Neha Patil (Editor)

Saint Mary's College High School

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Religious affiliation(s)  Roman Catholic
Principal  Peter Imperial
Phone  +1 510-526-9242
Colors  White, Red
Established  1863
Tuition  15,940 USD (2014–2015)
Total enrollment  183 (2016)
Saint Mary's College High School
Type  Private, Day, College-prep
Oversight  Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
President  Br. Edmond Larouche, FSC
Address  1294 Albina Ave, Albany, CA 94706, USA

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Saint Mary's College High School came into being as part of Saint Mary's College of California, founded in 1863 by the Catholic Church, and put under the auspices of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1868. Saint Mary's is a coeducational Catholic school located in Albany, California, although its postal address is in Berkeley, California.


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In 1853, Joseph Sadoc Alemany was named Archbishop of San Francisco and immediately began to work to strengthen the fledgling system of Catholic education that existed at the time. Among his goals was the establishment of an educational institution for young men with an eye to fostering a home-grown clergy he felt was necessary for the survival of the Church in California. On July 9, 1863, Alemany dedicated the new Saint Mary’s College at the end of Old Mission Road in San Francisco near the Mission Dolores.

Early years (1868-1884)

The college was founded to educate young men at the grammar school, high school, and college levels. It was unsuccessful in its first five years, and by 1868 its closure was being seriously considered. On August 10, 1868, eight Christian Brothers, led by Brother Justin McMahon, arrived in San Francisco after a month of travel from New York City by steamship, train, and wagon to take over management of Saint Mary’s. Their first year in California was discouraging for the pioneer Brothers: difficult financial and teaching conditions, enrollment of only thirty students, a major earthquake, and a citywide outbreak of smallpox. Still, their efforts that year tripled enrollment, which grew to 240 by 1875. The college soon became the state’s largest institution of higher learning, larger than the University of California at Berkeley, founded in 1868, and Santa Clara University, founded in 1851 by the Jesuit Fathers.

Most students boarded at the college, given its four-mile (6 km) distance from the heart of the city. Board and tuition cost $250 per year; day students paid $60. In 1870, to allow for expansion of the high school and college departments, the Brothers relocated the grammar school from Mission Road to their new St. Joseph’s Academy in Oakland.

Move to the East Bay (1885-1903)

In 1885, an acre of land along Broadway in Oakland was purchased, a cornerstone was laid in 1887, and in August 1889, the new facility – “The Brickpile” – was dedicated, replacing the San Francisco campus for both the college and high school departments. Around the start of the 20th century, board and tuition totaled about $400. Disastrous fires in 1894 and 1918 severely damaged the school and reconstruction followed in both instances.

With a growing college population, the high school’s move from the Oakland campus was imminent, resulting in the physical separation of the college and high school for the first time since 1863. The college moved to Moraga in 1928, a year after the high school’s move to its new campus at Peralta Park in Berkeley. The high school was dedicated on August 28, 1927 as Saint Mary’s College High School, retaining the word “College” to signify its historical origins. The Brothers had already been at Peralta Park for twenty-four years, having relocated their St. Joseph’s Academy grammar school for boys from Oakland to Berkeley’s magnificent Peralta Park Hotel in 1903.

Peralta Park had once been part of the inheritance of José Domingo Peralta from the Spanish governments’ 48,000-acre (194 km2) Rancho San Antonio land grant to his father in 1820, and included most of present-day Berkeley and Emeryville. A plaque at 1302 Albina Avenue describes Peralta’s 1841 adobe on the banks of Codornices Creek. The adobe was destroyed in the great October 21, 1868 earthquake on the Hayward Fault.

In 1888, renowned stage actor Maurice Strellinger built the six-story Peralta Park Hotel at the end of Albina Avenue. Its sixty bedrooms and twenty baths rivaled the mansions of Nob Hill. Strellinger hosted his actor friends at the grand hotel and hoped to create an actors’ retirement home there; adjacent neighborhoods boasted exclusive residences. Defense for a San Francisco murder trial, in which he was cleared, property taxes, and hotel costs ultimately left Strellinger with little financial means. He died a pauper in the Los Angeles County Hospital in 1920. His Peralta Park legacy includes Posen Street, named for his famous stage character, “Sam’l of Posen,” and Albina Avenue, named for “Albina de Mer,” the stage name of Strellinger’s actress wife. Before its purchase by the Christian Brothers in 1903, the Peralta Park Hotel housed a number of enterprises, including a nightclub, headquarters of a candy company, Sprague’s Seminary for Young Ladies, and Dunn’s School for Boys.

Campus growth (1927-2006)

When school began in August 1927, newly constructed 51,000-square-foot (4,700 m2) De La Salle Hall housed classrooms, dorm rooms, a chapel, offices, and the school cafeteria, and could accommodate 500 students, including 250 boarders.

