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Catholic High School for Boys (CHS) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) has educated boys for three quarters of a century. Previous to the school’s inception, Subiaco Academy, a boarding school at Subiaco Abbey in Logan County, was the only secondary education option for Catholic boys, while Catholic girls have been attending Mount St. Mary Academy, operated by the Sisters of Mercy, since the 1850s. CHS was the diocese’s first inter-parochial high school, meaning that the school was to serve every parish in the Little Rock area, ensuring that Catholic boys could receive a quality, Catholic secondary education. CHS remains different from the other Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Little Rock, which encompasses the entirety of the state, given that it is not attached to a specific parish. With no affiliation with a specific parish or religious order, CHS’s first teachers were not brothers and sisters but rather were diocesan priests. Indeed, until the 1970s, CHS’s faculty was composed almost entirely of diocesan priests.
CHS opened in 1930 while the Great Depression was underway. The Diocese of Little Rock had already experienced one casualty: Little Rock College, which was located at 2500 N. Tyler Street, had fallen victim to hard times. But when St. John’s Seminary moved from its downtown location to the campus in Pulaski Heights vacated by the closed college, Bishop John Morris decided to fill the void on State Street with a new school, which, in 1961, would move to what is now the corner of University Avenue and Father Tribou Street. The school’s first principal and rector was Father John Healy, and his students that year numbered fifty-three, the first of the more than 7,500 who eventually graduated during the first seventy-five years.
In the 1950s, a Pennsylvania priest named Father George Tribou, whose name became synonymous in Little Rock with rigorous academics and strict discipline, came to CHS. A 1970 Arkansas Gazette article by reporter Bill Lewis stated that Catholic High was—in an era widely viewed as permissive—“almost an anachronism, an institution out of its time.” The article went on to say that the school’s promotion of spiritual formation, discipline, and high educational expectations nonetheless found a receptive audience in both parents and students. Tribou served as school’s rector and principal from September 3, 1966, until December 10, 2000.
Students at CHS have participated in an array of extracurricular activities throughout the years. Such activities have ranged from the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) unit, founded in the late 1960s by former governor Sidney McMath, to the Catholic High Band; from work on the yearbook or newspaper, to serving as a delegate to the Model United Nations, or as a participant in Governor’s School or Boys State. Athletics have also been prominent at CHS, which won two state football championships in the 1980s with Roy Davis at the helm, and two national championships for its physical fitness team, one with Colonel Jack Hennelly as coach, the other with Steve Wells guiding the team.
CHS counts many successful men among its graduates. Just a few of the CHS boys who have become cornerstones of the Catholic Church in Arkansas are monsignors Lawrence Frederick, long-time CHS rector, and Scott Friend, Diocese of Little Rock vocations director; Scott Marczuk, rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew; and David LeSieur. Serving in different capacities are CHS boys Jim Dailey, mayor of Little Rock; Stuart Thomas, Little Rock chief of police; Larry Jegley, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney; Brad Cazort, Little Rock City Board of Directors; French Hill, a member of former president George H. W. Bush’s administration; Paul Suskie, North Little Rock (Pulaski County) City Attorney; and Bill Halter, a member of President Bill Clinton’s administration who was elected lieutenant governor in 2006. Other notable graduates include John York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers; Stephen Jones, chief operating officer of the Dallas Cowboys; Bill Davis, a National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) team owner; actor Gil Gerard, best known as television’s Buck Rogers; and John Allen Nelson, a noted television actor.
On February 2, 2001, long-time principal Tribou died. Diocese of Little Rock Catholic Schools superintendent Dr. Michael Rockers took over as principal after Tribou’s death. After four years of leadership that saw technological updates and the hiring of new faculty, Rockers stepped down. Class of 1988 graduate Steve Straessle took the helm, overseeing a student body increase that has necessitated the hiring of additional teachers and an expansion of curriculum. In early 2017, the school completed work on a 30,000-square-foot, two-story annex housing classrooms, offices, and athletic facilities.
CHS has a nearly zero percent remediation rate, and every year, more than ninety-five percent of CHS graduating students continue their education at universities in Arkansas and across the United States, including such prestigious schools as Yale, Boston University, Stanford, and military academies. With the help of loyal alumni, CHS keeps tuition costs low and provides scholarships for needy students. Approximately seventy-five percent of the school’s students are Catholic, with the remainder coming from other religious traditions. As of 2017, CHS has an enrollment of more than 700 students.
For additional information:Catholic High School Alumni Association. http://www.rocketalumni.com/ (accessed January 9, 2014).
Catholic High School for Boys. http://www.lrchs.org/ (accessed January 9, 2014).
Hockle OSB, M. Henrietta. “Catholic Schools in Arkansas: A Historical Perspective, 1838–1977.” Ed.S. thesis, Arkansas State University, 1977.
Moran, Michael. Proudly We Speak Your Name: Forty-Four Years at Little Rock Catholic High School. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2009.
Michael J. Moran and Edward C. DodgeCatholic High School for Boys
Last Updated 1/25/2017
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