Adrian High School celebrates 80th anniversary

Joy Cameron and her mother Marjory Cameron (class of 1949) pointed out faces they know from a photo of Adrian High’s 1940 graduating class. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

ADRIAN – You’d be hard pressed to find an 80-year-old standing up as straight as this one.

On Thursday, students – the current ones and the grown ones – gathered at Adrian High School’s gym to sing happy birthday to a little old building that for eight decades has helped generations of Adrian community members grow up.

“You have a sense of pride being here because it really is a special place,” said Kevin Purnell, the high school’s principal and Adrian School District superintendent. His own four children are Adrian High graduates.

Before 1939, Purnell explained in remarks to the crowd, students in Adrian went to Nyssa High School. But the pick-up and drop-off was on the highway, leaving students to walk long routes home.

When the Owyhee Irrigation Project came to town, that made the need for a local school more pressing. The school cost $44,488 to build.

Adrian High’s first graduating class, in 1940, had 20 students.


Several alumni from over the years attended Thursday’s celebration. Marjory Cameron, class of 1949, peered at a photo of the ’40 grads in the gym.

What does Cameron recall from her time at Adrian?

“Well,” Cameron, born Marjory Jelinek, paused. “I found my husband.”

Her husband, Emery Cameron, as well as their children and grandchildren have also walked the halls of Adrian High.

Isaac Martinez, who graduated in 1965 and grew up on a farm nearby said, “School is where you really got to meet your friends.”

Martinez played third base on the baseball team at Adrian for four years. In 1965 the team won the state title.

“I had great teachers. I really enjoyed the sports,” Martinez said.

Joel Price, who graduated with Martinez, played football at Adrian but “I wasn’t any good,” he laughed. He also remembers being in trouble a lot.

To commemorate the event, the school’s student leaders put together a montage of photos from yearbooks throughout the years, along with popular music from each decade.

In the bleachers, chatter picked up as the video hit the classes from the 1960s and the current students began recognizing the songs. They sang along and jimmied to the familiar tunes and giggles and comments erupted as the hairstyles in the photos got frizzier. 

“It’s pretty cool to think that this school has been operating and teaching students for so many years, especially when you’re able to walk down the hallway with so many different pictures of people who have walked before us,” said McKenzie Schulthies, 17, a senior and student body president. “Being able to look at them and see the people who graduated – a lot of them have stayed in the community so you’re able to know those people and they’re able to get to know you. It’s cool to have that connection.”

The hallway that cuts through the high school has photos of nearly all the graduating classes in the school’s history.

Purnell, who’s been principal of the high school for 12 years, said it was exciting to research the school for its anniversary and come across so many names he’s met or heard stories about.

The school’s current enrollment hovers in the 90s – about half of what those first graduating classes had.

“It’s pretty amazing to know our small little community still thrives and be able to share this with them,” Schulthies said.

After the candles were blown out – all 80 of them – and the five cakes were sliced, students old and new mingled. One graduate walked out with his cane and remarked, “Things are definitely a little different now.”

Adrian High School held a celebration Thursday, Sept. 5 to honor the school’s 80th year. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Photos of nearly all the graduating classes line the school’s main hallway. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Community members and students, old and new, mingled in the gym after the cake was sliced. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Kevin Purnell, Adrian High principal and the district superintendent, talked about the school’s history. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

The Adrian High School band played the happy birthday song and the school’s fight song. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Officers from Adrian High School’s Associated Student Body spoke at the school’s 80th birthday celebration Thursday, Sept. 5 (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Five cakes and, yes, 80 candles, were part of Adrian High School’s 80th anniversary celebration. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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