Stabilizing years (1970-79)

Mar 21, 2019 | General

Finances were always paramount as the school was primarily tuition-driven. Expenses were rising as more lay teachers were hired to meet the growing enrollment and no priests were being assigned by the Archdiocese to teach. It was obvious something needed to be done.

During the late 1960s, the only major fund-raising event was the Trinity Fall Festival, coordinated by Fr. Harry Jansing, in which students sold chances on a capital prize. Each festival netted around $10,000, largely due to Fr. Jansing’s leadership. There had to be additional ways to raise funds to augment tuition. So Fr. Hazelip, along with Fr. Duerr, decided to hold the first benefit dinner in the spring of 1969. That first event was truly home-grown, as cafeteria manager Catherine Fuchs and her staff cooked the dinner and the student members of the National Honor Society waited on the tables. Those first guests were certainly impressed, and the tradition of this major fund-raising event (now called CelebraTion) is still with us today.

In September 1970, Fr. Hazelip shocked the entire school community at the Opening School Mass when he announced he was taking a one-year leave of absence to study at Northwestern University. He also stated that Archbishop McDonough had asked Fr. Duerr, the Business Manager, to be the interim principal for the remainder of the year.

Hazelip did not return to Trinity, as he stayed to earn his doctorate from Northwestern. Fr. Duerr thus officially became the third Trinity principal during the 1971-72 school years.

As the new principal he would now be involved in every aspect of the school. Fr. David Zettel said of Duerr: “He could fix a broken window, tinker with his sailboat on the river, could chair a meeting and nod off, and yet would pray for a sick student at his bedside, walk through a personal problem with a troubled faculty member, privately single out people for praise with a handwritten note.” Longtime faculty member and basketball coach, Joe Thompson ’63, recalled Fr. Duerr as a saintly man. “He was a leader by example, a hard worker, a caring man. He was not in it for the accolades…it was a vocation for him…everyone respected Fr. Duerr.”

Fr. Duerr

Bob Pfaadt

Finances were still a problem for the former Business Manager now turned permanent principal. In 1972, the Archdiocese decided that tuition would rise from $250 per year to $400 per year, a 63 percent increase. The increase was basically the same at the other Catholic boys’ high schools. During the summer, Assistant Principal Bob Pfaadt was in his office and a family from Chicago came to visit the school due to the father’s transfer to Louisville. The gentleman indicated that he had two sons he wanted to enroll. Pfaadt gave them a tour and when the gentleman asked about the tuition, the father said “That’s $400 per semester which makes it about the same as the annual $800 I am currently paying per son in Chicago.” When Pfaadt corrected him, noting that the $400 was for the entire year, he replied: “What is this – a second-rate school?” Both young men enrolled, but it was obvious that Catholic tuition in Louisville was a bargain when compared to other major cities in the United States.

With the rise in tuition a new phenomenon started to occur. Families began to realize that if their son took senior English in the summer, they could graduate a year early and save the tuition money for college. Going to college a year early might have seemed fine academically but would not be good socially for most students. For many years Trinity had offered its top students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement exams whereby students could receive college credit but they were only offered once a year and there was no make-up if a student was sick.

Since 1969, Pfaadt had been teaching history at Bellarmine during the summers while working full-time at THS. Dean Robert Preston of Bellarmine asked Pfaadt in the summer of 1971 to take a look at the program that St. Louis University had started with many Catholic high schools. It allowed students to receive college credit for AP courses from St. Louis University during their junior and senior years, as long as the teacher met the minimum requirements to teach in college, and the high school course followed the same syllabus as its college counterpart.

This seemed to be the perfect answer to helping students remain in high school for their senior year. It gave them college credit, thus reducing their time in college instead of high school.

When the 1971-72 school year began, Trinity agreed to be the “pilot” school in the Archdiocese for this Advanced College Credit Program (ACCP). During that initial year at Trinity, courses were offered for credit in English, Calculus, Western Civilization, French, German, Spanish, Biology and Chemistry. The program was very well-received by parents and students, and Bellarmine soon began offering the program to other selected Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese.

