What's in a (School) Name? History, Service and Geography
We tell you what or who inspired the names of Rochester's schools.
Who or what are behind the names of the schools in the Rochester Community School district?
A recent request to rename a Rochester elementary school after a hometown soldier who died in Iraq raises this question.
According to the school district’s official school-naming policy, which was adopted in 1971 and amended in 1984 and 1987, elementary schools are to be named “after places or things and as memorials to people significant to this school district.”
Middle schools (formerly known as junior high schools) are named after “national figures of prominence,” while senior high schools are “named after a street or location preceded by the word ‘Rochester.’” The policy assures uniformity and dignity in the naming of school buildings, according to the policy.
What’s in a name?
The origins of some school names are lost to history. There is speculation on whom or what they are named after, but definitive documentation is still not available. However, the roots of most Rochester school names have plenty of history.
The individuals or families honored with a school name made invaluable contributions to the community, the State of Michigan and the nation at large — either as early settlers who helped build and make the Rochester area prosperous and engaging or as more contemporary citizens who worked tirelessly to educate children and serve the community.
Baldwin Elementary, 4325 Bannister Road, Oakland Township
Located in the Goodison enclave of Oakland Township, Baldwin Elementary opened in 1927 and was named for Benedict Baldwin (1787-1884), an early settler of the township. According to Heritage in Oakland Township, a booklet written in 1976 by Delta Kelly (more on her later) and others from the Oakland Township Historical Society, Baldwin school was originally a one-room schoolhouse that stood for nearly 50 years on the corner of Orion and Gunn roads.
Brewster Elementary, 1535 Brewster Road, Rochester Hills
Brewster opened in 1980 and takes its name from the street on which it is located. But where did the name for the street originate? According to various biographical sources from the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Brewsters were pioneers who settled in Rochester in the early 1800s.In Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens published in 1903, William A. Brewster was noted for being “prominent in civic affairs,” serving as sheriff of Oakland County, as well two terms as mayor of Pontiac. His brother, Clark, was a member of the 22nd Regiment Michigan Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. Their father, Peter, was an early pioneer of Oakland County.
Brooklands Elementary, 490 E. Auburn Road, Rochester Hills
It’s unclear where the name “Brooklands” originates. The school was built in 1928, replacing a one-room schoolhouse in the area named Frank School after Colonel John Frank, an early surveyor, settler and military officer.
According to One-Hundred Years of Rochester Schools 1865-1965, compiled and written by Dr. Max Mallon, legal action was taken in February 1928 to prevent “a new board of education from changing the name of the new school” to Brooklands, since, for nine decades, the one-room school in that area had been called Frank School. The case went before a judge who determined that the school district should name the building on its own and the Brooklands name was retained. The name “Brooklands” was mostly likely inspired from topographical features in the area at the time the school was built.
Delta Kelly Elementary, 3880 Adams Road, Oakland Township
One of the district's newer schools is Delta Kelly Elementary built in 2002 and named for a local educator. For 14 years, Kelly taught at Baldwin Elementary School, where she helped to create the Baldwin School Environmental Student Council and the Nature Study Area. Kelly was also instrumental in helping to preserve the Paint Creek wetlands. An amateur historian, Kelly co-wrote Heritage of Oakland Township in 1976, was co-founder and first president of the Oakland Township Historical Society, and a member, president and vice president of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society. In her obituary, printed on Dec. 5. 1993, the Detroit News referenced a 1976 interview in which Kelly said “I simply enjoy serving the community.”
Hamlin Elementary, 270 West Hamlin, Rochester Hills
Hamlin was originally a one-room schoolhouse built in 1836 on property owned by the Hamlin family near Rochester and Auburn roads. The school was rebuilt as the Hamlin Elementary School in 1929. The Hamlins were pioneers and early settlers of Rochester. John Hamlin served at Avon Township supervisor in 1837.
Hampton Elementary, 430 Hampton Circle, Rochester Hills
Hampton Elementary opened in 1993. The origin of its name cannot be verified at this time, but it was most likely the name of a pioneering family who owned land in the area the school and road were built. Over the years, there have been movie theatres, shopping centers and subdivisions named Hampton.
Hugger Elementary, 5050 Sheldon Road, Rochester Hills
Hugger Elementary opened in 1988 and is named for the late Fred Hugger, a beloved educator who served the Rochester school district for more than 30 years. Beginning as a secondary school science teacher, Hugger went on to become principal of Woodward (which closed in 1983), Long Meadow and University Hills elementary schools. Later, he served as the district’s personnel director.
In April 1986, the Rochester Observer & Eccentric reported Hugger’s death at age 55 and quoted a Hamlin school administrator who said Hugger was “a very warm person . . . he helped many – not just students, but the parents, anyone in the community that came to him with a problem. He always had time to listen.”
According to the school’s website, Hugger served in the U.S. Army and was a veteran of the Korean conflict. The website notes that the “Hugger school is honored to bear his name.”
Long Meadow Elementary, 450 Allston, Rochester Hills
Long Meadow Elementary opened in 1967. According to a Long Meadow 25th Anniversary program from 1993, Long Meadow was built on 11.41 acres of land from the Old Harry Lang farm (then owned by Terrance O’Connor). While the origin of Long Meadow’s name cannot be verified at this time, it is likely the result of a topographical feature of the school property.
McGregor Elementary, 1101 W. First Street, Rochester
McGregor Elementary opened in 1961 and was built on farmland donated by Howard L. McGregor, Sr., who also donated land for North Hill Elementary. McGregor was a prominent businessman and farmer in Rochester, where he was a noted breeder of Aberdeen Purebred Angus cattle. He also headed his family business, the National Twist Drill on the corner of Rochester and Tienken roads. McGregor’s son, Howard L. McGregor, Jr., also became a prominent Rochester businessman and philanthropist, serving as chairman of the Crittenton Hospital Board of Trustees and president of National Twist Drill. In addition, he is credited with helping to create Oakland University.
