Cheer, cheer for old Central High,
Let to the winds her banners will fly,
Send a volley from on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small,
Old Central High will win over all,
While her loyal sons and daughters
March on to victory…Rah! Rah! Rah!
We love you, Alma Mater,
We always will be true,
With Mary ever guarding
Your doors with mantle blue.
We’re thankful for your light so bright
That helps us on our way.
Your spirit leads us onward
With banners red and gray.
We’ll cherish you forever
And love you Central High.
All praise to you, our Mother,
We love you, Central High.
We, the students of Central Catholic High,
Dedicate this week’s game to thee,
Our Lady Queen of Victory.
We beg thee to take our team under thy protection,
Shield us from all spiritual and physical harm,
And if it be for God’s greater honor and yours,
Oh Queen of the Most Holy Rosary,
Please grant us a victory!
Central Catholic High School evolved from the old St. Francis de Sales High School on Superior Street in 1914, to Cathedral High School on Collingwood in 1915, to the school we know today as Central Catholic High School in 1920. The idea of a centrally located Catholic high school was a new idea in the United States. Bishop Joseph Schrembs, parish priests, parents, and parishioners saw the advantage of having one large, centrally located high school rather than 25 small high schools scattered around the city. We credit the visionary actions of these leaders in the founding of Central Catholic High School. Reverend Francis J. Macelwane — 1920-21: In September, 1920, Central Catholic opened its doors in the Old Science Building of Toledo University to 380 students and a faculty composed of three priests and ten sisters from three different orders. The 15-room, four-story building on Page and Cherry Streets was just a 15-minute walk from the heart of the city. The school offered a two-year commercial program and a four-year college preparatory program. The school yearbook was the Centripetal, the school’s paper, The Owl.
Athletics were important, and the hardy young “Fighting Irish” practiced at nearby fields and gyms before their own were available. Centralites were immediately loyal to their school; the Central Catholic Alumni Organization started in January, 1921, and held its first alumni dance that year in April. Father Macelwane was known as an efficient principal, an able teacher, and a true friend to every student. According to Sister Mary Dominic, OSU, “Father Macelwane put the spirit of Central Catholic to work and it hasn’t quit yet.”
Reverend A.J. Sawkins — 1921-25 : Central Catholic’s enrollment grew to 500 students its second year, and to accommodate a freshman class of 300, morning and afternoon sessions were established. Additional classroom space was utilized as quickly as it was found. During these years, the parents and Catholic community started the movement to build a new school. In September, 1923, students initiated a continuous novena for a new building that was kept up during summer and school vacations. After construction began, a novena of thanksgiving continued. A “Buy a Brick for 10 Cents” drive was started to raise funds. Reverend A. J. Sawkins introduced the demerit system and expanded the curriculum, which numbered eight by 1924: classical, scientific, teaching, and nursing were regarded as college prep; drafting, art, home economics, and commercial were vocational. A lost football game between the Fighting Irish and Woodward changed the school colors from blue and white to the distinctive scarlet and gray, and The Owl changed to The Centric. Friday assemblies began in 1922, Student Council was organized in 1923, and the Monogram Club saluted scholastic excellence, but Father Sawkins’ crowning achievement was the building that houses Central Catholic today.
Reverend Raymond G. Kirsch — 1925-41: On March 5, 1928, Bishop Samuel Stritch turned the first spadeful of dirt on the Curtis property, located between Austin and Mettler Streets, for the new Central Catholic High School. Over 5,000 people attended the dedication ceremony, and more than 20,000 visited for its first open house. It was an exciting time for the Reverend Raymond G. Kirsch, who spearheaded and guided the construction of the four-story 50-room building. A member of the first faculty, he was an integral part of the progress of the school. It was during his administration that the fund drive for $1 million exceeded its goal by $115,542, to erect the building we know today.
