Heights to Receive Ryan White Historical Marker


Heights to Receive Ryan White Historical Marker

The Indiana Historical Bureau (IHB) has approved Hamilton Heights School Corporation’s 2018-19 application for a state historical marker to commemorate the impact and contributions of Ryan White.  The organization administers the Indiana Historical Marker Program to recognize significant people, places, events and organizations in Indiana’s history.

Heights’ application was among 34 submitted and 28 approved by the IHB this year. This cast aluminum marker, when compete, will be placed near the entrance of the Hamilton Heights Middle School in Arcadia.  A special community dedication and unveiling is being planned to celebrate the county’s most recent historical marker.

“Ryan’s legacy in Hamilton County began here at the current site of Hamilton Heights Middle School (formerly the high school) August 31, 1987,” explained Dan Smith, with more than a 30-year tenure at Heights and current Co-Chair of the Committee for Ryan’s Marker.  “It was the collaborative effort of current and former Heights personnel and members of the community, that helped bring this important recognition to reality.” 

“Heights leadership at the time, including State Representative Tony Cook, then the high school principal, student body, faculty and staff, and a community that came together to give the White family a warm welcome and a place to be accepted deserves the bulk of the credit,” continued Smith, of White’s transition to Cicero and Hamilton Heights.  “White lived, attended school, and worked in the community.  No one could have foreseen the impact and historical significance this young man would ultimately have locally, throughout the state, nation and beyond.”

White’s marker, the 7th in Hamilton County, will be among the more than 650 that have been commemorated by an official Indiana state historical marker since the organization began issuing signs in 1946. The IHB provides publications, programs, and other opportunities for Indiana citizens of all ages to learn and teach about the history of their communities, the state of Indiana, and their relationships to the nation and the world.

 “We are really excited about this particular marker and the opportunity to continue to share Ryan White’s story with the public,” shared Casey Pfeiffer, IHB’s Marker Program Manager.  In fact, IHB recently posted the following on the organization’s Facebook page, “On August 26, 1985, Ryan White, a 14-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with AIDS from a blood transfusion in 1984, attended classes via telephone after being barred from school due to his diagnosis.

At his diagnosis, White was given three to six months to live, but soon beat the odds and regained enough of his health to attend school. However, he was barred from doing so by the Western School Corporation superintendent. The school board later upheld the decision. Eventually, Ryan and his family moved to Cicero, where he was allowed to attend school and even held a job. Ryan White lived for over five years after his diagnosis.”

“Ryan’s story still resonates with people around the world and his legacy continues to raise awareness on AIDS.  His story has become an integral part of Hoosier history,” noted Pfeiffer.