Walter E. Stebbins was born in 1905 in Dayton, Ohio, and grew up in Jefferson Township, Ohio. Mr. Stebbins graduated from The Ohio State University and began his career in the Mad River School District in 1929 as a teacher at Wagner School (building located next to the former Morris Furniture Store on Harshman Rd.). Known as “Mr. Mad River”, Stebbins also served as Wagner’s principal and Supervising Principal of Mad River Township Schools. In 1943, he was named Superintendent of Schools for Mad River Township. During his tenure, the population in Mad River skyrocketed from 4.147 to 33,128.
Walter E. Stebbins is often referred to as the “Father of Impact Aid” as he was instrumental in securing the 1950 passage of Federal Public Laws 815 and 874 which provided additional funds for construction and operation of schools in federally impacted areas throughout the entire U.S.
Under his guidance, the Mad River School District progressed and grew from less than 500 pupils in two buildings (Wagner and Harshman) to more than 5,300 students in nine buildings. The Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools described Stebbins as “a rare individual who stands up and fights for the principals he thinks are right—one of three or four men in the nation responsible for federal legislation for federally impacted areas.” Construction under Mr. Stebbins' leadership, besides the high school, includes—Mad River School, Brantwood, Page Manor, Beverly Gardens, and additions to other buildings.
On January 30, 1960, more than 70 people from the area and out of state traveled to Mad River High School to pay tribute to Stebbins. It was on this evening that the Board of Education decided to rename the high school in Stebbins’ honor.
Sadly, Stebbins passed away in February of 1960 after a brave fight with cancer. A formal rededication ceremony was held at the high school on February 28, 1960.
“Monuments cannot express the full measure of his services nor compensate for the loss of them through illness that struck him down at 55. But monuments stand for something and it is comfortable to recall that they were erected in the sight of the man who made them possible.” -James E. Fain, Dayton Daily News Editor