When Sacred Heart Academy (SHA) got involved in the program, they had a certified teacher in American History but not in Western Civilization, so Pfaadt and his counterpart at SHA devised a plan whereby girls who wanted Western Civilization would join the class at Trinity, and the boys who selected U.S. History would go to the girls’ school for classes. This was not the first time that SHA and Trinity had a shared class, as AP Biology was taught at Trinity by Fr. Tom Allen in 1968. However, students liked this idea and later both schools shared students in a similar fashion for a religion course in Christian Marriage.

Two other issues in the early to mid-1970s also impacted Trinity financially – the closing of Flaget High School and court-ordered busing for the Jefferson Country Public School System.

Flaget High School, located near Shawnee Park in West Louisville, was faced with a declining student body in the 1960s due to many leaving that area of the city for new homes in the East End, particularly the Hikes Point area. During the 1973-74 school year, the Archdiocese decided that Flaget would not reopen the following year. Each Catholic high school sent representatives to Flaget in the spring of 1974 to talk with students and their parents about continuing their Catholic education in their school. Trinity turned out to be a big winner as 44 former Flaget students enrolled in 1974, mainly due to the fact that there was a direct bus line that dropped students from the West End to Trinity’s front door on Shelbyville Road. Also, Trinity hired four Flaget teachers for the 1974-75 school year. Two of those were Xavieran Brothers – Brother Robert Arrowsmith and Brother Charles Cully – and two were lay teachers Mike Hamilton H’96 and Jim Frame, each of whom would have an impact on Trinity. Many of the incoming Flaget students were African-Americans, which added much needed diversity to the student body.

Hamilton noted that “it was an exciting time because the young students in the East End didn’t realize how people lived elsewhere. I look back and think, well, maybe we helped break down some stereotypes.”

Court-ordered busing began in 1975 after the old City and County School Systems merged. Students whose last names began with the letters A, B, F and Q were to be bused to Central High School. Many public school parents began calling Trinity asking for a place since their son was on the list to be bused. Fr. Duerr sent out notices that Trinity would not accept students who were to be bused, but public outcry from parents who wanted out of the system forced the Archdiocese to set guidelines for admission. As a result, many Catholic elementary and high schools were finding applications coming from public school families, and thus strict enforcement of Archdiocesan guidelines was established. Within a few years, Trinity and other Catholic schools had a waiting list for admission.

Even though the school population became very stable in the 1970s, the faculty started to change in a very dramatic way.

A difficult reality that Fr. Duerr faced was the increasingly high number of religious faculty leaving the priesthood. Two who really affected him personally were Tom Allen and Paul Davin. Allen had been his protégée in biology and Davin had been a long-time leader of The Echo and The Shamrock, the student yearbook. Both were very popular with students. Others who left during those last days of the Vietnam War era were Bill Gorman, Richard and John Grenough, and Tony Heitzman. To replace them, Trinity had to hire additional lay teachers.

Esterle Brothers

Meanwhile, Fr. Duerr continued to find ways to improve the school. In 1973, he created the counseling department, moving disciplinarian Dave Kelly into the position of Director of Counseling. Dennis Esterle, a math instructor, became the new Director of Students, a position he would hold for many years. He appointed his brother, John Esterle, also a math teacher, to run JUG. Any discipline issues were now in the hands of the Esterle brothers, whom the students knew “meant business.”

The Jeffersontown Area Vocational School closed in 1973, and the Trinity juniors and seniors who had been attending now were forced to be at Trinity the full day. Fr. Duerr commissioned two faculty members, Joe Gliessner ’63 and Harry Hill, to develop a program for these students. Gliessner and Hill started the Professional Business and Trade (PBT) program in classrooms near the ISS program. Their program was an afternoon session where students learned about various trades and business. It was a visible continuation for the Learning Center and Gliessner commented that “we motivated them and forced them to succeed.” Later the students in the PBT were able to go back to a Jefferson County vocational school when the Westport Road program opened.

