The Beginning

In the late 1940s, Tucson’s parochial grammar schools only had nine grades. The desire to build a Catholic high school for these students prompted the Diocese of Tucson to purchase a 40 acre parcel near the University of Arizona.

The Diocese broke ground on September 19, 1949 and began construction of Salpointe High School. The Most Rev. Daniel J. Gercke, Bishop of Tucson, laid the cornerstone and blessed the school, naming it for the first Bishop of Arizona, Most Rev. Jean Baptiste Salpointe (1825-1898).

Salpointe High School began in 1950 as a modest school consisting of the freshman patio and original cafeteria building, plus nine classrooms, a library and administrative offices. A back room next to the cafeteria housed a small locker room and showers for students taking physical education.

Salpointe’s first school year began on September 11, 1950, with 170 students consisting only of freshmen and sophomores. The faculty included Sisters of Saint Joseph, Mother Seton Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Principal Fr. Victor Stoner and Procurator Fr. Edward Carscallen.

Tuition was $10.00 a month. In the first school year, maroon and gold were chosen as the school colors and the Lancer became the school mascot. The first clubs to be established included Sodality, men’s and women’s Glee Clubs, as well as the Library, Science, Spanish and Latin Clubs. Students enjoyed P.E., league and interscholastic sports led by coach Larry Baroldy. 

The first stage production, Waltz Time, was a musical comedy presented to the public under the direction of Sister Catherine Louise, S.J.  The first issue of The Crusader newspaper was published on October 31, 1950. The May Crowning and rosary became long-standing Lancer tributes to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

List of 6 items.

  • Archbishop John Baptist Salpointe

    In 1860, Fr. Salpointe was assigned to the parish in Mora where he served for six years. His parish extended for 200 miles from north to south. Among his accomplishments at Mora was his success in persuading nuns and Christian Brothers to come to the parish to teach the young.

    On February 7, 1866 Fr. Salpointe arrived with two priests in Arizona; he was the newly appointed Vicar General of the Arizona Missions. At the time Arizona consisted of approximately 6000 settlers, half a dozen settlements and several mining camps. One priest was sent to Yuma and Fr. Salpointe and the other priest remained in Tucson. The two priests worked in Tucson, the principal town of the territory, and at nearby San Xavier del Bac, the mission founded by the Jesuits in the early eighteenth century. In 1868 Arizona was given the status of a Vicariate Apostolic by the Church and Fr. Salpointe was made its first Bishop.

    During the next 15 years, more priests came to help in Arizona as did the Sisters of Loretto, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Sisters of Mercy. The vicariate itself included a strip of Southern New Mexico and El Paso County in Texas.
    On February 19, 1885 Bishop Salpointe was appointed co-adjutor to Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe whom he succeeded to that position on July 18, 1885.   Archbishop Salpointe retired from that position on January 7, 1894.

    In his retirement, Archbishop Salpointe moved to Tucson and wrote a history of the Catholic Church in the Southwest, "Soldiers of the Cross." He died on Friday, July 15, 1898 and was buried in a tomb under the altar of St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson.

    Archbishop Salpointe was described by Odie B. Faulk the editor of "Salpointe", as one who:
    " ....made far greater contributions to the settlement and development of the Southwest than did the bloodthirsty gunfighters and killers who have received the spotlight of history far too frequently. He was a great man, a good man, a Godly man....."

    We hope all who are part of the Salpointe Catholic High School community are honored to be associated with a school named after this great, good, Godly, man.....

    Written by Fr. Simon Kenny, O.Carm., former Principal/President 1996-2000
    Born to eternal life October 31, 2005
  • The Carmelite Connection

    In the summer of 1952, Msgr. Francis Green, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, visited the Chancery office in Chicago, where he met Rev. Romaeus O’Brien, O. Carm. He mentioned that Bishop Daniel Gercke was thinking about asking a religious order to operate Salpointe. In the spring of 1953, Msgr. Green made a formal request that the Carmelites come to Tucson. Rev. Joseph Bonaventure Gilmore, O. Carm., Provincial Counselor, and Rev. Kenneth Moore, O. Carm., Assistant Provincial, met with Msgr. Green, Msgr. Don Hughes, president of the Salpointe School Board, and other pastors.

