John F. Kennedy High School (Willingboro, New Jersey)

John F. Kennedy High School is a defunct public high school in Willingboro Township in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States that operated from 1962-1989 [1] school year, as part of the Willingboro Township Public Schools. It operated first as Levittown High School, and was renamed in 1964 following the president's death.

John F. Kennedy High School

United States
Coordinates40°01′53″N 74°52′57″W / 40.0314°N 74.8824°W / 40.0314; -74.8824Coordinates: 40°01′53″N 74°52′57″W / 40.0314°N 74.8824°W / 40.0314; -74.8824
TypePublic high school
School districtWillingboro Township Public Schools

Willingboro High School, located 1.5 miles away on Kennedy Way, was opened in 1975 as a response to the overcrowded student population at John F. Kennedy High School, which had just graduated nearly 1000 in a single class. For a short time, residents were having a difficult time in deciding what to call the new Willingboro high school; some sought to name the new high school "J.F. Kennedy High School - East" while others debated on naming the school, "Robert F. Kennedy" after the recently deceased Attorney General and senator from New York and President Kennedy's brother. A vote was taken and it was decided that the only appropriate name would be what the school is called today "Willingboro High School".

The two schools were merged at the start of the 1989-90 school year, with all students transferred to Willingboro High School. John F. Kennedy High School was closed and re-purposed as a junior high school.[2] The school was renamed the John F. Kennedy Junior High School and served as a junior high school from 1989-1991. After the 1991 school year, the junior high school was moved to the newly re-opened Memorial Junior High School. The building was again re-purposed and utilized as a recreation center and rented space to various organizations.

Willingboro Township purchased the site of the defunct high school in late 1998, with plans to turn it into a community center that could include a conference center, theater, indoor tennis courts and other athletic facilities.[3] A new renovation to the Kennedy Center began in 2014.[4]

The defunct school is kept alive in a Facebook page and in active reunions and former-student associations.

Recent controversyEdit

In August 2014, a referendum was inserted into the township meeting's agenda to change the name of the Kennedy High School building to the "Barack Obama Center". Graduates and longtime residents turned up in impressive numbers to protest the change at a special meeting of township council on 2 September.[5] A petition was presented with 1200 names rejecting the proposal. At the meeting, two council members admitted they "didn't know the history" behind the choice of Kennedy's name for the school (Kennedy had campaigned in then-new Willingboro in 1960) and mayor Eddie Campbell willingly conceded that the late addition to the referendum deserved to be dropped.

Councilman Chris Walker who proposed the last minute referendum, acknowledged that it is unusual to name a building after a sitting President, and conceded that based on his personal opinion of President Obama, that "he served the honor. Councilman Darvis Holley echoed Councilman Walker personal opinion by stating "I idolize Barack Obama".[6] Both Councilman's personal opinions were found to not be representative of their constituents or the alumni of the school bearing President Kennedy's name. After much public outcry in the form of petitions, news coverage, and negative comments on social media, the referendum was pulled.

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ retrieved November 30, 2015
  2. ^ Quinn, Laura. "Willingboro Girds for School Merger", The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 28, 1989. Accessed October 8, 2008.
  3. ^ Mayk, Lauren. "Willingboro Nudges Jfk Center Plans Along Council Members Met With A Developer To Talk About Transforming The Former School. Details Are Due Nov. 23.", The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 25, 1999. Accessed October 8, 2008.
  4. ^ Comegno, Carol (September 28, 2015). "Kennedy Center in Willingboro gets makeover". Courier-Post.
  5. ^ Riordan, Kevin. "Landmark becomes a center of contention", The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 18, 2014. Accessed June 24, 2015.
  6. ^
  7. ^ O'Reilly, David. "Willingboro's years as soccer hotbed to be played again", The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 17, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2015. "Another star was Tony Bellinger, drafted by the Dallas Tornado immediately after graduating from Kennedy in 1977."
  8. ^ Accessed November 30, 2015
  9. ^ Staff. "Willingboro hosting college planning workshop", Burlington County Times, September 24, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2015. "Kennedy High School graduate Anthony Griggs, a former NFL standout, will be a guest speaker talking about the college recruiting process and Taryn Gall, Lehigh University's assistant athletic director, will discuss NCAA compliance and college rules and regulations."
  10. ^ Krebs, Rose. "Two-star Army general from Willingboro has enjoyed long military career", Burlington County Times, June 11, 2012. Accessed December 1, 2019. "U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Charles Wayne Hooper, a native of Willingboro, has traveled all over the world during his 33-year military career, but he remains a Jersey boy at heart.... It was those roots that helped lead the 1975 graduate of John F. Kennedy High School to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y."
  11. ^ Patrick McFarland, Accessed October 31, 2015.

External linksEdit