History of Willard

Willard School History


  • In 1916 the first Willard School was constructed with bonds approved in 1915. The architects were Hobart and Cheney. The first principal was Mr. W.B. Clark. The students and the principal transferred in from the McKinley School. The school was described at this time as specializing in preparing students for the University literary courses.
  • In approximately 1926 the school included four buildings and 32 classrooms. There were 844 students enrolled at the school.
  • In 1952 the I (Industrial Arts) building and the boys’ gymnasium were constructed. The architects were Blanchard, Maher and Paulus Architects.
  • In 1964 the cafetorium and the current administration building were built. The architects were Johnson, Poole and Storm Architects.
  • In 1970 there were 873 students enrolled at the school
  • In 1977 the original building was demolished and a new classroom built. The architects were Collin, Byrens, Gerson and Overstreet Architects. At the same time, a girls’ locker room was added.
  • In 1989 Willard was chosen as one of the first schools to be made accessible. This was accomplished over the next several years. In 1994 the firm of Highetto/Goldin Architects was hired to renovate the gymnasium. The project was completed fall 1997.
  • Additional renovation work is continuing at the school.

About The School’s Namesake

Willard, Frances, 1838-1898, American educator and temperance leader; b. Churchville, N.Y. She believed women could gain political power through the temperance crusade. A pioneer in the temperance movement, Frances E. Willard is also remembered for her contributions to higher education. Born on September 28, 1839, on a small farm outside Rochester, New York, she spent her childhood in Oberlin, Ohio, and later in Janesville, Wisconsin, where her father had purchased a large farm. She attended the Female College of Milwaukee for one year and finished her college degree at the Woman’s College of Northwestern University. She taught at Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in 1866-1867 before returning to the Evanston College for Women, where she served as president from 1871 to 1874.

Willard gained a reputation as an effective orator and social reformer. She became associated in the evangelist movement with Dwight Moody and was elected president of the National Women’s Temperance Union in 1879. Her zeal sustained her fight for prohibition, and she organized the Prohibition Party in 1882. During the same year she was elected president of the National Council of Women. She later founded and served as president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1883. Frances Willard died on February 18, 1898.

Frances E. Willard was a major figure in nineteenth century America and, indeed, the entire English-speaking world. After her death in 1898, her statue was the first honoring a woman to be chosen for the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol Building.