In 1841, the first school opened in Marion Township on the north side of 7th Ave. It was a simple log building surrounded by tall prairie grass with Mr. Higbee as the sole teacher. The four-room, two-story Union School opened 13 years later in 1854 and was Marion’s first public school offering primary, elementary, and secondary classes. In 1860, Marion Independent School District was formed as the fourth school district in the state of Iowa.
It wasn’t until 1872 that Marion graduated its first high school class of three female students. Those ladies came back together five years later to hold the first class reunion on May 24, 1877. Established by Superintendent J.W. McClellan, the newly registered Marion Alumni Association hosted a reunion with 70 alumni at Jaquith Hall on May 28, 1879 and became the first alumni association in the state of Iowa. The Alumni Association has been a source for historical information and provides a way for alumni to stay connected, maintaining a database that includes records of graduates dating back to that first class in 1872.
In 1988, at the request of Superintendent Harold Hulleman, a group of MISD supporters began researching how to form a school foundation. The goal was to provide opportunities for students not typically funded by a school district. Under the leadership of Greg Hapgood, thirteen community members signed their names on November 15, 1989 to become the first trustees of the Marion Independent School Foundation & Alumni Association. The first projects were small, but thanks to the financial support of generous donors the Foundation began to grow.
Mission: Supporting education for the benefit of Marion Independent School District students, schools and the greater community.
In 1994, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees hired its first executive director to lead the charge in raising $300,000 for Project CONNECT. The goal was to focus efforts on one large fundraising campaign to support education at Marion. Technology and its use in education was emerging and Marion wanted to be on the forefront of this movement. The purpose of Project CONNECT was to install a fiber optic network all school buildings, and thus enable classrooms to connect to the Iowa Communication Network. This campaign was extremely successful, both in raising the necessary funds and in developing awareness in the community of the Foundation and its mission.
Capitalizing on public awareness, the Foundation grew from focusing its efforts on specific fundraising projects to supporting a variety of projects aimed at enhancing the educational experience of Marion students. Areas of support grew with a number of scholarships and educational funds being established by alumni, parents and community groups.
In 1999, the Marion Grant program was created to provide an internal granting process for teachers. During its first year, $25,000 was distributed throughout the district to support expanded curriculum and technology. Since then, grants have also been distributed to support summer camps, programming for at-risk students, facility enhancements, professional development opportunities for district staff and much more.
Through planned gifts, community collaborations, business partnerships and continued fund appeals to alumni and community members, the Marion Independent School Foundation & Alumni Association will continue its mission.