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Whittier High School’s Pioneering Principals

G. Walter Monroe in his office in the new Union High School building

Whittier High School’s first principal was Ulysses P. Shull. At this time, the principal of Whittier High was also the Superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. Shull was a native of Indiana who was a graduate of the now-defunct Westfield College in Westfield, IL. Prior to Whittier High School, Shull had taught and/or principal-ed in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Santa Barbara, and served for three years as superintendent of the Industrial Training School at Sitka, Alaska. Shull served as principal in the 1900-01 school year and then took a position with a textbook company. He was succeeded by G. Walter Monroe, a Los Angeles Normal and Cal Berkeley grad who had previously been the Vice-Principal at Monrovia High. It was under Monroe that the first Whittier Union High School building was dedicated and opened to students. During the dedication ceremony, Monroe remarked, “Our educational institutions are the bulwark of American freedom. The free man can no longer be an ignorant man.”. In 1906, Monroe stood for election to county superintendent, but was defeated by Mark Keppel.

Olney C. Albertson, who served from 1908 to 1930, is the longest-serving principal in Whittier High’s history. Prior to serving at Whittier High, Albertson had been a professor at Whittier College. Albertson presided during a period of migration and growth of Southern California and under Albertson, Whittier High grew from a small school housed in a single building to a comprehensive campus housed in many buildings, several of which exist to this day. The science building, administration building, commerce building (now history building), auto shop and girl's gym (now band room) were constructed during Albertson's principalship. Many of Whittier High School’s traditions, such as the alma mater, were adopted while Albertson was principal. He also established the Razors Club, a forerunner of the Senators. The athletics field is named after O.C. Albertson

Marian Wilson Hodge was the first female principal of Whittier High School and the first female superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. Hodge served in these capacities during World War II. After World War II, there was a proposal to fire Hodge and replace her with a returning serviceMAN, but a student walkout in favor of Hodge prompted her retention as principal. Hodge was later promoted to superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. In retirement, Hodge endowed the Friends of the Whittier Public Library. The fountain in the central quadrangle, which features art from decades of WHS graduating classes, is named in her honor.

Jack Mele served as Principal of Whittier High School from 1969 to 1980. A 1943 graduate of Whittier College, Mele was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and played for minor league clubs in their organization beginning in 1943 and ending in 1949. He was also a World War II veteran, serving as a bombardier Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Force. Beginning in 1950, Mele was a teacher and coach at Whittier High School, teaching English and social studies and coaching baseball and football. Mele was the head coach of the 1960 CIF Southern Section Champion baseball team. Mele’s tenure was marked by the formation of several clubs on campus for social activism, and the consolidation of the Whittier Union High School District from seven schools to just five. Outside the campus walls, Mele’s principalship was marked by the “high highs” of the moon landing and bicentennial, and the “low lows” of the Vietnam War, Watergate, inflation and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Mele also served on the Whittier City Council while principal, including as Mayor of Whittier from 1976 to 1978.

Lori [Peel] Eshilian, class of 1972, served as Principal from 2008 to 2016. She was the first principal to also be a graduate. Eshilian worked in the WUHSD as an aide, special education teacher, and enrichment teacher from 1987 to 2005, and was an assistant principal at Whittier High from 2005 to 2008. Eshilian created the Academic Community for Enrichment program for the WUHSD and her work has been published in special education textbooks. During Eshilian’s tenure as principal, the school continued to renovate buildings and beautify the campus, and received two Golden Bell Awards from the state. Eshilian later served as President of the Whittier High School Alumni Association from 2020 to 2023.