the speed of a Rocket, which was adopted as the school's mascot in the early 1930s, according to the Broad Ripple High School Alumni Association.

It was considered a "rural" high school - located in the village of Broad Ripple - when Broad Ripple High opened in 1886 with seven students in a building that also was being used as an elementary school. 

It became part of the Indianapolis Public Schools system in 1923 (one year after the village was annexed into the city) and has a roster of notable alumni including David Letterman (class of '65); attorney Marilyn Tucker Quayle (class of '67), the nation's second lady as the wife of former Vice President Dan Quayle, and George Hill (class of 2004), the current NBA player for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hoosier History Live will take a glance at the lives of these alumni as we explore how their alma mater evolved from rural to suburban to urban over the years, with plenty of triumphs and challenges along the way. BRHS milestones have included a state high school basketball championship in 1980; court-ordered integration in the 1970s; designation as an Arts and Humanities magnet school; and dwindling enrollment after reaching a peak of 2,500 students in 1995 because of the closings then of other IPS high schools.

Nelson's studio guests will include two alums of Broad Ripple High:

  • Alice Ashby Roettger (class of '52), a Broad Ripple historian who has lived in the area most of her life. Members of her family attended the high school for a span of more than 50 years, extending from 1936 (an older sibling was in that class) to 1988, with the graduation of the youngest of her four daughters, all of whom attended Broad Ripple.
  • Bruce Buchanan (class of '73), CEO of Buchanan Group Inc./Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers and a civic leader. Bruce, who was a member of the high school's state championship tennis team in 1973, is currently involved in an effort to ensure that the school's archives, keepsakes and other artifacts are protected and not dispersed, which has been the fate at some other local high schools that have been closed.

An image from the 1926 Broad Ripple High School yearbook depicts alumni who graduated in 1900.

At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the then-new Broad Ripple High School was recognized as one of the nation's outstanding "rural" high schools. At that point in its history, the school was not located at its current address on the corner of Broad Ripple Avenue and Haverford Avenue, where it moved in 1914.

What we know today as Broad Ripple High school consists of a series of additions to the1914 structure, which was itself demolished in 1968. That demolition and reconfiguration project made navigating the school's hallways easier, but getting from one side of the building to the other could still be a circuitous challenge.

Before that demolition, students included Michael Graves (class of '52), an internationally acclaimed architect whose hometown projects included the Indianapolis Art Center near his alma mater; John Mutz (class of '53), former lieutenant governor of Indiana; and former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith (class of '64).

Some other BRHS history facts:

  • A cow pasture south of the school became its football field in 1928. The parents of an alum killed during World War II donated funds to make Broad Ripple the first IPS school with a lighted football field, according to the alumni association.
  • In 1970, the high school was overseen by a black principal, William Jones, for the first time.
  • Our guest Bruce Buchanan wrote for The Riparian, the school's newspaper, which, along with the yearbook, won several national awards in the decades following their debuts during the 1920s. Other Riparian staffers included David Letterman's younger sister, Gretchen Letterman, who has enjoyed a long career as a newspaper editor based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 


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