Gliessner was also responsible for starting the first computer classes at Trinity. He noted that “this was characteristic of Fr. Duerr. He was always looking for ways to push the envelope.” The two began to use the computer not only in the classroom but for administrative purposes. Gliessner noted that “we were the first school in the area to use computers for scheduling and report cards.” Gliessner was so successful that he was soon hired away by the computer company working with Trinity.

Another innovation that Fr. Duerr initiated was allowing seniors to read the daily announcements over the PA. Traditionally, the principal or assistant principal read the announcements, but once students got involved, it soon became a Trinity tradition.

In 1974, Duerr hired Sister Mary Agnes Mahoney, S.L., and asked her to develop a music program for all grades.

She began teaching the freshmen harmony, theory, blend and textures once a week. By the next year, Mahoney noted “we had an elective sophomore class and we followed it with junior and senior electives. We had a varied repertoire with Gregorian chant, classical, rock and even renditions of the Harlem Globe Trotters’ theme song, “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

She soon developed a program with Nerinx Hall in St. Louis where the Trinity boys performed in concert with the girls there. “It was much nicer to have male and female voices in a concert,” she exclaimed. She developed regular choral performances and a Christmas concert with an instrumental accompaniment by fellow faculty member Klaus Mittelsten, which was another annual highlight.

In the spring of 1975, the Trinity community experienced a religious lesson and an example of the human life and death cycle with the death of a faculty member during the school year. Tom Sheeran, a popular English teacher of Irish descent who had taught for years in the Catholic School system, discovered in May 1974 that he had throat cancer. He begged Fr. Duerr to allow him to teach his four senior English classes the next academic year. His wife, Mary Sheeran, was an assistant librarian, and together they had 10 children. The fall semester went well, but after Christmas, Sheeran needed a microphone in order to continue in the classroom. As the semester progressed there were days during which he could not make it and a permanent substitute was hired to assist him in teaching the class. He continued almost to the day he died. His death really hit his senior classes hard, but they saw in Sheeran’s death what it was to live a Christian lifestyle and have the courage to do his teaching job as well as possible, in spite of his impending death. Trinity’s student-chosen Teacher-of-the-Year award was designated the Sheeran Award in his honor.

Two of the recognizable innovations during the Duerr administration were the awarding of an Annual Peace Medal and recognizing an Honor Alumnus each year at graduation.

The Annual Peace Medal was an idea from the World Language Chair Klaus Mittelsten H ’92. In 1971 he wrote a congratulatory letter to Willi Brandt, Chancellor of West Germany, upon his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Brandt responded to Mittelsten thanking him and praising the goals and works of Trinity. This gave Mittelsten the idea that Trinity should recognize someone from the outside community who was involved with the betterment of humankind. Fr. Duerr approved the idea and the first award went to Father Ralph Beiting for his work in Appalachia. The annual award continues to this day and the recipient is chosen by a committee that comprises students, faculty and parents (see appendix for complete list of awardees).

Mary Agnes with Singers

During 1973-74, Art Department Chair Fr. Albert Moore, along with several of his students and some professional landscape architects, designed the courtyard along Shelbyville Road in front of the original Trinity entrance and named it Alumni Court. The Alumni Association decided therefore to recognize each year an Honor Alumnus, who “has distinguished himself in his professional life, is a recognized leader in his community and has demonstrated the qualities, values and ideals taught at Trinity and has maintained a strong loyalty to his Alma Mater.” The inaugural recipient was Mark Schwarzer ’69 (see appendix for complete list of Honor Alumni). The courtyard was refurbished in 2018.

Fr. Albert Moore

Chapel Cross 1978

Fr. Duerr, who early in his career was chair of the Religion Department, asked Fr. Ron Domhoff H ’98 to revise and restore a program of retreats for seniors. With the assistance of Fr. Zettel, they conducted the first retreat in February 1974. As a follow-up to their senior retreat experiences, these two priests celebrated Mass on Sunday evenings in the Chapel from 1974-1994. These Masses were very popular with standing room only the norm. After 20 years, they were discontinued as neighboring parishes began offering Sunday night Mass for their respective youth groups.

