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The Quad

125 Year Anniversary

Surviving an earthquake, being founded before both the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of Atherton, and experiencing both World War I and II are accomplishments in the storied history of Sacred Heart. This 2023-24 year is meant to celebrate the incredible 125 years since Sacred Heart’s founding.

The first Sacred Heart School in California was established in San Francisco, on August 16, 1887. Operating out of the San Francisco school location, a RSCJ nun, Mother O’Meara began plans for creating another Sacred Heart location on the Peninsula. In 1894, 40 acres of land were successfully purchased in Menlo Park. Three years later in 1897, construction of the Main Building commenced. The school opened a year later after the Main Building was completed, initially hosting 23 students. Five acres would be donated to the Society of the Sacred Heart, which was used to create St. Joseph’s, a grammar school.

Disaster struck in 1906, as an earthquake caused heavy damage to the Main Building, collapsing several pillars and damaging the attic. The rubble dislodged from the building is still on Sacred Heart’s campus by Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. Luckily, the students and nuns were able to find shelter at St. Joseph’s while the damage was repaired.

Years later, after surviving World War One, the Sacred Heart Society made plans to start a college. Their attempt was successful, and, nine years later in 1930, the college was established in San Francisco, where it became the San Francisco College for Women. 

After the conclusion of World War Two, Sacred Heart’s campus rapidly grew and changed. In 1954, the school built a swimming pool, two tennis courts, and a new St. Joseph’s location was established in response to rising application rates. The next addition was the Morey Building, which accommodated the preschool and grades one through four of the elementary system. In the 1960s, the Sigall Building, Multi-Purpose Building, and Science Building at St. Joseph’s were completed. The end of the 1960s marked the merge between St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart Elementary School.

Oakwood was established in the early 1970s, to house retired members of the RSCJ. The Art Corridor and Parlor soon followed Oakwood, being donated a year later in 1972. The next most notable developments started in the 1980s. The first Sacred Heart Auction was held, where the school raised 76,000 dollars. Shortly after, the school hosted a Capital Campaign, which resulted in a school sports center. In 1983, the school announced the closure of the boarding program, along with the admission of boys to the school. Following this announcement, the school’s name was changed to Sacred Heart Preparatory and the first male students were admitted. The end of the century marked the school’s 100 year celebration.

The 21st century saw several changes to the school. The Performing Arts Center (PAC) was added to the school in 2004. In 2010, St. Joseph’s was merged with Sacred Heart, the Morey Building was destroyed, the athletic fields were refurbished, and the baseball fields were moved. Following the merge, the Sacred Heart Lower and Middle schools were established. Years later, in 2018, the outdated Sigall Building was demolished and was replaced by the William V. Campbell Building in 2019.

Sacred Heart has had an extremely long journey to become the school we are now. Knowing the nuanced history of Sacred Heart makes the celebration even more meaningful. Each milestone the school celebrates is meticulously planned and thought out, ensuring that the community properly honors the incredible history of our school. 

Leading the celebratory plans are Ms. Lauren Whittam, Chief Advancement Officer, and Ms. Sarah Abuel-Saud, Advancement Communications & Special Projects Associate. The goal of the 125 year celebration, as stated by Ms. Whittam, “is to infuse celebration and a nod to our tradition and our history throughout the year. We really wanted everyone who comes onto our campus throughout the course of this year to know that we’re celebrating this special year and we’re really proud of it.” The anniversary will include a series of events throughout the full year, with the intent of personally involving each part of the community, to “meet people where they are.” New banners, a school mass, and a middle school trivia event have already taken place as part of the celebration. When asked about community engagement, Ms. Abuel-Saud said “We wanted to make sure that this celebration hits everybody, something that everybody has a way to contribute to or be involved in.”

Involving the RSCJ in the celebration is a top priority because they have played the most important role in Sacred Heart’s history, having created and run Sacred Heart for much of its history. Creating a prayer is one way the school is working with the RSCJ. Ms. Whittam elaborated that “we wanted to make sure that we had a prayer that our RSCJ had a hand in crafting. We want to write a prayer that is celebrated, that is a blessing for this year.” 

The school intends to create a celebration that honors RSCJ members’ physical contributions to the campus and history, but also the principles they defined. When asked why the principles of our school matter, Ms. Whittam explained that “the goals and criteria will continue to be a guiding light for this campus. I hope you know that in 125 years, those goals and criteria will still be special.” The anniversary is not only a celebration of how long the original criteria have lasted, but how long they will hopefully proceed. Ms. Abuel-Saud compared the goals and criteria to a lighthouse, crucial in guiding the school’s development and journey throughout the years. The values Sacred Heart preaches to its students have followed alumni throughout their lives. Ms. Abuel-Saud, a Sacred Heart alum described them as a “kind of guiding light. The foundational principles that I have, align very much with the goals and criteria of Sacred Heart.” 

Celebrating the history of the school also means celebrating the alumni. The school will host an alumni day, along with an alumni parent night in September. The intentions behind the alumni night are to remind the community that, “every past parent, every past student, every current student, everyone is part of Sacred Heart’s legacy.” When asked why the anniversary is significant, Ms. Whittam responded by saying “It’s really significant to think that alums from this campus still have a place to go back to. There are so many people you’ll meet, who may not have that opportunity to go back to a place that was influential in their lives. We know some other schools even locally have had to close, therefore I think it’s incredibly special that we can invite alumni of so many different decades back to campus, and there are still parts of campus that speak to their experience and speak to their memory. I think that’s truly a gift.” The year long celebration of 125 years will involve all parts of the community, to commemorate the incredible history and guiding values of the school.

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