About The Association
The Classen High School Alumni Association of Oklahoma City, OK, Inc. -- its full legal name -- is in its 30th year as this is written (in 2015). The organization is recognized as a non-profit public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code, and is incorporated in the state of Oklahoma. Its primary purpose is to preserve and maintain the history and traditions of Classen High School, which graduated more than 20,000 students between 1929 and 1985. Since establishment in 1994 of the Classen School of Advanced Studies, using the original building, a secondary goal has been added: recognition and preservation of the achievements of CSAS. Other purposes include supporting education in general and school activities in particular.
Our association dates from 1985, when those planning the 50th reunion of the Class of 1935 were shocked to learn that their alma mater was closing, permanently, at the end of the Spring semester. Using the registration list for the reunion, and gathering as much support as they could from other alumni, the planners met and established the organization as a formal entity.
At that time the group petitioned the OKC school board for permission to create an Alumni Museum in the building, using space that had once been the studios of the student TV station, KOKH-TV, and before that had served as the school's library. After protracted negotiations, the idea gained board approval. The group also requested and obtained the loan of the many trophies won by Classen in its 54-year existence, for display in the Museum. Many hours of volunteer work by association officers resulted, establishing one of the first such establishments where alumni and current students alike could solidify respect for a school's traditions.
To allow convenient public access to the Museum, the association contracted for addition of a door into the museum space, eliminating any need for visitors to navigate the school's hallways. Access doors between the Museum rooms and the interior hallway were locked at all times.
As an Oklahoma corporation, the organization is governed by an elected board of directors and officers, all of whom serve two-year terms. The association meets in the Alumni Museum 10 times each year, on the third Sunday of each month except for June (because of conflict with Father's Day) and December (because of holiday conflicts). Meetings begin at 2:30 p.m. and normally last no more than an hour. Attendance is not restricted to the officers; everyone is welcome -- and even encouraged -- to participate.
One of the first projects for the association was creation of a "Distinguished Alumnus" award to recognize alumni with significant achievements to their credit. The first such, in 1985, was to Admiral William J. Crowe '42, who at the time was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The award to Adm. Crowe gained national publicity. When he visited Oklahoma City in 1987 for a reception at the not-yet-opened Museum, again the eyes of the nation were on Classen. This interest eventually resulted in the ABC network covering parts of the 35th reunion of the Class of 1954.
Others recognized as Distinguished Alumni in subsequent years include long-time jeweler B. C. Clark '31, former mayor Jim Norick '38, and federal Judge Ralph Thompson '52.
In addition to the trophy displays and other artifacts, a feature of the Museum is the "Alumni Authors' Alley" bookcase, containing many volumes written by alumni over the years. It holds an amazing number of best-sellers, together with many lesser-known works.
Over the years, the Museum has suffered several problems. Sometime in November 1991 a water leak began under the original flooring. Undetected until November 21, it almost destroyed the collected memorabilia -- but the danger was detected just in time. Association officers immediately moved everything to temporary storage. After repairs, everything returned. Then after passage of the "MAPS for kids" program that authorized a complete renovation of the Classen building, the Museum closed once again. This time, it remained unavailable for more than three years. Everything went to storage furnished by the school system. Regular monthly meetings moved to St. John's Episcopal Church, 5401 N. Brookline, thanks to John A. Dewar '65, a past president of the association.
Upon completion of that renovation, the association discovered that the three rooms formerly occupied by the Museum had shrunk to two, and that the original woodwork in both rooms had, like the walls, been painted an antiseptic white. After much discussion, the association board authorized complete overhaul of the space, creating glass-fronted display shelves for the many trophies. With that work complete, the content returned, and the job of unpacking began.
Before the long shutdown for renovation, the Museum was open to the public every Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., in addition to being available by appointment for class reunions and other special events such as the award ceremonies. A crew of volunteers provided staff to greet visitors and do any necessary maintenance.
That crew simply evaporated during the three years with nothing to do. Some members died, some moved out of the OKC area, and others just lost interest. Consequently the renovated Museum is open by appointment only, but any of the association officers can arrange for a visit at only a few hours' notice. Plans are to be open on Saturdays in the future, once a new crew of volunteers can be recruited and schedules arranged.