Regis High School was founded in 1914, through the financial bequest of a single formerly anonymous benefactress: Julia M. Grant, the widow of Mayor Hugh J. Grant. She stipulated that her gift be used to build a Jesuit high school providing a free education for Catholic boys with special consideration given to those who could not otherwise afford a Catholic education. The school continues that policy and does not charge tuition. The Grants' former home is the residence of the Vatican Observer to the United Nations, where the pope stays when he visits New York City.
Following the death of her husband in 1910, Julia Grant met with Father David W. Hearn, S.J. and, with a stipulation of strict anonymity, gave him an envelope with the money needed to start a school to educate Catholic boys. After Mrs. Grant died, her children took over the funding of the school. The last surviving member of the family, Lucie Mackey Grant, a daughter-in-law of Julia Grant, died in 2007. Since the 1960s, Regis has relied primarily on the Grant endowments and alumni donations to keep the school tuition free. Following Lucie Mackey Grant's death, at an auction of her estate, Regis bid successfully for the original golden chalice used during Mass when the school was founded in 1914. The identity of the school's founding benefactor was officially kept secret for decades, though the large portrait in the school's first floor conference room titled "Julia Grant" contradicted the official policy. The online announcement, of an auction that included items related to the school's founding, did so as well. Finally, on October 26, 2009, a documentary film revealed her identity and detailed the circumstances of her gift.
The school building was designed by Maginnis & Walsh.
On Saturday, May 14, 2011, a two-alarm fire destroyed the school's principal gymnasium and caused some peripheral damage. The school re-opened the following Tuesday.
A prospective student, any 8th-grade Roman Catholic male who has demonstrated superior academic ability, first completes an application that includes the composition of a short essay and then sits for Regis's own admission test. Of the approximately 1,000 students who sit for this test each year, about 230 are selected for two interviews with faculty or alumni. Around 135 students are admitted.
"The academic program at Regis is based on a traditional liberal arts curriculum. The first three years of the academic program are largely standard for all students. Incoming freshmen choose the language they will study. There are also some other variations which affect small groups of students. Students with sufficient elementary school preparation in algebra are placed on an advanced math track. Similarly, students with sufficient foreign language preparation are accelerated into the sophomore course. Students may also elect to take extra courses. Band/Chorus and the Science Research Project are open to a small number of sophomores and juniors. In senior year, the student is given considerably more freedom of choice. Theology and English are required for all students, but in those subjects the students choose from a group of trimester-long electives. In addition, the student chooses three year-long electives."
Students must complete a curriculum in the subjects ofScience—requiring study in biology, chemistry, and classical physics, an optional science research project beginning sophomore year;
Mathematics—requiring algebra II, geometry and trigonometry, and calculus;
English language arts—Classics, American literature, British literature, and an elective;
History—Western civilizations, American history, Modern European history;
Theology—Church History, Scripture, Philosophy and Ethics, and an elective;
Foreign Languages & Classics—one of Latin, German, Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese for three years, an optional fourth year;
Fine Arts—Studio Art, Film, Art & Music History;
Computer technology—two years;
Physical education—four years.
The curriculum is taught at an accelerated pace, using college-level textbooks and, in many classes, exceeding the requirements of the Advanced Placement curriculum. The school does not require its students to take the New York State Regents Examinations. The Foreign Languages Department runs exchange programs to Spain, France, and Canisius-Kolleg Berlin in Germany. Cultural/academic trips are available to Beijing, China, for students of Chinese, and to the Galapagos Islands or Belize. Service trips are available to Jamaica, Kenya, and Ecuador. Many other electives are available.
The school's students regularly demonstrate superior academic achievement on standardized tests and it sends several graduates each year to the most competitive U.S. colleges The school is highly ranked when compared to other private day schools.
