O'Gorman High School - 50 Years

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Dear Friends, Families and Alumni,

Fifty years ago, Bishop Hoch had a vision where it was possible for all students to attend a centralized Catholic high school. Many questioned the Bishop’s judgment but the Catholic community supported his vision. We now celebrate our 50th anniversary and recognize and give tribute to those who have gone before us. The dedicated men and women who blazed the trail with their leadership and vision have allowed our success to continue. Each generation at O’Gorman High School has helped to ensure, with vision and commitment, that this school continues to build on its academic excellence and faith community. We are thrilled to be able to begin our year-long celebration, while at the same time officially opening our brand new O’Gorman Performing Arts Center. We are grateful to all of our supporters who have traveled with us on this journey to totally renovate and revitalize O’Gorman High School. The goals we have achieved are beyond our wildest dreams and we now have a beautiful facility that will serve our students for the next 50 years. Our theology teacher, Joe Rutten, said recently, “To those that continue to help, your reward will be found in a renewal of the faith life in our young people, and a strengthening of the Catholic community in the future.” We know that what has been accomplished here is only the beginning of great things to come. Kyle L. Groos, Principal O’Gorman High School


“ Let not your days at O’Gorman be spent without deriving a greater appreciation of your faith and without being able to say day after day and week after week and year after year that you are a better Catholic because of what you have learned and what you have understood and what you have lived at O’Gorman.”

- Excerpt from sermon delivered by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Lambert A Hoch, D.D., at the first Mass in O’Gorman High School Auditorium, January 31, 1962.



O’Gorman High School Opens its Doors In the late 1950’s, the only Catholic high school in Sioux Falls, St. Joseph Cathedral, was bursting at the seams. Most families from parishes other than the Cathedral could not enroll their high school students there because there wasn’t room. Bishop Lambert Hoch, wanting to make it possible for all students to attend a Catholic high school, launched

a campaign to build a new, centralized high school on a 40 acre site in the middle of an alfalfa field in the southwestern edge of the city. Many questioned the Bishop’s judgement, some calling it “Hoch’s Folly”, but the Catholic community supported the $1.5 million project and on September 7th, 1961, O’Gorman High School opened its doors to about 550


students. In addition to tuition fees collected from students, each of the city’s five parishes at the time supported the school in an attempt to keep the centralized high school more affordable. When O’Gorman opened, tuition was just $90 per student.

The school, named after Bishop Thomas O’Gorman, noted educator and second Bishop of Sioux Falls, had many design features not seen before in the Midwest. Because of the Bishop’s desire to keep boys and girls segregated during classes, the design featured boys’ and girls’ separate wings – the “B” wing and the“G”wing, which later would be changed to “O” and “G” wings when classes were no longer segregated. O’Gorman’s first principal, Fr. Howard Carroll, explained that in addition to the moral implications of segregating the sexes, the separation eliminated scholastic competition and also aided in discipline

because girls mature faster than boys. The distance from one end of the B wing to the end of the G wing was an estimated three block walk which provided many challenges when segregation ended and students took classes in both wings. The segregation of boys and girls continued through the 1960’s. One of the unique features of O’Gorman’s design was the 560 skylights placed throughout the school to provide ‘even, well-diffused light’ throughout the school and save on electricity costs while eliminating the need for many windows. As decades of students and staff


members would witness, the skylights which helped light the school also leaked water every time it rained or when snow on the roof melted. In the 1980’s, after decades of patching the leaks, and constant water buckets lining the hallways to catch the drips, more than a hundred thousand dollars was spent to raise the skylights in hopes that would take care of the problem. When it didn’t work, the skylights were eventually taken out in the 1990’s, and additional lighting had to be added to light the classrooms and hallways.


the cafeteria. An observer at the time noted seeing the cafeteria full of students when it was not lunch time. Students often roamed the halls. Many students liked the pass or fail grading option because they no longer felt the pressure to compete with other students for grades, and they were allowed to self-evaluate at the end of their high school career for their final transcripts. The idea was to challenge students to work independently, to make wise choices for their education, but instead, In the early 1970’s, the food in the cafeteria many chose to use the opportunity to spend changed with the introduction of “Type A” time in the cafeteria playing cards and take a food line, hot lunches made with government minimum number of classes. “Unfortunately,” commodities. Price was $.40 per meal. said principal Fr.Victor Raemaker at the time,“we found that many students needed the motivation A short-lived educational experiment in the of being faced with letter grades to improve their early 1970’s introduced the concept of modular classwork or to work up to their ability.” – or block scheduling – and was called the “New Directions Program”. Administrators said it would allow for ‘individualized learning experiences’, and along with it came pass or fail grading. Students were given the option of attending classes or going to a study hall or By 1970, tuition had risen to just over $200 per student, but work study options were available. As the number of priests and sisters decreased, the need to hire more lay teachers increased, raising the cost to attend O’Gorman. In the 1970-71 school year there were 43 full time faculty members, half of whom were lay teachers. In the spring of 1971, Fr. Howard Carroll announced his resignation and Fr.Victor Ramaeker was assigned to take his place.


Several activities popular with students during the 1970’s and early 1980’s were acceptable given the culture of the time. • Mock funerals for the opposing team’s mascot were an annual tradition at O’Gorman before the district basketball games. Students would dress up as mourners, the grieving widow, etc, and ‘mourn’ the predicted demise of ‘Willie the Warrior’ or ‘Peter the Patriot’. An actual casket was brought in procession to the school, up the big stairs and into the foyer, where a mock funeral was held.

• An experimental program called “Interim” was held one week each year to provide the students with an opportunity to explore their personal areas of interest. Students could choose from over 100 different courses ranging from roller skating to tumbling, archery, and making sand terrariums. By the mid 1980’s, it was determined that interim was taking valuable time away from the classroom and was a lot of work for teachers and administrators.

parking lot. These“opportunities”were eventually eliminated in favor of early morning detentions. Uniforms changed a bit in the early 1970’s. Boys could choose to wear the brown corduroy jackets or brown cardigan sweaters. Girls could wear colored shirts or blouses with their brown plaid skirts and also wore brown sweaters. They took great care in those days to match their blouses with their socks.

• In the 1970’s, a “Hammer Squad” was formed by students to help cheer on the sports teams. It was ultimately disbanded when its focus became more on partying than cheering for the team. • Smoking in the bathrooms was finally snuffed out around 1980. Something students were happy to see go by the wayside was a unique form of discipline called “ecological opportunity”, which meant spending Saturday mornings scrubbing bathrooms or picking up pieces of broken pop bottles from the

Bob Burns, Photo Courtesy of the SD Sports Hall of Fame


Co-curricular activities saw great success in the 1970’s in several areas. The first musical at O’Gorman, directed by Miss Nancy Wheeler, was “Guys and Dolls”, presented in 1973. The football program was turned around with the hiring of the legendary coach, Bob Burns. One of his first ideas was to host a Bi-Centennial Bowl in 1976 at Howard Wood Field, complete with hot air balloons, skydivers and a big bowl type atmosphere. It was a huge success, but you can’t host a Bi-Centennial Bowl every year, so two years later, in 1978, Burns launched the first ever Dakota Bowl, with O’Gorman taking on North Dakota’s #1 team, Fargo-Shanley. The Dakota Bowl was extremely successful and paved the way for high school bowl games throughout the state, although none has ever come close to its popularity and fund raising ability. To date, the Dakota Bowl has raised more than $2.5 million for the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools. O’Gorman had a rapid turnover of faculty, students, and educational processes throughout the 1970’s. In 1976, Fr. Ramaeker resigned as principal and Fr. Joseph Wagner was named his successor. After serving just three years as principal of O’Gorman, Fr. Wagner resigned as principal and Tom Lorang, a vice-principal at the time, was chosen as the school’s first ever lay principal. The late 1970’s also brought a new fundraising project to the school – magazine sales. Now three decades of students have sold and benefitted from the sales, which brings in about $70,000 each year, which is split between the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools and the school organizations named by the students.



The 1980’s continued to bring change for students. A strong focus was put on academics. It became cool to work hard and get good grades. Students and faculty were challenged to strive for excellence and it started paying off in visible ways. O’Gorman was honored by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1984-1985 Exemplary School Recognition Project, later termed a “Blue Ribbon School”. The program was developed to direct public attention to unusually effective schools across the country. Principal Lorang noted at the time, “By striving to help our students do their best intellectually, creatively, developmentally and artistically, and by placing equal emphasis on intellectual and moral growth, O’Gorman clearly reflects the project’s selection criteria.” A year later, as the school celebrated its 25th anniversary, Principal Lorang noted, “A renewed interest in academic achievement, the job market, global comparisons, and a feeling for some of the traditional values led the policy makers of the late seventies to reinstitute a more traditional daily schedule, a return to giving grades and to place greater demands on students. With over eighty percent of the graduates going on to college, it became

imperative that the O’Gorman program be totally cognizant of the type and amount of preparation needed to help assure success.” He went on, “As we review the past 25 years and look forward to the next 25, we pledge that we will continue to be strong in providing a dynamic faith community, academic excellence and extra-curricular opportunity.” There were a number of teachers in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that really challenged 13

the minds of their students in a way they had never been before. Sr. Jeanette Silvis is often mentioned as one of those teachers. Her passion for science and love for her students opened their minds to the possibility of careers in the sciences and medicine. More students in the early 1980’s were moving on to careers in medicine than ever before. Twenty years later, O’Gorman became educational partners with Avera McKennan as the hospital looked for ways to ensure they would have enough doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to meet the increased future demand. Currently, O’Gorman graduates typically account for about 10% of each freshman class at the USD Medical School.

