Will Rogers
High School
Tulsa,
Oklahoma
WILL ROGERS 1959
"Ride on, ye Ropers!"
About Us > Our School
Will
Rogers
High School
Tulsa, Oklahoma
"Will on the Hill"
On August 28, 1936, the Board of Education purchased land for the building site
of Will Rogers High School, nearly 27 acres. Construction was begun October
11, 1937, and the completed building was officially accepted from the architects
on June 30, 1939. The school doors opened September 11 of that year to 1,501
students. Dedication ceremonies were held that fall to coincide with the 60th
anniversary of Will Rogers' birth, November 4, 1879.

This school was designed by Leon B. Senter and
Joseph R. Koberling, Jr.
Typical of Public Works Administration period Art Deco, this school was featured
in a
Time magazine article "outlining the high school pattern of the future" in
which it was called "a model progressive high school" in "one of the most
progressive school systems in the study." The elaborate buff brick school
features two large towers at the front corners of a large main block of
classrooms. The towers are supported by stepped pilasters with ornate details
in terra cotta "capitals." Panels above the double doors feature Will Roger’s life
in two phases. One depicts his cowboy days with a horse, roped steer, and the
prairie, and the other his movie days with a reel camera, airplane, and polo
rider.  

The main hall of the school gives the impression of a fine office building with
terra cotta sheathed walls and terrazzo floors. Materials included 9,892 pieces of
terra cotta in the main corridor alone. Large arches at the doorways add to the
sense of spaciousness. Ornamental plaster work borders the ceiling.
Decorating the two main hallways were 50 giant sepia-toned prints depicting the
seven phases of Rogers' life from his early boyhood through his motion picture
career to his role as the "ambassador of good will."

The balconied auditorium resembles a luxury theater, seating 1,500. The
elaborate stage curved and fluted with brass onsets of a fan and a floral design
in terra cotta red, brass, gold leaf and tan. Sumptuous brass lights and false
balconies add to the theatrical atmosphere. The plaster ceiling is ornate,
decorated with painted, cast plaster beams. Dominating the west wall of the
auditorium is a mural. The John Greenleaf Whittier verse about westward
expansion is illustrated with figures of pioneers and Indians.

An eight-room wing addition was opened for class use on September 6, 1948.
The total for both the original building and the 1948 addition was $1,708,684.51.
A separate building was later built to the southeast of the original, connected by
an outdoor sheltered walkway.

Its proudest moment came on October 11, 1957, when Will Rogers High School
was presented with the
Francis Bellamy Flag Award by Margarette S. Miller,
biographer of Francis Bellamy and originator of the award program. The
ceremony was attended by dignitaries including Oklahoma Governor Raymond
Gary and U.S. Senator Mike Monroney. Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister,
wrote the original
Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. The controversial words "under
God" were added by Congress in 1954. According to the 1958
Lariat: "The
award, a large American flag, is given each year to an honored school of one of
the forty-eight states. The school is selected on the basis of the outstanding
achievements of the alumni, the citizenship and patriotism taught and practiced
within the school, and the leadership displayed by the principal. The purpose of
the award is to stimulate patriotism in the schools and to create a firm foundation
for good citizenship. Will Rogers High School will represent Oklahoma for the
next fifty years as holder of this grand honor."

This school, first lone and bare on the top of a prairie hill, was begun without
traditions or symbols to guide its students. Today, "Will on the Hill" is a school
with a proud past.

Meet Architect Joseph Koberling, aired on KOTV-6 Oct. 3, 1988

20th Anniversary Progress Report Video, Fall 1958

New Field House Opens, 2006

Tour Program, aired on KTUL-TV-8 Jan. 12, 2009 (Clippings)

Memories of Tulsa's Will Rogers High School, 2009
"Will on the Hill" from 1940s-era postcard
Memories of Tulsa's
Will Rogers High
School by Steve
Wright, Class of '56
Click on photo to open