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Elizabeth (Betty de Weese) Tucker, Webmaster

A History of Gerstmeyer Tech


Hubert Fisher ~ 1921-1923
Guy Stantz ~ 1923-1954
C.P. Martin ~ 1954-1959
Noel B. Douglass ~ 1959-1963
C. Kenneth Cottom ~ 1963-1970
John Valle ~ 1970-1971

Gerstmeyer (or Tech as we affectionately call it), was around for a long time. When the last of the students filed out at the end of the 1970-71 school year, and the doors were locked for the final time, it could boast that more than 12,000 chattering, giggling students had roamed the halls, with more than 9,000 of them proudly walking across the stage with their diploma in hand. Did you ever wonder how it all began?

Tech began as two separate vocational schools. Built on the foundation of the Smith-Hayes National Vocational Education Act of 1917, the school began a first class training center in our community to prepare young men and women to be self sufficient and productive members of society. The building itself was the original home for Rose Polytechnic Institute, now know as Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The Vocational School for Boys was established in 1915 at the corner of Lafayette and Third Avenue. A girls vocational school opened at 6 1/2 and Poplar in 1916.

After Rose "Poly" vacated the building, the boys' vocational school moved in, and in 1922 was renamed Gerstmeyer Vocational School, after Dr. Charles Gerstmeyer, prominent vocational education benefactor and school board member. In 1925 the girls' vocational school merged with the boys' and the name changed to Gerstmeyer Technical High School. This brought on the expansion of vocational courses and the addition of normal high school classes. Five graduates had completed the four year curriculum at the end of the first year, and fifty-four two-year graduates joined them. In 1929 the school was accepted into the National Honor Society, and that same year Tech graduates were the first in the Wabash Valley to walk across the stage in a cap and gown.

The school gymnasium was destroyed by fire in 1930, and plans for a new one did not begin until 1942. On May 25, 1950 the new Memorial Gymnasium was dedicated in memory of the 68 students from Gerstmeyer who were killed in WWII. This gym still stands today and is used by The Boys and Girls Club.

Originally serving students within the city limits, in 1961, city and county schools consolidated, bringing "country cousins" into the city from from Riley, Glenn, and Fontanet High Schools. Consolidation again brought about the demise of our beloved Tech. In 1971 all students who would have gone to Tech were diverted to the new Terre Haute North Vigo High School to merge with students from Garfield High School.

The old building is gone now, torn down and its dust scattered in the wind. Chauncey Rose Junior High School was built on the north side of the gymnasium, but now it, too, is just a memory. The spot where Tech once stood looks so small now that it is hard to imagine it ever held a structure as imposing as our beloved school. The halls may be gone, and the bells silent, but the memories will live on as long as we do. And maybe, just maybe, on a still night you can still hear the whispers and giggles of countless teenagers as they advanced toward maturity and their entrances into "the real world" under the watchful eyes of Tech's faculty.

This is a brief look at of Tech's past. I am currently working on a thorough history of Tech, its place in, and contributions to the community throughout its life. Click here to be notified when it is posted, or to offer information or contributions to the contents.

Click here to learn more about the Smith-Hayes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 .