Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Panda Brief

 In the fall of 1975 the school community was looking for a mascot for their teams and for general spirit.  Sr. M. Virginia Ann, principal, called for a contest.  One sophomore, Bev Rosing, went all out in her search for a suitable candidate.  When she looked at all her stuffed animals on her bed she ended up writing an entry with the name of each animal.  Among them was her panda and when she wrote the name she underlined the last three letters—nda.  History was in the making at that moment.  A few days later in the hall Bev was congratulated by one of the Sisters, but she didn’t know if that meant her suggestion had been accepted.  When the student body was assembled for the announcement, she was pretty sure her “panda” entry was going to win and her hunch was correct.  The whole NDA community was enthusiastic from the start with this clever choice.
30 years passed and many things changed.  When the bookstore gave way to a sports-wear shop, the two women who operated it, Cathy Stevens and her helper Mary Jo Wickelhaus, thought a new name was called for.  Several possible names surfaced between them, so they put them to the students to choose.  The students’ choice is now part of Panda History—Bambootique.  How  appropriate!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Trees of Our Lives

Pictured here is one of the recent additions to the Hilton Dr. campus. It’s a tree nursery.  

Strange? Not at all.  With bad winter weather and various tree-killing bugs in the last several years, the total campus (Heights and NDA) has lost nearly 50 trees.  The sign on the enclosure makes the joint effort clear.  Several people from both communities are engaged in the endeavor as well as a number of outsiders interested in reforestation.  This fall may see more transplanting of young trees, but these babies won’t be in the running.  They will need a few more years in the nursery before “going to school” or convent.

Here’s what Mr. Joseph Gray of NDA faculty has to say in the Panda Press Newsletter:
“We are developing a long-range plan to reforest the Heights and Notre Dame Academy properties and to develop an educational program to create an “arboretum” styled somewhat after the arboretum in Boone County on Camp Ernst road.”

This is part of the pursuit of quality in the environment that is inherent in SND and NDA heritage.  Our physical environment determines so much in our lives and demands our attention and respect.   That’s all it takes to be valued by us here at 1699 Hilton Dr. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fifty Years and Holding

Well, our big day, October 29th, came and went into our 50+ year history last week.  It was quite a program celebrating 50 Years on Hilton Drive, not long, but full of nostalgia on the part of graduates attending and interest on the part of all attending including students. The general feeling of contentment and cheer was palpable.  The service consisted of greetings from our president Sr. M. Lynette Shelton, and principal Dr. Laura Koehl, and a brief prayer of thanksgiving and request for continued blessings from two student representatives.  Graduates were invited to tell of their coming to Hilton Drive on that fateful day of October 29th, 1963.  Several grads responded and the students listened with wrapped attention.  This, one got the impression, was part of the students’ in-tuneness with the significance of the event.  We have tried to instill in them a sense of the school’s history and what that means to them—educational roots, sense of pride in their someday alma mater, and a feeling of belonging to this place and these people.  One of the last pieces of the day’s assembly was the invitation to the faculty and staff alums to stand together and sing the school song which we gladly and proudly did—about 15 of us.   One more milestone in what we hope will be a long history with all that it will mean to us and to future generations of young women.  As we say at our athletic events, “Go, Pandas!”


In the top photo above, the person on the right is Dr. Laura Koehl, our first lay principal.  The fifth person from the left in the black suit is Sr. M. Lynette Shelton, our president.  Of course you don't need to be introduced to the attire in the bottom picture unless you are a fairly new comer to our fair school's history.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Did You Help? Help Blogger!

Well, we’re at it again, but this time we’d like to hear from you.  If you attended NDA between the years 1962 to 1965, stir the memory and let us in on it.  Blogger would like to share your recollections of the last days on Fifth Street, the move to Hilton Drive, and what those first days and months were like.  Keep your memories down to about 200 words (yes, you could probably go on and on) and email them to with the heading “Memories”.

