All Withrow History

…Arching Bridge and Shaded Valley…



by Bob Linnenberg ‘63

Daily, occasionally, or in the annual graduation Bridge Walk, generations of Withrowites have crossed the graceful footbridge at the entrance to our beautiful grounds, but few know that it might never have been built. In 1915 the architects at Garber and Woodward had to make a decision on what to do about the ravine that ran along Madison Road in front of the proposed East High School.

When it became  apparent that it would be too expensive to fill in the entire ravine, it was decided to design and build a footbridge over it. Palladian in style, the concrete and brick open spandrel arch bridge proved to be the  proper practical and esthetic choice, and its construction was endorsed by the president of the Cincinnati Board of Education, Dr. John M. Withrow.

In the years following, it was sometimes necessary  to maintain and make repairs to the understructure and decking, always at the expense of the Board of Education. By 1979, however, lack of funding led to the bridge’s having deteriorated to such an extent that it was condemned as unsafe by the City of Cincinnati. A ten-foot high fence was erected at either  and to block its use.

The Friends of Withrow, spearheaded by community activist Monica Nolan, was created, and volunteers, alumni, friends and students raised over $150,000 to help fund the repairs. Reopened in November 1981, the bridge was dedicated in honor of Miss Nolan’s sister, Nora May Nolan, a popular English teacher at Withrow from 1953 to 1976 and the main force behind the beautification of the school grounds. Annie Glenn, wife of Ohio Senator John Glenn (the first man to orbit the earth), was guest of honor at the bridge re-opening ceremony. In 1983 Withrow High School was listed on the  National Register of Historic Places.

By 2010 the bridge was once again showing signs of deterioration. Substantial repairs to the concrete arch and columns were needed. Bricks were missing or dislodged on the walking deck.Withrow Alumni Inc., the successor to the Friends of Withrow, needed to raise $50,000 toward the cost of repairs, with the Board of Education covering the balance. At a cost of $130,000, repairs began in June 2011 and were completed in Spring 2012. The bridge had a new deck and water guides. Repairs to the understructure were made, but some major repairs had to be deferred due to, once again, lack of funding.

After 100 years the bridge remains an iconic symbol of Withrow. It is in  active use by students, alumni and friends, many of whom have contributed to its maintenance and care. The annual Bridge Walk is still an important and emotional experience for graduating seniors, which hopefully will continue for another 100 years.

Withrow High School Principals – 1919-1971

By Bob Linnenberg ’63

Edmund D. Lyon 1919-1933
The son of a Methodist minister, Edmund Daniel Lyon was born September 6, 1862 In Martinsburg, a small town in northeastern Ohio.  After graduation from Ohio Wesleyan University, Mr. Lyon spent his early tears teaching, and as superintendent in Cuyahoga County and other northern Ohio districts.  He was hired by Cincinnati Public schools in 1901 as superintendent of Madisonville High School. In 1906 Mr. Lyon was appointed principal at Woodward High School and in 1912 was made principal of Hughes High School.  When the new East High School in Hyde Park opened in 1919, Mr. Lyon was named its first principal.  East High replaced Madisonville High where he had begun his career in Cincinnati.  An avid fisherman and reader, Mr. Lyon was also known for his interest in music and his fine singing voice.  His interest in art manifested itself with his formation of the Art League at Withrow which purchased, through student donations, many fine paintings and artwork to beautify the halls.  Having guided East/Withrow High from its infancy into a modern first-class institution, Mr. Lyon concluded his 32 years with Cincinnati public schools, retiring from Withrow in 1933.  Ohio Wesleyan University, of which he was a trustee, awarded Mr. Lyon an honorary master of arts and doctor of pedagogy degree.  He was also so honored by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  A resident of Madisonville, Mr. Lyon was president of the Ohio Teachers Association and was active in the National Association of High School Principals.  He was a Mason and a trustee of Madisonville Methodist Church.  Mr. Lyon passed away in November of 1944 at the age of 82 and is buried Laurel Cemetery in Madisonville.  Perhaps the highest honor bestowed upon him was the 1957 dedication of Edmund D. Lyon Junior High School, also in Madisonville.

