photo by Chris Stewart
of the Wilbur Wright School gathered Saturday, May 23, for a
Grande Finale. Only the auditorium of the school will be
saved as a new elementary school is built on the Huffman
Avenue site in Dayton.
By Lawrence Budd
Staff Writer Updated 11:23 AM Sunday,
May 24, 2009
DAYTON — John L. Janning’s mind has solved some of
our most complex technical problems. But the 81-year-old inventor was
rendered practically speechless on Saturday, May 23, as he donned cap
and gown, and accepted his high school diploma — 63 years after the
rest of his high-school class. “In case you haven’t figured it out,
this is the last graduate of Wilbur Wright High School,” said Diana
Schwieterman, president of the alumni association for the 83-year-old
school.Janning’s graduation capped a “Grand Finale” at the school, to
be demolished this summer to make way for a building for kindergarten
to eighth grade students — one of 28 new buildings funded by a bond
issue and state funds. In 1946, Janning bypassed high-school
graduation — and college — to concentrate on invention. “I was a rebel
back then,” he said before a program in the school auditorium — the
only part of the sprawling structure to survive the wrecking ball.
Janning rose to head engineer at NCR Corp., collected numerous honors
and accumulated more than 250 patents, including key contributions
involving fax machines and lighting technologies underlying LCD
displays on a wide range of devices and more reliable Christmas
lights. But Janning shook his head in disbelief as Kurt Stanic,
superintendent of the Dayton Public Schools, presented him with his
high school diploma.
Once school ends at what is now Wilbur Wright Middle School, the
building at 1361 Huffman Ave. will be emptied and razed. Earlier
Janning said he hoped the new school “will be infected with the
academic fires in these walls.”
His comments followed those of graduates including former Kettering
Mayor Gerald Bush, artist Bing Davis and basketball
stars Don Meineke and David Gilbert.
Materials from the alumni association’s room will be moved to F.G.
Carlson Elementary School.
Before the program, hundreds of graduates wandered the halls and
classrooms, and enjoyed a final meal in the cafeteria. “There have
been thousands that came through these halls,” said Bob White,
61, of Dayton. In 1965, White was sports editor of The Wright Pilot.
White and Ted Lewis, 63, of Sardinia, recalled how the
cafeteria in the north wing, built in 1965, was called “the new part.”
Dale Plunkett, 83, of Dayton, graduated in 1944. “I went all
12 years here,” said Plunkett. “I had 13 letters.”
Chris Harden, 44, of New Lebanon, attended high school here,
but finished at Belmont High in 1983.
“This was always the senior cafeteria. It was called the Wright
Place,” Harden said. “I’ve got a lot of memories.”