Star of the Sea School celebrates 100th anniversary

by Jeremiah Michaels

The little school on Geary Boulevard has been a haven to many over its years, and now it will be celebrating its birthday.

Star of the Sea School, located at 360 Ninth Ave., will be turning 100 years old in 2009. The Richmond District school will be celebrating its many years serving the community by hosting events over the next year and a half. Some of the events planned include an alumni weekend May 7 - 9 with wine tasting and a rededication mass.

Terence Hanley, principal at Star of the Sea School, said the next 18 months "would be full of celebrations." The school held a Winter Ball at the Fairmont Hotel on Jan. 24 and plans other events. The rededication mass will feature San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer and will take place in 2010. A Spring Gala will also be held the same year. The events are not the only things the school plans on hosting.

According to Hanley, the school has taken the opportunity to reach out to its vast body of alumni. A book full of photographs from years past is planned, as well as an audio recording, which will feature unique sounds from the school and surrounding neighborhood, namely Clement Street.

"Sounds of the church bells, kids playing, reminders of what the campus sounds like," Hanley said.

The audio recording will also feature testimonials of former students and teachers from Star of the Sea School.

"That's nice because it involves the students, the community and the sisters," said Susan O'Hara, co-chair of the Star of the Sea Centennial Committee.

O'Hara said the committee has been working over the last five years. She also said the committee has been compiling photographs for the book. Messages have been sent out to all alumni and former faculty in an effort to get as many participants as possible. Hanley said the school has been calling out to all alumni and getting responses.

He said he received a call from "a guy who lives in Minnesota from the class of 1962. He said he would make it down to the City." The audio recording also will include current students and their experiences.

Julianne Larkin, 13, said: "Star has a good community, like a family." Most of the students at Star of the Sea have been at the school since starting their education.

The school plans to add to its campus in the next few years. Along with the celebrations, a capital campaign has started to fund a new science and laboratory building. The campaign will run the period of the centennial celebration. The centennial board of directors has been writing grants for the building and hopes to raise $1 million.

Gracie Allen, whom was married to George Burns, left the school $100,000 in the mid '90s. The funds were used to build a computer lab for students.

Star of the Sea opened its doors in 1909, just after the great San Francisco earthquake. Hanley said the only thing around the school campus was sand dunes. The school opened to serve the children of families in the Star of the Sea parish.

Originally, the school contained a high school and was one of the first co-ed campuses in the area. The high school portion closed down in the '60s. The school has been a feeder school for Catholic preparatory high schools, like Sacred Heart Academy and Saint Ignatius.

For information about the celebrations, call Star of the Sea School's centennial hotline at (415) 221-3399 or visit its Web site at nial. Alumni are encouraged to contact the school at [email protected].