    Fr. Gilmore became the first Carmelite in the summer of 1953. In August, he wrote to Rev. Raphael Kieffer, O. Carm., Carmelite Provincial, asking that the two promised Carmelites arrive as soon as possible. The day school opened, Fr. Frank Florian McCarthy, O. Carm. and Fr. Carl Pfister, O. Carm. arrived from Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago. The original faculty consisted of three Carmelites, six Sisters of St. Joseph, three Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, two Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one Benedictine, as well as two laymen and one laywoman. On September 8, 1955, Bishop Gercke transferred ownership of the forty acres and buildings, then known as Salpointe High School, to the Carmelites for “$10.00 and other valuable considerations.”
  • The Corcoran Years

    Although there was some construction prior to 1954 and after 1966, the bulk of the campus was built between these years. This was due to the generosity of Mrs. Helena Corcoran with the support of her husband, John P. Corcoran.

    Mrs. Corcoran believed strongly in Catholic high school education and had a special love for students not bound for college. She wanted to provide them with skills to work in the business or industrial world. In January 1954, Mr. and Mrs. Corcoran invited Fr. Gilmore to their home to discuss their project.

    The plans for the Gercke School of Vocational Arts were completed November 1, 1954. Mr. Louis Bazetta, Director of Vocational Arts Education at Tucson High School, was very helpful in the initial planning of the new facility. Technical knowledge had to be supplemented with English, Math, History and other academic subjects, so additional classrooms were built. The student population grew from 480 to 1,000 young men and women practically overnight. A new and exciting world of educational opportunity was now available. In early December 1955, Fr. Gilmore was invited to spend the evening with Mr. and Mrs. Corcoran. Soon after his arrival, Mrs. Corcoran said, “I have some good advisors, Father, and they suggest that, as a Christmas present to the Carmelites, I offer to build their monastery for them.”

    In January 1956, Mr. Corcoran visited Fr. Gilmore at Salpointe to discuss the new monastery. He suggested a site more distant from the school in order to separate the house from school problems. In his wisdom, Mr. Corcoran also suggested “the walk between the school and monastery would be healthy for the fathers!” As construction proceeded on the monastery in the spring of 1956, work also began on the baseball field. Because of the slope of the terrain toward the intersection of Mountain and Glenn, dirt had to be brought to the property. Once leveled, turfed, and marked, the field was provided with bleachers by Mrs. Corcoran.

    The next project was the football stadium. It is true that students went out with buckets and bushel baskets before practice to pick up rocks that were part of the playing field. Topsoil was eventually purchased to cover the field, but only to a depth of six inches.
    Salpointe was struggling financially, but a contractor wanted to interest the public schools in concrete stadiums. To introduce this type of construction, he built the stadium at a cost of $50,000. Soon after, Rincon High School built a similar stadium for $200,000. Through a Salpointe parent, the stadium lights were purchased for $19,000. Impressed with the fundraising by faculty and parents, Mrs. Corcoran donated bleachers for the visitors’ side of the stadium. The facility was renamed Ed Doherty Stadium in 1991.

    Helena Corcoran, Salpointe’s friend and benefactor, died in the summer of 1963. To complete her dream, Mr. Corcoran began an extension of the Gercke Building in 1967. It would add the present English wing to the south and the art room, physics, biology and woodworking labs to the north. Finally, two more athletic facilities were provided: the track field and the softball diamond.

    Mrs. Corcoran’s love for young people went beyond the buildings and playing fields of Salpointe Catholic High School. On one occasion she revealed to Fr. Gilmore that she and Mr. Corcoran took time each evening to pray the Rosary while asking God’s blessings on the students of Salpointe.
  • 1970s and 1980s

    While the Gercke School of Vocational Arts was very important to Salpointe High School, other situations changed the thrust of education in Tucson. Until this time, not all Salpointe graduates continued their education in college. With the founding of Pima Community College, students realized that they could attend Pima College, and ultimately, if they did well, transfer to the University of Arizona. Although this situation was good for the students, it had an unintended effect on Salpointe. Fewer and fewer students opted to take vocational classes since college was now within reach of every Salpointe graduate.

    In 1987 Salpointe Catholic High School was certified by the Western Catholic Educational Association and accredited as Tucson’s first college preparatory school by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

    The North Central evaluation and accreditation in 1987 will be remembered as a significant milestone in the history of Salpointe Catholic High School. The North Central report inspired a strategic plan and review of current school facilities.
  • 1990s and 2000s

    The vision and generosity of one woman, Mrs. Helena S. Corcoran, made Salpointe Catholic High School a superior educational setting. Under the leadership of Fr. Leo McCarthy, O.Carm., Principal, and Mrs. Charlotte Harris, Development Director, signficant additions or renovations were made to an already exceptional campus: Corcoran Theater, Alumni Hall, Click Computer Center, O'Donnell Plaza, and DeConcini Library.

