We were going to begin this piece with a solemn eulogy: “200 Building, we hardly knew ye.”
More of a pre-eulogy, really, as Bainbridge High School’s venerable catch-all wing – administration, library, cafeteria and a smattering of classrooms – won’t be reduced to dust for another few months. But as its date with the wrecking ball looms, school officials are busy making plans to shuffle students and staff during construction of what turns out to be called… “the 200 Building.”
Which makes a eulogy kind of pointless – how can we miss a building whose very identity will just be subsumed by a newer model? Indeed, the new BHS wing will join a pantheon of campus edifices – 100 Building, 300 Building, et. al. – tall in stature but undistinguished in title. You’d think for $21 million, it would at least come with a name.
Perhaps it’s time to begin giving BHS campus buildings proper monikers – not just the new one, but all of them. As it stands – unless you count “the maintenance building,” which doesn’t even qualify for capital letters – the only building on campus with an actual name is Paski Gymnasium, and even it is alternately known as “400-500.” The 100 Building is informally referred to as the LGI, a dubious distinction given that few even know what that stands for. (Answer: “Large Group Instruction.” Hardly catchy.)
So why not name the grand new high school wing after, say, a revered Bainbridge educator? Everyone who went through our public schools must have in their head a list of teachers who really stood out. An informal survey of Bainbridge High School graduates this week brought up the late Bill Winsor as one candidate. Described by a Spartan alum as “the obstacle between many seniors and a diploma,” Winsor made darn sure graduates went into the real world understanding civics and contemporary world issues. He taught from the late 1960s to mid-80s, and was widely mourned at his passing in 2005. Another possibility: Neal Nunamaker, who served as Bainbridge superintendent for what one BHS graduate described as “a hundred years” before retiring in the mid-1980s. “He really seemed to run a tight ship,” a Spartan recalled. “We rarely had a snow day in his tenure. It is said that he would drive his ‘50s vintage car to the end of his driveway and back, and if he made it, there would be school.”
Nunamaker still lives on the island, but the district hasn’t been particularly rigid about naming things posthumously. Both Walt Woodward and Tom Paski were able to stroll the corridors of buildings named in their honor before their passing. And such decisions, while monumental, are anything but permanent. Recall that Paski Gymnasium succeeded a building named for David W. Buchanan, Bainbridge school superintendent from 1948-1960. Like those for whom they’re named, buildings pass into the ages, while future honorees come to the fore in the interim.
The process of naming public buildings gives a community an excellent chance to reflect on its history and the forebears through whose efforts local institutions were built. A high school campus honoring a handful of revered teachers and administrators – a Winsor Hall, a Nunamaker Center, or whomever Spartans should decide to fete – would speak well to Bainbridge schools’ proud traditions.
“The new 200 Building” says nothing.