100 Years of Glenbard West Graduations

One hundred years ago, the first class of the “Glen Ellyn High School” graduated from the DuPage Bank Building. Now called Glenbard West and situated on Honeysuckle Hill, the school has grown and changed immensely since 1917.

In the early nineteenth century, the villagers of Glen Ellyn were interested in creating a school for students who wanted to continue their education past eighth grade.

Steve Wiersum, Glenbard West English teacher and sponsor of the school’s Historic Society, shared, “People would go to first grade through eighth. That’s why there is eighth grade graduation, because that used to be the end of school.”

Mr. Wiersum also mentioned, “There was no reason to get a high school diploma, except to go to college.”  This concept of everyone continuing on to high school was new and only starting to exist in a few towns.

Wheaton was the first nearby town to organize a high school. Many Glen Ellyn students were then enrolled in this school due to the fact that it was the only opportunity for schooling past eighth grade. The people of Glen Ellyn hoped to eventually establish their own.

The students who are accredited as the first class of Glenbard West actually attended Wheaton’s high school for the first two years of their high school career. It wasn’t until an increase of tuition rates at Wheaton’s high school that Glen Ellyn Residents were motivated to establish the Glen Ellyn High School. Arthur M. Holzman served as the first principal of the school.

When the students transferred in 1915, a portion of the DuPage County Bank Building served as a temporary location for the Glen Ellyn High School, which eventually moved to Honeysuckle Hill in 1923. Prior to the construction of the new building, the students voted on the name “Glenbard” because the school served both the Glen Ellyn and Lombard areas.

The new building was designed by Coolidge and Hodgson, the architects of the Chicago Art Institute and Chicago Public Library. To this day, people admire the landscape and design of the “Castle on the Hill.”

The first graduating class consisted of only 17 seniors. Today, over 400 Glenbard West students will be recognized during the graduation in June. These current seniors mark the 100th class to graduate from the school, giving them a unique perspective on the topic.

When prompted as to what makes Glenbard West special, Hannah Peterson, senior, shared that “Glenbard West is full of tradition.”

Peterson was given the opportunity to offer alumni tours of West during Homecoming week and stated,“It was very special to meet people who attended West 50 years ago.” She mentioned that the alumni were just as passionate about Glenbard West as many of the current seniors are today. Peterson and the rest of the senior class are honored to represent the 100th graduating class of such a historic and spirited school.

The first class of Glenbard West created a foundation for growth and change. The rich history of the school is remembered and appreciated by the alumni, current students, and staff as West celebrates their one hundredth graduation and anticipates a promising future of success and tradition.

The First Graduating Class of Glen Ellyn High School in front of the DuPage Bank Building. (Courtesy of Steve Wiersum)