W-L 75th Anniversary

Welcome to the Washington-Lee High School 75th Year Anniversary Website.

We enjoy having this history of W-L so we decided to keep it even after the celebration in 1999.

“This school in which you will receive your education has a nationwide reputation for excellence resulting from the past achievements of its students. You have a right to be proud of this reputation, but with this pride goes a responsibility for measuring up to the high standards of citizenship and scholarship.” – Mr. O. U. Johansen, principal (1961-1976)

Much has changed in Arlington since the 1920s. Then, the county was one of a number of communities typical of those that surrounded the “Sleepy Southern town,” which was pre-World War II Washington, DC. Wartime growth and waves of foreign immigration since the mid-seventies have dramatically altered the landscape and culture of the Washington, DC region. Certain characteristics have remained constant, however, and nowhere is this more evident than at Northern Virginia’s and suburban Washington’s oldest public high school, Washington-Lee.

The W-L student today, 75 years after the school’s founding, reflects the entire economic and cultural spectrum. Sons and daughters of prominent Washington families have attended W-L, and the attendance area includes some of the region’s most affluent neighborhoods. W-L also draws students from middle and low income areas throughout Arlington, and this helps account for the diversity of the student body. Over fifty countries are represented among the school’s students and faculty. W-L, a school steeped in tradition, has taken the challenge of educating the region’s most diverse group of students very seriously but not without preserving the legacy of past students and mentors, the school’s heritage.

New members of the Washington-Lee community enthusiastically support and preserve regional and school customs. For over forty years the Welcome to W-L Club has helped transfer students adjust to their new school. A customary expression at the school, “Y’all,” is foreign to many newcomers but they try quickly to pick up on such idiosyncrasies. Enthusiasm runs high at sports events where students can be found singing “W-L Will Shine.” And attire remains somewhat traditional, with students dressing in ties and sports jackets or dresses on appropriate occasions. Respected students, teachers, coaches, and administrators have upheld the school’s traditions, in many different ways, for successive generations of “W-Lites.”

Washington-Lee, a school with many years of experience, has proven that it can adjust to the changing needs of the community without sacrificing its rich heritage. New academic offerings such as the rigorous International Baccalaureate program are designed to serve the higher expectations of a wealthy and highly educated community. This complements the traditional academic offerings that have brought the school national recognition throughout its history.

Like the generals honored by its name, George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the school and many of its alumni have achieved national and international fame. The school’s innovative academic and athletic offerings as well as student initiative have contributed to the school’s success. Washington-Lee has drawn on its many strengths to provide an excellent education to a diverse student body while preserving the traditions that have defined its character in the past.

These archives illustrate the last 75 years of innovation and continuity at W-L.