The depression of the 1930s brought hard times, and Father Kirsch struggled to keep the dream of the Toledo Catholic community alive. He started a festival to keep the doors of Central Catholic open, and instituted a registration fee. Enrollment was up and down; it was during this time that a financial aid program was started. Father Kirsch continued to develop the academic program, and in 1938 Central Catholic was accredited by the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, an honor the school still holds today. The sports programs flourished; the Fighting Irish won football city championships in 1928 and 1935, and basketball city championships in 1934, 1937, and 1939, and finished second in the state in 1941. Central Catholic began its musical tradition with “Peggy from Paris” and the formation of one of the largest high school marching bands in the country.
Monsignor John L. Harrington — 1941-68: Bishop Karl J. Alter appointed Father John L. Harrington as principal in 1941, and for the next 27 years Monsignor Harrington guided the Fighting Irish through many of its proudest moments. Monsignor Harrington had the ability to bring out the best in student, faculty, administration, athletes, and coaches, and Central Catholic enjoyed many outstanding leaders during this period. Seven curriculums were available: academic, scientific, commercial, art, drafting, household arts, and teaching; and with careful selection, any one could be made college prep. With a student body numbering up to 2,200, the Mettler Wing in 1949 was a necessary addition, and the Harrington Gym in 1966 gave additional room to an expanding athletic program. The athletic teams were winners, garnering numerous city, district, and sectional titles, and playing for several state championship titles in various sports, culminating in the state football championship in the 1962-63 season. The music department blossomed under the able baton of Mr. Gerald DePrisco, with the orchestra growing to record numbers. The 1949 Centripetal said it well: “As students of Central Catholic High, we hold him in highest esteem.”
Reverend James Steinle — 1968-73: Following in the giant footsteps of the beloved Monsignor John Harrington, Reverend James Steinle found himself faced with tuition increases, an aging building, and students who wanted immediate changes. His competence, enthusiasm, and dedication led him through these turbulent years of societal changes and financial upheaval and allowed him to meet these situations head on. Father Steinle felt students should play a role in organizing the school, picturing himself as
coordinator. He instituted a Black Culture week, the Music Building was rejuvenated, and the Music Program flourished. Athletic teams continued to win championships, with the girls’ program coming on especially strong under the direction of Miss Fran Krompak. Central Catholic won the Irish Knight, baseball and wrestling teams dominated their divisions, and the Fighting Irish basketball team earned the number one computer rating in the state. The first lay assistant principal, Mr. Richard Beres, was appointed. The family spirit was never more evident. As stated in the 1972 Centripetal: “Our classrooms were turning into meeting places instead of battlegrounds. Both students and teachers learned. They realized they needed each other if Central Catholic was to make it through this year.”
Reverend John A. Thomas — 1973-76: The Reverend John A. Thomas, known as a financial genius, had the distinct honor of being the first Central Catholic graduate (’54) to lead his Alma Mater as principal. He immediately went to work on the budget, and sent the Glee Club “on the road” to inform parishes of the benefits of a Central Catholic education. Father Thomas started many traditions that are important today, including the March to Cathedral and Senior Honors Assembly He expanded the community service program and purchased computers for the Math Department. He sought the advice of the new Board of Trustees and Athletic Board that he started. When students walked out in 1974, Father Thomas opened lines of communication between students, faculty, and the administration. In 1976, Fran Krompak was proclaimed the winningest girls’ coach in Ohio, and The Sound of Music broke box office records.
Reverend Martin Donnelly — 1976-87: Another son of Central Catholic (’56), Father Martin Donnelly used his outgoing personality to maintain open communication among administrators, faculty, and students. He was an active participant in all school activities. An expanded recruitment program increased enrollment, and a new spirit and pride renewed the school. The windows, and the heating and ventilating systems were updated, and science labs renovated. Central Catholic continued moving into the technology age with the Catherine A. Schubert Computer room. Father Donnelly initiated the Parish Parent Representative Program, reinstated the Parish Support Program, and instituted prepaid tuition. Through his development efforts he began the Burger King Tuition Assistance Program, and revamped the public relations, development, and alumni office. Father Donnelly was appointed Pastor and President, and Michael Smith became our first lay principal. Boys and girls soccer was added to the sports program, and the Irish Knight was finding a home on Cherry Street.The football team and the girls basketball team played in their state championships. The Center Stage troupe and musical such as “Oliver” and the exciting ENCORE: Our Golden Show of Shows kept music flowing in the halls. Through his dedication and enthusiasm the traditions of Central Catholic flourished.
