Benson Polytechnic High School

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Benson Polytechnic High School
3905 SE 91st Avenue (2021-24 only)

, ,

United States
Coordinates45°31′38″N 122°39′11″W / 45.52726°N 122.65301°W / 45.52726; -122.65301Coordinates: 45°31′38″N 122°39′11″W / 45.52726°N 122.65301°W / 45.52726; -122.65301
TypeTechnical, Public
Motto"United by Spirit, Bonded by Name."[1]
School districtPortland Public Schools
NCES School ID411004000956[3]
PrincipalCurtis Wilson Jr.
Number of students1,026 (2017–2018 enrollment)[5]
Color(s)Orange and royal blue   [6]
Athletics conferenceOSAA Portland Interscholastic League 6A-1[6]
Benson Polytechnic High School around 1920

Benson Polytechnic High School is a technical public high school in the Portland Public Schools district. It is temporarily located in Portland's Lents neighborhood while a renovation project is underway at its 9-acre (3.6 ha) campus in the Central Eastside commercial area of Portland, Oregon, United States. Students are given a special emphasis in a technical area. The school is a member of SkillsUSA and Health Occupations Students of America.

History of Benson[edit]

Benson's predecessor[edit]

Benson Polytechnic High School began in 1908 as the Portland School of Trades in the Atkinson Building at 11th and Davis in Northwest Portland.[7] It was established to give "boys who wished to enter a trade a better opportunity than do shops and factories of the present time." Any boy from Portland who was at least fourteen years old, or who was a grammar school graduate, could attend. The course of study was three years. Students could also attend night school and/or summer sessions at the trade school.

In 1909, a course of study for girls was added, with classes in sewing, cooking, millinery, and homemaking.[7] The Portland School of Trades was coeducational until 1913, when the girls' departments were moved to the original Lincoln High School.[7]

Beginnings and World War I[edit]

The Portland School Board voted to change the school's name to Benson Polytechnic High School after civic leader and philanthropist Simon Benson gave $100,000 in 1915, with a stipulation that at least the same amount of money be spent by the Portland School District to start the school.[7] Six blocks of land at Northeast 12th and Hoyt were purchased and a building was built, and the new Benson Polytechnic School opened its doors on September 4, 1917.[7] The building was designed by Floyd Naramore.[8] Portable classrooms were required early on and were still used into the 1950s.

Mr. Benson gave the student body $10,000 during World War I, and the first Tech Show was presented to the Portland community. Benson Polytechnic School grew rapidly in course offerings and in student population. In 1920, the printing department was set up and the school paper, the Tech Pep, was published.

In 1926, an aviation department was added to the school.

Benson Polytechnic School served not only the educational needs of the city's youth, but also the defense needs of a nation at war. Shortly after World War I, beginning in 1919, the federal government contracted with the school, and 50 disabled soldiers were educated.[7]

KBPS radio[edit]

In May 1921, the Benson Polytechnic School received a government license to operate "Technical and Training School" station with the call sign 7YK.[9] This station utilized a spark transmitter, which was limited to Morse code dot-and-dash transmissions. In October 1923, the student body was issued a license for an experimental statiom, 7XAD.[10]

In the early 1920s broadcasting was introduced, and arrangements were made to establish a school station. Equipment previously used by a short-lived station, KYG,[11] was purchased by the student body in March 1923, and an application filed for a new broadcasting station to be operated by the students under the direction of teacher Fred Brainard.[12] A broadcasting station license, with the call letters KFIF, was issued on March 23, 1923, to the Benson Polytechnic Institute.[13] Equipment tests were begun in April,[14] followed by an informal debut broadcast at 6:00 p.m. on May 4, 1923.[15] A more formal station introduction, coinciding with the start of the fifth annual Benson Technical Show, was broadcast from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m on May 9, with scheduled addresses by school director W. F. Woodward, Benson principal C. E. Cleveland, and student body president Bill Norvell, plus singing by Marguerite Carney.[16][17]

KFIF became KBPS in March 1930, and the District later took over ownership of the station. It has continued to this day to operate on the Benson campus and to be staffed by Benson students.[18]

Expansion and World War II[edit]

By 1940, Benson had 2,800 students and was the largest school in Portland.

Due to the baby boom and passing of a $25 million building levy by the school district in 1947, 29 portable buildings dating from World War I were scheduled for replacement.[7]

Modern times[edit]

Main entrance to Benson Polytechnic High School. The inscription says Erected Anno Domini MCMXVI, meaning 1916 AD.

In 1953, the Portland School Board launched a five-year building program to upgrade Benson. A library and automotive wing were completed in 1954. The north shop wing was remodeled in 1955 and the south shop wing in 1960. Benson became co-educational once again in September 1973. Six females attended that year. When the health occupations program was moved from Washington High School to Benson in 1980, Benson's female population grew substantially.

An arson fire damaged offices and classrooms in the main section of Benson on January 2, 1991.[19] Coincidentally, the School Board had already scheduled the Benson facility for major improvements. In 1991, a new health occupation wing, a new library, a new student services center, and a new band room were added, and halls and offices were modernized.

Benson is undergoing a $216.6 million modernization, which started in 2021 and is scheduled to end in 2024. During the renovation, Benson classes will take place at the campus of the former John Marshall High School in Portland's Lents neighborhood.[20]


In 2008, 88% of the school's seniors received a high school diploma. Of 271 students, 239 graduated, 27 dropped out, and five stayed for a fifth year.[21][22]

Oregon moved to the Cohort System[23] the next year to identify graduates, which yields a lower rate than years previous. 76% of students graduated from Benson in 2009, which was higher than the district average of 66%.

