Western High School celebrates 175th anniversary

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Dove Love

Baltimore’s Western High School hit a milestone that no other school in the country has. It celebrated its 175th anniversary and became the oldest all-girls public school in the nation.

To commemorate the special occasion, dozens of alumni, friends and politicians converged on the campus to take a trip down memory lane at this National Blue Ribbon school. After remarks by alumnae, the choir sang and doves — the school’s mascot — was released.

L to R, Principal Michelle White, Skyla Ross, Temitayo Fuse, Landa McLaurin (former principal), Eleanor Matthews (former principal). Skyla and Temitayo are winners of the “My Western Legacy” essay contest held in honor of the anniversary.

“The girl power, the sense of sisterhood, it was amazing and the academics were strong,” alumna Carolyn O’Keefe, Class of 1974, says. “I think in most Western alums’ minds they will always remember being in the auditorium with 1000-plus sisters singing ‘Dear Western.’ And, today, the girls sing it with such enthusiasm and boldness. It is one of not only the city but the state’s jewels, and we need to support that legacy for the school, for the students and the city of Baltimore. Because we create smart, compassionate leaders.”

Indeed, alumnae include playwright Anna Deavere Smith, former Maryland superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, national radio personality Robin Quivers, Maryland delegate Jill Carter and the Cone sisters, famous for the artwork they collect and which is now the Cone Collection at Baltimore Museum of Art.

The day was not only a day of celebration but also the unveiling of a new fundraising opportunity — the Western High School Foundation, says principal Michelle White. The goal this year is to raise $175,000 to match Western’s 175th anniversary.

L to R, Western alumnae Bonnie Harris Carlton, Karen Holloway, and Christine McKee

“With the foundation, we are looking to increase our partnerships by working with Johns Hopkins University and UMBC.  We are also looking to partner with Notre Dame of Maryland  University to get college and grad students to tutor our children,” White says. “We know that there are costs associated with that, primarily with the travel to our school. So some of the funds raised will go toward reducing costs to the students and our partnerships.”

Besides providing academic support — SAT and ACT prep — the foundation will also support renovation to Western’s shuttered greenhouse on the campus as well as updates to the school’s library. Long term plans include renovating the landscape at the front of the school and alumnae like O’Keefe hope to see a  white dove sculpture erected outside of the school.

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