Alan Page said he never expected when he was young that he would someday have a school named after him.
He certainly appears appreciative, however, now that the former Alexander Ramsey Middle School has been named in his honor.
Page attended an assembly at Justice Page Middle School on Sept. 1, during which he thanked the school community for the honor. The Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Supreme Court justice praised the students for leading the change and reminded them about the importance of education.
“The values that brought you to change the name of the school are the values that I believe in,” he said.
Justice Page Middle School was named after Minnesota’s second governor, Alexander Ramsey, until this summer. Ramsey gained notoriety for calling for the extermination or removal of the Dakota Indians from Minnesota during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged in the war’s aftermath, and thousands more Dakota were displaced.
Justice Page students learn about that history during their sixth-grade social studies course. Last fall, some students began an effort to rename the school. They held discussions and community events and raised money to for new signage associated with a change.
The community settled on five finalists for a new namesake — NASA scientist Dorothy Vaughan, Page, Prince, 19th century physician Martha Ripley and the phrase Bde Ota, which means “many lakes” in the Dakota language. The school’s site council recommended Page as its top choice, and Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff supported the recommendation. The School Board unanimously approved the change in June.
Page played 12 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and served on the state Supreme Court for more than 20 years. His Page Education Foundation, founded 30 years ago, has raised more than $14 million to help 6,500 students of color attend college.
Justice Page school dean Travis Smith, a former Page scholar himself, said the school community is so excited and proud about the name change. He thanked the southwest Minneapolis community for supporting it.
Smith said he thought the way Page ended his remarks on Sept. 1, with the quote “never whisper justice,” was powerful. He added that he’s impressed with Page’s dedication to education.
“To see him put his money where his heart is says there are people in the world who do value youth and children,” Smith said.
Page stressed education in his speech, telling the students that it would be the foundation for them to achieve their hopes and dreams. School principal Erin Rathke said Page is an inspiration to many at the school.
“When people feel dismayed about education, you just have to come here and you won’t feel badly,” she said.
Both she and Page thanked Page’s wife, Diane, for her support.
Eighth-grade students Deja Frazier, Owen Knych and Sam Strickland said they’re excited about the change. Knych said it was inspiring to hear Page’s story at the assembly, while Frazier said she too felt inspired and amazed.
All three appeared proud to be part of the name-changing process and attend a school named after Page.
“You don’t really talk about Alexander Ramsey, but you talk about Alan Page,” Knych said.