Brief History

front of old school
John Baptist Purcell
intramural volleyball

A Brief History of St. Xavier High School

The Long Blue Line applies to more than 20,000 living St. Xavier High School alumni found all over the world. The history of St. X lives on because of the memories and traditions shared by all Bomber graduates.

Memories for classes prior to 1960 revolve around an old downtown building at Seventh and Sycamore, volleyball in the blacktop yard enclosed by a high iron fence, city noises, and Memorial Hall. Classes after 1960 recall a bright new building in Finneytown, plenty of open spaces for sports, well-equipped labs, commuting by carpools, and the Rainbow Room.

Melding these two generations together are important elements of the St. Xavier experience: the ideals of Jesuit education, the demanding academic program, the caring atmosphere, the good times, and even JUG.

St. Xavier High School has passed through numerous stages in its 191-year history. The Diocese of Cincinnati was only nine years old when Bishop Fenwick opened his school at Seventh and Sycamore Streets on October 17, 1831. He named the school the Athenaeum and placed it under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier. Eight years after Bishop Fenwick’s death, Bishop Purcell persuaded the Jesuits to staff this school, and in 1840 Fr. John A. Elet SJ opened St. Xavier College to 76 students.

The fledgling college underwent hard times in the 1850s but recovered after the Civil War and grew steadily. When the college moved to its present Avondale site in 1919, St. Xavier High School and Xavier University were separated physically. It was only in 1934 that St. Xavier High School became completely independent. Fr. A.J. Diersen SJ was the first high school President.

In the 1940s and ’50s it became more and more apparent that the buildings erected in the late 19th century would not be able to contain the growing enrollment, nor provide the type of facilities required for quality education.

In 1954, Fr. John Benson SJ began to plan the “new” high school on North Bend Road. In 1960 the move from downtown to Finneytown was accomplished.

In the intervening years, the new St. Xavier has seen its share of improvements, alterations, and additions. A 400-seat chapel, new facilities for science and technology, a new and expanded music suite, an intramural gym and wrestling room and improvements to the natatorium greeted the St. Xavier community when the 1999-2000 school year began.   

Fr. Walter Deye SJ led the most recent expansion: renovated athletic facilities completed in September 2003, a theater, black box, visual arts studios and renovated administrative and classroom areas completed in August 2004, and a new wellness center and team building near the track stadium in 2008. All of this was accomplished while maintaining a commitment to technology.

Fr. Tim Howe SJ became the school’s 40th president in 2009. Fr. Howe, the Board of Trustees, and the entire school community engaged in a strategic planning process to maintain traditions established at the old St. Xavier and build on the accomplishments of the new school well into the 21st century.

Timothy Reilly ’76 became the first lay president of St. Xavier High School in 2018. As the 41st president for the school, he celebrates his fourth graduation at the helm with the Class of 2022.

cathedral seminary athenaeum and engine house
St. X in the 1950s
front of finneytown school
st x campus