End of an era: LHS principal office to move after 65 years

June 6, 2023

End of an era: LHS principal office to move after 65 years

A look back at the principals of LHS

LHS News is a presentation of Ludington High School in partnership with Mason County Press. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Not much has changed about the physical principal’s office at Ludington High School in the past 70 years. When classes begin in the fall of this year, a new administrative office will be located on the east side of the building, along with a new entrance. While the old office will be gone, the legacy of the eight men who have occupied that office since 1958 will continue with a new chapter of the school.

LHS in 1958

Current LHS Principal Dan Mesyar said his office has had only minor cosmetic changes since it was built in 1953. The building, located on the northeast corner of North Washington Avenue and East Anderson Street, was opened in late 1953 as Ludington Junior High School. At that time, Ludington Union School District No. 1 was a city school district. Consolidation of schools from Hamlin, Pere Marquette, Summit and Amber townships didn’t take place fully until 1966.

It was the first time in 48 years that Ludington schools built a new building; up to that point the newest school was Luther H. Foster School (Third Ward School), built in 1905 on the south side of the 500 block of East Foster Street (the building was razed in 1966).

A front page story in the Nov. 27, 1953 Ludington Daily News described the newly constructed junior high school building: “Its low built walls measure 416 feet from north to south across the front of the building and towering higher at the rear of the central entrance is the roof of the big 100 by 120 foot gymnasium which can be divided into two separate gyms, each one larger than Oriole Hall.” Oriole Hall (built in 1925) was the gymnasium located in Central High School (which later became Foster Elementary). 

“Main entrance of the building is through a central lobby facing west in the center of the long building,” the article continued. “The red quarry tile of the lobby floor blends into the red brick and natural red oak panelling of its side walls. 

“Eight classrooms, each 28 feet square, are located in the north wing and six more classrooms of the same size in the south wing of the building.”

The 31,800 square-feet building was built at a cost of $750,000, which also included upgrades to some of the other city school buildings. The building housed students in grades seven through nine while the students in grades 10 through 12 remained in the old high school, which was built in 1886. 

James Reynolds served as junior high school principal and was first principal to serve in the building.

James Reynolds served as the first principal of the building, serving as junior high principal. Reynolds was born on July 18, 1916 in Platteville, Wis. He grew up on a dairy farm in Olivet and attended Olivet College, where he met his wife, Mary Parrott of Ludington. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was hired by Ludington Union School District and served as principal of Longfellow School and then Ludington Junior High School. In 1960, the Reynolds family moved to California where he was hired as a teacher in Monterey, retiring in 1979. Reynolds died on March 16, 2001 at the age of 84. 

The new building didn’t last long as a junior high school. The Board of Education decided to expand the new building on Washington Avenue and convert it to a high school, sending the seventh and eighth grade students to the old high school on Foster Street. In September 1958, the building opened as Ludington High School with the addition of 63,480 square feet and 24 new classrooms for a total of 32 classrooms. Seven years later, the junior high school students were returned to the complex with the opening of a 105,867-square foot building, dedicated in honor of Oliver J. DeJonge (1898-1994), who served as superintendent from 1940 to 1963.

“The 32-classroom high school was made by adding to the five-year-old building, formerly used as the junior high and using the entire building to house the 750 students of the ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades,” a Sept. 12, 1958 newspaper article stated. 

“Built on a large tract of land, there is plenty of room for expansion of the school, which is all on one floor, following the modern trend of building schools on a single level.

“The various departments are in units, for instance the commercial classes are adjoining, as are those of mathematics, English, science, history, etc. 

All rooms open off a central hallway, which traverse the four sides of the building. All rooms are spacious and well lighted; one side of each room is all windows. Fluorescent lights are in all of the rooms and all ceilings are of acoustical tile.”

