project history

“We are determined to have Senator McCain represented by more than his name on the front of the building. This will be a school that reverberates with his presence. His energy. His curiosity. His honor. Not as some sort of memoriam, rather, as a place where students aspire to exemplify the traits so identified with Senator McCain. A place where students could aspire to be their best selves, just like the Senator. A place that provides students a way to achieve lofty goals for themselves, their community, their state, and their country.” Dr. Kristi Wilson

John Sidney McCain III was a Vietnam War veteran and a six-term U.S. senator from the state of Arizona. 

John McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, to naval officer John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta (Wright) McCain. He had an older sister Sandy and a younger brother Joe. The son of a decorated Navy admiral, McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and received a commission in the United States Navy. He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. He was then dispatched to Vietnam, where he was a prisoner of war between 1967 and 1973. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics.

In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won reelection five times, earning renown as a “maverick” who challenged party orthodoxy. He launched a bid for the U.S. presidency in 1999 and earned the Republican nomination in 2008. After winning a sixth Senate term in 2016, McCain made headlines for his opposition to Republican policy decisions and his battle with brain cancer.

A day after deciding to stop treatment for his cancer, McCain died at his home in Sedona on August 25, 2018 at age 81. Following his death, McCain lay in state in the Arizona State Capitol rotunda and then in the United States Capitol rotunda. His funeral was televised from the Washington National Cathedral, with former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama giving eulogies. John is survived by wife Cindy and his seven children.

To ensure John S. McCain III Elementary is a school worthy of its name, special efforts were made to determine how the themes of the Senator’s life should be meaningfully integrated into the fabric of the school.

Through a collaborative group process with the design team and the district leadership team, the legacy of leadership, courage, service, civility and resilience left by Senator McCain was considered self evident. By remembering his example, we hope to inspire in our children what the Senator believed was possible in all people.

A steering committee was formed to provide community engagement in the development of the school. During the design process, our team collected ideas for organizing the site and arranging learning spaces from community members, school district staff, and steering committee members.

District leadership and members of the steering committee visited schools throughout the state to assess best practices and establish design criteria to guide the design of the school.

Just as John McCain helped elevate our nation, this school hopes to help students take flight and soar to new heights. The design of the school focuses on elevating students academically, socially and emotionally. With strong foundations in both social and academic development, the facility operates on an axis of academic and social skills kept in careful balance by a hierarchy of spaces. Focusing on the student and building outward, the school is composed of a variety of spaces with movable walls, indoor and outdoor, that open to each other and strengthen one another. All of which manifests in a facility dedicated to transparency, flexibility and collaboration.