LHS 100 Yr Tradition


Click Here for 3/30/15 LJS Editorial!

"Lincoln High 100 Years of Tradition"

Big Crowd, Tons of Pride on Sunday, March 29 


Mike Larson is the new principal at LHS

Click Here for LJS article.

Lincoln High School 100 Years of Tradition

Many thanks to the Lincoln Journal Star (Sunday, March 22, 2015 by Margaret Reist) for featuring the following stories and photos. Click Here for more historic photos from the web site Photo Gallery.

Sunday, March 22, 2015 Lincoln Journal Star - Margaret Reist

A century ago, Lincoln High students dubbed their new school building “The Palace of Learning,” marveling at its marble floors and 100 rooms, its swimming pool and magnificent theater.

The new building at 22nd and J streets in 1915 -- a neo-classic edifice on the edge of town -- was a testament to a fledgling city’s commitment to education, a $750,000 answer of what to do with the students who had outgrown the original school built where Pershing Center now stands.

Lincoln High School, which dates to 1871, already had its school newspaper, “The Advocate,” a band and orchestra, basketball and football teams. What students and staff needed in the early 1900s was a building sufficient to house them all.

In 1915, they got it, and the school built to house 1,200 students seemed like a veritable mansion.

“Each student will have his own private locker and there is room enough in each to stuff in a couple of Freshman,” the Advocate reporters wrote. “There’s also a couple of lunch rooms so that those who cannot go home and get their lunch in twenty minutes will have a convenient place for eating it at school.”

It was a grand beginning, the future laid out before them in brick and limestone, terra cotta and marble, and the students sensed it.

“All the classes will join in making the interior of Lincoln High School as good as the exterior, and the opening of the new school will mark the opening of a new era of history of our School,” they wrote.

Lincoln High’s new building, as it turns out, would stand the test of time, expanding to the south over the next 100 years, growing as the city grew, through the Depression and two world wars, through the civil-rights movement and a city that blew past the 250,000-population mark some years ago.

One hundred years, eight principals and more than 45,000 graduates later, the school’s pride remains intact, its history an integral part of being a Link.

Lincoln High students have been the Links almost as long as they’ve been at 22nd and J streets, since a student came up with the name for the yearbook in 1917. School officials said her winning contest entry was a symbol of the city and school unity they hoped would stick.

It did.

Fifty-four years later, the class of 1970 gave the school a Links sculpture mounted on the northeast lawn.

“The four links out in front stand for tradition, excellence, unity and diversity,” said John Heineman, who has taught at Lincoln High for three decades. “I love the tradition ... and a real commitment to excellence. We’ve always been a school that’s adapted to the needs of students.”

As the city grew and LPS built new high schools, Lincoln High became more diverse, the oldest school in the city and now in the middle, not the outskirts, of town.

“We embraced that rather than fighting it,” Heineman said.

Enrollment at Lincoln High was 1,426 the year after it opened, and it kept growing, ballooning to 2,756 in 1938, then tapering off with the addition of Lincoln’s other high schools. Today, 1,746 students attend Lincoln High -- one of six high schools that house 10,800 LPS high school students.

Some of those students are second- or third-generation. 

Sharon Anderson-Towery's family ties with Lincoln High date back nearly to the beginning: her aunt graduated from Lincoln High 80 years ago, her mom in 1949.

This May, her youngest son will graduate. When she was planning her older son's graduation party two years ago, she had to arrange it around her 40-year Lincoln High reunion.

In the 1970s, she was the third black cheerleader, and a member of the first organized girl's volleyball team. 

Race, she said, wasn't an issue then, she just felt a part of the school. That holds true today. 

"Because there's so much diversity, you're just accepted," she said. 

Alums are proud, she said, and there's a an ongoing connection with classmates. 

"That's what the Links mean, we're the only ones (with that mascot) in the United States. And we're linked together for life. Period. That's what it means to me."

Those alums have seen numerous additions to the building over the years, the school’s footprint expanding southward since 1928.

“Almost every 10 years there’s been a major update, which is really kind of neat,” said Principal Mike Wortman. “Most high schools built in 1915 have been abandoned as districts grow and the city moves outward. Lincoln and Lincoln Public Schools didn’t let that happen.”

The first major addition occurred in 1928, followed by the Johnson Gym in 1955. In the 1990s, Lincoln High took over the district administration building and later added a link connecting the two buildings.