Benson is the only school in the Portland Public School district to graduate more minorities than white students.[24]

Student profile[edit]

As a magnet school, Benson was highly selective in the Portland area until fairly recently. Students were once required to complete an application for admissions, but this is no longer the case due to the requirements[citation needed] of the No Child Left Behind Act; instead a lottery is used to determine which students are admitted. As of the fall of 2008, there were 1134 students enrolled in Benson, and 61.7% qualified for free or reduced lunch.[25]

In the 2017–2018 school year, Benson's student population was 38.7% White, 25.5% Hispanic, 15.1% African American, 9.6% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 0.6% Pacific Islander, and 9.8% mixed race.[5]


In addition to a standard high school curriculum, students specialize in a self-selected major during the final two years of enrollment. Students may specialize in the following areas, provided by a partnership with SkillsUSA and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA):

Arts & Communications Academy
  • Communications Technology
  • KBPS Radio Broadcasting
Health Occupations Academy
  • Dental Assisting
  • Medical Assisting
  • Nursing Assisting
  • Emergency Medicine
Industry & Engineering Academy
  • Automotive Technology
  • Building Construction Technology
  • Electrical Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology

Homebuilding program[edit]

Benson is one of four Portland-area high schools (as well as Canby High School, Sherwood High School, and Forest Grove High School) that builds a single-family home in the community.[26]

The front of Benson High School


Benson's athletic teams are known as the "Benson Techmen", or "Techsters" for women's teams. The school competes in a variety of sports, and has won numerous district and state championships.[27] Benson competes in the Portland Interscholastic League under 6A classification.

Men's Basketball Program[edit]

The men's basketball team has been one of the most successful programs in Oregon. Benson has produced 30 plus D1 basketball recruits in program history. Some previous Techmen players have chosen to play at Hawaii, UCLA, USC, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Stanford, and other schools. Three former players have been drafted into the NBA. Benson has won state titles in 1971, 1973, 1974, 1981, 1990. Earl Clark has been head coach since 2013.

State championships[edit]

  • Baseball: 1976
  • Men's basketball: 1971, 1973, 1974, 1981, 1990
  • Football: 1988
  • Men's swimming: 1949
  • Men's track and field: 1928, 1936, 1990, 1992, 1995, 2004
  • Women's track and field: 1991, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Wrestling: 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1936, 1939, 1982, 1983
  • Women's basketball: 2019

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ School Facts: Benson Polytechnic High School, About Section
  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Search for Public Schools - Benson Polytechnic High School (411004000956)". National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved Sep 23, 2017.
  4. ^ "Oregon School Directory 2008-09" (PDF). Oregon Department of Education. p. 139. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
  5. ^ a b "School Profiles & Enrollment Data 2017–2018" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. p. 155. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Benson High School". Oregon School Activities Association. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Polich, Edward L. (1950). A history of Portland's secondary school system with emphasis on the superintendents and the curriculum (Thesis/dissertation). University of Portland. pp. 67, 71, 81, 160. OCLC 232551057.
  8. ^ Ritz, Richard Ellison (2002). "Naramore, Floyd". Architects of Oregon: A Biographical Dictionary of Architects Deceased – 19th and 20th Centuries. Portland, Oregon: Lair Hill Publishing. pp. 293–294. ISBN 0-9726200-2-8.
  9. ^ "New Stations" (Special Land), Radio Service Bulletin, June 1, 1921, page 3. The "7" indicated that the station was located in the 7th Radio Inspection District, and the "Y" specified that the station was operating under a "Technical and Training School" authorization.
  10. ^ "New Stations" (Special Land), Radio Service Bulletin, November 1, 1923, page 4.
  11. ^ KYG in Portland had been licensed to Willard P. Hawley, Jr. from March 28, 1922 until October 13, 1922, and then briefly continued under a temporary authorization by the Radio Service Bureau.
  12. ^ "KYG Radio Set Now Owned by Benson Tech", Oregon Sunday Journal, March 18, 1923, Section 3, page 3.
  13. ^ "New Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, April 2, 1923, page 8.
  14. ^ "In Portland's Schools: Benson" by Paul Brunner, Oregon Journal, April 29, 1923, Section 5, page 4.
  15. ^ "Tech' Radio Concert", Oregon Daily Journal, May 4, 1923, page 11.
  16. ^ "In Portland's Schools: Benson" by Paul Brunner, Oregon Sunday Journal, May 6, 1923, Section 5, page 4.
  17. ^ "Fifth Technical Show at Benson To Open Tonight", Oregon Daily Journal, May 9, 1923, page 12.
  18. ^ "KBPS Curriculum", (
  19. ^ "Previous Portland-area school fires". The Oregonian. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  20. ^ "Proposed Health, Safety and Modernization Bond: Frequently Asked Questions" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. April 5, 2017. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  21. ^ "State releases high school graduation rates". The Oregonian. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
  22. ^ "Oregon dropout rates for 2008". The Oregonian. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
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  31. ^ "Life story: Christian missionary Bert Elliot ministered to Peruvians for 62 years". The Oregonian. 2012-03-24.
  32. ^ "Former Oregon State, NBA star A.C. Green says he can still hear the Gill Coliseum crowd in his dreams". The Oregonian. 2010-11-24.
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  41. ^ "PIL Hall of Fame CyberMuseum of Inductees". Archived from the original on 2010-11-28. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
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External links[edit]