The year was 1964 and brothers Walter and Donald Best had relocated their young families from Seattle to Indianapolis. The men played key roles in the Best Lock Corporation, a lock manufacturing company founded by their father, Frank Best.
The organization sought to expand its operations on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Interstate 465 construction was underway and a large, undeveloped parcel of land at State Road 37 and 75th Street was a prime location. Frank Best acquired the acreage and it became the location for Best Lock’s headquarters. Through his generous donation, a portion of the land also would one day become the home for Heritage Christian School.
Meanwhile, the Best brothers searched the Indianapolis area for a non-denominational Christian school for their families. Their children had attended Christian schools in Seattle, where a vibrant Christian school movement was gaining momentum. The Bests prayerfully considered their options and decided that, with God’s help, they would start an interdenominational school that delivered excellent education from a biblical point of view. They determined that if God would bring in fifty-nine students, they could make it work.
Laying the Groundwork
As a first step, they recruited Kye Harris, a Seattle acquaintance with significant experience in starting and helping to run Christian schools. Harris and his family relocated to Indianapolis in 1965 and launched a mail campaign to area pastors, inviting them to informational meetings over coffee, in supporters’ homes. Interest quickly grew and within four months, the school had enrolled more than one hundred students.
Harris recruited William Vimont, another seasoned Christian school pioneer, for the role of principal. He moved his family from Arizona to Indianapolis on faith, since there was no up-front guarantee of receiving his salary.
A Board of Directors was created to provide leadership for the school. The original group included: Leonard Hunt, long-time director of Wheeler Mission; Indianapolis businessman, Dale Malcomson; Robert Porter, president of Lifegate, Inc.; and Walter and Donald Best.
The next challenge was to tackle student transportation. Harris proposed the purchase of six 1-ton panel trucks that could be converted to passenger vans. An ingenious idea, really, in a generation that far pre-dated current-day minivans. Finance companies, however, were less than excited about lending money to a school that had not yet even been incorporated.
Undeterred, the Heritage men approached the owner of Johnson Chevrolet. He was polite, but uninterested in assuming risk for a $24,000 purchase from an unestablished legal entity. In a last attempt to persuade the man, Harris pulled out a sheet of the school’s newly printed letterhead. On it were the names of Christian school experts and advisors from across the nation and a handful of Indianapolis businessmen.
The dealership owner casually glanced at the list and pointed to one of the names on it. He excused himself to make a quick phone call. When he returned, he announced, “Gentlemen, if this man is interested in your project, I will do it. He is my best friend.” He sealed the deal with no down payment and personally financed a year of insurance and the cost to convert the vehicles to special purpose buses. Through providential circumstances and a generous $30,000 gift from Lilly Endowment Inc, God enabled the school to pay the debt in full.
Prayers Answered and Dreams Realized
The school moved forward, receiving its official articles of incorporation as Heritage Christian Schools, Inc. on June 14, 1965. With Harris as administrator, the school hired necessary faculty and staff. Victory Baptist Church stepped up to house classes.
Heritage Christian School officially opened its doors to one hundred fifty-nine pre-kindergarten through ninth grade students on Sept. 8, 1965. It seemed no small coincidence that the number of students God had provided was exactly one hundred beyond the fifty-nine students that the school’s founders had originally prayed for.
Throughout the school day, students occupied virtually every inch of space at Victory Baptist Church. The pastor gave Harris and Vimont use of his office. In the mornings, teachers moved the church pews aside to make room for tumbling mats, creating a makeshift gymnasium down the center aisle. In the afternoon, pre-kindergarteners used the pews for their daily naptime.
Even the baptistry served dual purposes. Students auditioned there for the choir, with curtains drawn for anonymity.
Within a year, enrollment had increased to nearly three hundred fifty students, and it was clear that the school needed more space to grow. God ordained two key events during the summer of 1966. First, Devington Baptist Church offered its larger facility as a temporary location, enabling the school to expand enrollment and to include grades ten through twelve. Secondly, Frank Best generously donated an additional fifteen acres of land to the growing institution and pledged 25 acres more for future development. Don Best reportedly drove by the land frequently, saying, “I see it, Lord, I see it.” Heritage Christian School broke ground for its new building.
A Permanent Home
By year’s end in 1966, construction was complete and faculty and staff moved in to the new facility over Christmas break. When classes resumed in January of 1967, they welcomed four hundred and fifty students into an initial nineteen brand-new classrooms. Word spread and enrollment continued to climb. With another 5-acre donation from the Best Foundation, additional classrooms were added in 1973.
