2013 marked the year Roy J. Wasson High School was closed as the school we knew.   While this was an
unpopular decision, the Thunderbirds will live on!!  June 22nd, 2013 the final flight of the Tbirds was held. 
With a tour of the school and lots of memories it was a bittersweet occasion.  It was a fitting tribute to the
school we all loved.

Wasson High School is the not the oldest campus in Colorado Springs School District 11, but it has a rich
history.  “It’s a legacy,” said Barry Reid, co-chairman of the Wasson Alumni Association. “We’re talking 53
years of history.”  The high school, targeted for closure at the end of the school year, was built in 1959 on what
had been the Colorado Bird and Game Farm at 2115 Afton Way. Plans called for “buff colored brick and quartz
aggregate panels on the outside walls and structural steel framework,” according to a district history by
Harriet Seibel.  The $3.1 million building included three academic wings, gymnasiums, shops, an auditorium, a
kitchen and a cafeteria. The 72 classrooms were to accommodate 2,000 students.“Wasson was built to simulate
a college campus with five wings,” Reid said. “When Wasson opened, the kids called it ‘the country club on the
hill.’”  It was named after a D-11 superintendent who arrived in Colorado Springs in 1923. Roy J. Wasson taught
at several schools before taking the helm of the growing district.  He served from 1942 to 1963, when the
enrollment in the district more than doubled. The district had 9,000 students when he took over, and more
than 21,000 students when he retired, Reid said. Schools in the 1960s had a hard time keeping up with the need
generated by explosive growth in the region.  When Wasson was built, an additional $330,000 was spent on the
adjacent athletic field used by all D-11 schools. It was renamed Garry Berry Stadium in 1974, in honor of the
district director of Health and Physical Education. Berry was in that post from 1946 to 1972.  The stadium has
hosted countless games, and was the site of graduation ceremonies as well until the district moved them to the
World Arena in 1998. Officials moved the ceremonies because the chance for cold and wet weather in May was
deemed too great.  In 2003, the school board approved the installation of synthetic turf at a cost of about
$610,000. The tennis courts were replaced the same year. The all-weather track was replaced in 2010.  Missy
Doty, 36, has many memories tied to Wasson athletics. She remembered the bonfires on the practice field for
homecoming every year, and laughed when recalling the time the pom-pom squad kidnapped the football team
for breakfast.  “It was a big student body when I attended,” she said, although the campus at the time only
served grades 10 through 12.  Wasson is a big part of family history for Doty, class of 1991. Her sister graduated
in 1998. Doty’s daughter graduated in 2011.  She also has ties to early Wasson history: Her grandfather was the
first choir director at the school, and he wrote the alma mater. Some think he also wrote a second fight song
that has since been lost, she said.  “There’s a lot of memories and a lot of personal investment,” Doty said.  As
the experiences of students and staff at the school have changed over the years, so has the campus.  A winter
flood in the late 1970s destroyed gymnasium floors, so the facilities were remodeled into what eventually was
dubbed the Thunderdome.  Some of the shop spaces have been updated and include recording studios, art and
pottery workshops and a computer-assisted design studio. The dance studio addition was done in 1999.  An
open courtyard was transformed into a small “black box” theater. A garden, pond and greenhouse were added
in the 1990s. The automotive program at Wasson brings together students and members of the local Model A
club.  Senior class and alumni gifts have added to Wasson. The class of 1977 gift was a sign facing northwest
toward Afton Way and Patrician Way with the school name, in which the “J” was actually carved as a “U” and
had to be corrected, Reid said.  The Thunderbird statue at Afton and Constitution Avenue was welded and
placed by the alumni association in the 1990s. A scoreboard and sporting equipment also were given to the
school.  If the D-11 board approves the administration’s recommendations, the high school will close in May,
but the building will become home to a host of alternative adult and youth programs.

