This school year at International School Bangkok (ISB) is a special one as we commemorate our 70th anniversary! With the anniversary, we’ve planned a number of celebrations throughout the year including a series of stories that highlight sections of the new ISB History Wall that was completed last year. Each of these stories will honor important events, organizations, and people who have made ISB the extraordinary school it is today. To kick off the series, we’ll go back to the very beginning, to the first part of ISB’s history - the early 1950s.
Our Origin Story
In November of 1950, a group of parents led by Mrs. W.T. Turner, the wife of the U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, met in order to draw up plans for the establishment of a school for English-speaking children in Bangkok. The plan was to use an old wooden building on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy that was situated between Rajadamri and Wireless Roads as a schoolhouse, a building that had, in fact, been used as a Japanese Officers’ Club during World War II. With that, on May 14, 1951, the International Children’s Center (ICC) was opened, with a total of over 50 students from grades 1-4.
The ICC grew rapidly, by 1953 there were over 200 students and the growing school included junior high school classes. To accommodate the expanding school population, a new building was constructed adjacent to the existing facility. Each year thereafter the school increased in enrollment as high school classes were also added.
By the 1956-57 school year the school was a K – 12 institution with over 500 students. This year also included ISB’s very first senior class, and, on May 20th, 1957, the first graduating class of six seniors received their high school diplomas. Amongst those graduates was Chuck McAndrew; here’s what Chuck had to say about his time in Bangkok:
“We started school in 1956 at the International Children's Center. I was in the 12th grade at 17 years old and my sister was in the 4th grade at 9 years old. This was an open school where all of the rooms faced an open hallway. I really enjoyed the school, and when it was time to graduate, the Principal, Mrs. Isabella Porter, felt that it was time to rename the school as International School Bangkok, as it would look better on our diplomas. She was very strict, but fair.
I graduated from the first graduating class of ISB in 1957. There were six kids in class: besides me, there was Jim Gardner, Dan Harris, Barbara Harris (no relation), Janet Hoherz, and Patricia Adams. We all got along just fabulously. My best buddies were Bill Brink, Jim Gardner, Bob Jacobs, George Ellis, Gloria Sun, Vina Martin, and Freida Faber. A funny story: when I started at Georgetown University, they asked me what my class ranking was. I was proud to say that I graduated "sixth" in my graduating class. They were all very impressed!” - Chuck McAndrew
By the end of the 1950s, the student population had long outgrown the wooden, open-air buildings of the ICC, and serious talks began in order to find a new location for the school and to make the school a legal entity under the auspices of the Thai Government. Stay tuned next for the next story as the ICC officially becomes ISB and we continue our journey through ISB’s history!