Walter Peoples 1933-1947
A native of Clark County, Ohio northeast of Dayton, Walter Peoples was born in December 1881 and raised on a farm.  He was a graduate of Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania.  After post-graduate work at Wittenberg University, Ohio State and the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Peoples received a master of education degree in 1933 from the University of Cincinnati.  His early teaching career was at Madisonville High School until he was named assistant principal of the new East High School in 1919.  When Mr. Lyon retired in 1933, Mr. Peoples was made acting principal and was officially made principal of Withrow in 1934.  He was noted for being at Withrow at 7:30 every school day and greeting each teacher as they came to school.  A noted bowler and golfer, he took time from his duties as principal to be the advisor for the Withrow bowling team.  In 1930 he was elected president of the Ohio State High School Athletic Association.  He was also a president of the Southwestern Teachers Association and a member of several educational organizations.  Noted for his friendliness and his laugh, Mr. Peoples was greatly mourned when he died in November of 1947 while still principal of Withrow.  The school closed at 1:00 PM so that faculty and students could attend his funeral.  He is buried in Clark County.  In 1971 Walter Peoples Junior High School in Hyde Park was dedicated by Senator Robert Taft, Jr.  A resident of Madisonville, Mr. Peoples and his family lived just up the street from his predecessor Edmund Lyon.  All three of Mr. Peoples children were Withrow graduates.


A.O. Mathias 1947-1956
In 1907 Anthony Ottis Mathias, who preferred to be known as A.O, began his teaching career in Adams County, Ohio where he had been born.   While teaching there for several years, Mr. Mathias received his bachelor’s degree in 1916 from Ohio University in Athens, majoring in biological sciences.  He came to Cincinnati and began his local teaching career at Woodward High School.  When East High opened in 1919 he was appointed to teach agriculture. When that program was phased out in 1926 he turned to teaching mathematics at Withrow.  In 1946 he became assistant principal and upon the death of Mr. Peoples in November 1947 he was made acting principal.   Mr. Mathias, who would rather have remained a teacher, was persuaded by his fellow teachers to make the job as principal permanent.  He retired as principal in June 1956 after 37 years at Withrow.  He had served as president of the Schoolmaster’s club in 1935 of the Ohio Education Association in 1945.  In 1923 he had help create Teachers Group Insurance Co. which provided benefits to teachers in case of accidents or illnesses. In retirement he became president of Ohio Retired Teachers Association.  Mr. Mathias, who for 13 years had a fruit and poultry farm in Indian Hill, also served as president and clerk of the Indian Hill Board of Education.  He was honored by his alma mater Ohio University in 1969 for his “outstanding leadership in the field of education”.  Mr. Mathias died in March 1982 at age 92 and is buried in Adams County.  He was a resident of Mt Lookout and all five of his children were Withrow graduates.


Rayburn Cadwallader 1956-1960
A 1922 graduate of Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio, Raymond Woods Cadwallader began his teaching career at Withrow in 1927 in the commercial department.  His mother and father, three of his grandparents and eleven aunts and uncles were teachers.  After a brief hiatus, he became assistant principal in 1933.  He remained at Withrow until 1946 when he was made principal of Western Hills High School.  He returned to Withrow as principal in 1956.  Mr. Cadwallader left Withrow for a research position at the Board of Education in 1960 and retired in 1962 after 35 years with Cincinnati public schools.  He had also served as assistant principal of East Night High School and as principal of the YMCA night school.  He was president of the Schoolmaster’s club and secretary of the South-western Ohio Teachers Association.   “Mr. Cad”, who enjoyed fishing, bowling and golf, was also a member of many civic and fraternal organizations.  In addition to having a master of education degree from the University of Cincinnati, Mr. Cadwallader was the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree from his alma mater, Wilmington College, in 1955.  A resident of Hyde Park, Mr. Cadwallader died in February 1964 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.  All three of his children graduated from Withrow.


