Steamboat Springs Officials from The Lowell Whiteman School announced Tuesday that the school’s name was being changed and no longer would include the name of its founder.
Students were told during a meeting that beginning next school year, the private boarding school just north of Steamboat Springs instead will be called Steamboat Mountain School.
Head of School Meg Morse said other key people, such as family members of Lowell Whiteman, had been told about the name change.
“Everyone that we’ve talked to have been supportive, and as is true with all change, it takes a while to digest it,” Morse said.
Morse, who began teaching at the school 15 years ago and took over as head of school in November, said there have been discussions about a name change since she began there. Board members ultimately made the final decision and thought it was best for the school.
“The new name will help enhance our position as one of the premier college-prep schools in the world,” board Chairman Nick Rose stated in a news release.
The new name is more marketable, and explaining the current name to people outside the valley can be a challenge, Morse said.
“Because we recruit both nationally and internationally for students, sometimes that’s a long story to tell someone,” Morse said.
The school curriculum includes international travel, and Morse said people they have encountered during their travels were sometimes caught off guard by the name. She said it was mispronounced and some did not understand the school was named after someone. When interpreted as “White man,” the school’s name also unintentionally can be offensive or confusing to people when traveling abroad.
Morse said Lowell Whiteman in recent years has seen a drop in enrollment — 16 seniors are graduating this year — and the new name should help them recruit the right students.
“We’re really trying to make sure that students are choosing us for the right reasons,” Morse said.
Steamboat Springs resident Tim Borden, who was a board member for 30 years, said he supported the name change and that incorporating the word Steamboat will make it more marketable.
“In these tougher times, you can imagine all these private schools across the county having trouble with enrollment,” Borden said.
The cost to attend the school next year is $42,075, and need-based financial aid is available. Students not living at the school pay $22,400.
Borden knew the school’s founder well. Whiteman, who was born in Hayden, started the Lowell Whiteman Ranch for boys in 1946 on 80 acres in the Strawberry Park area that was given to him by his mother, according to Steamboat Pilot & Today archives.
Whiteman was an outdoor enthusiast and thought it was important for children to have those experiences.
“The idea,” Whiteman once said, “is to give young people so much wholesome adventure so much of the time for so long that they have sufficient opportunity to grow and mature.”
In 1957, the camp transitioned to a boarding school, and Borden said Whiteman donated the land to the school. Whiteman died in May 2001 at age 83.
“He was a forward-thinking guy,” Borden said. “He said, ‘Tim, you guys need to do whatever you need to do to enhance the school.’”
The school has grown to include the travel program and a schedule that caters to athletes, some of whom have gone on to become Olympians.
Morse said the Lowell Whiteman board of directors has formed a task force to explore ways to continue to honor Whiteman’s legacy.
Borden said that while family members were sad to see the Whiteman name go, they understood it was important for the school to survive.
“I’m quite certain that Lowell would have supported this, as well,” Borden said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland