Four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs) travel by steamer from Carondelet, Missouri, to St. Paul, Minn. They arrive in St. Paul on Nov. 3, 1851 and about two weeks later open a school in the vestry of a log chapel to teach children of Catholic families and Native American children.
Under the administration of Sister Agnes Veronica Williams, CSJ, the CSJs open the Academy of Holy Angels on Oct. 2, 1877 on the feast of Holy Angels as a day school for girls in the Merritt House (“the white convent”) on Third Street North near Immaculate Conception Church in Minneapolis. Sister St. John Ireland, CSJ, is the first directress. The school later moves to the Ankeny home (“the brown convent”) and the Skyles house (“the grey convent”).
The Academy of Holy Angels moves to the Bassett property on Fourth Street North. Holy Angels is both a boarding school as well as a day school for grade school and high school girls.
Holy Angels is outgrowing its structure. A new high school, St. Margaret's Academy, opens on Thirteenth Street. The Holy Angels high school merges with St. Margaret's. Holy Angels retains its boarding and day school for grade school girls.
"The Bassett's Place” building and location are deemed no longer suitable for a school, and the Academy of Holy Angels closes its doors with the dream of building a new school. The building on the Bassett property is demolished in 1928.
On Sept. 15, 1931, during a record-breaking heat wave of 104 degrees, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet open a new Academy of Holy Angels with 107 students in grades 1-12 on its current site at 66th Street and Nicollet Avenue, Richfield. Built during the Depression in the midst of cornfields, the construction cost is about $600,000. Sister Eugenia Maginnis, CSJ, is principal. The new school, hailed as “one of the most attractive educational institutions in the Middle West,” features English Gothic architecture, oil heat, a fan ventilation system and a loudspeaker in every room. The St. John the Evangelist Chapel is dedicated on Sept. 29, 1931. Holy Angels has both a day school and a boarding school, and 182 girls are enrolled by the end of the school year. The resident students come from Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. Tuition is $40 for grades 1-8 and $50 for grades 9-12. Boarders pay $185 for a double room and $245 for a single room.
Holy Angels is formally accredited on May 2, 1932. Enrollment is 225 the first day and grows to 265 by the end of the school year. The 13 girls in the first graduation class wear white formals and carry long-stemmed roses. The tradition of carrying roses at graduation is still in place today.
The white cap and gown worn at graduation is the start of another tradition.
The Holy Angels Alumnae Association is established by Sister Laurent, CSJ.
The Holy Angels elementary school (K-8) closes when St. Peter's Church establishes a grade school adjacent to Holy Angels.
Tuition is $165 for day students; for boarders it is $500 a year for a double room and $600 a year for a single room.
Holy Angels closes its boarding school and remains a day high school.
The Mary Medal is established to be presented to the woman in the graduating class best exemplifying the qualities of Christian life.
The Academy of Holy Angels becomes coeducational, serving students in grades 9-12. There are 84 freshmen boys, 38 sophomore boys and six junior boys.
The St. Thomas Moore Medal is established to be given to a senior man exemplifying the qualities of Christian life. The first co-educational class graduates with 10 men who wear red rose boutonnières at graduation, the start of a new tradition.
The girls basketball team wins the first Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) basketball tournament.
The first four-year, co-ed class graduates.
The Sisters of St. Joseph turn governance of the school over to a lay board of directors but maintain ownership of the school. They rent the building to the Academy for $1 a year. A new gymnasium is constructed.
The science rooms are renovated.
A middle school is established. Holy Angels also establishes a theater school. From 1931, there has been a drama studio and drama classes connected with theater productions. The first drama teacher was Sister Charitas Farr, CSJ. Holy Angels wins a star rating in the state one-act play festival, the highest rating possible, and goes on to win the rating again in 1993, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
The boy's golf team wins the state tournament Class A.
Enrollment is 583 high school students. A donor provides a complete telephone system with Internet capacity and telephone service for each classroom and office. The Science Department begins its initiative to include science technology in AHA classrooms.
Holy Angels begins its Writing Across the Curriculum program. To enhance the campus and revenues, Holy Angels builds the StarDome, a $2 million, year-round athletic facility. The complex includes bleachers, a concession building and a playing field for Holy Angels sports and activities.
Holy Angels offers its first Advanced Placement (AP) class. Students who score well on AP exams can earn college credit. The Academic Letter is established for students who earn high honors for one academic year. Enrollment surpasses 650 students.