The original swimming pool was a mark of distinction in 1915 but was covered by a floor years later. The area had multiple uses -- a small theater, a place for team-teaching -- until the 1970s when a new state-of-the-art media center took over the space.

Students helped pay for the Oval, a sports field ringed by an eight-foot concrete wall that stood from the 1920s.

The school additions illustrated the changes in education: New science and foreign language labs, driver’s education rooms and computer classes. A much-heralded industrial arts wing added in 1928 was changed and modified and remains a strong program today.

Additions over the years have done away with some beloved parts of the school: graffiti on an old theater wall, the "senior dip" where the upperclassmen had their lockers, an outside courtyard.

The school already celebrated one centennial -- in 1971 hundreds gathered at Pershing to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of its beginnings. This year, they’re celebrating the 100 years at 22nd and J streets with an open house on March 29.

Wortman has rummaged through the stacks and stacks of old photos, creating a timeline outside the media center.

There are pictures of famous alumni: Actors Dick Cavett and Sandy Dennis on the Lincoln High stage; Ted Sorensen on the debate team, years before he knew JFK; Mike Fultz throwing a shot put before he went to the NFL, then came back to his alma mater to coach.

Teachers who helped define the school are there: coaches Bill Pfeiff and Harold Scott; Paul Adams, a former Tuskagee Airman in WWII who spent 18 years at Lincoln High; Charles Jones, a beloved assistant principal and teacher in the 70s and 80s.

Dying of cancer, Jones asked his wife to drive him down J Street once more on his way home from the hospital in the 1980s, Wortman recalls, and students lined the streets to honor him.

But the history of the place is everywhere. The front hall is lined with pictures of distinguished alumni -- scientists and journalists and race car enthusiasts and politicians. Other schools have started traditions similar to the distinguished alumni wall begun by former Principal Sanford Nelson, Wortman said.

In the front hallway is the “sacred L,” a round glass piece with an L behind it. Its story goes back at least to the 1950s, when it was on the floor of a student lounge, surrounded by chains so people wouldn't walk on it -- the consequences for ignoring the rule became the stories of many reunions.

“It was a symbol of Lincoln High spirit,” Wortman said. “You don’t step on it.”

It disappeared for some years, he said, until the class of 1986 unearthed it and displayed it in the cafeteria. Today it is mounted in the front hallway, next to the newly renovated theater named for Sorensen.

Bill Zuspan, who coached and taught social studies for 37 years before retiring in 2010, said one of the school’s biggest strengths is its diversity.

Today, Lincoln High remains the most diverse high school in the city: Just 46 percent of its students are white, they come from more than 50 countries and speak 35 languages. 

“Bill Pfeiff and I used to stand and watch the passing of classes,” Zuspan said. “He’d say ‘Mr. Zuspan, look at this, it’s the crossroads of life.’”

Ed Zimmer, a school board member and the city’s historic preservation planner, said Lincoln High’s terra cotta lions, limestone, brick and marble were built to be adaptable to the unknowns of the future.

“I really enjoy how durable it’s been,” he said. “They built it to last and it has lasted and fulfilled its promise.”


 100 Year Timeline

1913 — Construction begins on a new, $750,000 high school to replace the original building, which opened in 1871 on the spot where Pershing Municipal Auditorium now sits.

1915 — The new Lincoln High School building opened at 22nd and J streets, despite worries that it was too far from the center of town. The Advocate, the school newspaper, called it a “Palace of Learning.”

1917 — Lincoln High students become the Lincoln High Links. Student Dorothy Evelyn Roach wins a contest for a yearbook name. Her entry: The Links, which represented the city’s name, and stood for strength and unity. “As the word Cornhusker has attached itself to all university activities, so we hope the Links may attach itself to all ours,” school officials said in announcing the winning name.

1921 — A veteran’s plaque goes up at Lincoln High School naming students lost in the “World War.”

A section of the Lincoln High Oval in 1925. The Oval is the school's athletic field and was completed in 1923.

1923 — The Oval, Lincoln High’s athletic field is completed. Ultimately, an 8-foot high concrete wall and grandstands ringed the field. Paid for by student fundraising efforts and some business contributions, it remained the site of varsity football games until Seacrest Field opened in 1962.

1925 — Joy Night, the school’s talent show, debuted. It continues today.

1928 — The first of several additions built onto Lincoln High School is completed, adding classrooms and industrial education facilities.

