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Women’s History in Lansing: Opal Dewalt – She imprinted a generation of Lansing students

Yet little is known about the woman who led two of Lansing’s schools

Above: Opal Dewalt was the first principal of Lester Crawl School, which opened in 1951. The building, located at 18300 Greenbay Avenue, is now in the process of expanding the primary school services available to School District 158 and also serves as the Administrative Center for the district.

By Marlene Cook

LANSING, Ill. (March 13, 2022) – Opal Dewalt was the first principal of Lester Crawl School — which opened November 30, 1951 — serving in that role and as head of Indiana Avenue School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University (1922–1926) and her Masters from Indiana University (1954). She was a postgraduate of the University of Chicago, Purdue University, and the University of Colorado.

Dewalt spent 19 of her 20 years of service as an elementary principal in Lansing schools. She was also an active member of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), serving both parents and students. At one of the PTA meetings she showed a slide presentation of a trip she took around the world.

Handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (Photo by Rossrs at English Wikipedia – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Under Dewalt’s recommendation to the PTA in 1952, students embedded their handprints in the concrete of the newly poured sidewalk around the school, reminiscent of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood where movie stars famously did the same.

She was a member of the Calumet branch of the American Association of University Women, the Principal Association of the National Education Association (NEA), the Association for Supervisors and Curriculum Development of the NEA, the Illinois Principals Association, and the Illinois Education Association.

Opal Dewalt
Opal Dewalt’s obituary appeared in the Times.

In 1962 the PTA presented Superintendent Lester Crawl with a portrait of Opal Dewalt, who had been leading and serving the families of the school for ten years.

Dewalt retired in 1964.

Opal Dewalt was born November 5, 1904, and died January 8, 2000, at age 95. She is buried in her home town, Moweaqua, Shelby County, Illinois.


Marlene Cook
Marlene Cook
Marlene Cook is a Lansing resident who loves learning and writing about local history. A member of the Illinois Women's Press Association since 1973, she has won multiple IWPA awards. Her 2020 awards in the Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest included first place for columns and second place for nonfiction book in the history category.