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Remembering Wahlert High School

Presentation Presence from 1959-2006

A study of the four Catholic high schools in Dubuque, begun in 1955, discovered deteriorating buildings and overcrowded conditions. Loras Academy, Immaculate Conception Academy, St. Joseph Academy and St. Columbkille School were under the auspices of various religious community groups at the time. A decision was made to undertake the construction of a central Catholic high school to serve the needs of the students in the area.

April 7, 1957, was the launching date for a campaign which reached 2,000 people from the 15 parishes in the Dubuque area. A 50-acre plot of land was purchased and construction began, resulting in the dedication of the new facility on November 3, 1959.

The new building opened with a faculty of 85 members including representatives from each of the religious congregations, along with priests, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructors and lay teachers. Opening enrollment reached 1,670 students; a maximum enrollment of 2,226 would come in the 1966-67 school year, when it was determined that an addition was needed to accommodate the activities programs. Another addition, named Mazzuchelli Middle School, was added in 2005 with an approximate enrollment of 400.

Over the years, Wahlert High School administrators remained up-to-date on the latest trends in education. In the first years, a four-track system was used. Eventually this gave way to modular scheduling, team teaching, individually guided education and independent study. Foreign languages, including Latin, French, Spanish and German, were offered.

In order for faculty members to be able to work closely together, a unique living arrangement was provided for priests and sisters. Seven priests occupied the former St. Rose Priory, later named Vianney House, while 50 sisters made their home next door in the former Good Shepherd Home for Girls, which became Regina Convent.

Eight Sisters of the Presentation moved into their new home on Asbury Road in 1959, accompanied by 20 Sisters of Charity, 20 Sisters of St. Francis and two Dominican Sisters. Each group occupied a separate area of the building and they shared some common areas. This was to be their residence until 1983 when numbers dictated a new arrangement. At that time several sisters moved to Holy Trinity Convent in Dubuque.
From 1959-2006, 42 Presentation Sisters served at Wahlert High School, beginning with Sister Mary Ernestine Meyer, chair of the home economics department, and Sister Mary Fleurette Einikey, in charge of the library. At times as many as 11 Presentation Sisters were on the faculty, and in later years that number dropped to one. The last to serve was Sister Rita Cameron, who left her counseling position in 2006.

Sister Elena Hoye, teacher at Wahlert from 1979-1985, had this to say about her experience: “Wahlert Catholic High School holds a special place in my heart. It was there that I learned how to really teach. Father Joe Herard was the principal, and through his guidance and insistence that everyone learn and use the Madeline Hunter’s teaching model, I fell in love with teaching. I will be forever grateful.”  

Wahlert High School continues to serve the young people of the Dubuque area as part of the Holy Family Catholic School System. Students come from the elementary schools in town, and from the surrounding tri-state area.

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