In 1981, the Knights football team won the state’s first high school football championship title. It was one of the first very visible athletic successes in O’Gorman’s history, and set the tone for great traditions to come for O’Gorman’s teams. The success O’Gorman was experiencing on the field in high profile activities really helped demonstrate the true spirit of the O’Gorman community. It was a special time for the school, as faculty, students, parents and alumni rallied together to promote even greater expectations. With the number of nuns and priests decreasing in the early 1980’s, principal Tom Lorang and then-Bishop Paul Dudley


decided it would be best to have someone responsible full time for assuring the continuation and advancement of the faith development of the students and staff, and the position of a chaplain was created. Fr. Chuck Cimpl was assigned the chaplaincy. Fr. Chuck lived at the school for a number of years during the 1980’s and always made it a point to greet teams arriving late at night from road trips, and the maintenance man early in the mornings. He used to clean a different part of the building every night while he lived there. From scrubbing floors to counseling students and staff members, Fr. Chuck did whatever needed to be done and did it with great love and enthusiasm.

An increasing focus on Christian Service came during the 1980’s. O’Gorman students reached out to serve senior citizens, the homeless, kids with disabilities, and students in many elementary schools throughout the city. That focus on Christian Service continues today. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that South Dakota public schools could no longer loan textbooks to students attending private schools. O’Gorman had to go several weeks without books and eventually had to bid on the textbooks at a public school auction. Later, a constitutional amendment made it possible for students to borrow books from the public schools. In terms of academics, O’Gorman returned to a traditional schedule with eight periods per day. It also increased graduation requirements by four credits, from 18 to 22. Years later the requirements were increased yet again to 25. Also in the 1980’s, many advanced and advanced placement courses were offered, and comprehensive testing at the end of the semester was implemented. After a hard look at the curriculum, a number of less challenging courses were dropped. In the late 1980’s, the school began offering classes for college credit, and those were dramatically increased in the 1990’s and 2000’s. By 2010 there were a total of 55 college credits possible. The number of nuns teaching at the school declined from 18 in 1961 to five in 1987. By 2011 there was one. Because there were fewer nuns and priests teaching at O’Gorman, and because of the need to pay lay teachers salaries and benefits, tuition increased over the years from $90 in 1961 to $315 per student by 1974, $750 in 1983, $1,175 in 1987, and is about $3,900 in 2011.



In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, social time for the students changed pretty dramatically. For years, seniors had been allowed to spend their open class periods hanging in the lunch room or in the“Quad”(outdoor area by O wing). Time previously spent outside playing Frisbee or in the cafeteria playing cards changed to extra time in the library or study halls instead. Students averaged seven courses a day for all four years. In 1990, a new dress code was adopted. Girls were allowed to wear the traditional brown plaid skirt with any colored solid sweater, or a uniform brown or tan skirt with any color top, nylons, socks and dress shoes. During the colder months, they were allowed to wear solid colored white, tan, brown, grey or black slacks instead of the skirts. Boys were allowed to wear solid colored white, tan, brown, grey or black slacks, a shirt with a collar or a crewneck sweater, socks and dress shoes. Just a few years later, uniform skirts were made optional for the ladies instead of mandatory, and quickly became a thing of the past.

In 1991, O’Gorman became part of the larger Catholic school system in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls Catholic Schools was formed in cooperation with all the parishes of the city, which allowed the schools to coordinate curriculums, purchasing, library services, lunch programs, guidance services and other programs. The consolidation of the six schools was an effort to assure the strengthening of the schools and their strong existence far into the future. Because of the increased demand for more gym space, especially for girls athletics (which were not present when O’Gorman was founded), a secondary gym, the Recreation Center (now called the Avera Rec Center), was built onto O’Gorman in 1991. At the same time that addition was going up, air conditioning and new seats were put into the auditorium in 1991. At the same time that addition was going up, air conditioning and new seats were put into the auditorium.


In 1998, the building previously known as the Minor Seminary, and later the Diocesan Pastoral Center, became O’Gorman Junior High. The junior high students from both St. Mary’s and Cathedral were moved to the new school, and then­-Bishop Robert Carlson moved his offices into the vacated space at Cathedral. The junior high and high school areas were now known as the“O’Gorman campus”. McEneaney Field saw some nice improvements in 1998 including additional seating and a press box/ concession stand. Inside O’Gorman, the old G-1 classroom was converted into a new chapel, which was much more visible to students and guests than the old chapel, which was somewhat hidden behind the stage of the auditorium, and the main foyer got a facelift.