Holy Angels is named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. Holy Angels expands classroom space by 15 percent through renovation, including a visual arts wing, and creates technology labs and other technology areas. The first Campus Ministry Team (CMT) is held. The Service Letter is established for students who volunteer. AHA's middle school closes. The boys golf team Class A wins the state tournament in 1998 and 1999.
Holy Angels expands the Commons and renovates the courtyard.
AHA is the first private school to receive an Ethics in Curriculum Award from the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation and also earns the Archdiocesan John Ireland Award for service programs. The Holy Angels Theater School’s Starlight Productions is one of 17 U.S. high schools invited to participate in The Fringe Theater Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The girls softball team Class AA wins the state championship. The Academy replaces 979 windows throughout the building.
The Academy celebrates the refurbishment and re-dedication of the St. John the Evangelist Chapel and the addition of a greenhouse, donated by the AHA Community Association, to provide further capacities to AHA's science program.
The NCEA ACRE (Assessment of Catechesis Religious Education) begins with the ninth grade class. ACRE measures student growth in the areas of profession of faith, liturgy and sacraments, morality and prayer. The boys hockey team Class AA wins the state championship.
Holy Angels purchases the school's campus from its founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, at a substantial discount. Holy Angels also builds and dedicates a new 70,000-square-foot addition that includes a Convocation Center and classrooms. The Academy launches a $5 million campaign to help fund the new addition and the purchase of the land. ACRE scores increase significantly from the previous year, rising to levels above the national average. The girls soccer team Class A wins the state championship. The competition cheerleading team is also state champion and goes on to win the championship again in 2004 and 2005.
Enrollment reaches 850 students.
Holy Angels offers nine Advanced Placement (AP) classes in the sciences, English, social studies, math, world language, biology, ethics and theology. ACT scores increase from 23.6 in 2002 to 24.6 in 2005. Three AHA students are named National Merit Finalists and 10 are named Merit Commended Scholars. The number of letters, certificates and chevrons awarded to students for service increase dramatically as do the hours of community service performed by students. The girls hockey Class A and boys hockey Class AA teams win the state championship (the first time in Minnesota that the boys and girls hockey champions are from the same school).
Today, Holy Angels serves 850 students from throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Holy Angels offers 12 Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
AHA celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 22 and 23, 2007. Events included a coffee house on Friday evening, June 22, and a full day of festivities on Saturday, June 23, beginning with Mass on the front lawn and closing with class reunions that evening.
In the fall of 2007 AHA introduced Project Laptop, a one-to-one computing program. In its first phase, all students in grade 9 were equipped with laptop computers, and laptops were an integral part of the core curriculum.
During the 2007-08 school year, AHA launched its Faith in Action program designed to incorporate service and spirituality into the entire activities program and into the academic curriculum as well. Theology Department Chair Michal Kautzman was named Director of Faith Formation.
In the fall of 2008, AHA President Jill Reilly received a Leading with Faith award from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Catholic Spirit.
In the spring of 2009, AHA earned a Minnesota Quality Award from the Minnesota Council for Quality. The award is based on the national Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award assessment process.
Through consultation with the Top 20 organization, AHA develops the AHA Way program to intentionally create a caring, welcoming, inclusive, and respectful school environment. Students, parents and staff commit to be part of the solution, help others and ourselves succeed, communicate you matter and honor the absent.
In April 2010, Holy Angels was the only school named for a site visit during the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) convention in Minneapolis. Educators from around the nation visited Holy Angels to see its Project Laptop program in action. AHA's Project Laptop program was featured in a story in the NCEA journal Momentum.
AHA President Jill Reilly announced her plans to retire effective July, 2011, and Tom Shipley was named as AHA's new president.
AHA introduced a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) diploma program allowing students to earn a STEM diploma by enrolling in a rigorous curriculum of science and math courses, participating in related extra-curriculars, and pursuing shadowing and internship opportunities in science, math and engineering fields.
AHA updates its student technology program and issues Chromebooks to all students in grades 9-12. Powered by G suite and other web and chrome-based tools, AHA's 1:1 student devices empower students to communicate, collaborate, create and critically think.
The AHA Way program is honored as the MISF 2017 Program award.
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Ryan LaMere is an AHA alum from the class of 1999.