Alumni from around the nation will return to Crispus Attucks High School Nov. 5 to recognize the school’s 95th anniversary and kick off planning for the centennial celebration of one of the state’s most historic educational facilities.
“This is an opportunity for graduates to come back to our campus to celebrate a wonderful 95 years,” said Chuck Knox, a member of the Class of 1967 who now resides in Fishers, Indiana. “We will gather to see how we want to create an event for the 100th. It’s a perfect kick off for the next five years.”
Knox will join his peers from across the decades beginning at 11 a.m. in the school’s auditorium. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Crispus Attucks Alumni Association, which is sponsoring the event, and is chair of the group’s public relations committee.
Crispus Attucks has a long and rich history in Indianapolis and is a cornerstone for the district. In 1927, Attucks opened its doors as a segregated high school — to educate Indianapolis’ growing black population — after city officials decided to institute school desegregation in the 1920s.
Over the decades, the fame of Crispus Attucks grew nationally as the school expanded its math, sciences, language arts, art, music, and physical education classes, as well as its home economics and industrial arts courses to provide vocational training. As a result, talented individuals graduated from the school, heading for college to become teachers, lawyers, doctors — entering a myriad of challenging careers.
Now open to all students in Grades 9–12 in the IPS district, Attucks is one of four high schools offering a diverse and challenging curriculum. Crispus Attucks embraces our rich history, introduces students to health care professions, and provides a rigorous college preparatory education.
MEMORIES WILL FLOOD BACK
“I believe the memories will begin flooding back when we walk in the doors,” said Knox, who began a long career in the finance industry in Indianapolis after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Defiance College and a master’s from Butler University. “I always tell people that Crispus Attucks created the path for the rest of my life. My teachers served as my mentors, helping me realize my potential.”
During his high school years, he participated in the National Honor Society, Key Club, Junior Classical League, Chess Club, Letterman’s Club, baseball, football, band, orchestra, and jazz band.
Gail Griffin Olabisik, M.D., Class of 1965, who now resides in Plainfield, New Jersey, also believes the education she received at Crispus Attucks established a path that led to Purdue University and then Rutgers University Medical School.
“I truly believe and know that the best education I ever received, bar none, was at Crispus Attucks,” she said. “I was so blessed to have attended such an incredible school.
Olabisik noted that all the Crispus Attucks teachers were phenomenal and should have been teaching at a college or university but didn’t because of discrimination and Jim Crow laws.
“My favorite teacher of all time was Dr. Gaither, who taught English,” Olabisik said. “He was passionate about his courses, and he also gave us life lessons that I have remembered to this day, and on occasion have sustained me. I remember as a senior when we seniors were all excited to be going off to study, he told our class ‘They will never let you forget that you are colored, but don’t you ever forget that you are as good as if not better than they will ever be.’”
ONE STAFF MEMBER CHANGED HIS LIFE
Robert Hayes, Class of 1966 and now a proud member of the Crispus Attucks Alumni Lettermen’s Club, believes that one staff member changed his entire life.
“Had it not been for (teacher/counselor/coach) Don Thomas, I would never have considered attending college upon graduating high school,” said Hayes, who attended Circleville Bible College (now Circleville University and went on to earn his Master of Arts in ministry from Lancaster Bible College 2015.
“Mr. Thomas summoned me into his office one day, aware that my father had passed away in my sophomore year, urging me to strongly reconsider my decision not to pursue higher education. He demonstrated the epitome of a true guidance counselor’s character.
“Make no mistake, Crispus Attucks was staffed with these kinds of teachers, coaches and personnel daily, and all of them made you feel your worth to family and society. Commitment to their students was a common thread within and without the building,” Hayes said. “Yet, none of them displayed personal competition with peers to outdo one another. They didn’t show up to work each day for a popularity contest. They showed up to help students discover their purpose in life and did whatever it took to help them achieve that goal, individually and collectively.”