To get you started, here are a few from Sr. Mary Bernadette (now Lea) whose recollections are from the other side of the experience. 

When the Sisters were planning what they needed and wanted in the new school, they visited a number of schools to get ideas.  In one they saw a floor vacuum system and it went on the need list.  Remember the floor vac?  If you cleaned erasers you probably do.

Very little rain fell all summer the first year here, but when it came it did so with a vengeance.  Water rushed down the west-side basement door (below the steps leading to the auditorium—remember?), carrying straw which clogged the drain outside the door so that the water broke the glass in the door and flooded the basement.  The maintenance men had to raise the pianos in the choral room and practice rooms while the Sisters and others swept water out of the art department.

Speaking of art department, the windows were installed upside-down so that they couldn’t be locked, while lights fell in the kitchen.  Hmm.

Sister told of much more, but this may give your memory a good jogging.  Do let’s hear from you!

Here are a few photos from the summer of 1963.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dream Reality, No Finality (Ever)

50 years ago?  Too young to remember?  Well, these photos may help fill in the gaps created by the accounts you may have heard.  First, the extent of the ’63 construction is best shown from above.  Notice the absence of a gym and a theater with its parking lot, as well as a soccer field, ball field, and tennis courts.  All these things were hardly at the dream stage as yet (unless you’re talking about the dreams of Sr. Mary Agnetis).

The second photo, a side-long view of the back of the building, shows garages at the east end.  Replacing them eventually will be the windows of the advancement office that won’t appear until the summer of 2007.  This photo was taken not long after the construction of the building when the Art Dept. porch did not have its metal awning yet (below the kitchen windows).

The third photo gives you a glimpse of what the folks across the express way saw from their back yard in that momentous year as well as for several years thereafter until renovation fever and fervor hit.

Ah, yes.  The Hilton Drive queen has aged some, but has taken on many adornments that have kept her modish and a leader in her class.  May she ever be so.

Friday, August 16, 2013

All Aboard for Hilton Drive

Our train was getting ready to leave the station by mid ’59 when Sister M. Agnetis wrote the following and last entry in her journal of the new building journey that she kept from February, 1955 (the time of appraisal of the property on Fifth Street) to June 1, 1959.  By that date, much had developed in approvals gained and support voiced for building a new home for Notre Dame Academy.

June 1, 1959
“That’s as far as it is now.  But we feel it is good news.  We also have evidence that publicity about our school here on Fifth Street has been projected more and more in the spotlight of our civic community.  The “climate” for our public is growing richer by the day.  Last Spring, one of our Faculty members, Sister Mary Maxine, was assigned to build up improved public relations for our school by more publicity in the local newspapers.  Sister has been most successful, and we know that this preliminary publicity is already setting our big project in motion.”

The sense that Sister had for best advancement practices places her ahead of her times.  It will be many years before the school has an office and personnel dedicated to such an endeavor.  Sister Mary Agnetis was a teacher of historic proportions indeed.

Included here is a photo of a photocopy of part of that last entry by Sister.  It’s a good ad for retaining cursive writing which can look this artistic under a steady hand and strong purpose, more impressive given Sister. M. Agnetis’s 80 years.  Notice the distinctive flourishes and the floating letters.  Style!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Beginnings of Farewell

Probably a fire drill--exiting from west entrance.

As you may have read here before, the Sisters of Notre Dame have kept annals of their institutions and activities for over a century.  The early ones are sketchy, but by the time we reach the 1940s, they become much more detailed and helpful for our purposes.  Below are two entries that shed light on the final months at the 5th Street location.


“If it is true that great events cast their shadows before, then the marshaling of events and progress of our new academy foreshadow that the year 1963 will see our removal into our long-dreamed-of New structure on the Provincial House acreage, in Park Hills, Covington.  Here at our old Academy, memories hold us back, while the inexorable touch of wear-and-tear urges us to look forward to new, modern school and cloister.  We are now labeling many activities ”our last”: Our last Christmas (just past), our last Forty Hours’ Devotion, our last feastday observances, and so on.  Sometimes we live in the archives of memory; sometimes, in the dawn of a bright future; but most regularly we are pulled into the very important present tense with its joys, problem, and promises.  We thank our Dear Lord for this year 1963 open before us.  What will its pages record?  He knows.”