Sports currently available to Regis students include baseball (on the junior varsity and varsity levels), basketball (on the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity levels), cross country, soccer (on the junior varsity and varsity levels), indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball (on the varsity level). The school is a member of the Catholic High School Athletic Association (C.H.S.A.A.). Regis's athletic teams have seen success in recent years, including several City Championships in their division at the junior varsity and varsity levels. In 2005, the year after winning the city championship, the Varsity basketball team won the B division State Federation Championship in Glens Falls, NY, beating the best of the private and public schools of New York. Between 2006 and 2008, the Regis Baseball team, which has played in the A division for only 6 years, finished 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. This streak of top 3 finishes is a feat no other CHSAA A division school has accomplished since Regis joined the league. Senior Christopher Bates was drafted in the 15th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Also, in 2009, the varsity Volleyball team won the CHSAA championship over league rival Xaverian and made it to the final again in 2010 in an attempt to defend their title. The volleyball team continued their dominance over the CHSAA in 2011 and 2012, winning the championship each year, and losing just one league match. On February 22, 2013, the Regis Freshman Basketball team won the CHSAA A Division City Championship. The Team had an overall record of 22-3 and was 16-1 in conference play. Recently, the Regis Varsity Basketball team has experienced great success as they captured the CHSAA "B" City Championship as well as the CHSAA "B" New York State Championship in 2014. The majority of that same team returned in 2015 and repeated as CHSAA "B" City Champs while falling just short in state championship. The freshman team also gained success in 2015 winning their own CHSAA "B" City Championship.
Golf and tennis were offered until the 2007-2008 season, and non-competitive tennis is now offered as an extracurricular.
Regis uses several athletic fields and complexes, including Central Park, Randall's Island, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and the Armory on West 168th Street.
Students who attend Regis have many extracurricular activities to select from in addition to athletics. The school carries with it a strong debate tradition, and as such the most popular activity is the speech and debate team, known as "The Hearn" (named for Fr. David Hearn, S.J.). The team competes on state and national levels in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, Student Congress, Extemporaneous speaking, Declamation, Duo Interpretation, and other forms of dramatic interpretation of literature. The Hearn is atypically large for a high school debate team (roughly 40% of the student body is on the team), and is considered one of the best high school teams in the United States. The Hearn's most notable achievements include: 18 state championships in the past 24 years, 5 national collegiate debate champions and one world collegiate champion. A $2.5 million endowment was created in 2008 for the debate society's exclusive use.
There are also various publications that students can work on, such as the newspaper (The Owl) and yearbook (The Regian) as well as several literary publications such as a sports magazine (The Falcon), a journal of opinion (The Crow), a movie review magazine (Flix Pix), and a literary magazine (Images). Regis Repertory stages a musical in the fall and a drama or comedy in the spring, relying on the efforts of over 90 students in the cast, stage crew, business staff, and band, as well as talent from neighboring girls schools. Recreational clubs include the Flag Football League, Billiards Club, Games Club, Comedy Club, Rock Music Club, Tennis Club, Foreign Affairs Club, Yoga Club, Ultimate Frisbee Club and various cultural and special interests/political clubs. The Regis Historical Society, in addition to being a forum for general and school-specific historical debate, publishes its own journal, Cliographia. The Owl interviewed CIA leak case prosecutor and alumnus Patrick J. Fitzgerald in 2006. Its article was linked on the Drudge Report and quoted by the Associated Press.
The Regis High School building has been used as the setting for parts of several television shows and movies:Law & Order: Criminal Intent—Season Six, Episode Two, "Tru Love".
Rock group Of A Revolution (O.A.R.) filmed the music video for their song "Lay Down," which is featured on their 2005 album Stories of a Stranger, at Regis High School.
The 2000 film Finding Forrester uses the school building to represent the Mailor Academy.
Classroom scene in Prince of the City.
Director Allen Coulter filmed his movie Remember Me at the school in July 2009. Actor Pierce Brosnan was also there during filming.
On July 30, 2009, auditions were held in the Regis upper gym for a movie starring Queen Latifah, Just Wright.
On August 6, 2009, Common, a rapper and actor, visited the school building in anticipation of his role in the film Just Wright.
On January 8, 2012, Regis provided the setting for the Florrick children's private school in Season 3 Episode 12 "Alienation of Affection" of The Good Wife.
A Jimmy Fallon segment that aired on March 30 2016 where The Tonight Show played the Harlem Globetrotters in a pickup game of basketball was filmed in Regis's upper gym.
The school inspired the atmosphere and setting for the play Child's Play by Robert Marasco, an alumnus who taught at Regis in the 1960s.
Anthony D. Andreassi's Teach Me to Be Generous discusses the first century of the school's history. First published in January 2014, it was reprinted in March 2014 by Fordham University Press.