Fifty Years of Cranbrook Schools

Happy Fiftieth Anniversary, Cranbrook Schools!

But wait. Weren’t the schools opened in the 1920s and 1930s? If the Golden Anniversary milestone seems a little off to you, well, let me explain. 2020 does not mark the anniversary of the individual schools themselves—Brookside was established in 1922, Cranbrook School for Boys in 1927, and Kingswood School in 1931—but for the single entity, Cranbrook Schools.

Newly minted Cranbrook Schools students gather around a Dodge Charger, ca. 1972. Cranbrook Archives.

When the three schools were established by George and Ellen Booth, they were independent institutions loosely united by a shared estate and under the umbrella of the Cranbrook Foundation. But by and large, they were three distinct schools with three distinct heads, three distinct boards, and three distinct staffs.

In 1967, the Cranbrook Foundation centralized management of the three schools’ non-academic functions under the new Cranbrook Business Office. Each school head and the executive director of the Business Office met monthly to discuss mutual problems. New committees and professional staff began to work collaboratively between all three schools.

However, as reported in the Cranbrook Magazine (Summer 1970), this loose connection wasn’t much of an improvement from the old, independent model. There was a feeling that there was still too much redundancy, too little long-term financial planning, and too much untapped potential between Brookside, Cranbrook, and Kingswood.

In the twelve years before 1970, multiple solutions to what was, at its heart, an organizational problem had been put forward. Ultimately, the New York City-based management consultant firm of Heald, Hobson and Associates, Incorporated helped the Cranbrook Foundation develop the winning solution in late 1969: one Cranbrook Schools.

By the summer of 1970, the reorganization was complete. A single Board of Trustees replaced three separate boards and directors. The new board was responsible for the management of the properties and affairs, both academic and non-academic, of Brookside, Cranbrook, and Kingswood.

When students and staff returned in the fall of 1970, they were attending, for the first time, Cranbrook Schools. But very little of the student experience had changed. For instance, the upper school would not be made coeducational until 1985. Yet there was still worry about what this new “Cranbrook Schools” meant for the identity of three proud institutions.

The reorganization created the position of President of Cranbrook Schools. What was the president going to do? Who would fill this new, ambiguous but ambitious administrative role? Following a nationwide search by the new Board of Trustees, who narrowed down hundreds of applicants to thirty-two candidates, on July 1, 1971 Arthur H. Kiendl was installed as Cranbrook Schools President.

Arthur Kiendal, ca. 1970. Photographer: Benyas-Kaufman. Cranbrook Archives.

Art Kiendl (pronounced “Kendall”) came to Cranbrook Schools from the all-boys Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts, where, as headmaster, he coordinated its merger with the nearby girls school, Northfield. Prior to Mount Herman, Kiendl served as dean of students at the University of Colorado (1958-1963) and as an administrator and dean at Dartmouth College (1948-1958). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth and a master’s in education administration from Columbia University.

On his installation, the heads and faculty of the new Cranbrook Schools gathered in the Cranbrook House Library. Kiendl told those gathered, “I think the whole concept is that the schools will merge in the sense of common purpose without loss of identity. They merge for strength and efficiency.” As he eloquently explained to his nervous audience,

I have lived through mergers, I know they are painful, I know they are traumatic, and I know that ultimately they are very exciting. We come together as a federation to be an exciting beacon, because such a beacon is needed, a beacon that believes in such things as humility, trust, honor, and humor for the freedom of the human spirit [. . .]

I hope I can leave you with a sense of rededication in the excitement that George and Ellen both brought to this place; the excitement that we can so trust each other that it can be said of us in the future, ‘they are not only people who dared and cared, but, you know, they loved each other.’

Interestingly, when Cranbrook Magazine reported on the union of the schools in 1970 it was careful to point out that “the reorganization program as evolved combines the strengths of three closely allied organizations. Yet it does not attempt to integrate dissimilar operations (the Institute of Science, Academy of Art, and Christ Church Cranbrook) into one large complex.” Those connections were still managed by the Foundation and the Business Office—until 1973, when, sans church, we became Cranbrook Educational Community. Kiendl was elected as the Community’s first president, a position he held until December 1978.

So, is it a little bit weedy to celebrate fifty years of Cranbrook Schools? Probably. Would it confuse our students and parents to launch a 50th birthday party now, when there’s already chatter about the 100th coming up? Maybe, but who doesn’t love an anniversary, even if it does take an asterisk and a seven-hundred-word blog post to explain!

Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Eds. Note: Speaking of 50th anniversaries! This Sunday, the Center is joining in a national celebration with Docomomo, a modernist architecture preservation organization, to mark “the ’70s turn 50.” Head to our website for tickets, and join us (via Zoom) at 4:00pm for a very groovy virtual tour of the Smith House and Bowlero lanes!

Evolution of a Rink

Sixty years ago Cranbrook School headmaster, Harry Hoey, spoke to a group bundled in their warmest winter clothes at the formal dedication of the new outside skating rink at Cranbrook. The rink was unveiled on January 12th, 1957, at an estimated cost of $104,000. The new “artificial” rink, built on the site of the original natural ice surface, was constructed because there was a constant risk that the natural ice would not sustain a hockey season due to unreliable weather.

Hockey player on the “natural” ice rink, 1940. Photographer Richard G. Askew. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The new rink was built to hockey specifications (85 x 190 ft.) and was refrigerated by two over-sized compressors designed to operate in adverse weather conditions. Artificial rinks were a relatively new phenomenon in the 1950s and Cranbrook researched the project for several years before proceeding. The planning team looked at rinks around the country, including Dartmouth, Cornell, and Williams College.

Skaters at the artificial rink dedication. The Pontiac Press, 14 Jan 1957.

The rink was open six months out of the year and accommodated Cranbrook School ice hockey teams and students, as well as the outlying communities for day and night skating. From 1957-1982 the Cranbrook Skating Club oversaw all operations of the rink. During this time the club held Board of Directors meetings, generated correspondence for the raising of funds for daily operations, and supervised various program schedules, benefits, and employees of the skating rink.

By the 1970s the rink was showing wear and the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and middle school teams were forced to buy ice time at neighboring rinks for practice and games. A committee was formed and students, faculty, and friends staged a skate-a-thon and worked with then-Cranbrook president, Arthur Kiendl, to raise money.

The original plan was to build a new enclosed facility for winter skating and summer tennis, but the price was too high, so committee members and Cranbrook administrators decided to complete the work in phases. The first step – cement work for the rink surface and spectators’ section, new boards, and new piping – was completed with a gift by Grace Booth Wallace and her family in 1978. The final phases of the project – which included total enclosure of the arena – were completed in 1979.

A view of Wallace Ice Arena with the tennis courts in the foreground. Photographer Balthazar Korab, Oct 2000.

Today Cranbrook athletes, students, faculty, and the public enjoy the state-of-the art Wallace Ice Arena.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

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