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Springfield Public Schools will induct two new members into its Hall of Fame tomorrow. One is John Dickey who graduated from Springfield Senior High in 1945. The other graduated from Lincoln High School four years later. Hear Dickey’s story tomorrow morning at 7:30. Today, Michele Skalicky introduces us to Elaine Graham Estes.
In 1949, the year Elaine Graham Estes graduated from Lincoln High School, Springfield Public Schools were still segregated. Lincoln was designated for black students. It wasn’t until five years later that all kids were allowed to attend school together.
But Estes says Lincoln’s staff gave her a firm foundation for her future.
"Lincoln School was staffed with well qualified teachers, which was important for an accredited school system, and those teachers met the accreditation standards, and the curriculum was sufficient that it was also acceptable for college entry," she said.
Estes never even thought about not going to college after she graduated from Lincoln at age 16. Her mom was a teacher in the Springfield Public School system.
"I came from a family that believed significantly in education, and there was no question but what I would enter college," she said.
Estes went on to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and studied business administration with a major in retailing, partially because her dad was in business. She wanted to be prepared if she decided to return to Springfield to work in the family business.
But she met her husband in Des Moines. Estes noticed the Public Library of Des Moines had several job openings so she decided to get a master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois. That led to a 39 year-long career with the library system in Des Moines, 19 of which she served as director.
One of the accomplishments she’s proudest of is developing a program to help people learn to read.
"Part of that, if we emphasized the importance of family reading and brought people in to give public training and classes, the entire family could learn to read together if that was necessary," she said.
She also oversaw the construction of two new library branches and restoration and preservation of the historic main library. And she was director when the first bond issue for the library was approved. That allowed the library’s significant fine arts and records collection to be converted to new media. During her tenure as director, Des Moines became the Library of Congress’ 11thState Center for the Book.
Estes continues to stay involved even though she retired in the mid-90s. She currently serves on the Des Moines Historic Preservation Commission among other things and she’s a member of the Des Moines Downtown Rotary Club.