The Xaverian Brothers founded St. John's in 1907 and their spirit burns as brightly now as it did a century ago. It is their commitment to faith, service, and brotherhood that continues to inspire our mission today.
We hope you will enjoy this brief history of St. John's, from our earliest days to our dynamic present.
And when you visit the Prep, stop in Xavier Hall to explore the stunning photo mural museum of Prep history that was created to celebrate our Centennial year.
In 1891, the Xaverian Brothers purchased the Jacob Spring family estate, a beautiful property that included 100 acres and three buildings, for $19,500. At this time, the Brothers began St. John's Normal College for young men aspiring to become members of the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier. Built in 1880 by Jacob Spring and pictured above, Porphyry Hall now serves as the Administration Building. The Xaverian Brothers purchased the Spring estate in 1891 and established St. John's Normal College the same year. The school shifted its mission to the secondary level and St. John's Prep opened on September 10, 1907.
In 1907 Brother Benjamin, with seven fellow Xaverian Brothers, founded St. John's Preparatory College for young men. The vision was simple: "the full and harmonious development of all the faculties that are distinctive of a person recognizing that learning is an instrument of education, not its end."
According to records, the Headmaster-Principal leadership model that serves us well today has been in effect from the start. While Brother Benjamin guided the administrative finances and construction projects, Brother Thomas conducted St. John's toward a path of academic excellence.
Brother Benjamin's building program began in the fall of 1907, with construction of a wood frame gymnasium, which housed the basketball team until the early 1950s. In 1908, the chapel was added to the rear of the Administration Building. To keep pace with school growth, Xavier Hall was built 1910-1911. It housed 16 classrooms, a library and reading room, a study hall, and an assembly hall, as well as 50 private rooms and a dormitory room for about 80 beds. In 1916, with the resident population rising to 230 and an additional 100 "day hop" students, Ryken Hall opened, named after Theodore James Ryken, founder of the Xaverian Brothers. The building housed 150 students both in private rooms and in an open dormitory. The academic wing contained six large classrooms, study halls, club meeting rooms and recreational facilities. Today the residential wing is gone but the academic wing houses our thriving Ryken Center for the Arts.
The first clubs were formed at St. John's under the second headmaster, Brother Norbert C.F.X. The first two clubs were based on national fraternities: Alpha Delta Phi and Kappa Kappa.
The two clubs became "great rivals." Sigma Nu formed in 1923 and became such a powerhouse that it hosted three club meeting rooms, a gym of its own, and a bowling alley in the basement of the Ryken dormitory building. After a run-in with the headmaster, Sigma Nu offered to buy the Administration Building. Brother Norbert also oversaw construction of our Gothic-style dining hall building.
In 1926, Brother Edmund earned the distinction of being the first alumnus and former faculty member to become Headmaster of the school. His Brothers recognized his leadership skills and later appointed him President of Xaverian College.
New extracurricular activities, fraternities, and scholastic societies carried St. John's up another rung on the ladder of success under headmaster Brother Ambrose 1929-34. He oversaw the development of our present football stadium, track, tennis courts, and enlargement of the library in the Administration Building.
In 1930, the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer joined the staff to serve as dietitians and cooks for the students and Brothers. All German born, they were a remarkable group of women, who served at St. John's for twenty-one years.
During World War II, students were allowed to graduate in three years plus one summer so that they might contribute to the war effort. This dramatically reduced the student body, so from 1944-47 seventh and eighth grade boys attended the school.
Memorial Gymnasium opened in 1955, and it has seen many a victory for the Eagles. The success of the athletic teams during the 1950s - such as the track and baseball teams - earned newspaper headlines for the Prep. The talented baseball teams of the late fifties drew many professional scouts to campus. Read on for more history.
The tumultuous times of the 1960s saw change at the Prep. In the early 1960s, the school's first capital campaign funded the building of Brother Benjamin Hall and Alumni Hall, completed during the 1964-65 school year. On May 22, 1965 - fifty years after the dedication of Ryken Hall - Cardinal Cushing dedicated the two new buildings.
During this era, St. John's expanded the course offerings and created an independent study program. Another important change was increased athletic spirit. The 1967 and 1968 football teams were Class B State Champs. These two championships marked the beginning of a new age for Prep athletics, which soon added soccer, swimming and other programs that continue to foster success and pride.
In the late 1960s, the Board of Trustees voted to phase out the residential program during the next several years - a difficult decision indeed and one that took much faith and courage. The residential program ended in 1975.
The early 1970s also saw an end to the suit coat and tie dress code, with St. John's opting for a more casual attire.
