A few years into his appointment as Bishop of Providence, the Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney visited the Morris family home in Warwick, Rhode Island to share his desire to build an all-boys Catholic high school on their farm property. Mr. and Mrs. Morris knelt in their living room to receive Bishop McVinney, and without hesitation, gave him permission to take whatever property of theirs he needed to make the school a reality.
Bishop Hendricken High School opened its doors to some 350 students in September 1959 under the leadership of Br. Francois Guibault, C.S.C, the school’s first principal. Named for the Most Reverend Bishop Thomas F. Hendricken, the very first Bishop of Providence, the school was originally staffed by the Brothers of the Holy Cross and run in their traditions as a private, Catholic high school.
Two short years later, with enrollment increasing at parochial schools across Rhode Island, the original 22-classroom building had reached its limit of nearly 800 students.
Through the 1960s, Bishop Hendricken flourished, garnering recognition across the Ocean State for academic and athletic achievements.
In 1970, the Brothers of the Holy Cross announced plans to leave Bishop Hendricken. The decision saddened the entire school community, enrollment plummeted, and it appeared likely that our doors would close.
In response, loyal teachers, parents, students, and alumni came together to spearhead a campaign to keep the school open: Save Hendricken. The group assembled an all-out blitz: writing letters to the Brothers of the Holy Cross and diocese, petitioning state and local politicians, and using the press to campaign for Bishop Hendricken to keep its doors open.
Through the intercession of Bishop McVinney, and with the support of the Save Hendricken campaign, the Congregation of Christian Brothers agreed to staff the school following the departure of the Brothers of the Holy Cross.
The Diocese of Providence made the necessary funds available, and in September 1971, with Br. Thomas Feerick as Principal and Br. James Liguori as Assistant Principal, the school opened as usual: now as a diocesan, Catholic secondary school with the Congregation of Christian Brothers at the helm. The Christian Brothers immediately began recruitment efforts to bolster a dwindling enrollment.
With new leadership, Bishop Hendricken was reinvigorated and rejuvenated. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the school population boomed so much that Bishop Hendricken took over the former Our Lady of Providence Seminary High School at Warwick Neck (now Aldrich Mansion) as its senior campus. The student body flourished with renewed academic achievement and incredible athletic success.
In the spirit of the Vatican Council II calling for shared responsibility and participatory decision making, the Bishop Hendricken High School established a Board of Directors in 1990.
In 1991, Bishop Hendricken would adopt the President-Principal leadership model, and Br. Vincent McNally, C.F.C. served as the school’s first president.
In 1995, the Board of Directors commissioned the development of the school’s first strategic plan: Hendricken 2020. This plan outlined an ambitious program to position the school for strength and evolution, including establishing an endowment fund, and initiatives for physical and technological growth.
In 1997, the school launched its first significant fundraising campaign to address its new needs: Lighting the Way – An Investment in the Future. The campaign had a $1 million goal to take Bishop Hendricken well into the 21st century. The Schiblers and the Hagertys, together with the Most Reverend Robert E. Mulvee, Bishop of Providence, and the Board of Directors, led an effort that immensely enhanced the school and student life.
In 1997 and early 1998, the school was blessed with the following additions that were made possible from the Lighting the Way campaign: a 16,000 square-foot Pepin Gymnasium; a 5,000 square-foot outdoor street hockey/basketball area; a redesigned west gate on Oakland Beach Avenue; a 6,000 square-foot west wing of classrooms (including a computer laboratory which provided internet access for the students); and a new website to keep the community up-to-date with school news, developments, and information.
In 2001, Mr. Joseph P. Healey ’84 started what would eventually become the Healey Scholarship — funding for bright students who have a strong desire to attend Bishop Hendricken, but cannot afford tuition.
Today, the Healey Scholarship is the largest cumulative gift in our history, and no doubt, the most philanthropically transformative.
In 2005, construction began on an Arts & Technology wing that included 11 new classrooms, a science lab, a math lab, music practice rooms, band room, choral room, the Ni-Ro-Pe Digital Media Studio, and the magnificent 350-seat Dr. Daniel S. Harrop Theater. The newly added wing would open in fall 2006.
In August 2010, the Christian Brothers announced that they would no longer be able to staff Bishop Hendricken due to declining vocations. While the school community was saddened by the news, it was heartened by the strong foundation of excellence that the brothers left.
To this day, the Essential Elements of a Christian Brother’s education continue to be the guiding lights of our school, our community, and our mission. Our school community is tremendously grateful for the work of all 68 Christian Brothers who staffed our school for over 40 years.
Amid the departure of the Christian Brothers, Bishop Hendricken High School named John A. Jackson ’71 its first lay president in September 2010.
Under his tenure, Jackson guided the transition of the school, upholding the values of Blessed Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers, and reaffirming its Catholic identity. To this end, the school continued to thrive and grow academically, athletically, artistically, and in service.
In 2020, Dr. Frank A. DeLucia ’70 celebrated his 50th reunion by making a transformative $430,000 gift to Bishop Hendricken, the largest single gift in our history, for investment in the newly-formed Leadership Academy.
With the funds, Bishop Hendricken renovated Founders’ Hall into the Dr. Frank A. DeLucia ’70 Leadership Center for Excellence in 2021 and endowed scholarships for Leadership Academy students.
In May 2021, Natalie Kessimian became the school’s first-ever female academic administrator when she was named Assistant Principal.
In response to the challenges confronting the school community by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Hendricken developed the School Leadership Team in June 2021. Led by Mr. Mark DeCiccio, the Team’s goal is to enhance all aspects of the student and faculty experience — academics, campus life, new initiatives, and opportunities — by providing increased support and accessibility to administration.
Thanks to the influence and generosity of the Bishop Hendricken community—current students and parents, alumni, friends, faculty, staff, administration, neighbors and the local community – our school continues to provide the very best in Catholic education to young men.
Will you be part of the next chapter of our history?