It isn’t known anymore who wrote that entry—there were several good writers among the Sisters on the faculty, but it is certainly poetic.  It’s striking also that the year 1963 had a few other and broader history-changing events—the election of Pope Paul VI and the assassination of John Kennedy.  They are a reminder that what significantly affects any institution very often lies far beyond its portals.

In the Music House.

An April entry gives us a peek at one of the many fund-raising events taking place during this period:

“The Card Party is one of the annual fund-raising activities of the Alumnae Association.  It is held at St. Joseph Heights.  Despite a heavy downpour, a great crowd poured in—a rewarding sight for the hard-worked committee members.  The activity netted $1453.99 toward the Chapel Fund, which is the alumnae’s building project. 
“Other social activities which are intended to bring the alumnae members together are various class reunions, a summer dance, and the formal Blue Grass Ball.  The Board also reaches more than 2300 members through the Alumnae Newsletter.”

Sounds like women on a mission here.  And indeed they were; with a mailing list this large, the Alumnae Assoc. created many donors for the new academy over the years just prior to 1963 as well as thereafter.  

Final photo: Gavel production.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Once Upon a Time...

Below are the entries in the Chronology of Notre Dame Academy 
compiled by the archivist.

July 4th: Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld, Germany arrive in the United States and procede to Cleveland, Ohio.  The bishop of Covington had requested a few sisters; he is Bishop Toebbe, the brother of Sr. M. Modesta. 

Aug. 13th: Upon arrival in Covington, the two sisters sent from Cleveland  are welcomed by the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis (now FSP) at St. Elizabeth Hospital  on 11th Street.  At some later date, the pastor of Mother of God’s rents a house for the Sisters on Montgomery Steet in Covington.

Aug. 15th: The Sisters begin teaching at Mother of God School on 6th St. in Covington, replacing the Benedictine Srs.. 

July 12: 80’ x 190’piece of property on 5th. Street between Madison Ave and Montgomery Street in Covington, Kentucky, is purchased by the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Construction of a four story building begins immediately with the following designations:
basement: Sisters’dining rm., kitchen, supply rm., laundry; 
1st floor: classrooms;
2nd floor: chapel, sacristy, parlor, study hall;
3rd floor: dorm and dining room for borders;
4th floor: large dorm for Sisters, linen room.
                            (All this was contained in the central section of the building as it was generally photographed or drawn,.  East and west wings will be added later.)  N.B. No elevators.


July 26th: (feast of St. Ann) dedication of the new building.  Bishop Toebbe and Sr. M. Aloysia (foundress of the S.N.D.s) are present as well as Sr. M. Modesta, the sister of Bishop Toebbe.

Sept.:  Classes begin for kindergarten, grade school, and commercial students numbering 60 in all in the new 5th Street building.  Sisters are in residence there also.

Jan. 25: Bishop Maes is installed.

Sisters purchase two houses to the west of the academy building, the one right next to the school for the sisters, and the next for classrooms. The property of the second purchase had been the site of the first Catholic Church—St. Mary’s—in Covington from 1834 to 1854.

Srs. purchase house to the east for classrooms.  (Annals of SNDs state that it was remodeled to match the main building. )

Sept. 17th: Chapel cornerstone is laid and construction is underway. 

Feb. 24th:  Chapel is completed and dedicated to Our Lady of Perpedual Help.  Her image is above the main altar.

Total enrollment (kindergarten, grade school and commercial school) reaches 270.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Word Magnate To Hotel Magnate, Come In

If you knew Sr. Mary Agnetis, you are aware that she was born with a golden tongue to say nothing of a golden pen.  One might also think she had more than a passing brush with the Blarney Stone.  Today blogger will fulfill a promise made months ago that you would get a little peek at her correspondence with Conrad Hilton.  Chosen for this entry is part of her very first letter to the storied magnate, March 1, 1955, and his response. 

