Photo of the Day, September 30: Class of 1970 unveils plaque commemorating Whitman’s Dome


Andy Wetzel

Kemelhor and his classmates placed the plaque near the stadium, overlooking the original location where 35,800 sq. feet Dome once stood.

By Sonya Rashkovan

Whitman alumni gathered this afternoon in the main gym to unveil a plaque commemorating the school’s Dome that was demolished in 1992. At the time of its construction in 1962, the structure attracted national attention as the first steel-framed geodesic dome ever built at a school.

The Dome housed Whitman’s gym and auditorium for over 30 years, serving as a symbol of the school since its 1962 opening until the structure’s demolition in 1992. (Photo courtesy Class of 1975 Facebook page)

When visiting Whitman for their 50-year reunion in 2021, alumni from the class of 1970 noticed that students weren’t aware of the Dome, which housed the school’s gym and auditorium for over 30 years. The alumnus gifted a bronze and gold plaque to the school to memorialize the core part of their high school experience.

“To us, it was the shrine,” said Barry Kemelhor (’70), who initiated the project. “We call it the symbol of our school. It’s just part of our DNA.”

To find the perfect place for the plaque, Kemelhor and his classmates asked Whitman engineers to locate the exact center of the once-35,800 sq feet Dome, which turned out to be on the 18-yard line of the football field. Since the location wasn’t suitable for a commemorative marker, the initiators agreed to place it near the stadium, overlooking the original location of the Dome, according to Kemelhor.

Barry Kemelhor (70), who initiated the project wore his 30-year reunion t-shirt that also commemorates the Dome. The t-shirt says, “We did it in the dome one last time.” (Sari Alexander)

While the class of 1970 organized the ceremony, alumni of all ages gathered to celebrate the unveiling. After student-led tours of the school, alumni filled the main gym in anticipation of the plaque unveiling. Inclement weather forced organizers to move the ceremony from its original outdoor location to the gym. For over an hour, visitors were catching up in the stands while the band The VI-kings performed covers of popular songs from the 60s.

At the end of the ceremony, Kemelhor and principal Robert Dodd delivered a speech about the history and legacy of the Dome. A representative from the International Historic Market Database handed an official certificate of acknowledgement of the plaque to SGA President Krishan Kumar, a senior.

Alumni and community members also shared stories about their high school experience. Debbie Ahern (77) recalled that her class prank consisted of drawing a picture on top of the Dome, she said. Other alumni said that climbing on top of the Dome was a rite of passage for Whitman students at the time.

Kemelhor attributes Whitman’s success to the Dome. When Whitman opened its doors in 1962, most parents were skeptical about sending their children to an unknown school, he said. However, the Dome immediately captured media attention for being the only school geodesic dome in the United States and led parents to notice great academics and athletics at the school, Kemelhor said.

At the end of the unveiling, Kemelhor reflected on the Dome’s place in Whitman’s history.

“[The] Dome is gone,” Kemelhor said. “But never forgotten.”


This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 to correct details of the event.