Students, faculty and alumni from two local schools are celebrating 125 years of education. On March 2, 1887 Czechoslovakian Benedictine Friars taught the very first class at Kollej Sv Prokopa or Saint Procopius College or what we know today as Benet A0cademy and Benedictine University. This past week the high school and the college celebrated their joint anniversaries.
Benet Academy has nearly 1300 students and Benedictine University has more than 7,000 graduates and undergraduates combined, but 125 years ago those two schools started as one.
“Monks were sent to Chicago in 1885 to start a parish called Saint Procopius Parish from there saint Procopius abbey would be founded,” said Abbot Austin Murphy from Saint Procopius Abbey. “In 1887 the Monks would begin the school that developed into both Benet Academy and Benedictine University.”
In the 1800’s high school and college were often joined , and It wasn’t until 1955 that Saint Procopius College divided into a high school and college campus. What was then known as Saint Procopius Academy opened its doors in 1957. The name changed to Benet after the school allowed women to attend in 1966.
During a recent celebration a panel of alumni discussed with the students what it means to be a Redwing, both as a former student and a teacher.
“Trying to keep things a little simpler a little balanced trying to have a little work a little prayer in everyday,” said Ramon Marth, a Spanish Teacher at Benet. “That’s been very meaningful for me throughout the years and I think that’s part of what we try to do at the school and its great to be a part of passing that along.”
Just south and across Maple Ave. Benedictine University held a celebration of their own that included a ground breaking for a new alumni center.
Construction on the project will include renovation of the Neff Farm House, which been part of the Benedictine campus since the land was purchased for $6,240 in 1896.
“That farmhouse knew St. Procopius College it knew Illinois Benedictine College and it knows Benedictine University,” said William Carroll, President of Benedictine University. “It’s the only real common element that ties all the alumni experiences on this campus on this site and this part of Chicago Land together.”
Saint Procopius became Illinois Benedictine College in 1971, then after receiving accreditation for PhD programs it became a university in 1996. Throughout the 125 year history of both Benet and Benedictine one thing has remained consistent
“It is to educate from the Catholic faith perspective. To provide an education that bears witness to the beauties and trues of the Catholic faith,” said Abbot Austin.
Dr. Carroll says the university hopes the new alumni center will be the first building first year students walk in and the last building graduates walk out of.
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