“In the Beginning – The Founding of Immaculata Academy”
On the belief that man is a creature composed of body and of soul, created by God to know, love, and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the life to come, the Sisters of St. Joseph founded Immaculata Academy with fervent consideration to the Catholic philosophy based on the writings of the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church. In order to comply with Catholic Principles of education, Immaculata Academy assigned a definitive place to religious instruction and moral training for the aim of developing knowledge, appreciation, skills, and habits that would prepare the student to be a practical member of society.
On September 1st, 1958 Immaculata Academy was officially inaugurated by Archbishop Hurley and Rev. Mother Anna Maria, SSJ, and named “Immaculata” to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of her Immaculate Conception. Immaculata Academy admitted 138 students into its 10th through 12th grades, and Sr. Marie De Lourdes, SSJ, took the helm as principal. The next day, September 2nd , Immaculata Academy, with 153 students, opened its doors for the first time. And though only three classrooms were ready and the rest of the school was still under construction, classes were held on half-day sessions. Even the lunches had to be served in a large classroom on the first floor because the cafetorium had not been completed yet. In spit of this, a few weeks later, full-day classes began.
At the same time that this new Catholic secondary institution was starting, the Diocese of Miami was carved out of the Diocese of St. Augustine because the city’s population had grown. Rev. Coleman F. Carroll was appointed bishop of the new diocese and brought with him the Ivan Mestrovic’s sculpture, The Pieta, which had been given to him as a gift. The Pieta was placed in front of the Immaculata classroom building facing Biscayne Bay.
A school year later, on June 4th, 1959 Immaculata held its first commencement ceremony at the Church of the Little Flower and presented twenty-six students with their diplomas. When the new school year opened on September 8th , pupils now comprised Immaculata.
It was then that Judith McClesky, Immaculata Class of 1959, composed the words for the Immaculata Alma Mater.
IMMACULATA ALMA MATER
Our voices ring, Immaculata
With your glory and your praise
And your standards, alma mater
E’er will guide our faltering ways.
Cherished years of friendships true
Always lead our thoughts to you
While we live beneath thy glory
Immaculata we’ll be true.
Our voices sing Immaculata
Sheltered ‘neath thy white and gold
Until death, dear Alma Mater
Our loyalty and love you hold.
By June 3rd, 1960 the graduating class had doubled to forty-nine seniors and Immaculata celebrated its second commencement ceremony at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. But a few days into the following school year Hurricane Donna, one of the strongest hurricanes of all time, struck South Florida and Immaculata Academy was pummeled by 128 mile-an-hour winds and eleven- to thirteen-foot waves from Biscayne Bay. The school closed for cleanup but opened a few days later.
November 14, 1960 was a memorable day in the school’s history. The Immaculata student body marched to Rickenbacker Causeway and greeted President-elect John F. Kennedy while he was en-route to visit Vice President Richard Nixon on Key Biscayne.
Seventy-two Immaculata Academy seniors received their diplomas from Bishop Carroll on June 3rd 1961 at the Church of the Little Flower, and on September 4th Immaculata began its fourth school year continuing its track of academic and spiritual success with almost 500 students and twenty faculty members.
Contributed by: Nancye Foye-Cox, c/o 1964; The Forward of the 1965 Yearbook
Edited by: Federico N. Padovan, c/o 2003
“De La Salle: A Journey from France to Cuba to Miami”
Almost sixty years prior, in order to avoid persecution in France, seventy Christian Brothers of La Salle were sent to Canada and fourteen were chosen to continue on to Cuba which had recently gained its independence from Spain. They arrived in Havana on September 10, 1905 and were very well received by the President of the Republic and the Bishop of Havana. They immediately opened two new schools in Havana.
Over the next 56 years, the Christian Brothers of La Salle became the most important Catholic teaching order in Cuba, with one university and 23 schools throughout the island. Admittance was made possible to all children regardless of income, status or race by having the wealthier students pay higher tuitions so that the poorest of the student body would not have to pay. The Brothers had built a solid reputation providing the highest quality of education.
