It’s fitting that Josephine Fassett’s portrait greets students, staff and visitors to the office at the Oregon middle school that bears her name, though few people – if any – call it “Josephine” Fassett Middle School these days. For nearly a half-century, Miss Fassett dedicated herself to the development of young minds, helping to guide the Oregon school system from the days of one-room schoolhouses to modern facilities.
Born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1884, she was 77 years old when the new Fassett Junior High was dedicated at a ceremony held Oct. 8, 1961.
She was on hand to give remarks to the crowd before Board of Education President George Ackerman formally accepted the presentation of the building from general contractor Richard Knowlton and Orville Bauer, representing the architectural firm that designed the school.
A tribute in the dedication program written by then-freshman Robin Askey characterized Fassett as “charming and energetic,” continuing to serve on educational committees, teaching Sunday school and helping high school students who need tutoring even after her retirement.
|The caption next to this photo from Fassett's
dedication program on October 8, 1961, read
"Modem art facilities permit pupils to learn
more in exploratory fields."
“In her never-ending quest for doing good, Miss Fassett has built for herself a lasting reputation,” Askey wrote. “A school building could not be more appropriately named.”
In the five decades since those first school bells rang at Fassett, generations of Oregon students have walked through the corridors, learning the readin’, writin’ and `rithmetic – along with science, music, art and other important skills that Miss Fassett recognized as keys to success.
To celebrate the school’s 50 years of history and vital role in the community, a celebration will be held March 11 at 7 p.m. at Fassett, which located at 3025 Starr Ave.
The festivities will include a program that will feature a flashback to the `60s, a special “through-the-decades” fashion show, a performance by the Clay Dance Team, a video presentation, photo displays and more. Refreshments and tours of the building will follow.
“We’re encouraging our current students to bring their parents, grandparents and others to join the celebration,” said Principal Tim Holcombe. “We also hope to see alumni, former teachers and staff, along with Fassett supporters and members of the community.”
Among the members of the celebration’s planning committee was Bill Bowman who was a language arts and social studies teacher at Fassett Junior High when the building opened.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years,” Bowman said, recalling the excitement surrounding the construction of the new building.
News stories in the Oregon News announced the groundbreaking for the $2.1 million school to be built on a 25-acre site on Starr Avenue and Yarrow Road in October 1959.
The 118,623 square foot building would hold 850 pupils and boast 41 “teachers’ stations,” a modern Home Economics Foods lab for early home planning, a library built to hold 9,000 books, well-equipped Industrial Arts labs where students could learn manipulative skills, a spacious gym and an elevated instrumental music room, among other amenities.
“I recall the science rooms were very modern,” Bowman said. “They had more stuff than a lot of high schools had.
“Fassett was also the first place I had ever seen metal-grate gates that came down to cordon off areas of the building,” he said. “And they’re still there.”
Some Fassett “fun facts” highlighted in the 1961 dedication program - the length of the longest corridor (354 feet); the seating capacity of the gym (900) and electrical volts to the school (7,200).
Dream becomes reality
Glenn W. Schaller, who was formerly the principal of Clay Junior High, led the staff members in the new junior high.
V. J. Ullman, who was superintendent when the school was dedicated, said, “Educational opportunities offered through our well organized and greatly expanded junior high program enhance the success of our pupils in preparation for advanced study and adult life in our complex society.”
Ullman also offered sincere appreciation to those who made the dream of a new school a reality, including residents of the school district who provided the finances and who loyally supported their system.
“The Fassett building and the Eisenhower building (set to be completed the following year) will standout in northwestern Ohio and serve as ‘showplaces’ for education in the Midwest and proof that Oregon citizens know good teachers and fine schools are the backbone of the community, opening doors of the future by keeping up with progress,” Ullman said.
Bowman recalled Miss Fassett’s occasional visits to the building after it was open. “Though she was no longer superintendent, she was interested in what was going on and kept up-to-date on everything.”