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Students Celebrate General Pershing

Pershing Banners About 400 Pershing Elementary School students sat enthralled as Tom Hoff, museum educator for the History Department of St. Louis County Parks, capped off a week of lessons on General John J. Pershing by dressing in a period costume and recounting the story of the great General. The Sept. 13, 2018, event was held in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI (1914-18) and the birthday of the military hero who famously visited St. Louis to lay the cornerstone of the new Pershing School on Dec. 22, 1919.

The cross-curricular program was coordinated by Principal Herbert Buie and teacher instructional leaders Deitra Colquitt and Jessica Hawkins. It was inspired by local historian and program sponsor, University City resident Mark Winer who explained, “I wanted Pershing students to learn about Pershing’s life and legacy and how important he was to the rise of African-American soldiers in WWI.” He added, “It’s also a great excuse to have cake and ice cream!” Winer’s “birthday party” featured a series of cakes bearing the likenesses of General Pershing and his troops!

Pershing, a Missouri native, attended Truman State University in Kirksville. He taught basic studies to African-American students until, upon invitation from West Point, he decided to pursue a military career. Pershing was known for his strategic fighting skills and for clearing the way for highly-trained African-American troops, like the Buffalo Soldiers and the Harlem Hell Fighters of New York, who were among the most decorated soldiers of WWI.

Students explored the details of General Pershing’s 1919 visit and the engraved trowel he used that is still part of the school’s history collection today. Although Pershing School was completely rebuilt and rededicated in August 2012, the 1919 cornerstone remains on site.

“Although our school has changed over these past 100 years, the name Pershing, carries a special meaning,” Buie said, “And we are excited to explore the General’s legacy with our students.”

Pershing proved to be a true hero, reaching the highest rank of General of the Armies. He is the only living General to have received the honor of picking his insignia – four stars.


Click here for event press release.

Event photos: 

JROTC at Pershing Celebration

University City High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps’ Color Guard. Color Guard Commander Angela Smith (left photo: front) and Cadet Group Commander Dominic Bryant (center photo) greeted students before opening the school-wide assembly with the Presentation of Colors (right photo).

Pershing speakers

Fourth-grader Evan Smith (left) served as moderator for the event. Dressed in period costume, historian Tom Hoff (right) presented highlight Pershing’s stellar career.

Pershing Cakes

Everyone celebrated with cakes decorated with historical photos and ice cream, of course!

Pershing Celebration Planning Committee

The heroes of this special day include sponsor and historian Mark Winer; Sue Rehkopf, archivist for the Historical Society of University City Tom Hoff, Museum Educator for the History Department, St. Louis County; Jim Adams owner of Catalyst Strength and Functional Nutrition, and Chef Robert Rusan of Ruff’s catering in partnership with Letishia Robinson Baker.

Event Program:

Pershing celebration program

School celebrated General John J. Pershing’s birthday on Sept. 13, 2018, with cake, ice cream and a week’s worth of study on the military hero. They learned of his start as a teacher of African-American students, career at West Point, heroic rise in WWI, thoughtful command of African-American troops and more. Click headline for photos and to read more.