Moment of Indiana History

Shortridge High School

Indianapolis-born Kurt Vonnegut always placed his alma mater--Shortridge High School--beyond the range of his trademark slings and arrows.

“That city gave me a free primary and secondary education richer and more humane than anything I would get from any of the five universities I attended. ” Indianapolis-born Kurt Vonnegut always placed Shortridge High School beyond the range of his trademark slings and arrows. As a student, Vonnegut was a sometime editor of the Daily Echo , the nation’s first, and longest-running high school daily, in print from 1898 to 1981. Vonnegut’s alma mater was an academic beacon in many ways. Indiana’s first free high school opened in 1864 as Indianapolis High School, due to the persistent efforts of educator Caleb Mills, founder of Wabash College.

The school’s first superintendent was Abram C. Shortridge, who brought distinction to the school by imposing rigorous academic standards, promoting racial inclusiveness and hiring highly competent female teachers. Renamed in 1898 for this early director, Shortridge eventually outgrew its original location on the Circle, moving to new facilities at 34 th and Meridian in 1928. At the same time, mounting racial tensions had resulted in the opening of an exclusively black high school, Crispus Attucks.

Despite shifting urban demographics, budget shortfalls, and overcrowding, Shortridge continued to maintain high standards and offer diverse extracurricular programs in the 30’s and 40’s. When they were not broadcasting on the school’s radio station, performing as part of its orchestra, or competing on one of its championship sports teams, Shortridge students were sampling Ibsen, Chekhov, Poe, and Woolf—all of whom were listed on the English Department Reading List from 1933. Billed as one of the nation’s top high schools in both Time and Newsweek in 1957, but rocked by racial strife in the 60s, Shortridge did not close its doors until 1981. Having operated as Shortridge Middle School since 1984, the facility was tapped in late 2007 to reopen in 2009 as the new home for a high school magnet program.

In addition to Kurt Vonnegut, noteworthy Shortridge alumni include author Dan Wakefield, television writer Madeleine Pugh, US Senator Richard Lugar and feminist scholar Mary Ritter Beard.

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