However, by 1959, the Communist Revolution brought disastrous consequences to all citizens of the island. Students were forced to join the militia, and on May 1st, 1961 the dictatorship decreed the nationalization of all private schools. The communist regime nationalized 350 schools and confiscated all the properties. Churches were closed, and the Christian Brothers, along side priests and nuns, were expelled from the island.
Five Christian Brothers chose to remain in Cuba because of age or ill health, but 109 Christian Brothers arrived in Miami on May 25, 1961, on a Pan American Airways airplane chartered by the Scoppeta-Arca family. Thousands of the Brothers’ former students, who had preceded their flight to the United States, were waiting to greet them at Miami International Airport.
A few days later, six of these former students visited the Christian Brothers at the Everglades Hotel and resolved to assist the Brothers in establishing a school in Miami. Eduardo Arellano, Jose M. Arellano, Benny Benach, Oscar Bustillo, Eduardo Sanchez, and Nestor Machado asked the community for help raising funds and gathering clothing for the Christian Brothers. They met with Bishop Coleman Carroll and Father Bryan Walsh and asked that they help fund a school for the Christian Brothers. They agreed and action came promptly and swiftly. The school was built in less than three months on the grounds of Immaculata Academy. In late September 1961, La Salle High School opened its doors to 260 students under the leadership of its first principal, Brother Benjamin Roque.
- Contributed by Jose M. Arellano
“When Two Become One: Immaculata-La Salle”
At the end of that ’61-’62 school year, graduates from Immaculata and from La Salle celebrated their commencements together. On May 31st , eighty-five Immaculata seniors and thirty La Salle seniors graduated at the Church of the Little Flower. Every one of La Salle’s first graduates moved on to colleges and universities.
The ’62-’63 school year brought changes. La Salle High School was placed under the direction of the Christian Brothers of the Baltimore District with, Brother Patrick Ellis, FSC, as principal, and La Salle, along with Immaculata Academy, formed a co-institutional school, Immaculata-La Salle, which shared facilities under Rev. Claude Brubaker as its first supervising principal.
The La Salle Royals football team played their first game against Florida Air Academy from Melbourne, FL and Florida Air Academy won that game 6 - 0.
On June 2nd 1963, Immaculata and La Salle graduated 126 and 58 seniors respectively at the Church of the Little Flower. The next school year saw an enrollment of 615 students at Immaculata-La Salle. This also marked the year that Signum yearbook was established.
In 1964, the graduates of Christopher Columbus High school joined the graduates of Immaculata and of La Salle for commencement at the Miami Beach Auditorium. This graduation marks the last time Immaculata and La Salle seniors wear different class rings.
The metamorphosis of Immaculata-La Salle from small, specialized academies to a co-institutional complex was accomplished primarily through the vision and energy of Fr. Claude E. Brubaker. From the moment of his appointment as Supervising Principal, Fr. Claude insisted that ILS pursue a vigorous course of competition and achievement in both athletic and scholastic arenas. During his administration, the school’s physical plant also expanded with the construction of the practice football field, field house, science building and business building. But it was not only the campus grounds that displayed the spirit of continuous growth; its greatest reflection was seen on the enthusiastic faces of the entire student body.
Immacualta-La Salle was not the only entity experiencing a surge of growth. The community surrounding it was as well. In 1967, Miami Auxiliary Bishop Augustín A. Román spearheaded the establishment of the million-dollar shrine to Cuba’s patron, Our Lady of Charity, on Biscayne Bay immediately adjacent to Immaculata Academy.
And then on May 8, 1968, Pope Paul VI elevated the Diocese of Miami to an archdiocese. The Miami Province was created and included the dioceses of St. Augustine, St. Petersburg and Orlando. Miami was named Province metropolitan and boundaries were realigned to include eight counties. In Miami, the Catholic population totaled 400,000 in eighty-five parishes served by 300 priests.
