Tempe High School's History

  • Tempe Union High School was established by a vote of the people of Tempe and the surrounding agricultural region in the fall of 1907.  the need to establish a high school was based on news that the Normal School in Tempe (now ASU) would no longer be enrolling students with merely 8th grade diplomas.

    Classes were held in rented space in downtown Tempe in 1908-09 as the school's first building was constructed. This building opened in the fall of 1909 and was located on the southeast corner of what is now Mill and University -- the building sat just southeast of where the restaurant Chili's is now and faced west. 

    Kemper Goodwin, architect of the current buildings of Tempe High School, actually graduated from Tempe High School at the original building site in the mid 1920's. His own children and several grandchildren attended Tempe High as well. One of his granddaughters, Mary Eileen Flanagan taught at Tempe High for over ten years. 
    The current Tempe High School building site opened to classes in 1953. It opened with only six buildings: the Administration Building (now building B), the Library-Study Hall Building (now building C), Units 1, 2, and 3 (buildings D, E, and F), and the Cafeteria. The gymnasium, athletic facilities, and auditorium of the original building at Mill and University were utilized for the next two years until the land was sold. Other buildings were added as the population need arose, most being fully planned in 1953. The revolutionary idea was to meet the rapidly expanding population of the Tempe area with a "modular" plan to expand the campus on an "as-needed" basis rather than to build a large single building that would either have been soon outgrown or sit largely vacant in its early years awaiting fill-out. The final buildings of the original modular plan were not completed until the late 1960's. 
    The original site at Mill and University was sold to the developers of Tempe Towne Center (the first strip mall in Tempe) and the original high school building was purposely set ablaze in 1955 in order to clear the land for construction while also providing practice to the Tempe Volunteer Fire Department. 
    Football games were not played at the Tempe High site until 1969. Prior to this time, the current football stadium was merely a practice field; games were played at Goodwin Stadium, which was ASU's main football stadium. Up until the Sun Devil football team moved to Sun Devil Stadium in 1957, they and Tempe High played on the same field. In fact, several times in the 1920's, the two teams played each other. 
    In the 1964-65 school year, the population explosion of Tempe necessitated that the school to go on double sessions filled with baby boomers pending the opening of the new McClintock High School--second school in the district and following virtually the same Kempe Goodwin architectural plans that built Tempe High. The morning sessions were "Tempe High School;" the afternoon sessions were "McClintock High School." McClintock's own campus was ready for its students in January 1965, ending the double sessions. This was the only incidence of double sessions for any of the comprehensive high schools in the entire district at any time in the district's history. 
    The Tempe High/McClintock athletic rivalry remained a City of Tempe institution for many, many years. The THS vs. MHS football and basketball games had to be played at ASU facilities well into the late 1970's because the individual schools' stadiums and gymnasiums were not nearly large enough to house the spectators--which were a majority of the city's residents. 
    In the spring of 1981, Unit 4 was destroyed by an accidental fire. The opportunity was seized for the school library to expand and so the unit was converted into the new library and opened in the fall of the next school year (1981-82). This library remains heavily used and largely unchanged architecturally to this day. 
    In the fall of 1995, Tempe High School became the first high school in the State of Arizona to go on a modified or "year-round" schedule. The school also pioneered a quarter credit system rather than the traditional semester credit system. 
    On October 31, 1996, the Tempe High School Buffalo Marching Band was invited to play at President Bill Clinton's re-election rally outdoors at Grady Gammage Auditorium. After the rally, the president spent several minutes chatting with the band and posing for photos excitedly taken not by the press, but by band moms. 
    Tempe High was featured in the October 1998 issue of Seventeen Magazine. 
    On January 1, 1999, the Buffalo Marching Band marched in the Rose Bowl Parade. The parade was carried live nationally on NBC television. 
    The Elmer A. Row Auditorium (Row rhymes with "now") is named for a longtime and well-respected THS principal. Mr. Row came to Tempe High as a teacher in 1912, and in less than 10 years had become its principal and superintendent. Mr. Row, who remained principal until 1951, was nicknamed "Pussyfoot Row" by some of the students because he had a habit of sneaking up on students to catch them cutting class or breaking various school rules. While seeming to delight in such activity, he was nevertheless very well respected among the students and in the community. The auditorium opened in 1959 and some students pass along the tale that it is haunted--not by Mr. Row, but by a deceased custodian named "Theo." 
    The Bruce Harper Memorial Stadium was named for another well-respected Principal who died of cancer in 1968 at the age of 39. Mr. Harper actually attended Tempe High, and then returned to the school as a teacher in 1957. Soon thereafter he rose to the rank of Assistant Principal and then Principal in 1966. 
    The Gym Annex was named for James A. Randall. Mr. Randall started at THS as an art teacher in 1966. By the late 1970's he was an assistant principal. He was and is very respected and beloved by students, staff, parents and community members. He retired in 1997 but still drops by the school often. 
    The title of the longest continuously employed teacher may well belong to business teacher Dr. Gary Hall who taught at THS for 42 consecutive years. Dr. Hall completed his last year at Tempe High in 2004. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1952 was a lectern, which is still on campus today. It is the only class gift to have transferred from the original site to the current site. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1959 was a lectern for the newly completed Row Auditorium. The lectern, still used extensively in that building, matches that building's interior paneling. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1960 was the exterior clock near the top of the north face of the Row Auditorium. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1962 was a selection of library books, many of which are still in circulation. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1963 was a beautification of the then six-year-old Gymnasium interior. Still extant from this gift is a beautiful buffalo blue and white tile mosaic. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1965 was a marquee for the front of the school. This marquee was removed during construction in 2001. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1969 was the dedication of Bruce Harper Memorial Stadium -- the school had not had a football stadium until that time. The stadium was dedicated in October 1969. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1972 was a drinking fountain at Bruce Harper Memorial Stadium. The fountain is still extant, but difficult to access due to the addition of a handicapped ramp at the stadium. 
    The Gift of the Class of 1982 was a miniature van that was used at football games to pump up the crowd. The miniature vehicle was usually driven about the track by the buffalo mascot. 
    -Thank you Dave DeNeui for putting this together.