(borrowed from the Gazette Telegraph article January 22, 2013)


And the Traditions Began.......
“In the beginning…there was an idea, a complex plan took form. But that was not the end. From the plan
evolved the creation of the Roy J. Wasson High School. Over three and a quarter million dollars and two years
of work were not enough, however, to fully create a school. Students were needed, and they came and they
built traditions.” From the Wahian, Vol 1, 1960
The year was 1948. These were the years that followed the “Great War” and many of those returning fighting
men and women would make Colorado Springs their home. It was the start of a decade that saw great
expansion along the Colorado front range. Districts including Fountain Valley schools and the Cheyenne
school, serving the children of the Broadmoor dating back to shortly after the establishment of the Fountain
Colony, were expanding to meet a new level of expected enrollment. Fountain Valley would create the
Fountain Fort Carson High School. The Broadmoor School would see the population of their new Cheyenne
Mountain School district swell from 359 students in 1946 to over 1500 in 1958, opening the new Cheyenne
Mountain High School in 1962. A new high school to serve the children of the Air Force community would be
built and open in 1956 on the grounds of the recently opened United States Air Force Academy. The town of
Widefield would open a new high school in 1958.
A new Superintendent had recently taken the reigns for Colorado Springs School District Eleven. Dr. Roy J.
Wasson assumed the role as Superintendent in 1942. After arriving in the Pikes Peak region during the early
1920’s, Dr. Wasson, a Cornell University trained educator, began his service to District Eleven as a classroom
teacher at North Junior High. Through the principle of hard work he moved through the ranks to serve as a
principal, director of instruction and finally as the superintendent of schools. His intelligence, training,
wisdom and foresight served the district exceptionally for nearly 40 years, the final twenty one as
The challenge facing the new superintendent in the decade from 1948 until 1959 was to navigate the district
through the growth. This included planning and opening schools in time to meet enrollment needs and yet
stay within the fiscal restraint of the district's budget. The decade would see total enrollment grow from 9,000
in 1951 to over 20,000 by 1961, outpacing the growth of the previous 80 years and more than doubling the
district's student population.
Rather than wait until a need arose Dr. Wasson and his team compiled a plan that would include buildings for
all levels of instruction from elementary through high school. Noting that the new high school would be
needed by 1959. During the time frame between 1948 and 1958, fourteen new elementary schools were
constructed along with two new junior high buildings. The district would begin budgetary planning in 1955
and 1956 for monies needed for land acquisition. In November of 1956 Colorado Springs School District
Eleven, under the leadership of Dr. Roy J. Wasson, would purchase land of the legal description: Block # 2,
Highland Village # 1 subdivision, with the apropos nickname, “The Bird Farm”. The new high school plant,
originally referred to as the Northeast High School, would see the bond money approved by the citizens of
Colorado Springs on December 10th, 1956. The District and the City of Colorado Springs began negotiations
February 13, 1957 on a parcel of land North of Constitution Ave. between Circle Dr. and Glen Summer Rd. that
became Wasson Park. The drawings by Architects Edward L. Bunts and F. Lamar Kelsey were approved on
April 29th, 1957. Ten months later, on March 1st, 1958, construction would begin with a scheduled completion
date of August 15th, 1959.
During the Board of Education regular meeting of November 13, 1958 the board after finishing it business was
read a report on the renaming of two facilities and the search for a name for the new high school. The report
including renaming the Palmer school (which was an elementary) to Queen Palmer. The new name for
Colorado Springs High School would be William Jackson Palmer High School. Continuing the report the
committee chairman said the new high school will honor a man whose steady handed leadership and superior
vision for the education of all children, Roy J. Wasson! Dr. Wasson, caught by surprise, dropped his face into
his hands as the room full of people errupted in thunderous applause. The Board of Education had voted
unanimously to honor the sitting superintendent by naming the district’s newest building in his honor.
On November 29, 1959, after construction had been completed earlier that month, Mr. William H. “Brick”
Preston presided over the dedication ceremony for the school he had been chosen to lead as principal. The
festivities included a concert by the Roy J. Wasson High School band, under the direction of Mr. G.E. Jackson;
invocation by Reverend Hurley Begun, D.D.; and vocal selections by the Roy J. Wasson Choristers, directed by
Mr. Charles A. Meeker. The dedication address was delivered by Mr. Wilber S. Marshall, President of the Board
of Education, and was followed by remarks from Mr. F. Lamar Kelsey, Mr. W. Don Weidner, President Wasson
PTA and Mr. Douglas Johnson, student and member of the Wasson High School Student council.  The heartfelt
response by Dr. Wasson thanked those who had worked with him, as teachers and administrators during his
time of educational service. He also thanked his wife “ it gives me extraordinary satisfaction to especially
mention my wife, the other member of the Wasson partnership, who is being honored too on this occasion.”

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