Alumni to bid goodbye to old North Catholic High School

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For Donald P. Graham, a resident of Adams and a lawyer in Cranberry, North Catholic High School is more than his alma mater.

A 1975 graduate and a basketball standout, Mr. Graham is a North Catholic basketball coach who has served on the school’s board of trustees and has been active in its alumni association.

He is the son of basketball and football coach Donald R. Graham, and the younger brother of star athlete Michael Graham. He was named last fall to the school’s Hall of Fame; and he has been a major fundraiser and contributor to the school in its new incarnation in Cranberry as the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.

In honor of his father and brother, the athletics facilities will bear their names. Both died in 2009.

The final day of classes on June 10 for the 75-year-old building on Troy Hill marked a pivotal moment, not only imbued with bittersweet memories but also with hope for a vibrant future at an institution that will continue in an invigorated way. The doors open for 2014-15 on the new $72 million building 20 miles north in Butler County.

“I don’t think anybody who went there is happy that the school has had to relocate. But the reality of the demographics of where children live today, and particularly where Catholic children live today, made it necessary to move north,” Mr. Graham said.

He is one of more than 14,000 students to have graduated from North Catholic, said Leslie Stofko, events director for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, the school’s new name. The school had been all-male until fall of 1973.

Ms. Stofko said the closing of the Troy Hill location “meant a lot to people” and has prompted an event for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 1400 Troy Hill Road. “Remembering our proud past and looking forward to a bright future” is the theme for the event, which is open to all former North Catholic students, she added.

“Do you remember where your locker was freshman year? Where did you sit in the cafeteria? How about where your favorite class was held and who was your favorite teacher? Now, it is time to say our goodbyes to the school at the top of Troy Hill.” That is the open invitation that has been posted on Facebook, class reunion sites and the school’s website.

Mr. Graham said he thinks it’s an opportunity to bring a sense of closure for graduates.

Bill Ryan of Marshall, owner of Point Spring and Driveshaft Co. on Neville Island, said he is working hard to shift his schedule around to accommodate the event. A 1971 graduate, he has raised five sons, all of whom are graduates of North Catholic, beginning in 1995 and ending in 2006. He has served on the board of trustees and been a part of the alumni association for years.

“This is a pivotal time in the history of North Catholic,” he said. “I’ve had my feet in both places. I went there and my closest friends from high school are still my closest friends now. I’ve been involved in getting the new school off the ground. This event is a chance to connect with the old as we move to the new.”

Ms. Stofko said the event will include a display of memorabilia, a chance to purchase and review old yearbooks, an opportunity to be part of a recorded video of visitors and their thoughts on their alma mater, and refreshments.

North Catholic was founded in 1939 by the Society of Mary, or Marianists. By 2012, more than 14,000 students had graduated from the school, but a demographic shift had affected enrollment, which had dwindled to about 200 in recent years. Mr. Graham’s graduating class had 225 students.

In spring 2012, plans were solidified to build a new high school, which was named in honor of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., former bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. 

The new building will contain elements of the old school when it opens in the fall. Statues and stained-glass windows will be incorporated into the chapel; and trophies, photos and artifacts will be displayed in cases and within the hall of fame. A heritage room will be in the library.

There are no plans yet on what will become of the Troy Hill building.

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or at 724-772-9180.

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