Changes continued at St. John's during the 1970s. Perhaps the most unexpected development occurred after two North Shore Catholic schools closed, and the Prep accepted young women. A short-term decision, urged by the parents of the male students, turned into a wonderfully enriching experience which concluded in 1977 and resulted in our seventy-seven alumnae. Many alumnae "legacies" have gone on to attend the school.
During the late 1970s, the first official Alumni Office was staffed to maintain strong contact with our many alumni. The Development Office was also formed to help create support for school through alumni, parents, and friends.
In 1980, enrollment reached an all-time high, surpassing the 1,000 mark and causing a much more competitive admissions process. With 211 students, the class of 1980 was the first to graduate more than 200 young men.
The 1980s marked the continuation of an impressive string of "championships" for the Drama Guild under the direction of Brother Ron Santoro, C.F.X.
Headmaster Brother Edward Keefe, C.F.X. in 1982 hosted the 75th Anniversary Celebration.
Brother William Drinan, C.F.X. succeeded Brother Keefe in 1989 as Headmaster, and initiated plans for the "Building on the Prep Experience" campaign. As a result of this $3 million initiative and strategic plan, the fine arts curriculum was expanded during the early 1990s. In 1995, Ryken Hall was renovated into Ryken Center for the Arts for with instruction and performance space for theater and music, as well as art studio and gallery space.
The 1997 football team completed the Eagle's first eleven-win season, including a dramatic Thanksgiving Day victory over Xaverian and a "Super Bowl" championship. Also in 1997, Prep students traveled to Buchanan County, Virginia, for the first time to help repair homes in the area. More than ten years later, the Prep enjoys a warm relationship with local residents, and the annual Virginia trip is an expression of the Prep's commitment to service.
When Jared Monaco graduated in 1998—just after the school's 90th anniversary celebration—he became the Prep's 10,000th alumnus.
In the 12 years that Brother William Drinan served as Headmaster, he saw religious studies restored as an academic requirement, unparalleled athletic successes, and a revitalization of the lay-Xaverian partnership that is the hallmark of Prep excellence.
When Albert J. Shannon, Ph.D. was named the 15th headmaster of St. John's, he became the first Catholic layman to hold the position in the history of the school. His wife Mj made her own mark with her active involvement in the life of the school and in the Danvers community. Also in 2001, the Prep received a $5 million gift in support of academic and facility initiatives. It is believed to be one of the largest non-estate gifts ever received by a New England Catholic School.
In September 2002, the Prep celebrated its 95th Anniversary with a gala evening that brought alumni, families, faculty and staff together on campus. Brother Arthur Caliman, CFX, then Superior General of the Xaverian Brothers, accepted the Spire Award on behalf of the Congregation.
The A. E. Studzinski Library and Ozzie Technology Center opened in September 2003 and at the same time, Brother Benjamin Hall was remodeled with six new science labs, the Ford Family Counseling suite and new academic department offices. The two facillities - and the entire campus - are equipped with wireless Internet access and sophisticated technology resources to meet the needs of today's students and faculty.
Xavier Hall reopened in September 2005 following a year of extensive renovations. The revitalized campus landmark stands ready for a second century of service with 31 new state-of-the-art classrooms, a wireless Internet environment, academic department offices, and a new 4,000 square foot Campus Ministry Center.
September 2007 marked the beginning of the Prep's Centennial year with events and programs throughout the year. New spaces were created and new artwork was installed on campus to mark of our Centennial in a lasting way, including the DeSimone Family Garden, a time capsule to be opened in 2028, a Centennial mural, a stained glass window, and an mosaic art installation.
Virginia and John Kaneb, whose six sons graduated from St. John's, received the Spire Award at the gala Centennial celebration in September 2007. Brother Edward Keefe, CFX, who served as headmaster from 1974-1989, was on stage to present the award, which is the highest honor given to a non-alumnus of the school.
The Brother Linus, C.F.X Athletic Commons, a five-acre multi-purpose turf field was dedicated in April 2009 after a $5 million campaign. The Commons includes the Hall of Fame Circle, the Class of 2011 playing fields, a baseball field, and a field for soccer, football and lacrosse.
Edward P. Hardiman, Ph.D. succeeded Dr. Shannon in June 2011 after serving for eight years as principal at St. John's. He is a graduate of Fairfield University and earned his doctorate at Boston College. Keith A. Crowley, Ph.D. was named to succeed Dr. Hardiman as principal.
An exciting new chapter in Prep history began in May 2013, when plans for Prep 20/20 were announced. The strategic initiatives outlined in Prep 20/20 were realized with the opening of our Middle School with grades 6, 7, and 8; the addition of the Brother Keefe, C.F.X Academic Center; and the new Leo and Joan Mahoney Wellness Center, which includes the Dianne and Ray Carey '67 Field House, the John A. Driscoll '90 Aquatics Center, and the Joseph R. Levis '60 Fitness Center