Regis High School

Years Active: 1958-1998

Regis High School was the first Dubuque Archdiocesan interparochial school to be established in a metropolitan area. During the winter of 1955, preliminary conferences were held by Archbishop Leo Binz, Msgr. Justin A. Driscoll, Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools, and Cedar Rapids pastors to plan secondary education for the large number of future Catholic students in Cedar Rapids. Eventually the group decided it was necessary to establish an interparochial high school.

Msgr. William H. Schulte of Immaculate Conception Parish, Msgr. James D. Kearn of St. Matthew Parish, Msgr. Anthony W. Chihak of St. Wenceslaus Parish, and Father Louis V. McDonough of All Saints Parish chose to participate. Father William H. Blessington of St. Joseph Parish in Marion withheld his decision at that time, but later decided to join the project. Msgr. Daniel J. Lenihan of St. Patrick and Msgr. Frank R. Hruby of St. Ludmila, pastors of parishes on the West Side, decid33ed not to participate in the program. Father Robert J. Spahn, at that time chaplain of the Newman Club of Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa), was named executive coordinator of the proposed Regis High School on August 18, 1955.

A series of steps was taken to provide for the ecclesiastical, civil, and local organization of the school. A Constitution of the Council of Administration was signed by pastors of the participating parishes November 4, 1955. It was revised and approved December 6, 1960. A civil corporation was formed under the laws of the State of Iowa, with the archbishop as president. John A. Walsh and Joseph Zachar were the two laymen on the board. The Sisters of Mercy of Cedar Rapids sold 20.27 acres of land adjoining the motherhouse to Regis High School.

After conferences with various architectural and fund-raising firms, the Council of Administration chose Brown and Healey as architects and National Fund Raising Services of Fort Worth, Texas for the financial campaign. The goal set at the beginning of the campaign, March 12, was $750,000; the amount realized in pledges and cash payments at its close July 2, 1956, was $875,000. After a study of the status of each parish, the Council agreed to accept allocated percentages on capital investment and operating expenses. Because a number of the parishes were already deeply in debt, it was necessary to arrange a “joint and several” loan, mortgaging the property and buildings of each parish as well as of Regis High School. Repayment of the twenty-year loan was arranged so that heavy payments were made during the first three years when contributions were being made on the pledges of the drive.

The first step in actual construction, the grading of the site, began June 17, 1956, under the contract to M. L. Johnson Construction Company. The parish statistics indicated rapidly increasing enrollment, and the Council decided to construct an academic section for about 900 students and a gymnasium/auditorium to accommodate a larger enrollment. Plans allowed for the future addition of an academic wing. A house to provide temporary quarters for the executive coordinator and the initial priest faculty of the school was purchased at 810 Staub Court. Total cost of the plant, including grounds, walks, driveways, parking lots, building, all fixed and movable equipment, and the Faculty House completely furnished, was $1,364,388.

In the summer of 1958, Father Robert M. Hirsch was appointed principal of the school, and Father Martin T. Laughlin was made full-time faculty member and spiritual director. When Father Hirsch was transferred in 1960 to become executive coordinator for Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville, Father Ernest J. Engler was named principal. Sister Mary Pierre McAleer was made Sister coordinator and assistant principal. In 1962 she was succeeded by Sister Mary Assumpta Feeney. Father Engler took over the additional duty of executive coordinator August 7, 1963. Three smaller parochial high schools–Immaculate Conception, St. Wenceslaus, and Mt. Mercy Academy–were absorbed into Regis High School. The starting enrollment for 1958-59 was 532 students, with three full-time priests, seventeen Sisters of Mercy, and four full-time lay teachers.

Sisters on the beginning faculty were as follows: Sister Mary Pierre McAleer, Sister Miriam Ryan, Sister Mary Carmel Conroy, Sister Georgianne Ryan, Sister Marie Anne Therese Robichaud, Sister Mary Carmelita Graham, Sister Mary Winifred Lence, Sister Mary Cecilia Soreghan, Sister Mary Maurita Ferreter, Sister Mary Remigia Oehler, Sister Mary Imelda Hippler, Sister Mary Louise Garrett, Sister Mary Edmunda Tibeau, Sister Mary Alberta Howe, Sister Mary Norbert Karnik, Sister John Marie Daly, and Sister Mary Veronica Gorman. The first full-time lay teachers were Vern H. Feldman, Joseph Ottavi, Robert T. Jennings, and Leonard J. Novak.

Enrollment for 1965 was 823 students, with a faculty of four full time and six part-time priests, seventeen Sisters, and fourteen full-time and six part-time lay teachers. Regis’ curriculum was geared to the college bound student, to the non- college bound student, and to the student who needed remedial courses. Homogeneous grouping was used throughout the different courses of study. Students desiring industrial art courses were permitted to take those courses at Washington High School. Affiliation with educational institutions was a very important part of making Regis High School credible to the public.

Regis was accepted and accredited by the North Central Association of Secondary Schools in its first year. The school was also accredited by the Iowa Department of Education, the National Catholic Education Association, and the Iowa High School Athletic Association. 55 Regis students were the recipients of many awards over the years. There were several finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Awards. Many national awards were received in creative writing. Regis High School won the state basketball tournament in 1962. In 1965, Terry Codar won a trip to the University of California, Berkeley, where he presented his original research paper on the effects of aspirin in white mice. The appointment of Dick Breitbach as the first lay associate principal was made by Rev. Ernest Engler in 1964. Fr. Don Klein was an associate pastor with Fr. Engler who then became principal.

Fr. Engler and Fr. Klein introduced flexible modular scheduling for the 1970-1971 school year. After spending two years studying the system, the normal six period, fifty minute time slots were discontinued. In its place, the eighteen periods, fifteen minutes long were established. Large group lecture was interspersed with small group instruction. Lab courses were specifically affected in a positive manner. This schedule was in place through the 1978-1979 school year.

In 1984, Dr. Kevin McCarville, the first lay principal, established a unique tuition program called Fair Share Tuition. This allowed all students desiring a Catholic education the opportunity to attend Regis High School regardless of their economic situation. The program continued until Regis merged with La Salle High School. In 1989, a committee was formed to explore the possibility of building a Central Secondary Catholic School. This effort was later abandoned. In the fall of 1993, the first steps towards consolidation of Regis and LaSalle were initiated when the boards hired a Chief Administrator, Jeff Henderson, to oversee the two schools. Regis High School and LaSalle High School merged to form the new Xavier High School in June of 1998.

Extensive remodeling took place during the 1999-2000 school year in order to transform Regis High School into the new Regis Middle School. The fall of 2000 marked the opening of Regis Middle School for students from St. Pius X School, St. Matthew School, and All Saints School.

Source: Monsignor Thomas E. Toale, Ph. D. (2001). Go Forth and Teach: Continuing the Challenge. Dubuque, IA - Iowa: Loras College Press. Archdiocese of Dubuque.

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