In its 65 years on Washington Avenue, LHS has only had eight principals: 

    • Phil C. Hartman, 1945-1965
    • Noble Arent, 1965-1983
    • Larry Sholtey, 1983-1986
    • Tom Beatty, 1986-1991
    • Gregg Mowen, 1991-1993
    • Mark Boon, 1993-2008
    • Dale Horowski, 2008-2016
    • Dan Mesyar, 2016-present

Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman

1945-1965

Phil Hartman, typically referred to as P.C. Hartman, was born on May 22, 1900 in Belleview, Missouri. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Southeast Missouri State University) and earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri in 1938. He served five years teaching in Missouri, one year as a grade school principal in Bolivar and Elvins and three years as principal of the high school in Chafee. In 1925 he was hired by Ludington Union School as a biology teacher and eventually dean of boys. 

In 1945, Hartman was appointed as principal. Additionally, he and his wife, Phyllis, managed the Epworth Hotel from 1942 to 1971 (he managed it for one additional year after her death, 1972).

“The greatest pleasure a teacher or school administrator can derive is to see former students do well in college and later life,” Hartman said in an May 11, 1965 interview in the Ludington Daily News, announcing his retirement. 

Hart man served in the Student Army Training Corps at Cape Girardeau, Mo. during World War I. He also served in the Missouri National Guard for two years and was a member of the Mason County Barracks No. 405, Veterans of World War I. 

Phil and Phyliss did not have any children. Phil died on March 1, 1981 in Ludington at the age of 80.

Noble Arent

Noble Arent

1965-1983

Noble Arent was born on July 21, 1926 in Bainbridge, Mich. where he grew up and went to school. He graduated from Coloma High School and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1951, he graduated from Kalamazoo College with a bachelor’s degree and earned a master’s degree from Western Michigan University. Before coming to Ludington he was a mathematics teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal at Decatur High School. 

He and his wife, Mardell, had four children. Mardell also taught for Ludington schools, teaching first and second grades at Lakeview Elementary. She retired in 1986. 

Arent was hired by Superintendent Donald C. Baldwin in March 1965. 

While vacationing in Georgia, Arent died of a heart attack on Aug. 8, 1983. He was 57 and still working as LHS principal. A scholarship established in Arent’s memory, is awarded annually to a LHS graduate who is pursuing a degree in education. 

Larry Sholtey

Larry Sholtey

1983-1986

Larry Sholtey became the first LHS assistant principal in 1967 and was appointed principal following Arent’s death. Sholtey was born on Feb. 26, 1932 Niles. He grew up on a farm and was the youngest of six children. He attended Niles High School where he was an all-state football player, earning a football scholarship to Central Michigan University. He graduated from Niles High School in 1951 and then played tackle for CMU. At CMU, he met his wife, Joan Nelson of Scottville. They were married in 1953. 

Both Larry and Joan were teachers. They began their careers in Hillman then were hired by Ludington schools in 1956. Larry taught government, social studies and drivers’ education. He was also assistant football coach. Joan taught second grade for 27 years. 

Larry and Joan had two children. He died on Oct. 10, 2019 at the age of 87. 

Tom Beatty

Thomas Pierce Beatty

1986-1991

Tom Beatty was born June 17, 1936 in Williamston. He grew up on a farm and was active in Future Farmers of America, serving as the Michigan FFA president in 1955-1956. After high school, he attended Central Michigan University and Michigan State University, earning degrees in education and counseling. 

Tom became  a student teacher at Ludington High School in 1959. 

He was initially hired as a counselor at LHS. He then served as the first principal of O.J. DeJonge Junior High School from 1964 until becoming assistant high school principal in 1984. He then became high school principal in 1986 and served in that role until he retired in 1991. 

He and his wife, Yvonne, had two children. Tom died Aug. 18, 2021 in Ludington at the age of 87.

Dr. Gregg Mowen

Dr. Gregg G. Mowen

1991-1993

Gregg Mowen was born June 24, 1959 in Owosso and graduated from Owosso High School in 1977. He was married Carol Mayer of Ludington in 1983. Mowen earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in music education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Michigan State University. He also earned a doctorate in education from Western Michigan University. 