In 1946, a spectacular fire claimed the top two floors of the massive Academy and in 1959 the entire building was razed. Grammar school boarders moved into De La Salle Hall and attended classes in the new Cronin Hall. Older resident students made a home in St. Joseph’s Hall (1956), which also housed the school library. Enrollment in 1966 saw 180 Academy students and 611 in the high school. The Academy ultimately moved to Mont La Salle in Napa in 1969 and closed completely in the early 1980s. The last high school boarder graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1971. That year, the student population numbered 507.

Beloved De La Salle Hall was razed in 1973 as an earthquake hazard. Brother Norman Cook, who taught at the Academy from 1952 to 1959, returned to Berkeley as Saint Mary’s Principal in 1973. It was a difficult time for the school; enrollment was declining, De La Salle Hall was gone, leaving minimal facilities to accommodate 475 students. The Brothers lived in Vellesian Hall, and Saint Joseph’s Hall began its virtually annual metamorphosis to meet school needs.

In his assignment to Saint Mary’s, Brother Norman had been given a mandate to “close it up or build it up!” The school community chose transformation. “The possible demise of Saint Mary’s and its embodiment of the Lasallian vision,” Brother Norman reflected years later, “was simply an unacceptable option.” Work began on a facilities master plan and a major fundraising campaign. The Shea Student Center was completed in 1977 and the Brothers Residence in 1978. A later campaign funded the 1986 construction of science and math classrooms in Murphy Hall.

Though campus facilities improved, enrollment steadily declined, reaching a low of about 375 in 1993. The closure of Berkeley’s Presentation High for girls added impetus to Saint Mary’s consideration of coeducation. In 1995, the gymnasium extension and new auditorium theater were completed as part of the school’s Sharing the Spirit transition to coeducation. In August 1995, after 132 years as an all-male school, a 55/45 percent mix of young men and women entered the freshman class, and twenty-two sophomore girls joined ninety-eight male classmates. At commencement exercises on May 31, 1998, graduates spoke of the initial anxiety and apprehension that had given way to achievements and friendships which ultimately united them as Saint Mary’s first coed graduating class.

As Saint Mary’s marked its 75th year on the Berkeley campus in 2002, Freitas Memorial Hall opened, providing eight new classrooms and an amphitheater, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Frank E. Freitas, Jr., Class of 1927, and donors to the school’s successful Creating Futures campaign for the new building and tuition assistance endowment funds.

Over four summers beginning in 2011, the 1952 Cronin Hall classroom building was gutted and retrofitted; work was completed in 2014. That November, the new classroom building was blessed and renamed Brennan Hall. In 2015, the design for Saint Mary's Student Chapel was approved. Ground was broken in Summer 2016, and work on the chapel site got underway. It is expected construction will be completed late in 2017.

In August 2017, Saint Mary's will mark 90 years on the Peralta Park campus.


  • Total Enrollment: 630
  • Female: 52%
  • Male: 48%
  • European-American: 36%
  • Person: 29%
  • African American: 28%
  • Multi-racial/Other: 13%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 11.99%
  • Filipino American: 6%
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 5%
  • Faculty statistics

  • Total Faculty: 42
  • Female: 50%
  • Male: 50%
  • Student/faculty ratio: 17:1
  • Average class size: 25-28 students
  • Faculty/staff graduates of Saint Mary's: 28%
  • Faculty/staff graduates of a Lasallian school: 64%
  • Athletics

    Saint Mary's sports teams include baseball, cross country, football, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls golf, girls lacrosse, boys and girls soccer, softball, swimming and diving, boys and girls tennis, track and field, and boys and girls volleyball.

    The 1998 track and field team was ranked ninth in the U.S. The boys basketball team won the Division IV state championship in 2001 and lost in the state championship game in 2008. As of the end of the 2010 cross country season, the boys were attempting to achieve their 25th consecutive league championship and the girls won 13 of the last 15 titles since the school's transition to coeducation in 1995.

    Saint Mary's aging multi-purpose field, which was used for football, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse, completed major renovations and reopend in January 2009 as Thomas M. Brady Park, which includes a state-of-the-art turf field.

    Notable alumni

    Class years are indicated in parentheses.

  • Lorenzo Alexander (2001) - NFL player
  • Courtney Brown (2002) - NFL player
  • Trestin George (2002) - Professional football player
  • Bobby Murphy (2006) - Co-founder of Snapchat
  • Marcus Semien (2008) - MLB player
  • Russell Hornsby (1992) - Actor
  • Tom Fogerty (1959) - Rhythm guitarist, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Paul Kantner (1959) - Musician, founding member of Jefferson Airplane
  • Michael Wiseman (1985) - Actor
  • Ryan Coogler (2003) - American film director and screenwriter
  • Shakir Stewart (1991) - Senior VP of A&R at Def Jam Recording
  • Ray Strong (1974) - NFL player
  • Dick Mesak - NFL player
  • References

    Saint Mary's College High School Wikipedia