All these changes brought even more change to Immaculata and La Salle.
In 1970, the Archdiocese of Miami officially merged Immaculata Academy and LaSalle High School into Immaculata-LaSalle High School. And come November 1971, the land between Immaculata and Mercy Hospital was allocated by Archbishop Carroll for the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. To make room for the Shrine, the Pieta sculpture was removed from the Immaculata seawall on May 24, 1972 and moved to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in North Dade.
Regardless of what was going on around them, life on campus remained engaged in educational endeavors. In September of that year, the Political Science Club organized an event that attracted the local news media. Students invited the current and future mayors of Miami-Dade County, Stephen B. Clark and John B. Orr, and were treated to a vigorous debate.
January 1974 saw the departure of the Christian Brothers from Immacualta - La Salle High School.
Prestige came in 1975, however, by way of the Catholic School Press Association awarding Immaculata – La Salle’s newspaper second place for the All-Catholic newspaper Award. This award established the eight year old Royal Courier as the best Catholic school paper in the city.
In June 1980, Sister Elizabeth Worley, SSJ, was the last of the Sisters of St. Joseph to leave Immaculata-LaSalle High School.
“Gone but Not Forgotten”
The last yearbook to display the name Immaculata – La Salle was the 1981 – 1982 yearbook titled “The Royal Family Album.” The administration of the early ‘80’s decided to drop the name Immaculata from the school’s name, leaving it simply as La Salle High School. The reason for the change was attributed to the lengthiness of the combined schools’ names.
On March 7th, 1983, the Pieta sculpture was moved from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery to the new Archdiocese of Miami Pastoral Center’s Garden of Memories, where it remains to this day.
This year also marked the beginning of the Encounter Towards Christ (E.T.C.) retreat and program, which still takes place on campus biannually.
Despite the continuing changes, the forward of the ’84-’85 yearbook showed that the unchanging spirit of the school was still embodied by the student body: “Many years from now, when we shall no longer be a part of the La Salle community, we will have the memories of meaningful moments. For La Salle is not the buildings, the classrooms, nor the classes we have taken, it is more like a special affinity and warmth in our hearts. We shall reflect on that which is spiritual and embodied in the love and friendship encountered during our high school years. We will recapture the kindness of a stranger, the dedication of a teacher, the spirit of a class, and the intimacy of a true friend. Hand in hand with these retrospectives we can move on.”
The 1984-1985 school year also marked the departure of principal, Rosemary Kamke.
It was then that La Salle received its current administration. In June of 1985, the Salesians of St. John Bosco assumed leadership of La Salle High School’s administration under the direction of Rev. Frank Wolfram, SDB.
The Salesians are a worldwide organization founded by St. John Bosco and the third largest Catholic religious order in the world. Don Bosco gathered a number of priests and lay people to found a religious congregation in the Catholic Church. He called this congregation the Salesian Society. It was named after St. Francis de Sales who was known for his kind and gentle manner, a trait which Don Bosco wanted his Salesians to acquire. He also chose Mary, Help of Christans, as the patroness of the Salesian Society.
Since that time, a large spiritual family has grown out of Don Bosco’s experience. Numerous groups look to him as a spiritual father as they try to spread the Gospel throughout the world and to his approach in new initiatives for the educating of the young. All the groups within Don Bosco’s spiritual Family share his educational method, popularly called "the preventive system". More than a system, it is a lifestyle, an educational approach, a pastoral method, and a spiritual heritage. Significantly, Don Bosco’s example and educational methods have inspired a Gospel lifestyle which leads to holiness of life, as witnessed in the lives of saints who had embraced Don Bosco's experience and made it their own.
On September 10th, 1987 Pope John Paul II arrived in Miami, as the first stop on his 10-day American tour, and met with President Ronald Reagan at Villa Vizcaya, giving La Salle students a couple of unexpected days off from school when the Secret Service decided the campus needed to be cleared because of its proximity to the meeting.
