Kénitra HS (formerly Thomas Mack Wilhoite HS) History

Opened: 1950
Closed: 1976

Thomas Mack Wilhoite High School opened at Port Lyautey, Morocco, in September 1950. The school served the military dependents of the US Naval Station at Port Lyautey.  When the original school opened, it was housed in a converted World War II communications facility. A new school building was opened for the 1963-64 school year.

The high school, also known as Kénitra High School, was named for an American aviator, Thomas Mack Wilhoite. Ensign Wilhoite received a Silver Star posthumously for displaying conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity during the strikes at Rabat-Sale and Port Lyautey during World War II. The citation also cited Wilhoite’s “superb airmanship and tenacious devotion to duty” in pressing home his strafing attacks. The high school was constructed on the site of the French Port Lyautey Airdome in Morocco. This location was the exact spot where Ens. Wilhoite performed his brave deeds, and where he lost his life defending his country. The school became the Thomas Mack Wilhoite High School in honor of a hero who had been just barely out of high school himself. The school’s name was changed to Kénitra High School in 1971.

The first graduating class at the school had three seniors. The principal for the 1956-57 school year was Mauro Caputo. The school mascot was the Sultan, and the yearbook was called the Sultan. The school colors were blue and gold. The second year of the school there were over 160 students in grades seven through twelve, with nine high school faculty.

Organizations at the school included student council, Junior Red Cross, and clubs for photography, music, boys’ athletics, drama, and music. The sports program included flag football, basketball, softball, volleyball, and cheerleaders. The school played sports against the school at Nouasseur.

Mr. Robert Thorp was the principal for the 1958-59 school year, and the enrollment for the high school was over 265 students. By the last year of that decade, 1959-60, there were almost 325 students in the high school, with a graduating class of twenty-eight. The principal was Brenizer Price. Prinicpals in the sixties included Earl Cartland, R. W. Hostrop, David Twohy, George Gundacker, and Ernest Morgan. Mr. Morgan continued as principal until the last year of the school.

Several new organizations were added in the late fifties, including the school newspaper, Sirocco; Future Teachers of America; Quill & Scroll; and clubs for service, science, and travel. The school had an active drama program and music program. One highlight of the 1959-60 school year was a visit to the base by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on December 23, 1959. Another highlight was the visit by seniors to the king’s palace where they were invited inside by the king.

During the sixties, the school won their first football game against Nouasseur (1962-63). The junior varsity basketball team won the All-Morocco Tournament and were the champions of the All-Morocco Junior Varsity League (1962-63). The varsity basketball season was expanded to eighteen games: eleven against base teams and seven with other high school teams (1960-61). The school had its first volleyball team (1963-64) and its first wrestling team (1967-68). A drill team, Sultanettes, was formed. During the 1967-68 school year, the flag football team won the first-place trophy in the base league, and the basketball team won first place in the Kénitra Invitational Basketball tournament and second place in the Iberian Tournament in Rota, Spain. The first Powder Puff football game was held in 1968, and the same year a high school bowling team competed against base teams. The school’s music program expanded to include two choruses, a glee club, and two levels of band.

An international club was formed in the mid-sixties, and for the 1965-66 school year there were students from six foreign nations.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, the high school enrollment ranged between 170 and 220 students. By the 1973-74 school year, the number of high school students dropped to about 163 students, and the last year there were only 125 high schoolers.

The final year of the school the administrators were David Bensen, principal, and Robert Kubarek, assistant principal. There were fourteen faculty members with 270 students.


Information from school yearbooks, alumni and online resources

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