Initiative of another kind was demonstrated by the class of 1973, and although not originally sanctioned by Fr. Duerr, it demonstrated considerable imagination. Pat Slattery ’73 decided to make a video called “Green and Goldfinger,” based on the James Bond movie “Goldfinger.” The project eventually developed into a Student Council outreach which raised money for charity, as it was shown to many of the local Catholic high school students in the Trinity AV room. Tony Siegel ’73 starred as 007 Agent James Bond, who attempted to track down a Trinity gym bag stolen from a defenseless underclassman by a rival St. Xavier student. Filmed at several locations, including the St. Xavier campus, it showed a determined “Bond” overcoming all odds to retrieve the bag. When opened, the content was a bottle of Stroh’s beer. Glenn Blincoe ’73 believed that making the video “generated camaraderie” which transcended generations and demonstrated the spirit of Trinity. Blincoe noted, “there were a lot of clever, creative guys in our ’73 class.” It was again shown at their 25th class reunion and can be found on YouTube even today.

When St. Thomas Seminary on Old Brownsboro Road closed in 1974, there were discussions about moving the land-locked Trinity campus to the seminary grounds. However, a study indicated that many students attending Trinity depended upon the city bus lines, especially those students coming from the recently closed Flaget High School in the West End. At that time there was no bus service near the St. Thomas property so the idea was abandoned.

With Trinity now firmly entrenched on Shelbyville Road, Fr. Duerr turned his attention to improving the campus by making two major building decisions – the construction of Shamrock Hall and a new auditorium for theatre arts.

Shamrock Hall opened in 1976 and was a tremendous improvement to what had been just a major locker room for athletics. The building housed four new classrooms, coaches’ offices, a first aid room and was air-conditioned. Construction was financed with money from a fund-raising campaign, with contributions from businesses, parishes, parents and boosters.

The new $625,000 auditorium, built by adding on to the existing VFW Post 1170 on North Sherrin Avenue, was paid for in part by a $100,000 grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation. The VFW Post had been a rundown concrete block building. This purchase marked the first acquisition of land by Trinity on the east side of Sherrin Avenue. Construction began in 1978 and it opened on February 23, 1980, with an “Evening of Champagne and Remembrances” (see History of Theatre Arts section).

In the spring of 1976, Fr. Duerr was faced with a personnel change in his administration. Bob Pfaadt was recruited by Bellarmine College’s President, Dr. Eugene Petrik, to take an administrative position on his staff. Fr. Duerr then formed a faculty committee who interviewed the candidates for the vacant assistant principal position. The committee selected Peter Flaig, an English teacher, who would eventually become Duerr’s successor.

In 1978, Trinity celebrated its 25th anniversary. Up to this time students always knew the buildings by letters – “A” Building, “B” Building, etc. The Silver anniversary seemed an appropriate occasion to officially name all of the buildings. A committee decided that the buildings would now be called the following:

A Building                           Old Trinity Hall – the oldest school building

B Building                           Floersh Hall – named after Trinity’s founder, Archbishop Floersh

C Building                           Sheehan Hall – named after Dr. Tom Sheehan, the first lay teacher

D Building                          Shamrock Hall (recently constructed)

Gym                                   Steinhauser Gymnasium – named after the first principal

Faculty House                   Flaget Hall – named for the founding archbishop of the Louisville Archdiocese

At a dedication Mass, attended by Msgr. Steinhauser and Dr. Sheehan, black and silver plaques were blessed and then attached to each building. It wasn’t long before every student began referring to each building by its new name.

By the end of the 1970s, Trinity was maturing as an academic institution, but the coming decade would bring new property acquisitions and major changes in finances and administration that would move the school to new heights.

Green and Goldfinger