Excerpt from the 1990 Yearbook
“The senior class had made great strides, both academically and spiritually. We have come a very long way from separatism and apathy to unification and pride in ourselves and our fellow classmates. Our class has proven that old stereotypes can be put to rest, and a new image, a better image can be created.
We are a very diverse group in every sense of the word. We have many students in our class that come from different parts of the world such as Europe, South America, and some even from Asia. One of our greatest strengths is the very diversity that gives us the privilege of having such unique and original people in our class. But it is not to say that only foreign students are interesting. We are all unique and one of a kind, yet we are all bound together in one brotherhood, as children of God!”
On August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, resulting in 15 deaths, more than 250,000 temporary homeless, and $20 billion in damages. An additional 25 lives were lost indirectly. The most costly natural disaster to have occurred in the country up to that time, Andrew struck due east, south of Miami, very near Homestead, Kendall, and Cutler Ridge. Hardly any part of South Florida was unaffected and recovery took years.
“Remember how our real SENIOR YEAR started out? Not so Hot! Hurricane Andrew fell upon us on August 24th, 1992. Lord, what a mess! The devastation was unbelievable. Remember what the school looked like? Blown-out windows, debris all over the campus … even a cabin cruiser sat in our parking lot, roofs torn and needing replacement, portables weakened so they must be removed … Amazingly enough, we all helped out in a any way we would at a time when doing anything to return our lives to “normal” seemed like an insurmountable task.”
-- 1993 Yearbook
The same year that Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, La Salle welcomed three more Salesian Sisters to its faculty.
On December 20th, 1994 John Clement Favalora was installed as the 3rd and current Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Miami.
The Don Bosco Arena, otherwise known as “The Lion’s Den,” was completed on March 21, 1995, giving the school its first and long-awaited gymnasium. For a time, La Salle shared the facility with The Miami Heat players, who used it as their practice facility.
During the 1995 school year, the Salesian Sisters took over the administration of La Salle high school.
The Salesian Sisters were founded by St. John Bosco and St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello. Don Bosco's dream was to teach the young practical life skills and to nurture their hearts with the experience of God's love. For over twenty years he worked only with boys. Then Mary, in one of his dreams, made it clear that girls "were her children too". It was at that point that the Holy Spirit brought Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello together.
Her presence and work with the girls in her town resonated in many striking ways with his work for boys. But above and beyond the work itself, Don Bosco was deeply impressed by the selfless dedication that motivated her. From this spirit-filled encounter, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians were born.
The 1997 – 1998 school year marked the end of a 12- year hiatus for football. The La Salle Royals returned to the gridiron when football was reinstated as part of the competitive athletic offerings on campus.
In 2002, the first La Salle High School Alumni Association was formed, and on April 24th, 2004 its charter members were inducted into the Hall of Fame: 1964 classmate Antonia “Toni” Williams-Gary and former ILS faculty members Sister Mary Josepha Butterfield, SSJ, Brother Malachy Broderick, FSC, and Brother Antonio Ramon, FSC.
The 2005 Hurricane season devastated the La Salle campus. It suffered extensive damage and the school’s cafeteria needed to be re-constructed. A tent was installed on the school property and used as the cafeteria until the cafeteria’s re-construction was completed. The recovery efforts were hastened by the assistance of students, faculty, and alumni in the clean-up process.
After many conversations, e-mails and meetings with Immaculata alumni, current La Salle principal Sister Patricia Roche officially solicited support from Immaculata-La Salle alumni and the Archbishop to restore Immaculata to the name of the high school.
After receiving an official blessing from Archbishop Favalora, Sr. Pat proudly announced the restoration of the Immaculata-La Salle High School name at the start of the school year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of Immaculata.
As alumni, students, administration, faculty, staff – stakeholders all - we are proud of our roots and of our history, even as we are propelled into the future, where it is with excitement and trust that we await more history to be made. May that history continue to be rich in friendship and in faith.
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