1930 — Elsie Cather, author Willa Cather’s sister, begins teaching English at Lincoln High, where she remained until 1942.

1940 — A central sound system is added to the school.

A Lincoln High industrial arts class in 1950. Industrial arts classrooms were added to the original building in 1927.

1947 — A bronze plaque honoring Lincoln High students who died in WWII is dedicated. Years later, plaques honoring those who served in other wars are added to the school's walls.  

1955 — Johnson Activities Center addition completed at a cost of $622,850. The activities center included two gymnasiums, a swimming pool and locker rooms. Among the additions was a “girls gym” later known as the west gym.

1957 — School board considers changing the name of the school, but students object. When the board votes to keep it the same, the class of 1957 ensures the name will remain by buying a metal sign mounted above the front doors that says "Lincoln High School."

1962 — A $688,025 addition and renovation included a counseling center, conversion of the old gym — including the school’s original swimming pool — into a large team-teaching classroom, a new language lab and fire detection facilities.

Buy Now

Lincoln High football coach Mark Macke stands next to the Links in 2011.

1971 — The Links sculpture is installed on the lawn of the school. The sculpture is a gift from the senior class of 1970.

1973 — The senior class gives the Unity Globe, now on the east side of the building outside the door to the Johnson Activities Center.

1974 — Lincoln High has the first girls basketball team of modern times, created after passage of Title IX, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act passed in 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities. Girls basketball, however, dates back to the early 1900s at Lincoln High, though it was not a sanctioned sport.

1977 — The current media center is built over the original swimming pool and gymnasium, moving from its original location on the third floor.

1986 — Lincoln High theater students become state champions in one-act competition. Lincoln High’s one-act teams go on to win five more state championships. They were runners-up eight times.

1988 — A satellite dish is mounted onto Lincoln High so that the school can be part of a university-based consortium that gives students access to programs from 40 different countries. Lincoln High is the first school in the state to have such technology.

1990 — Former district administration building south of the school is remodeled into classrooms and the children's learning center. It was opened in 1992.

1993 — Illusion Theater, a student-based theater company designed to educate students on sexual abuse and bullying, is based at Lincoln High but is open to students at all high schools.

Buy Now

Lincoln High School Principal Sam Nelson (left) watches as a crew of LHS staff members and roofers puts a satellite dish in place atop the school on April 25, 1988.

1997 — Another addition connects the former PSAB building to the high school, creating math classrooms and allows students to get to and from the two buildings without walking outside. A third gym and third swimming pool also added.

1998 — Back to School bash begins, a school festival that later becomes known as Festivus.

2002 — Ninth grade becomes a part of high school.

2003 — Lincoln High wins the state basketball championship for the first time since 1959. Today, the Lincoln High gym lists 131 state championships in all sports dating back to 1899, though the state playoff system wasn't created until 1975.

2006 — International Baccalaureate Program started at Lincoln High. The program, open to students at all high schools, is one of the most rigorous college preparatory programs in the world.

The cover of the Advocate shows Principal Mike Wortman and Lincoln High students celebrating the Links' state basketball championship in 2003.

2010 — Dedication of the Ted Sorensen Theatre, a $2 million renovation of the original theater. Named in honor of the 1945 Lincoln High graduate who went on to become the advisor and speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy. The theater renovation was part of $28 million in renovations to the school paid for with a $250 million bond issue approved by voters in 2006.

2011 — Lincoln High’s library named one of 35 best in the nation by the American Association of School Librarians.

2012 — Lincoln High creates a slam poetry team, and wins back to back state championships the following two years.

2014 — Lincoln High becomes the first school in the nation to offer a letter in slam poetry.

BELOW: Charlie Curtis-Beard, then a Lincoln High School junior, performs during the High School Poetry Slam finals April 12, 2013, in the Harper Center at Creighton University in Omaha.







Open House to Celebrate Lincoln High's 100th Year at 22nd and "J" Street

March 29, 2-4 pm

Lincoln High School will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of educating students at 2229 J St. with a Community Open House from 2-4 p.m. March 29.

Ed Zimmer, Lincoln Board of Education member and the city’s Historic Preservation Planner will have presentations at 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. about the school's history.

Tours will be conducted from 2-4 p.m. and will include displays and exhibits with students dressed in the styles of the different generations.

There will be refreshments and opportunities to share Lincoln High memories.