The school’s footprint expanded over the following decades to accommodate the needs of a growing student body and to offer a full range of academic and extracurricular programs. The construction of the current high school and Commons area was completed in 2007.
Today, the 38.5-acre campus houses separate elementary, intermediate, middle school, and high school buildings; a fine arts building; and athletic facilities that include an elementary gym, a 1,250-seat high school gymnasium complex, a football/soccer/lacrosse stadium, track, softball and baseball diamonds, and tennis courts.
At the Heart of the Heritage Story
The Heritage story has God’s fingerprints all over it; from the very beginning to its future. God instilled the school’s founding parents’ desire for their children to receive an excellent education that reinforced the faith and values they were teaching them at home. He brought just the right people at just the right times and built their faith as they saw Him provide resources and answer prayers. He created an environment where thousands of students have received valuable training for work and life as Christ- followers.
The story of Heritage Christian School really is one of the God who continues to bless this institution with His favor. It’s an ongoing narrative that He’s writing in the hearts and lives of our students, families, alumni, faculty and staff. May the telling of it bring Him much honor.
As the first gymnasium (now the Elementary Cafeteria) was first being built, the building contractor received word that there would be a three-month delay in receiving the custom-sized structural wooden beams needed to complete the project. Construction was at a standstill. The building crew actually knelt and prayed for an answer to what seemed an impossible situation.
A few days later, a semi-truck drove up to the construction site, unannounced and carrying a load of large, wooden beams. As it turned out, its intended delivery had been misrouted and mislabeled. The order actually was for a church in Ohio, but the address given was that of Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis. A completely different architect had custom-designed the beams to meet the church’s exact specifications. Remarkably, they measured at exactly the same dimensions as those needed for the Heritage project. The church was contacted, to let them know that the delivery had been misdirected.
Their response? They really didn’t need the beams for another three months. They were pleased to place another order and let Heritage use them. Amazed, the Heritage construction crew installed them for the school’s new gym and further construction proceeded without delay. From that day on, Heritage faculty and staff have referred to the ceiling’s structure as the “Miracle Beams.”
A bronze statue in front of the elementary building honors former Heritage Elementary Principal, Mary Jane English. It reads, “In honor of Mrs. Mary Jane English, for 37 years of faithful service to the Lord at Heritage Christian School. She was a joyful servant, friend, leader, teacher, mentor and shepherd. We will miss her laughter, her stories and her presence with us. To God be the glory! She is home.”
English had a burden for children who had the intellectual capacity to advance but had been identified with learning differences that caused them to struggle in the classroom. In 2010, the HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) Fund was inspired by English and was established to honor the memory of those who have either supported our students or who received services through the academic support of a tutor or Heritage Educational Support Services teacher.
Mary Jane English
English's colleagues and the teachers whom she supervised remember her with fondness and respect. "Mary Jane had great understanding and empathy for struggling students and students who march to the beat of a different drummer, because as she told us many times, she was one of those students too," says Teresa Stroop. "Mary Jane was real. She was direct, she was honest, she was funny and she loved to laugh. She had a heart for Jesus, a heart for her family, a heart for her children, a heart for her friends. She had a heart for truth, a heart for nature, and a heart for knowledge," recalls Julie Hiatt. Heritage academic director and elementary/intermediate school principal, Brenda Klingerman, says, "She mentored me and invested time in me. She taught me so much spiritually, about depending on the Lord in making decisions and looking for what He has next. She really enjoyed life."
One of the best parts about being a senior at Heritage is the opportunity to decorate the rock. It is hidden by the Library entrance and has a history that many do not know.
In the 1970’s, a crane was brought in to move it out of a construction zone along Kitley Avenue. It found a home on our campus per the request of Al Leinbach, Alumni Relations Coordinator.
Within days, students painted it and began a tradition that has carried on ever since. Over the years, it has sported different colors, pictures, patriotic messages and Bible verses. It became a tradition for the seniors to decorate the rock, designs including everything from Junior/Senior Proposals to Scripture verses and more.
A 2nd grade class stops at the Rock while on a tour of campus with Alumni Relations Coordinator, Al Leinbach.
It’s a favorite spot for alumni to visit during campus tours. New generations of Heritage students learn about The Rock when, as 2nd graders, they stop there for a picture during their historical tour of campus. They even receive their own little rock as a memento.