    The 1995-1996 academic year saw the addition of Brandsma Hall, a four-classroom building near the faculty parking area, and the resurfacing of the running track, now called the O'Rielly Track. The Henry J. and Rose C. McCarthy Multipurpose Building houses a strength/fitness center as well as band and wrestling rooms. In 1997, the buildings were wired for computer technology and major updates were made in computer capacities. In 2003 the newly remodeled north wing of the school was dedicated to Fr. Florian E. McCarthy, O. Carm., and housed state-of-the-art biology, physics and chemistry labs, a counseling center and conference room, a resource center and campus ministry offices.

    In 2007 the school made the commitment to bring cutting edge technology into every classroom. This goal was accomplished through the generous support of the Salpointe Catholic Education Foundation, which equipped every classroom and conference room with interactive whiteboards and projectors. Additionally, thanks to the generosity of a group of Lancer alumni and staff, Salpointe remodeled and rededicated the Chapel of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in the 400 wing in honor of the 800th anniversary of the Carmelite Order.
  • 2010s

    In 2007, the school adopted a Master Plan or PAD (Planned Area Development) approved by the City of Tucson. This PAD provided the blueprint for construction projects and building renovation for the next generation. The PAD effort, led by Fr. Fred Tillotson, O.Carm., President, Greg Aiken, Director of Operations, and Kay Sullivan, Director of Advancement, required the closure of the Cherry Street entrance and the utilization of a new entry from Glenn Street as the main entrance to the school. From 2010 to 2012 , Salpointe underwent near constant renovations from major construction projects to ongoing classroom refurbishment to recurring maintenance. Over the summer of 2012, the school remodeled the Glenn Street parking lot into a new, efficient and effective space that offers ample parking and a student drop-off area.

    On November 1, 2013, Salpointe broke ground on the Building Leaders and Legacy capital campaign, led by Kay Sullivan, President, Sr. Helen Timothy, IBVM, Principal, Greg Aiken, Director of Operations, and Mindae Kadous, Director of Advancement. This $12.5 M project, funded by generous donations, literally and figuratively moved Salpointe into a state of the art, collegiate level facility with corollary premier academic programming. The 25,000 sq ft. Sayre Stevens Student Center became the new heart of campus. The new student center included an 8,000 square foot gathering place, Foundation Hall, that serves the school’s students and employees for daily food services as well as monthly all-school masses, Homecoming/ Sal’s Diner and daily large scale events and gatherings. Also located within the Sayre Stevens Student Center are the Jim and Vicki Click Family Library and Technology Center, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Chapel, Salpointe Spirit Store, and O’Rielly Student Services Center, which houses the counseling department, admissions and the deans’ offices.

    Building Leaders and Legacy also created and constructed the Cracchiolo Family Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center, offering the triplex Innovation Center, Fabrication Lab and Biotechnology Lab. This 10,000 square foot facility took the place of the 500 wing DeConcini Library. The senior patio was renovated into the new Herb, Diana and Madison ‘17 Kai Family STEM patio. The patio plays host to senior lockers as well as a solar array that powers STEM projects and a DNA double helix-shaped agricultural area which is cultivated by a collaborative STEM group project. Additionally, the campaign created the J. Michael Geddes Family Athletic Complex, including the new Nancy Roy Softball field, updated baseball field and renovated track and field facilities.

    January 5, 2015 marked the official dedication of the Sayre Stevens Student Center, named in honor of major donors Sharon Sayre ‘80 and Jeff Stevens in tribute to Sharon’s parents, JoAnn and Jerry Sayre. This beautiful facility was met with praise and acclaim from students, faculty, donors and the Tucson community. This “heart of the campus” is now the cornerstone of Salpointe Catholic and part of what sets the school apart from other college-prep and private institutions not only in Tucson but in Southern Arizona.

    In the summer of 2016, classroom renovations continued along with the creation of the new Fr. John Malley, O.Carm., Kindness Patio in the sophomore patio.

    In 2018, Salpointe continued to meet the needs of its Lancer students and the Tucson community by initiating the $10M ASPIRE: Arts Academics Athletics capital project. This initiative, led by Kay Sullivan, President, Ernie Duarte, CFO/COO, and Jennifer Harris, Director of Advancement, created the synergistic Stearns Center for the Arts. This new center houses Pocono music, Clements dance, Foundation choir and Lopez 2D and 3D art studios, as well as a significantly renovated and expanded Corcoran Theater. The Stevens Strength and Conditioning Center doubled the size of the weight room; Kalil Gym and Alumni Hall were air conditioned; lighting to the softball, baseball and track fields were added; and four classrooms were renovated to create six new learning spaces.

Salpointe Catholic High School

1545 E. Copper St.,
Tucson, AZ 85719
(520) 327-6581
Attendance: (520) 327-1990
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