After leaving Ludington, he served as superintendent of Climax-Scotts Community Schools, Reed City Public Schools and Jackson Public Schools. He also served as assistant superintendent for instruction and instructional support for Grand Rapids Public Schools. 

Mowen retired in spring 2020 after 19 years with the Department of Defense Education Activity. He held multiple administrator positions and several DOD schools and most recently was school administrator for the Department of Defense in Toyko. Mowen died on Jan. 4, 2021 in Bowling Green, Ohio. 

Mark Boon

Mark Boon

1993-2008

Mark Boon graduated from Ludington High School in 1968, where he earned the honor of All-Around Senior. Boon graduated from Western Michigan University in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in speech and health. He then returned to Ludington High School where he was hired to teach driver’s education and to work as a substitute teacher. He was eventually hired full time. Later, he earned a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University. He then became attendance/at-risk officer for LHS. In 1993, he became principal of the junior high/senior high complex.

“When I was in high school I always admired my teachers, especially Mr. (Ray) Galinski and Mr. (Don) Schierholt. Not only were they teaching school, but they were teaching about life. It was a tough time back then. The Vietnam war was happening. There were a lot of life lessons that they taught and I thought to myself, that I could do the same thing. I could impact kids just like they impacted me.” 

Boon said he didn’t think much about administration until Larry Sholtey (see above) convinced him to consider it. “Mr. Sholtey said that the school needed younger people to move into administration. He talked me into taking advanced classes. 

Boon said his focus has always been on the students, the staff, and the community. 

“I served as the complex principal of the senior high and junior high while Cal DeKuiper was assistant principal of the senior high and Mike Winczewski was assistant principal of the junior high. Additionally, Dan Neal was athletic director. I said, let’s work off our strengths. Cal liked curriculum, so that’s what he focused on. I like the discipline part and also building usage and community relations. We all had our strengths and it worked well.” 

Boon said he was asked by Superintendent Mike Oakes to consider becoming a superintendent. “I had no interest in being superintendent because I didn’t want to lose contact with the students. But, I told Mr. Oakes that Cal DeKuiper would make a great superintendent, and he ended up serving our school well in that role. Then, we moved Dale Horowski into Cal’s position, who also was great in that role, and later as principal of LHS.” 

After retiring as principal in 2008, Boon continued with the school district. He is currently an at-risk interventionist who works with students on attendance and truancy. He also teaches driver education. 

Dale Horowski

Dale Horowski 

2008-2016

Dale Horowski graduated from Ludington High School in 1977. He attended West Shore Community College and then graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree with a major in English education and a minor in social studies. He earned a master’s degree in English language and literature from Central Michigan University.  

Horowski began his teaching career as a long-term substitute in 1984 at Ludington High School, filling in for Ken Tabor who was on sabbatical.  When that contract ended, he said he was contacted by Mason County Central Middle School Principal Ed Malkowski, who offered him an American history teaching position in 1985. After a year in that position, he was moved to MCC High School where he replaced the legendary O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk, who had retired, teaching social studies. 

In 1986, Horowski had the opportunity to come back to LHS and teach English, which was his primary subject. “I enjoyed being at MCC and likely would have stayed. But, Ludington had a larger English department and many of those people were my teachers from when I went to school,” Horowski said. 

His teaching career at LHS lasted 19 years until he was encouraged by his colleagues to consider getting into administration. 

“I loved being a teacher. It was tremendously fulfilling,” he said. “But, I pursued administration at the urging of my colleagues. I thought it would be good to expand my reach and push myself to try to help instructors across the board. I’m glad I did it.”

In 2005, Horowski was named assistant principal of the senior high/junior high complex. Under the leadership of Mark Boon, as complex principal, Horowski’s duties focused on the high school while Mike Wincheski was the assistant principal of the middle school. In 2008, he was named high school principal. 

“The district operated under a complex principal system for a time, but then changed it when I became principal. I think I was the right person for the right time. Mark Boon was a great leader whose focus was a little different than mine. Everybody who knows Mark, knows that he excelled at student services, supporting kids of all types. He was very strong at building and grounds and had a great relationship with all the employees. 

