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The school was named for Dr. Jonas Salk in 1964. Dr. Salk discovered the first effective polio vaccine, and is revered by the scientific community for his lifelong commitment to virus research.

Dr. Salk was a genuinely caring and compassionate soul whose legacy can be seen every day by the actions of Tulsa residents. Interesting to note, it is highly unusual to name a school after a living person and that speaks to Salk’s exceptional character. Even though Dr. Salk had no known ties to Oklahoma, simple kindness and generosity of spirit were core values of his that can still be passed along to each generation. Salk wrote a letter to his namesake school which is still on file. It read in part, “I hope all the hopes and aspirations for your school materialize and bring fulfillment to all associated with its development.”

The nation’s first mass vaccination of children against polio was in 1954. There were nearly one hundred cases of polio in Tulsa County in that same year, but by the time Salk Elementary opened its doors there were no cases reported. Jonas Salk’s miraculous vaccine saved countless children’s lives.