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The 1959 Hillsboro football squad: John Wayne Richards

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, the 1959 Hillsboro football team, plagued by lack of depth and experience, won just two games under first-year head coach Bill Atsalis.

However, the young coach was able to build up the program, and Richards Memorial Field – still home of the football Indians – was built during Atsalis' tenure in the early 1960s. Before, the Indians played their home games in the area behind the old Hillsboro High School, on a field that Coach Atsalis told me he referred to as “the dust bowl.”

The estate of John Wayne Richards left $42,995.02 to Hillsboro City Schools for a John Richards Memorial and Athletic Fund. Other donations boosted it to $44,751.02. The bulk of the money was expended for improvement of recreational facilities, chiefly for the development of a new high school athletic field – later named Richards Memorial Field.

Many folks around the area who know of Richards Memorial Field might not be familiar with John Wayne Richards.

When he passed away in 1957, this was written about Mr. Richards: Few people, from Hillsboro or from any other locale, have gained such universal popularity or fame, yet have remained so quiet and unassuming as John Wayne Richards, who died in February of this year at the age of 78.

Mr. Richards, known as a businessman here but known throughout the world as one of this nation’s foremost educators, died at a hospital in Columbus, where he had been confined since January.

Born near Hillsboro on August 10, 1878, the son of Asel and Sarah Chapman Richards, he was educated at the Hillsboro Academy, attending that institution from 1894 to 1896; Ohio Northern University from 1896 to 1900; and Yale University in 1905 and 1906.

From 1900 to 1905, he served as head of New Vienna High School. In 1906, after attending Yale for two years, he took a post at Hotchkill School.

In 1913, Mr. Richards accepted the post as headmaster of Lake Forest Academy, Lake Forest, Ill., a post he held until 1941. Under his administration, many intellectual and spiritual ideas of the Academy today were formulated and developed, and the Academy grew from a small school to a recognized force in its field.

While at Lake Forest, Mr. Richards developed his “Richards Plan in Education,” which revolutionized education in the United States. This plan, primarily for secondary institutions, called for staggered or rotating classes, a high teacher-pupil ratio, special help for students in difficulty, direct class study periods, and a system by which every student would have a faculty advisor.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue with more on John Wayne Richards next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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