“I came at time when the state was moving to standardized testing and I needed to play a role in teaching teachers and moving forward with teaching techniques that would help them.”

Following his retirement from LAS, Horowski took on several roles with the West Shore Educational Service District including serving as interim director of general education, trainer of principals on teacher evaluation systems, and then three years as director of Career and Technical Education. 

He said he’s officially retired… for now. 

Dan Mesyar

Dan Mesyar

2016 to present

Dan Mesyar is a 1994 graduate of Ludington High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education from Calvin College in 1999, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University in 2005 and an educational specialist degree from GVSU in 2013. He taught physical education at O.J. DeJonge Middle School from 2001-2003 then taught government at LHS from 2003-2008. He also was the LHS varsity baseball coach from 2001-2008 and JV baseball coach from 1999-2001. He’s also coached basketball and football as well. 

From 2008-2016 he served as LHS assistant principal before being named principal in 2016. 

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in my senior year of high school,” Mesyar said. “I wanted to teach and be a coach, and that’s what I did.” 

Mesyar said he and his wife, Amy, rotating on working towards earning graduate degrees. Amy is a special education supervisor with the West Shore Educational Service District. 

“I looked up to several of the administrators at Ludington Area Schools and knew that I wanted to move to the next level,” Mesyar said. “I really enjoy working with the students, staff and community. One of my biggest goals has been to build a culture of pride in our school. This is important at all levels and from all involved in the school. We recently created a parent advisory committee and that has allowed a great way for parents to have input in their children’s education.”

Mike Robinson

Since 1967, the LHS principal has been supported by an assistant principal. Those assistant principals have included: 

  • Larry Scholtey, 1967-1983
  • Tom Beatty, 1984-1986
  • Mike Robinson, 1987-1993
  • Cal DeKuiper, 1993-2005
  • Dale Horowski, 2005-2008
  • Dan Mesyar, 2008-2016
  • Steve Forsberg, 2016-present

 

Cal DeKuiper

Steve Forsberg

 

1958 faculty of LHS

The following were the first faculty to work in LHS when it opened in 1958: 

  • Phil C. Hartman, principal 
  • Catherine Utz, English
  • Harry Nuckolls, English and journalism
  • Ruth DuBois, english
  • Andra Orbison, French and English
  • Arlen Bloomer, English and coach
  • Mary Kaye, English
  • Dan V. Dewey, social science
  • Richard Demlow, social science
  • Lawrence Sholtey, social science and drivers’ training
  • Edmund Woolett, social science
  • Everett Greiner, geometry and drivers’ training
  • Ray Galinski, speech
  • John B. Heikkila, algebra
  • Arthur B. Dewey, mathematics
  • Roger C. Ewing, mathematics
  • Catherine Bestrom, Latin
  • Richard Scofield, physics and general science
  • Evering C. Hansen, chemistry and physical science
  • Albert J. Johnson, biology
  • Dorothy Derkatz, commercial 
  • Ruth Stephens, commercial
  • Dean Parker, commercial
  • Gordon Aho, general business and business mathematics 
  • Mary MacLean, art
  • Ruth Dittmer, homemaking
  • Laura Antle, homemaking
  • James Dittmer, agriculture
  • Irving Prescott, vocal music
  • C. Howard Hornung, instrumental music
  • R. Jo Hanlon, girls’ physical education
  • Judith Fisher, girls’ physical education
  • Harold Madden, boys’ physical education
  • Joe Kowatch, boys’ physical education
  • M.F. Johnson, shop
  • Dan Evans, shop
  • Ingmar Barbo, shop
  • Katheryn Stanford, librarian 

 

A special thanks to Dan Mesyar, for proving the idea to research this story. Also to Dan Mesyar, along with Mark Boon and Dale Horowski for assistance in researching this story. Much of the information was retrieved from records located at the Mason County Historical Society. 

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