Spellman begins 50th school year

Groundbreaking Ceremonies for Cardinal Spellman High School, November 1959. Sr. Veronica Miriam S.C., first principal of the Girls Section, breaks ground with the shovel, while principal Msgr. John Breheney (far left), and Bishop John Maguire, then Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of New York, look on.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Cardinal Spellman High School, located in the Baychester section of the Bronx. In September 1959, the school welcomed a class of approximately 150 freshmen to a temporary site at 1833 Marmion Avenue, with Msgr. John P. Breheny Ed.D. as the founding principal. Boys and girls were taught in separate departments, predominately by the De La Salle Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Charity. Several months later, construction began on 13 acres of vacant land purchased by the Archdiocese of New York at the corner of Baychester and Needham Avenues. In 1961, students moved from the temporary site to the new school, and on May 27, 1962 three thousand people turned out for the dedication of the school by Francis Cardinal Spellman. Also in attendance that day were Mayor Robert Wagner, Leiut. Governor Malcolm Wilson, and State Commissioner of Education Dr. James Allen Jr. The first graduation of 113 seniors was held in June 1963. Within a few years, over 2,000 students attended Cardinal Spellman High School, and 46 after that first commencement, a total of 19,158 have graduated from the school.

Throughout the years, changes were implemented and improvements have been made in school facilities. In 1971, the boys and girls departments were eliminated to become a fully co-educational school. Advanced Placement courses in a variety of subject areas were added for students to earn college credit.

On May 18, 1990, Needham Avenue was renamed Cardinal Spellman Place with Msgr. John Breheny, the first principal, and then Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, a Spellman graduate, taking part in the ceremonies. In September 1999, a “President-Principal” model of governance was introduced, with Msgr. James Sullivan as the first president and Harold Hoffmann as principal. A fitness center for physical education classes was added in 1998, and an extensive renovation of the athletic fields and track was completed in 2008, generously funded by alumni/ae donations.

Under the current leadership of Rev. Trevor Nicholls as president and Neil McCarthy Ph.D. as principal, Spellman continues to provide academic excellence for nearly 1,500 students from the Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester. The school will host its annual Open House on Sunday, October 25, and on October 30, a 50th Anniversary celebration will be held at Villa Barone Manor. For information about these and other anniversary events, individuals may contact the Alumni Office at (718) 547-4732.

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