Our Times: The Howe Renaissance
Two things happened at Howe during the Class of 1958’s experience. The first was COL Bouton’s 1955 decision to integrate the school. Brown v. Topeka had been decided just months before he made his proposal to the Board of Trustees. [He actually proposed this to the Alumni Association meeting in June 1953, so it wasn’t a sudden decision. – Editor] Five African American students were authorized as a test group, and the first enrolled in 1960. The school became co-educational in the 1970s.
The second [happening] began with a fire in the academic building in May, 1946. The decision was made to replace the building rather than refurbish it. When MAJ Frank Little listened to the cost as presented to the Board of Trustees, his only response was to stand at the window and shake his head incredulously.
Some of the Class of ‘58 were in the formation when the Memorial Academic Building was dedicated in October 1950. The original academic building had been built in 1909, [by Dr. McKenzie as a gift to the School] and most of the other buildings were in similar [worn] condition. C Company cadets lived upstairs in Howe Hall above B Company. C Company cadets could bounce on the floor and touch the ceiling, much to the dismay of the B cadets below who were trying to clean their rooms. The faculty was housed in another wing, and the gym and canteen were in the basement. Into this scene walked Ray Wesley Herrick, a man of little formal education who had invented compressors for refrigerators. His son, Kenneth, had graduated from Howe in 1940.
Ray was interested in “doing something for the school.” In 1953, he built the swimming pool. In 1954, he built three new Upper School barracks. B Company was not finished in September, so we had to move into the old A Company barracks [Gray Hall] while the new dorm was finished. In November, all the B Company cadets had to move everything to the new barracks without the help of any vehicles. In 1955, Herrick resurfaced [the exterior of] St. James Chapel. The infirmary, mess hall, and Lower School dormitory were completed in 1957. An annex was added to the academic building in 1958, together with a recreation center and the superintendent‘s residence. In 1960, he built an additional barracks for a new D Company, and then built an auditorium. In 1961, the library and a smaller chapel were completed. He then bequeathed a huge chunk of stock in his Tecumseh Products Company, which sustained the school through the dark days of the late 1970s. COL Bouton referred to all this as the “Second Founding.”