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Event Details

Wednesday, March 10 2021

7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Event Contact

Eric Eickhoff

Established in 1855 as Central High School and reorganized in 1916, Schenley High School was a model of innovative public education and an ongoing experiment in diversity. Its graduates include Andy Warhol, actor Bill Nunn, and jazz virtuoso Earl Hines, and its prestigious academic program (and pensions) lured such teachers as future Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather. The subject of investment as well as destructive neglect, the school reflects the history of the city of Pittsburgh and provides a study in both the best and worst of urban public education practices there and across the Rust Belt. Integrated decades before Brown v. Board of Education, Schenley succumbed to default segregation during the “white flight” of the 1970s; it rose again to prominence in the late 1980s, when parents camped out in six-day-long lines to enroll their children in visionary superintendent Richard C. Wallace’s reinvigorated school. Although the historic triangular building was a cornerstone of its North Oakland neighborhood and a showpiece for the city of Pittsburgh, officials closed the school in 2008, citing over $50 million in necessary renovations—a controversial event that captured national attention.

Schenley alumnus Jake Oresick tells this story through interviews, historical documents, and hundreds of first-person accounts drawn from a community indelibly tied to the school. A memorable, important work of local and educational history, his book is a case study of desegregation, magnet education, and the changing nature and legacies of America’s oldest public schools

Jake Oresick is the author of The Schenley Experiment: A Social History of Pittsburgh’s First Public High School (Penn State University Press, 2017), which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called “curious and compelling.”  His forthcoming book, The Pittsburgh Novel: Western Pennsylvania in Fiction and Drama, 1792-2014 (Penn State University Libraries)—co-authored with his late father, Peter Oresick—is an annotated bibliography of all known fiction set in Pennsylvania’s 26 westernmost counties.  Oresick’s scholarly work can be found in Western Pennsylvania History and The Heinz Journal, while his poems have appeared in St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints (Ave Maria Press, 2014) and Adanna Literary Journal.  Educated at John Carroll University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Oresick works as an attorney at Houston Harbaugh, P.C. in Pittsburgh.