In Sept. 1959, the Rochester School Board voted to accept a gift of land in downtown Rochester from Howard L. McGregor, Sr. for the sole purpose of constructing a new school. Ground breaking for the new McGregor Elementary School took place in Nov. 1960. Howard L. McGregor, Sr. died in Nov. 1959. As a result, his son, who had signed the land over to the Rochester Community School district, attended the groundbreaking and turned the first shovel of dirt. The Howard L. McGregor Elementary School opened in Sept. 1961 with Ronald Kevern serving as the first principal.
McGregor, Jr. died in 1997 at the age of 79. His granddaughter, Katie Altherr, was quoted in a Rochester Clarion/Eccentric article about McGregor’s passing, saying, “he was an outstanding man, very generous and very giving.”
Meadow Brook Elementary, 2350 Munster Drive, Rochester Hills
Meadow Brook Elementary opened in 1959 and is located on a portion of land formerly a part of the Meadow Brook Farms owned by Alfred and Matilda Wilson. According to the school’s website, in 1957, then superintendent of Rochester schools Donald Baldwin wrote a letter to the Wilsons asking if he could suggest the name “Meadow Brook” to the Board of Education. The Wilsons agreed and the board approved the name.
Musson Elementary, 3500 Dutton Road, Rochester Hills
Opened in 1989, Musson was named for the late Alpha R. Musson, a teacher, principal, school board administrator and community volunteer who served the district and the Rochester area for more than 50 years. From 1934 to 1946, Musson was principal of Rochester High School (located in what is now the school’s administration building), where he also taught geometry and algebra. In 1946, Musson left the school district to become executive director of the Oakland County Tuberculosis Association. The illness was of great concern to area residents, as it was running rampant in the county in the 1940s.
Musson returned to teaching in 1960 and retired in 1970. His wife, Louise, was also a teacher. In May 1981, shortly before he died, Musson’s accomplishments were celebrated by the community. School superintendent Dr. Edwin Crandall told The Oakland Press that month that Musson was “a teacher’s teacher, who was well-respected by his colleagues, parents and students.”
Musson told the paper that “it’s my philosophy that you’re not truly living unless you’re doing something for someone.”
North Hill Elementary, 1385 Mahaffy, Rochester
North Hill was built on land donated by William L. McGregor, Jr. and opened in 1955. The area where the school is located has long been referred to as “north hill.” Downtown Rochester is essentially in the Clinton River Valley which rises up to either the south hill past the bridge or the north hill up near Tienken Road.
University Hills, 600 Croydon Road, Rochester Hills
Opened in 1972, University Hills Elementary was likely named for the nearby subdivision, which uses collegiate names such as Spartans and Tartans for street names.
Hart Middle School, 6500 Sheldon Road, Rochester Hills
Hart Middle School opened in 1990 and was named for Phillip Hart, who served as a Lt. Governor of Michigan from 1955 to 1958 and was a U.S. Senator from Michigan from 1958 until his death in 1976. A senate office building in Washington D.C. is also named for Senator Hart.
Reuther Middle School, 1430 E. Auburn Road, Rochester Hills
Once a junior high school, Reuther Middle School opened in 1975 and was named for UAW leader Walter P. Reuther. Reuther, who was also an ardent supporter of civil rights, and his wife, May, lived for a time in Oakland Township. Both were killed in a plane crash in Michigan in 1970.
Van Hoosen Middle School, 1139 N. Adams, Rochester Hills
Museum officials said that during the planning stages for the new school, Sarah Van Hoosen Jones, who was instrumental in the creation of McGregor Elementary, was adamant that the junior high school be named for the family and not any one individual in the family. Both Sarah and her aunt, Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, blazed trails in medicine and farming for future generations of women. Bertha was a prominent surgeon at a time when most were men. Sarah was one of only two women to be named Master Farmer in 1932. She was also one of the first women to receive a master’s degree in animal husbandry. Under her direction, the Van Hoosen Dairy Farm was one of southeast Michigan’s largest dairy producers in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Rochester Hills Museum notes on its website that Bertha’s father, Joshua, was “A progressive individual . . . [he] favored higher education for women and men alike.” His other daughter, Alice, was a teacher.
West Middle School, 500 Old Perch Road, Rochester Hills
Originally a junior high school, West Middle School opened in 1963. According to meeting minutes from the Rochester School Board of Education and reprinted in Mallon’s’ One Hundred Years of Rochester Schools 1865-1965, the board decided in March 1961 to name the new junior high West and named the current junior high (located in what is now the district’s administration building) Central. There’s some speculation that the school was named West because it was located west of Central Junior High.
Rochester Adams High School, 3200 W. Tienken Road, Rochester Hills
Adams High School opened in 1970 on the northwest corner of Tienken and Adams roads. It’s named for Adams Road, but it’s unclear after whom the street was named. Since Adams Road travels through to Birmingham, there could be any number of individuals who inspired the name.
Rochester High School, 180 S. Livernois, Rochester Hills
In 1956, student classes moved from the old Rochester High School, located in what is now the district’s administration building on the corner of Fifth and Wilcox, to today’s Rochester High School on the southwest corner of Livernois and Walton. It is named for obvious reasons.
Stoney Creek High School, 575 E. Tienken Road, Rochester Hills
One of the district’s newest schools is Stoney Creek High School, which opened in 2002. The high school is situated at the entrance to historic Stoney Creek Village, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.