The Heritage Bell, an iconic symbol for our athletes, has an extensive history. Gifted by parents around 1972, the bell weighs several hundred pounds and has had many locations over the years.
The bell's first location was the elementary gym (now the elementary cafeteria), but was moved to storage because the ring was too loud. Around 1985, we rescued the bell from storage and moved it to the high school gym. Once again, however, the bell was too loud and was moved back to storage. Finally, the bell was taken to the soccer field (now the HCS stadium) and anchored under the scoreboard.
Today, Heritage students have the exciting privilege of ringing the bell during athletic events. In addition, our Alumni Relations Coordinator, Al Leinbach, takes 2nd grade classes to the bell's permanent home during his historical tour of Heritage. During this tour, students have the fun opportunity to ring the historic bell.
One of the most unique and fun features of Heritage's elementary playground is the distinctive wooden ark that sits nestled among the trees. It's a favorite spot for imagination and play for our young students. The current version of the ark isn't the first of its kind in Heritage history.
A virtual oasis exists on the Heritage campus. It’s a quiet, outdoor space designed for reflection; a favorite summer lunchtime spot for staff; a reunion location for returning alumni and an outdoor classroom for students.
What began as merely a vision in 2006 became our beautiful Biblical Gardens in 2010. The project became a reality through fundraising, PTF and parent donations and its design incorporated input from faculty and students alike. It resides between the old and new Elementary building wings.
Many of the Garden’s features intentionally tie back to biblical references:
The entrance gate from the Elementary playground represents the gate to the Celestial City
Nine trees planted within the Garden represent the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
Boulder accents represent Jesus as the Rock of our salvation (Psalm 18:2)
Vines covering the pergola point to Jesus as the Vine and His people as the branches (John 15:1-8)
The cross consists of tiles that were designed by our students. Many of the tiles include Bible verses.
Maybe it's the spirit of competition between the high school classes, maybe it's getting to dress up in fun outfits each day, or maybe it's that you get to play games instead of going to class on Friday...no matter what the reason, Homecoming Week is probably the favorite fall semester tradition among the student body at Heritage. Here are just a few things that go on during the week:
Themed Dress Up Days
Lip Sync (and long nights of rehearsals)
Homecoming Cookout for Lunch
At the end of the week, the entire Heritage community - along with many of our alumni - come together for the homecoming tailgate and football game. This annual event features its own entertainment including a faculty/staff dunk tank, presentation of the homecoming court, food trucks, inflatables, sometimes even a live band, and much more.
One of the great HCS traditions is the annual, all-school Christmas chapel. It’s a joyful celebration and a beautiful time for the entire school to come together. The chapel showcases the Fine Arts through music, and then a faculty or staff member delivers a Christmas message.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of Christmas chapel is the singing of The 12 Days of Christmas, in which each grade level gets assigned a “day.” The seniors, who always get to be the 1st Day of Christmas, come up with creative sketches, movements, and inside jokes for each round of the song.
Over the years, attendance has grown to about 1,400 people, as more alumni and parents have attended. This tradition is a fun and festive way to ring in Advent, a time of true joy and excitement, which is exactly what it should be!
The annual senior parade is a Heritage favorite! This fun and entertaining event brings together the entire school. All of our students, faculty, staff and many parents gather together to watch as the senior class says their final goodbyes to student life at HCS. These soon-to-be-graduates decorate their cars, dress in costumes, parade around the the campus, and enjoy some of their last moments together as high school students.
Oh, when those Heritage teams fall into line, We’re gonna win that game another time. It's for the dear old school we love so well. It's for the blue and white we'll yell and yell and yell, And when we fly up on our Eagles’ wings, That’s when you’ll hear our cheering voices ring, And we will fight with all our might and fight, might and fight For Heritage High!
E - E - E - A – G L - L - L - E – S E - A – G L - E – S Eagles, Eagles H - C - S!
Photo Timeline of HCS History
First Board of Directors
1964 - First Heritage Christian School Bus
1965 - Victory Baptist Church
1966 - Jubilee Choir
1966 - Devington Baptist Church
1965 - Kyle Harris, First Administrator
1965 - William Vimont, First Principal
1965 - DeVern Fromke, First Elementary Principal
1966 - Jim Beck, First High School Principal
1966 - Groundbreaking for First Building (digitally remastered)