Joseph Ayer 1960-1967
Before becoming principal in 1960, Joseph Charles Ayer’s only connection with Withrow was as a student teacher of civics and history in the fall of 1940.  He was then a recent graduate of Otterbein College, In Westerville, Ohio and working for a bachelor of education degree from the University of Cincinnati.  The son of a Congregational Church clergyman, Mr. Ayer was born in Windham, Connecticut in April 1916.  He served as an Army officer during World War II and was badly injured by a landmine in 1944.  He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Medal and Bronze Star.  Mr. Ayer left Withrow in 1967 to become coordinator of Student Affairs at the Middletown campus of Miami University.  He was named Director of Student Affairs in 1975 and retired from that job in 1977.  Mr. Ayer, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, also held a master of education degree from Xavier University.  He died in December 2005 at age 89 and is inurned at Dayton National Cemetery.  He and Mrs. Ayer had no children.


Marvin Renshaw 1967-1971
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Marvin R. Renshaw was a graduate of Norwood High School and had bachelor and masters degrees from the University of Cincinnati.  An officer during World War II, he served in the south Pacific as a navigator in B-29s.  Mr. Renshaw taught American History as a student teacher at Withrow in 1946 and taught English and Journalism as a full-time teacher from 1947 to 1958.  As a student teacher Mr. Renshaw was quoted in Tower News as saying that “he doesn’t know how he would have faced all those kids if it hadn’t been for his training in the army”.  Before returning to Withrow as principal in 1967, he served at Lyon Junior High, Taft High and Cutter Junior High schools.  After serving at Withrow for four years, Mr. Renshaw was made principal of Western Hills High School in 1971 and retired there after nine years in 1980.  There was quite a bit of student unrest during his tenure as principal of both schools and was praised for even handedness and calm.  During his years of teaching at Withrow, Mr. Renshaw, an avid bowler, coached the bowling team.  He was a popular faculty advisor to Tower News.  He also enjoyed golf.  A resident of Mt. Washington, Mr. Renshaw’s two daughters were Withrow graduates.  He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church.  He died in February 1988 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Withrow History – Social Clubs

By Bob Linnenberg ’63

From the day Withrow opened in the fall of 1919, social clubs were part of the fabric of high school life. Chapters of existing fraternities and sororities from other Cincinnati schools were quickly established by incoming members at Withrow. In the 1920s, new social clubs were established; and chapters of organizations from Hughes and Walnut Hills were added. Fashioned after college fraternities and sororities, the groups had secret rituals, initiation ceremonies and traditions that presumably would bind the members together. These clubs were not sanctioned by the Board of Education and members met out of school, often secretly. However, pins and other insignia could, and would, be worn by member students at Withrow.

The clubs remained “underground”, or unsanctioned, until November 1949, when the Board of Education accepted the social club rules that had been established after long and careful consideration. It was not without controversy that the Board decided to let the clubs exist inside the schools. Technically, high school fraternities and sororities were illegal in the state of Ohio. Cincinnati Mayor Murray Seasongood and many others vehemently opposed them as insidious, undemocratic organizations. The Board of Education, desiring to exercise control over the social clubs, determined how the clubs could be in compliance with Ohio law and went forward with their recognition.

When the social club rules were accepted by the Board in 1949, 24 percent of the girls and 19 percent of the boys at Withrow belonged to social clubs. (This percentage was far exceeded by Walnut Hills, where 72 percent of the girls and 83 percent of the boys belonged.) The takeover of school social life at Withrow was immediate. Many dances and parties held by the clubs were opened to all Withrow students. Intramural sports contests between the groups continued, but now could be reported on in Tower News. The social clubs could now be featured in the Annual, at a cost of course, as they had to pay for the spots just like any other school organization.

