Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ursuline Academy

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio was clearly emerging as a major center of industry in the United States. Smokey steel mills rose along the Mahoning River for miles through the heart of Youngstown, beckoning tens of thousands of men and boys to the harsh work within them. Many of the laborers were Catholic immigrants from Europe who brought little with them to this country except their hunger for a better life and a strong faith to sustain their dreams. From humble beginnings similar to the city that welcomed them in 1874, the Ursuline Nuns of Youngstown were also at work, creating an opportunity for education in the valley which conveyed an optimism as unfailing as that of their adopted community.

Under the direction of Mother M. Joseph Hopkins, the simple "pay school" for girls attached to St. Columba Church in downtown Youngstown was expanded to include grades 9-12 in September 1905. With an initial enrollment of twenty-five students, the Ursuline Academy of the Holy name of Jesus was founded, the forerunner of today's Ursuline High School. Thus began an Ursuline tradation of quality secondary education in Youngstown which reaches 96 years at this writing. Classes for the girls were held initially in an imposing four- story brick structure located at 217 West Rayen Avenue that also served as the sister's convent.

Mother Vincent O'Connell was appointed first principal of the Academy. The original curriculum stressed classical studies and language skills. Doctrinal religion was emphasized in a setting of strict discipline. Four years after its opening on June 16, 1908, the high school celebrated its first commencement in Youngstown's Park Theater. Two graduates were honored--Miss Eunice Marie Lawlor and Miss Mary Agnes Maloney. The winds of war that blew over the nation and world during this century's second decade also swept the Youngstown area to an unparalleled period of development and prosperity. It was a time for growth, and the Ursuline Order responded to the influx of population by extending its work to other parishes that were being established in the city.

Meanwhile, the Academy was also expanding, soon outgrowing it Rayen Avenue facilities. Mother Joseph, general superior of the Order, proposed that the community acquire the Chaucey Andrews estate on Wick Avenue for the Academy. Mrs. John Logan, Andrew's daughter and owner of the house, agreed to a sale in February of 1919. The high school enrollment of forty settled into their new location late that winter. Mother Bernard McCann presided over the beginning of the "Wick Avenue Era" as Principal.

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