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Hi-Q History

Early one morning in the summer of 1948, two Scott Paper executives, members of the newly formed public relations department, met to create a high school radio quiz program that would represent a constructive contribution to the youth of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the base of Scott Paper Company operations. Through negotiations with Chester radio station WPWA, Scott’s Hi-Q was born.

Robert O. Johnson, a young man with experience hosting quiz programs, was named quizmaster. Bob researched and wrote the questions, and also coined the name Hi-Q—“Hi” for high school and “Q” for I.Q.

During the first season, 20 schools with teams of four students competed. A series of weekly contests, between two teams at a time, resulted in the selection of five finalist teams. All questions in that first year were based on the current issue of Newsweek magazine.

The first Scott’s Hi-Q competition was held October 13, 1948. This history making event between Sharon Hill and Marple Newtown High Schools was recorded for broadcast on WPWA, a Chester, PA radio station. Sharon Hill High School was victorious.


Media High School emerged as the first Hi-Q champion in spring 1949 following a competition with finalists Swarthmore, Collingdale, Glen-Nor, and Haverford High Schools. Each member of the Media High School Hi-Q team was awarded an engraved gold watch, and the school received an auditorium size television set. Second and third place winners received leather wallets and tape recorders for their schools.

Hi-Q’s first season as a Current Events Quiz, proved to be not very exciting, so a format change was introduced. From 1949 through 1954, contest material was presented in the form of a fictitious story, containing a total of 20 errors. Students identified the error for one point, and corrected it for a second. The quiz was designed to test a general knowledge of history, geography, current events, literature, biography, science, and government. By 1954 it was decided to change the format using direct questions and a new scoring system. Minor changes in 1962 led to a similar format that is used today.

Eventually the radio broadcasts were cancelled as it became increasingly evident that Hi-Q was, and should be, an in-school activity, as much a part of school as classes, athletics, clubs, and all other elements that make-up the full high school experience.


The program became increasingly popular over the years and in the 1970’s Donna Zerby, manager of Hi-Q and special projects, led the initiative to expand Hi-Q to other parts of the country. Having been involved with the program since 1962, Donna had the experience and passion to grow Hi-Q. Scott Paper plants in Wisconsin, Alabama, Maine, Washington, and Arkansas sponsored programs identical to the flagship Hi-Q. A national championship was also created during this period. As national director, Donna produced the program through the 1990s, and she continued as Delco Hi-Q director until her death in 2005.

Through the Delaware County Education Foundation, local businesses began supporting Delco Hi-Q in the mid-1990s. Delaware County Intermediate Unit (DCIU) and the Foundation of The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce became co-sponsors of Delco Hi-Q.

Today, Delco Hi-Q continues as a partnership between education and business organizations. The Delaware County Intermediate Unit, in conjunction with Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, produces the competition. Partners In Education, a program of Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union Foundation, secures funding for Hi-Q, the annual academic awards celebration, and many related educational initiatives.

Hi-Q is alive and well in Delaware County and in the states of Alabama, Wisconsin, and Washington.

Over the course of over 70 seasons, sponsors have changed, schools have changed, and the format has changed but the founding principles have remained…