My dear Mr. Hilton,

      How do you do, Mr. Hilton.  It’s nice seeing you personally in your own office in the Town House.  My name is Sister Mary Agnes [Sister’s nom de plume when writing to Hilton], a teacher of teenage girls in Covington, Kentucky.  I’ve met you on two different occasions, Mr. Hilton: the first time, on Monday, September 26, when you met your admirers with your kindly satisfied Hiltonian Smile from the cover of Newsweek—Texas to Instanbul, The World’s No. 1 host.  What a magnificent record behind that heartwarming title…  Mr. Hilton, Do you have time to reminisce a bit?  Do take the time.  It’s relaxing.  And God knows you need a little relaxation.  Remember the day you strode into the lobby of the Mobly Hotel in Cisco, Texas?  How men, haggard with strain were pounding on the reservation desk demanding rooms with none to be had?  How someone said you, ‘No use waiting around here, Mister, there just won’t be any room’?  You saw the problem, Mr. Hilton, found the solution and solved it admirably.”

Well, we can see where she was going with this, and perhaps he did too.  Sister went on for two plus more pages describing the situation/condition at Fifth Street.  Now for a glimpse at Hilton’s reply dated March 9, 1955.

Dear Sister Mary Agnes:

I received your very interesting letter of March 1st and I assure you that I did not look around for the wastebasket when I read your letter.  As a matter of fact, I have read it several times and I congratulate you on your talent.  I think that I would be willing to employ you, either as a salesman or a writer.

He went on to tell her that her request will be honored (no specifics, of course) but not at the moment.  He enumerated some of the building projects that he had done or was in the process of funding for other religious communities of women, besides assisting people across the world.  Not a day passed when he did not get a request for monetary assistance.  She was not to think of his letter as a refusal, but as indication of a delay.  In the end, Conrad Hilton responded to Agnesian charm with a very generous one third of the total price tag on the Hilton Drive construction of 1962-63.  Naming the driveway to the building is not only the least that the academy could have done, but stands as a metaphor—we couldn’t have gotten to the new building when we did without Conrad Hilton’s generosity.

It is to be noted that this correspondence was no momentary phase that lasted only as long as was necessary.  It endured for ten years and fills two large loose-leaf binders, one of the many treasures in Notre Dame Academy’s Archives.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Repair to the Attic

NDA archivist Sr. M. Dolores likes to say that she is the keeper of the attic, reflecting the idea that people keep old treasures, as well as things they don’t know what to do with but don’t want to toss, in their attics.  This problem is solved in an institution by establishing an archives.  NDA’s formal archives’ beginning dates to the summer of 2007 and currently contains over 600 artifacts and files.  What on earth does it contain?  Certainly all is on earth, especially the earth of 5th Street West and the earth of 1699 Hilton Dr..  Our most treasured items include the bound Gavel collection dating from 1926 to 1954; a diploma from 1918; 34” roundels—round paintings—of the Evangelists from the ceiling of the old academy chapel before it was renovated; a collection of class rings (see blog entry of Dec. 5, 2012); the correspondence between Sr. M. Agnetis and Conrad Hilton (over 70 letters and cards written between 1952 and 1965); plus many more.

The photos you see give an idea of how large the collection is (you’re seeing only about a third of it) and a little of the variety.  The first photo is of the oldest diploma we have; the second shows the publications collection and the boxes on the left containing the old uniforms; the third is of the documents collection in boxes with category markings.  Interesting stuff, interesting work preceded by many years of careful safe-keeping of these items by such people as Sr. M. Agnetis, Sr. M. Jeaneen, and several alumnae and development directors.  The task in 2007 was to collect, sort, arrange, and contain the critical mass.  Today the work of collecting goes on with the help of Alumnae and Advancement folks, graduates who want to see their treasures valued and in safe keeping, and others who want to lend a hand.  Within the past year we received from Barry Aldemeyer the “Multiple Listing Service Report” from the 1950s stating the value of the 5th Street and Montgomery Street properties.  This proved to be a good companion piece to the Complete Appraisal Report, Land and Building Construction from the MacConnell & Co. Appraisal Engineers, a document that suddenly surfaced right here at home.  The Muses are still with us.