As part of the conditions laid down by the Board, social clubs were now overseen by faculty advisors. The club’s constitutions had to be approved and accepted by the Board, and membership in any organization could not exceed 48 students. Under the agreement, academic rules were established and members had to maintain a “C” average to be allowed to participate in club activities. If a student member failed a course in a grading period, they were suspended from the social club until the next grading period. Club schedules for social events had to be approved by the advisors, so as not to conflict with another club’s activities. If a club had an unscheduled activity, the entire club was suspended from social events for a grading period. Illegal activities such as drinking or gambling would bring a suspension. Chaperones were required at all fraternity/sorority events. The faculty advisors enforced these rules as best they could.

As a byproduct of the academic rules, social club members often maintained a higher grade point average than non-members. As with intramural sports competition, there was also stiff competition among the clubs for scholastic superiority. The clubs also played an outsized role in the life of the school. Usually social club members were the most active in extracurricular activities such as Tower News and the Annual and held most leadership positions in many organizations throughout Withrow. Indeed, in the senior girls service organization Dux Femina, 87 percent of the girls selected for membership during the “legal” period belonged to a sorority. In fact, almost 40 percent of the girls belonged to one particular sorority. Between 1950 and 1963, 72 percent of the boys in the senior service organization Sigma Gamma were fraternity members; and half of these boys were members of the one fraternity whose rules forbade smoking and drinking in high school.

One of the requirements laid down by the Board was the continuation and encouragement of charitable works by the clubs. Many social clubs raised money for charity, provided and distributed Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for the needy and visited shut-ins and the sick. Several of the clubs had been established for this philanthropic purpose in addition to providing a social network for the members.

However, after 14 years of school supervision and guidance, a new round of studies by the Board recommended that the decision of 1949 be reversed. There was also the threat of a lawsuit challenging the support of such clubs, which the Board wished to avoid. Social clubs were to be banned effective September 1,1963. It had been determined that public funds could no longer be used “to nurture, regulate or control the formation and operation of such clubs.” Unlike in 1949, when the clubs had been flourishing, membership in social clubs had been declining for years. Those clubs remaining at Withrow in 1963 either chose to disband or go back “underground.” Membership under student and parental direction continued for about a decade, but social clubs no longer held the sway they once had.

One cannot deny that the social clubs were often discriminatory and elitist. Whether or not to join a social club was a difficult decision for many Withrow students. The rush period could be very stressful for prospective members. Until 1954, freshman rush occurred in the spring. With the opening of several junior high schools that year, sophomore rush was moved to the fall. One was not always invited to join the desired group. Indeed, singer/actress Rosemary Clooney wrote in her autobiography of the social tension of rush, and the fact that she was “blackballed” by a sorority at Withrow.

Nevertheless, social clubs helped foster strong, lasting friendships with people one might not have otherwise known in such a large school as Withrow. They provided a sense of place in the turbulent teenage years. An editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer on January 10, 1963 averred “There is much evidence that the clubs contribute in a vitally important way to the social and civic development of the young people who choose to be affiliated with them.” Whether they were good or bad in the life of high school students remains debatable to this day.

Sororities at Withrow during the “legal” years were Aliquippa, Alpha Beta Kappa, Alpha Beta Chi, Alpha Delta Gamma, Alpha Theta Alpha, Altruist (Alpha Chi Delta), Beta Omega Chi, Chi Lambda Chi, Iota Sigma Chi, Ivyettes, Kytyves, Phi Gamma Sigma, Tally Ho (Gamma Delta Alpha), Theta Omega Chi, Sigma Delta Chi and Zeta Beta Kappa.

Fraternities during this period were Beta Tau Omega, Chi Omega Sigma, Chi Sigma Chi, Delta Sigma Chi, Iota Sigma Pi, Kappa Tau Kappa, Omega Kappa, Phi Beta Gamma, Tau Sigma, Tri Chi, and Triginta Optimi. Fraternities known to exist before 1949 include Beta Omega Beta and Delta Beta.