Reverend Michael Billian — 1987-1999: Father Michael Billian has seen the school progress in a number of areas. Christ the King Chapel was renovated in 1987, national recognition for Drug Education Awareness came in 1989, and the prestigious “School of Excellence” Award from the U.S. Department of Education was received in 1991. Central Catholic remains the only Catholic school in Ohio to receive both awards. Jack Altenburger was appointed the second lay principal in 1993. “Shaping the Future Through Leadership in Education” was begun in 1992 with three main goals: campus development, academic enhancement, and construction of an activity and convocation center. Ten acquired acres doubled the size of the campus, a new 350-car lighted lot provided needed parking space, a drop-off loop in front of the school streamlined traffic flow, and Shillelagh Field, behind the school, began to see softball action. The Honors and Advanced Placement Programs expanded, three new computer labs added more computers, and “Project 100′′ for academically challenged students gave hope. Thanks to many generous donors, ground was broken for the Sullivan Activity and Convocation Center on May 11, 1996. The class of 1998 was first to graduate in the Sullivan Center. In the fall of 1998, the Gallagher Athletic Complex opened. The Gallagher Complex hosts a number of sports, from being a practice field to being a game field.
Reverend Gregory Hite — 1999-2004: Father Gregory Hite came to Central Catholic in 1999, succeeding Father Billian as pastor and president. During his years the Central Catholic atmosphere grew in the “Irish Spirit” as the school moved foward into the new millennium. Father Hite put a lot of his time and energy into the development of the Millennium Fund, the campaign to grow the endowment funds in support of student tuition assistance and faculty and staff support. Fr. Hite also emphasized the spiritual side of the school, working hard to teach the message of Christ and instill in the students and staff an appreciation of the mission of the Catholic Church. Father Hite said that during his tenure his major challenge was to find ways to make a quality Catholic education affordable, as well as maintaining staff compensation at a competitive level. “Central Catholic has served generations of students in these halls and classrooms,” he said. “We wish to faithfully serve generations to come.” Fr. Hite was a very friendly, enthusiastic pastor of Central Catholic High School, preferring to roam the halls and interact with the students rather than staying behind his desk. He knew most students and all faculty and staff members by name, and he projected a genuine concern for each and every person he met. As he said, “The care and attention of our individual students, their needs and their concerns, are why Central Catholic exists.” Fr. Hite was named pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish in south Toledo in the spring of 2004.
Fr. Dennis Hartigan, President – 2004-2013: Fr. Hartigan came to CCHS from Lima Central Catholic High School, where he served as pastor and president for six years. He grew up in Kearny, New Jersey and attended the public schools there. He went into the seminary in New Jersey, graduated from a college in 1974 and was sent to the Dominican Republic to teach for two years. When he came back to the United States, he studied at Josephenum College and then finished his theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati. He was ordained at Rosary Cathedral in 1980. In May 2004, he recieved his PhD in education from the University of Dayton. “Central Catholic to me has always been considered the flagship of the Toledo Diocesan schools, so in my mind it was always a school that had a great reputation,” Fr. Hartigan said. “It has to be, without a doubt, the best Catholic school in Toledo. My hope is to continue on with the proud tradition that’s here. The thing that really strikes me is the dedication of the whole staff. Everybody I talk to is just so willing to pitch in.” During Fr. Hartigan’s tenure the Fighting Irish football team won the 2005 Division II State Championship. Fr. Hartigan was instrumental in securing a donation from Charles Gallagher ’56 and Diane (Bertling) Gallagher ’58 toward completion of the Gallagher Athletic Complex. Central Catholic is the only area Catholic high school to host its home football games. Fr. Hartigan was also involved in the introduction of One Connected Community, a program designed to provide each incoming freshman student with a laptop computer. The goal of the program is to help teachers and students maximize and enhance their educational experience and ensure that all students are prepared for the digital world of today and tomorrow. In early 2009, Central Catholic became the first high school in Northwest Ohio and the first Catholic high school in the entire state to be named an International Baccalaureate World School.