In the late 1990’s, the South Dakota state legislature voted to allow open enrollment, meaning that if a family desired the curriculum at a different school, they could transfer their children to another public school for no cost and state dollars would follow the students. This created a challenge for O’Gorman as students could now attend any public school, and the public schools began recruiting the students to obtain more state dollars. O’Gorman initially lost some students, but with an increased effort to market the Catholic schools, enrollment has increased. O†G Servic e Project Freshmen Unity Day

Freshmen Unity Da y



O’Gorman saw much change in the 2000’s as well and received many accolades. The school was once again honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. Even though a school can traditionally only receive this award once, O’Gorman received it again in 2005 after new, more stringent criteria were put into place through the Dept. of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act, which allowed O’Gorman to apply for the award again. O’Gorman is one of only three high schools in the entire state to ever receive that distinction and the only one to have received it twice.

Weighted grades were introduced as an option for students in the 2000’s, since many were already taking advanced placement courses. A large number of students were achieving 4.0 grade point averages, and colleges wanted to be able to quantify the students’ academic success more easily. The increasing rigor of many of the advanced courses became a basis for offering a weighted grade option. The 2011 graduating class had 46 students with a 4.0 grade point average or better, and an average ACT score of 26, with 40 students having an ACT score of 30 or better.

A new award was bestowed on O’Gorman for the first time in the 2000’s. Created by noted Catholic educational institutions, the “Catholic Honor Roll” honors the Top 50 Catholic High Schools in the nation for their Catholic identity, academic excellence and civic education. The award has been given in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008-2009 and 2010- 2011. O’Gorman is one of only three schools in the entire nation that has been named to the Catholic Honor Roll every year the award has been given.


By the mid-2000’s, O’Gorman students were more fully involved than ever in Christian Service, with one graduate saying, “Anyone can serve others. We serve in the name of Jesus Christ.” By the late 2000’s Christian Service hours were made a requirement for all students. “We try to teach our students that Christian Service isn’t just something you do. It’s a way of life,” says Sr. Kathryn Easley, Mission Coordinator for the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools. Thousands of hours of Christian Service are completed by O’Gorman students each year. By the 2000’s, there was not so much of a“uniform” at O’Gorman, but rather more of a “dress code”. Boys and girls were both allowed to wear khaki pants with polo shirts of any color and dress shoes. Hair styles were required to be natural looking (no strange colors) and only the ladies were allowed to wear earrings, and only in their ears. There was much excitement around O’Gorman in 2006 when the boys basketball team won its first ever state title, followed by a second title a year later. After years of people calling O’Gorman a“football school”, now 22

people were beginning to think of O’Gorman High School as a“basketball school”. There was no doubt when they won back-to-back titles again two years later, in 2010 and 2011, winning a total of four state titles in just six years. In 2003, a Strategic Planning process involving over 200 parents, pastors, educators, students and committee members concluded that some major decisions needed to be made in terms of the rapidly aging O’Gorman facility. The original furnaces (about 60 of them in total throughout the building) were almost 50 years old and needed to be replaced. Ventilation in the building was non-existent. Wiring was just as old and needed to be updated, and when the skylights were finally removed in the 1990’s, lighting throughout the building was inadequate. After several years of surveys and input from parents and

donors, the decision was made to tear down the two existing classroom wings and build three new two-story wings in their place. Fundraising began with a goal of raising $25 million to build new facilities. The Sioux Falls Catholic Schools received approval to raise money for the Performing Arts Center through the Chamber of Commerce Appeal effort, raising more than $2 million. The support of the overall “Building On Excellence” campaign by the Catholic schools and greater Sioux Falls community was overwhelming, with more than $50 million pledged for the capital project and endowments for tuition assistance and teachers’ salaries. Construction began in January of 2008 and the first wing, the “new G wing” was built. One by one, new wings went up, and old wings went down. Contractors and school officials worked diligently so that no classes would be affected by the construction, and students and staff easily adjusted to the sound of jackhammers and bulldozers outside. By mid-2008 the first new wing of the school and major improvements to McEneaney Field were completed, including a new eight lane track, artificial turf and a new video scoreboard. By 2009, new administrative offices and the new chapel were complete. In 2010, construction began on the new 1,000 seat Performing Arts Center.

Fifty years ago, Bishop Hoch shared his vision of a centralized high school for all of the city’s Catholic students. Parish families bought into that dream and helped raise the money necessary to build O’Gorman High School. Could they have imagined that 50 years later not only would boys and girls be taking classes together and finding incredible academic success while doing so, but that the school would see such extraordinary accomplishments in other areas as well? Could Bishop Hoch possibly have imagined the support of the Catholic families and parishes of the city, but also the greater Sioux Falls community as well? He would be proud to know that O’Gorman has become such an important part of a thriving and expanding city, and that our focus on community, faith and academic excellence has never been stronger.


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Celebrating 50 Years

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