Withrow-the first 50 years of Annuals

by Bob Linnerberg ’63

From the onset, the stated objective of the Annual has been “to make a true picture of school life” at Withrow. Anxiously awaited every spring, the yearbook has been a mirror of the times, and occasionally the troubles, of life in Cincinnati’s largest high school.

The first East High School annual was published by the senior class in 1920. The literary editor that year was Dorothy Pearce Atkins. She returned to Withrow in 1926 as an English teacher and remained until her retirement in 1961. Named The Tiger by the class of 1922, the annual remained so named as long as the school was called East High. Jokes and baby pictures of seniors, popular in the 1920s, were dropped from later annuals. The sixth annual in 1925 was the “first” Withrow High School annual.

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Withrow-the first 50 years of Tower News


“If it happened—it’s here” was the winning slogan submitted by sophomore Jeanne LeFeber ’50 in a contest held by Tower News in the fall of 1947. She was awarded a $10.00 prize for her entry, which was to appear in the Tower News masthead for the next 30 years.

The first edition of East High School’s The Tower News was issued April 22, 1921. Printed at school, the newspaper contained no advertising and cost 5 cents. Student Horace Wersel was given credit for suggesting the name for the paper. The students at East High had chosen to have a newspaper instead of a magazine; and in this regard, Tower News remained the first and only public school newspaper in Cincinnati for almost a decade.

Published bi-weekly, the paper consisted of club news, stories, poems, essays, cartoons, and humor. All aspects of sports news, both male and female, were prominent. In the ensuing years, alumni news and events were heavily featured. By the late 1920’s, the paper expanded into a weekly publication and added more cartoons and gossip.

In 1929, it became necessary to print Tower News out of school, and the business staff was expanded to bring in advertising.

By the early 1930’s, with the depression at its worst, the paper was scaled back to bi-weekly and fears were evident that, due to lack of sales and advertising, Tower News would have to cease publication altogether. The student body rallied, and the paper continued throughout the Depression.

World War II brought the paper back to a weekly publication. War news and stories of alumni and former students in service were prominent along with the usual sports, clubs and activities, and gossip. Instructions for air raid drills, and the sometimes humorous results of air raid drills, were featured along with articles about the Victory Corps and similar war time activities. Times may have been difficult but the most copy was given over to the popular “swing” bands of the time. What the hit songs were and where and when the bands were playing in the Cincinnati area helped relieve the stress of wartime life. Weekly casualty lists were published on the first page throughout the war.

In 1944, Tower News held a contest for new school songs. Suggesting that “On Withrow” was a “parody” of “On Wisconsin”, the Editors wanted to replace it with something specific to Withrow. With the school name changed from East High to Withrow High in 1924, Tower News had sponsored the same  contest to get rid of the “On Wisconsin” tune. Both contests were unsuccessful. However, the 1944 contest for an Alma Mater had a winner. With Sigma Gamma awarding a $25.00 prize, junior Rowena Hezlep’s words remain the Alma Mater to this day. The song, with music by choral director Leo Grether, was presented on Class Day 1945.

Over the ensuing years, the Tower News remained a weekly paper. For special occasions, and for the year 1956, a six-page paper was possible. Special sports issues were common in the fall as was the Minstrel/Sounds of Withrow issue in the spring; an April Fool issue highlighted the wit of the Tower News staff. The Class Day issue at the end of the school year was prepared by the departing seniors, and the underclassmen took over the assignments for the next school year.

In the fall of 1965, the Board of Education bought Withrow a printing press; and the Tower News once again was printed in-house. It was reduced to a bi-weekly publication, but because advertising was no longer necessary, the content remained the same.

During most of its run, Tower News enjoyed an All-American or a First-Class rating from the National Scholastic Press Association. Withrow students knew they had good reason to be proud of their paper, and the national recognition was icing on the cake. And, after 50 years, the price may have doubled—but was still only 10 cents.