If the gracious reader is an alum of this venerable institution and feels inclined to entrust treasures from her years at Notre Dame to us, the archivist will receive them with gratitude and respect. 

Oops!  The last blog spot was no cliff hanger, but just in case you are of the younger set:  photo #1 is Sr. M. Rachel (Marlene); photo #2--Sr. M. Virginia Ann (now in Paradise); photo #3--Sr. M. Ethel (Lynn); photo #4--Sr. M. Paul Ann; photo #5--Sr. M. Lynette; photo #6--Sr. M. Dolores (Padraic).  Now you know!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Not (much) the Worse for Wear

Currently there are five Sisters of Notre Dame at Notre Dame Academy in either faculty or staff.  All five are alums of this esteemed institution, carrying on the legacy left by so many SNDs who preceded them or who worked with them.  There are six photos in this blog spot, five of the current SNDs and one who sort of graduated three times from NDA and finally moved to Paradise.  You will probably be able to identify each (they “haven’t changed a bit”), so here they are in random order.  In a few days blogger will break the news and identify them, but no surprises are guaranteed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Long Live Home Economics Class!

It is difficult to know who began the  duotang binder entitled "Memories of Home Economics Class." It contains  photos from 1931 to 1958 related to home economics (called variously in our records dressmaking, cooking, home-making or home economics). There were a number of teachers who could have contributed during those years. The first recorded in the Sisters' Annals was a Mrs. Dorothy Colburn, followed by Sr. Mary Richard.  Though Mrs. Colburn left after a few years, she seems to have returned to the scene in 1933, and with her appeared Miss Terlau who remained after Mrs. C. left the following year.  However, Miss T. is last mentioned in 1935.  Her departure brought Sr. M. Mirella to the home ec. lab teaching cooking.  In 1936, Sister was joined in the dressmaking endeavor by Miss Virginia Ehrenfels. Was dressmaking a particular challenge?  Mrs J. F. Schulte appeared as the new dressmaking teacher in the record in 1937 while Sr. M. Mirella hung in with cooking and sewing.   Mrs. Schulte left in June of ’38 and was followed in the next school year by Sr. M. Verda, whom some readers will remember. In her first year teaching, having graduated from the academy herself in 1934, Sr. M. Verda taught the sewing end of Home Ec. while Sr. M. Mirella held down the cooking.  This arrangement lasted until the fall of 1945 at which time the latter left the academy for a few years and was replaced by Sr. M. Annata, perhaps another familiar name.  The two Sisters worked in the department teaching home-making, cooking and sewing for several years.  Sr. M. Verda served as chairperson of the department until the spring of 1994 at which time she retired.  Sr. M. Annata had retired several years prior to '94.

It’s impossible to know now what happened to the lay women who taught in the home economics department, but the Misses could have left to get married—a more than probable reason in the 1930s—while one imagines that Mrs. Colburn and Mrs. Schulte were widows who may have retired from the teaching scene.

The evidence for the time period for the binder is the years handily noted for several photos—the first 1931 and the last 1958.  The photos, many large, fill about 40 pages and show students at work or modeling their products.  There are several photos that give a good idea of what the labs at 5th Street looked like, fairly spacious with equipment that was standard at the time. 

All in all, blogger considers the artifact quite a treasure from an often overlooked department, certainly so in today’s high schools.  Lucky the school that has a flourishing home ec. program where students can learn the art of graceful survival in a world of pre-made everything.  NDA still has vestiges of the classical home economics department in its textile arts class.  Long live “the art of graceful survival in a world of pre-made everything.”