College High was an integral part of the Southeast Missouri State University Campus and the Normal School for decades before closing in 1986. To this day, it holds a special place in Southeast's history and in the hearts of its alumni.
Bill and JoAnn
Bill and JoAnn Adams have been married over 65 years.
They are one of the last living testimonies to their high school graduating class, and an example of the uniqueness that was College High School.
The two met after beginning their freshman year of high school. Just six months after graduating in 1957 while Bill was home on leave from the military, they got married. The two still live in Cape Girardeau.
And it all started at College High 70 years ago.
College High was founded as a school in the late 1930s to helped train teachers at the Normal School in Cape Girardeau, what is now Southeast Missouri State University. The school housed kindergarten through high school students that worked with the Normal School to supply education. Student teachers taught in classrooms while college professors supervised and were directly involved.
A lot of the students in both the grade and high schools were rural students who traveled to campus for school every day. They were met with some of the most innovative techniques and a host of unique educational experiences. Plus, with a constant rotation of student teachers from the college, there was a small student-teacher ratio that kept attention on education.
“We were taught by ‘student teachers,’ supervised by tenured professors, which made it a unique learning experience,” Cindy Schmoll said. Schmoll graduated in 1965. “Looking back, College High was so special in many ways.”
Many College High graduates have fond memories of both student teachers and faculty members who they received their education from. Those memories come from a number of different places, like Miss O’Neal teaching swimming inside Academic Hall, Mr. W. A. Ownbey smiling at the top of the third-floor stairs, or student teachers from the college coming to after school sporting events to cheer on the high school students.
“They were very much eager to help us,” Bill Adams said. Bill graduated in 1957. “And it showed. It really resonated quite well with us and it helped us tremendously. It was a lot of one-on-one."
College High offered all the activities any high school in the area did. There was glee club, the Green Dragons (drama), student council, sports, and more. The sports were played at Houck Fieldhouse. All the activities were held on campus in what is now Memorial Hall.
“Back in those days, dancing was the thing,” JoAnn Adams said. JoAnn graduated in 1957. “We had all our proms back there, we all our Christmas parties, we held all our activities.”
Days at College High
College High closed in 1986 when the Southeast student-teacher education program restructured. Before that, College High produced a rich history in Cape Girardeau, and one that impacted many lives in the area. To this day, the alumni network treasure these memories and continue to reminisce at reunions. In fact, when JoAnn Adams planned the Class of 1957 50-year reunion, every single member of the class who was still alive came. But that was 15 years ago.
“Time really takes a toll. Right now, we are a lot of what’s left,” JoAnn said. “You’re almost looking at it.”
The population of alumni is getting older, and there will be no more College High graduates. But their stories keep an intimate place among Southeast’s 150-year history.
For Bill and JoAnn, along with the rest of their graduating class, the words of the alma mater ring true:
“Our strong bond can ne’er be broken, it can never die. Far surpassing wealth unspoken, sealed by friendship’s tie.”