Bonn HS (formerly The American School on the Rhine) History

Opened: 1971
Closed: 1997

The American high school facility was located in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn, Germany. The high school was situated only a hundred yards from the Rhine River with a spectacular view of the river and beautiful hills and towns on the opposite bank. The school officially became a high school for the 1971-72 school year. Previously, ninth and tenth graders had attended the Bad Godesberg American School or attended American schools in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, or Bitburg. The school sign outside the building said “Bonn American High School” in English and “Amerikannishe Schule am Rhine” (American School on the Rhein) in German.

The student body included Department of Defense, diplomatic, and business families which gave the school an international flavor. Bonn High School was primarily a college prep school, with most graduates attending college after graduation. Among the thirty-four American high schools opened in Germany by the US government during the Post-War period, Bonn American High School was unique in that it was the only school in the world built and owned by the U.S. Department of State. The high school was developed out of an elementary school that originally opened in 1952. The school was designed to support the families of personnel at the U.S. Embassy, one of the largest embassies in the world with over 900 Americans and 600 local staff. When the high school opened in 1971, it was only the thirteenth U.S. high school in Germany. Although it was not associated with a U. S. Department of Defense military installation, it was staffed and run as part of the Department of Defense Dependents School system in an arrangement between the Department of State and Department of Defense. The majority of the American students lived in the Plittersdorf Housing Area, which was located next to the school and often referred to as “Little America”.

The school mascot was Clarence, a suit of armor, and the teams were the Crusaders. Clarence is part of the collection of the AOSHS Museum and Archives in Wichita, Kansas, and is currently on loan to the Museum of World Treasures, also in Wichita. The school colors were red and white. Mr. Gordon Gartner was the first principal of the new high school. The yearbook continued the volume numbers from its beginnings at Bad Godesberg American School.

A cafeteria was added to the facility for the 1972-73 school year and two new classrooms were added for the beginning of the 1974-75 school year. The first computer was up and running for the 1980-81 school year. The school had its own ACTA station beginning in the fall of 1981 and its first TV media class. A new physics lab, new computers, new lockers, and a renovated Media Center were added for the 1989-90 school year.

Due to its location in the capitol of Germany, the school often had dignitaries visit. On October 13, 1984, astronauts Sally Ride and Frederick Hauck visited the school. They did a presentation for the students and held a question-and-answer period. At the end of the visit, the astronauts presented an autographed poster of the Challenger Spacecraft to the school.

Bonn American High School had the usual extracurricular activities that most high schools had. However, their student government was called VOS or Voice of Students. Students also participated in regional or district activities such as Math Counts, Math Olympiads, Outdoor Education, and the D.A.R.E. program. To foster school involvement and spirit, the school had a pep squad and the Bonn Crusader Drill Team. The school newspaper was originally called Behind Bahs and was later renamed Knight Life.

When the high school opened, it had a full sports schedule with basketball, wrestling, soccer, track, and tennis for males. Football was added to the school schedule the next year and the team won its first game. Sports for women were added for the 1974-75 school year. Some of the school’s sports accomplishments included:

  • 1974 – Girls’ Cross Country undefeated
  • 1975 – Gymnastics added
  • 1977 – Girls’ Volleyball team won their third Benenor Championship
  • 1978 – First winning season for football
  • 1979 – Girls’ basketball has an eighteen-game winning streak, longest winning streak in DODDSEUR, and they won their second championship
  • 1982 – First year for a junior high wrestling program
  • 1986 – Girls’ basketball won Benenor conference and tournament, and girls’ soccer was the Benenor Champions
  • 1987 – Girls’ volleyball won the conference and tournament titles
  • 1989 – Tennis team won the Central A League Championships
  • 1992-93 – Football had its first winning season since 1987, girls’ volleyball won the Division III North Conference, and girls’ soccer were Benenor Champs for the sixth year
  • 1996 – The boys’ basketball team were the Division III Champions. This was their first conference championship in twenty years.
  • 1992-1996 – Girls’ volleyball were conference champions for four consecutive years

The school presented the musical Bits and Pieces its first year. This production was the beginning of a strong music and drama program at the school. Some years, students presented three major productions. Some years, over fifty percent of the students participated in the music program. By the 1977-78 school year, the Symphonic Band was a forty-seven-piece performing ensemble. The band played for school activities as well as community and city concerts in Bonn and in neighboring cities. In the eighties, the chorus had an annual tour playing at German schools and communities in different areas of the country. The Bonn American Theater Society attended the London Drama Festival and the German Drama Festival for the first time during the 1980-81 school year. Chapter 119 of the International Thespian Society was chartered during the 1981-82 school year.

The school’s enrollment during the seventies ranged from 300 to 350 students in grades seven through twelve. In the eighties, the enrollment decreased to less than 300 and the sixth grade was added to the high school for the 1984-85 school year. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, the enrollment at the school began to drop. When Germany’s capital was moved from Bonn to Berlin after the reunification of the country, the student body at Bonn was seventy percent international students who represented over thirty-four countries.

The school administrators were Gordon Gardner, principal 1971–1979; Thomas Leaf, principal 1979–Dec. 1983; Dr. Lowell Jacobson, principal Dec. 1983–1990; and Lavonne Tawney, principal 1990–1997. Dean Osbourne was the assistant principal at Bonn for fifteen years (1978–1992). Other assistant principals included William Ryall (1992–1995) and Sandra Daniels (1995–1996).

Judy Lohmann, mother of 1993 Crusader Yearbook Editor Cindy Lohmann wrote the following poem, and it was published in the final yearbook of the school.

A Crusader’s Farewell

As our last cheers leave their

echoes in Crusader Hall,

As our books fall closed

and our pencils drop,

We take our departure

from the banks of the Rhein,

With memories of time shared

and hopes of crossing paths,

And begin our own personal quests,

as did the Crusaders of old.


Bonn American High School closed in 1997 following the transition of the Embassy from Bonn to Berlin, Germany. On October 3, 1990, the Bonn International School opened in the same facilities as Bonn American High School. In the autumn of 1997, the original buildings were demolished and totally rebuilt.

Share This: