In 1958, Armstrong Technical High School graduated its very last class. Today, its alumni association is more alive than ever.
Graduates of the school gathered for their first memorial service to honor alumni and the school’s legacy on Saturday, Oct. 22 at its original site, which currently houses Friendship Public Charter School in Northwest.
John Milligan, the historian of the alumni board and member of the class of 1949 said that even though another school operates in Armstrong’s original building, the campus will always be their home.
“We are Armstrong, we have been around a long time,” Milligan said. “This place is mines as far as I’m concerned. I have a lot of stake in this place.”
Jesse Davis, the master of ceremonies, from the class of 1945 emphasized that the true role of the Armstrong Technical High School Alumni Association will always be service.
“Over the years we have given over $150,000 to 500 recipients in scholarships,” Davis said. “As long as we are in existence, we hope to give at least $10,000 a year in scholarship grants.”
Bernice Butler Johnson, representing the class of 1948, echoed Davis’s sentiments.
“The teachers that taught us left a legacy, and now we are trying to thank them by creating programs and scholarships,” she said.
On May 14, 1901, a group of eight students from the Business Department of M Street High School, and Wilson Bruce Evans, Armstrong’s first principal, started Armstrong Manual Training School.
Named after Gen. Samuel Chapman Armstrong, a co-founder of the Hampton Institute, the school officially opened after an act of Congress authorized its existence in 1902.
In 1996, almost 40 years after its closing, the building was granted historic preservation status by the the National Preservation Society and the D.C. government.
James Nero, president of the Armstrong Technical High School Alumni Association and member of the class of 1951, believes that the school has a bustling alumni association despite closing so long ago because of the sense of activism instilled in them as students.
“The motivation for us is activism in education to make sure that young people get what they need,” Nero said. “When we were coming up it was almost a struggle to get out of high school, but now it’s a struggle for them to get out of college.
“So we give scholarships each year for $1,000 through one fundraiser and community contributions, so that is our primary income and purpose,” he said.
Nero believes the mission to help today’s students resonates so deeply with alumni members because of their teachers’ impact on them.
“The dedication of the teachers, the camaraderie amongst the cross section of students made the experience,” he said. “We had seven teachers that were husband and wife, which brought more closeness to the school.
“Our leadership from the principles and the counselors were just excellent, and most of them stayed at Armstrong until their retirement,” he said. “We have continued that harmony amongst ourselves.”