MARC CHASE: Learn the story behind the school marquee

2013-08-20T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Learn the story behind the school marqueeBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
August 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As our children head back to school, they might be walking into buildings that bear the names of some pretty important folks in our history — and some who might be a bit more obscure but worth knowing.

So here's a challenge to fellow parents out there: Sit down with your children and explain what it took to get those particular people's names on the front of the school buildings.

If your child goes to a school named after a lighthouse or a geographical direction, I'm sorry, but I can't help you.

However, if your children attend schools with names such as Col. John Wheeler Middle School or Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary, then you and your family are excellent candidates to play this game.

Gather the whole family around the computer or head to the library. Technology keeps the stories of these folks a couple of clicks away. Google, Yahoo or any Internet search engine will work. Type in the name that appears on your child's school, and let the learning begin.

A search on Col. Wheeler, for whom a Crown Point middle school is named, will tell you of a Lake County commander of the 20th Indiana Infantry who died during the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg.

A search of Dwight Eisenhower, for whom a Crown Point elementary school is named, will tell you of a top general who commanded the Allied troops during World War II and went on to become president.

Eisenhower, incidentally, also owned a farm in Gettysburg, Pa. — land upon which the Civil War battle was fought and near where Col. Wheeler died. So there's some "six degrees of separation" here.

Some Crown Point students attend Taft Middle School. But don't make the mistake I initially made and assume the school is named for William Howard Taft — the famously obese former president who became stuck in a White House bathtub and often is credited with inventing the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games because he couldn't sit still for nine innings.

No, Taft Middle School is named for the former president's son, Robert A. Taft, a former Ohio senator.

Two region schools — a high school in Gary and an elementary school in Hammond — bear the name of Lew Wallace. But how many of those parents and students truly know who old Lew was?

Like Wheeler, Wallace was a Hoosier who served in the Civil War. As adjutant general of Indiana at the war's beginning, Gen. Wallace helped put Indiana on the map by raising scores of troops early in the war effort. He also wrote the famous story "Ben-Hur," which became an even more famous Oscar-winning movie.

These aren't just honorary names on buildings. They're stories of human achievement and sacrifice — heroism and service.

Tell your kids about these people. And for school officials who don't put biographical information about their namesakes on their websites — do so.

It provides children the road map through which they, too, could be immortalized on the marquees and walls of school buildings.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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