Cardinal Mooney High School Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

The 2009-2010 school year marked the 50th anniversary of Cardinal Mooney High School. Though many things have changed as the years have gone by, the Christian principles and family-centered foundation upon which this Sarasota high school was built will always remain the same.

Cardinal Mooney High School was founded in 1959 by Father Joseph Daley under the instruction of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley, D.D., of St. Augustine. The school name honors His Eminence Edward Cardinal Mooney, Archbishop of Detroit, who had passed away in October 1958, shortly before the school’s founding. Cardinal Mooney High School is one of several schools inspired by the wishes of Archbishop Hurley, a man recognized for his focus upon increasing the number of educational institutions in the Diocese of St. Augustine, which would be divided in 1984 to include our current Diocese of Venice.

At the time of the school’s inception, classes were held in rooms at the Bell shopping plaza in downtown Sarasota. The student body was comprised of 110 students—all freshmen and sophomores. The omission of junior and senior classes in the inaugural year was most likely designed to allow the two younger classes to establish their bonds and traditions before the school expanded to a full four-year program. Who would have thought that an extraordinary school like the current-day Cardinal Mooney would evolve from such simple beginnings?

In the early years, Cardinal Mooney’s exceptional faculty, thirteen teachers in all, consisted of about half lay and half religious staff, the latter primarily diocesan priests. Later, the dynamics shifted to that of a primarily lay staff supplemented by the presence of numerous dedicated priests and nuns, including the Sisters of St. Joseph and later the Sisters of Notre Dame, who have had a constant presence at the school since 1973. The priests, nuns, and lay staff alike all have contributed to shaping the character and environment of a school whose motto emphasizes the mission of “Serving God in the Community.”

The first president of Cardinal Mooney High School was Father Joseph Moran, pastor at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish. He was followed by Monsignor Frank Mouch, who served as President from 1966 through 1968. In a recent interview, Msgr. Mouch reflected upon his tenure at the school. He remarked that, although the school was strong academically at the time, one of the most urgent goals he felt necessary to pursue was to see that the school be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), an objective that was accomplished during this era.

From the very beginning, it was always intended that the campus of CMHS be relocated from Bell Plaza, which served well as a temporary campus setting, to a more fitting site, presumably with more room for expansion. Construction began the very year the school opened on a new campus at the present Fruitville Road location. This site had, until that time, been home to a celery farm, and was an area former Mooney math instructor Frank Morusiewicz described as being “out in the sticks.” By the following year, classes were being held at the new campus. Joe Marconi, a 1965 CMHS alumnus, remembers the Fruitville Road of that era as a two-lane road full of potholes. It was quiet enough for students to routinely ride their bicycles to and from school, recalls 1962 CMHS graduate Tom Goldsworthy. Students of that era did not, as a rule, have their own cars, nor was there public transportation to the area, so the school provided two buses to service Mooney’s Bradenton and Sarasota pupils.

In the 60s and 70s there were two permanent buildings on the Fruitville Road campus, both of which still stand today. The two-story main building, now known as the Father Joseph F. Dailey Administration Building, housed offices, classrooms, a two-classroom library, and science laboratories. Robert Fottler, a social studies teacher at CMHS since 1971, recalls that, in the early years, neither of the campus buildings had air conditioning. He was thankful, though, for the jalousie windows and box fans available to help cool the rooms on warm Florida afternoons. The second structure on campus was the Selby Center building, which served multiple purposes as the main gymnasium, the students’ lunchroom, and as an assembly hall.

At the periphery of the campus were two small houses owned by the school. One served as a music building, the other as the living quarters of the school’s president, remembers Frank Morusiewicz. The residence building was later used as a chapel where small student Masses and liturgies were held, some by Father Mark Heuberger, school chaplain in the early 1980s. Heuberger also recalls holding Masses for students in the gymnasium and outdoors under the trees, when weather permitted.

In 1971, four portable classroom buildings were constructed on campus to accommodate the growth of the student body. By 1975 a separate permanent structure had also been added, offering additional classroom space and to be used in place of the Selby Center as an assembly hall and lunchroom. This building was converted into the current media center in 1991, and is ever-changing to keep up with the times, according to Elaine Moore, CMHS librarian since 1983. While Mrs. Moore vividly recalls the day when all book processing and cataloging was done by hand or on a typewriter, there are now fifteen laptop computers available to offer students Internet access with international coverage.

Additional changes to the Mooney campus over the years include the construction of a second two-story classroom building in 1981, and, in 1991, construction of the Patterson Pavilion, named for donors James and Dorothy Patterson, a spacious gymnasium that is home to countless Cardinal Mooney Cougar sporting events each year. Over the years, CMHS is proud to have fielded top teams, from district to state champions, in more than fifteen boys’ and girls’ sports.

The year 2003 saw the completion along the east border of the campus of a state-of-the-art building offering science and mathematics classrooms, as well as practice rooms, a stage, and a music hall to provide a long-awaited venue for the school’s performing arts productions.

Though not the most recent addition to the campus, perhaps the most significant building to be constructed at Cardinal Mooney is the All Saints Chapel, completed in 2001. This beautiful building has a modest design that makes the most of the natural daylight, and includes a hand-hewn altar and serene stained glass windows, all combining to provide students and faculty with a quiet, peaceful location to pray and attend the weekly Mass services which are an integral part of the tradition of CMHS.

Since the early years, Mooney students have been required to do community service work, both individually and as members of school clubs and organizations. In the 1960s the school maintained an Ecumenical Council whose purpose was to perpetuate the significance of Christian unity among the students. CMHS has been recognized by the community for its commitment to the Christian environment and for its family-like atmosphere. Almost without fail, this is the quality of the school most fondly described by those who have passed through its hallways.

Dr. Mac Nalls, a 1965 graduate, was among those to express his perception of Cardinal Mooney as that of a close-knit community. Joe Marconi shares the opinion that CMHS, with its family atmosphere, provides a “small community” feeling to both students and their parents. Both Dr. Nalls and Mr. Marconi are among the many Mooney graduates whose children have followed in their parents’ footsteps in order to attend a school where they would be sure to experience their high school years in a wholesome Christian environment.

Although the number of students has quadrupled over the last fifty years, CMHS has remained small enough to be the type of school where the staff really gets to know its students, establishing bonds between students and faculty which often last a lifetime. Mooney graduates as well as faculty, past and present, are united in the hope that the key elements of the school’s character, will always remain the same.

Perhaps the philosophy of Cardinal Mooney High School is best expressed by a quote from Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley as he spoke to the graduating class of 1964: “You are not sent out helpless. You have three sources of power: your Faith, embodied in the Apostle’s Creed, your code of conduct, the Ten Commandments, and the means of grace- prayer, the Mass, and the Sacraments.”

Written by Karen Christie
Cardinal Mooney High School
Class of 2002