Geibel Catholic Through the Years
Father Geibel Memorial High School opened its doors for the first time January 6, 1964. Father William K. Sheridan, the school’s first principal, and his staff of 13 sisters, two priests and three lay teachers, welcomed 290 students to the school. The students walked up Crawford Avenue from the Immaculate Conception High School to their new facility.
Two years prior, Bishop William G. Connare had determined that the facilities at Immaculate Conception could no longer accommodate the growing needs of Catholic high school students in the area. He initiated plans to construct a regional high school, and chose the name Father Geibel to honor the priest who had been pastor of Immaculate Conception parish for 35 years, and who purchased the property on which the school in Connellsville Township would be built. Ground was broken March 6, 1963, and the school was dedicated April 26, 1964.
The new $1.2 million building was designated by Joseph F. Bontempo and Associates of Rochester, Pa., and constructed by William Garlick and Sons, Inc. of Connellsville.
The existence of the regional high school was a boon to Catholic education in the area, and provided a comprehensive secondary program for local students. In addition to St. John High School in Uniontown, Kolb High School in Masontown, and Mon Valley Catholic High School in Monongahela, it was truly a golden age for Catholic education.
However, over the years, these other Catholic high schools were forced to close their doors, and it became incumbent upon Geibel to continue the impressive legacy of secondary Catholic education in the Fay-West area.
Frank Reno became the second principal of the school, and served from 1966-69. During his tenure, enrollment soared to 497 students. Tuition at this time was $5 per month.
John Klaus, class of 1969, composed the Geibel Alma Mater in 1967. It was officially adopted as the school song in 1969.
Sister Mary Jude McColligan, SC, formerly a guidance counselor at Geibel, assumed the role of principal in 1969, and served until 1980. She was the longest-serving principal in the history of the school.
In 1971, Geibel students’ talent was showcased in the school’s first musical production, Anything Goes, directed by mathematics teacher, Larry Orlando. Orlando would direct six additional musicals in the school gymnasium in the years following.
The 1978 boys’ basketball team, coached by Ken Misiak and assistant coach, Bob Fedorko, completed an undefeated 26-0 season and won the PIAA State Basketball Championship over Darby Township, 66-53, in Hershey.
Sister Katheryn Palas, SC succeeded Sister Mary Jude, serving as principal for the 1980-81 school year.
In 1981, Geibel underwent many changes with the arrival of Sister Mary White of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart Order. Sister Mary initiated physical expansion and renovation at the school and stressed curriculum development, all while keeping the school abreast of new technology.
Computer-generated report cards were distributed for the first time in November 1982. In 1983, the library was converted to a computer lab, and four Apple II computers were purchased. The library was relocated to the end of the first-floor hall. The chapel was moved to the second floor, and the area it occupied, next to the gym, was made into a physical fitness room.
Under Sister Mary’s leadership, football was added to the extracurricular offerings. During the team’s first season, in fall 1982, Geibel played a junior-varsity schedule under head coach John Shields. The team moved to Class A football the following year. Arrangements were made with Connellsville Area School District to use its fields for home games. In 1984, the land behind the school was transformed into an athletic field, and was named Andrew T. Soberdash Memorial Athletic Field.
In 1985, the school experienced its first-ever teachers’ strike. Short-lived as it was, a major result was the establishment of a Task Force from the University of Pittsburgh to evaluate the school, and offer recommendations for improvement. It pronounced Geibel academically sound and an outstanding example of a Catholic school community.
Father Richard Curci became the sixth principal of Geibel in fall 1986. Enrollment at this time was 365 students in ninth through twelfth grade. Father Curci made curriculum development his number one priority. He reinstated the Latin program, enhanced the fine arts program, and introduced several advanced placement courses. He oversaw major renovations to the school, with the addition of a new wing to house a weight room,as well as, team and locker rooms. The former locker rooms were converted to classrooms. He also created a band/music room with the goal of establishing a comprehensive music curriculum.
A Mass celebrated by Bishop Anthony G. Bosco, April 30, 1989, highlighted the 25th anniversary of the school. A dinner at the Shady Side Inn in Uniontown followed.
In 1989, boys’ soccer was added to the sports offerings; girls joined the team in 1990.
For the 1990-91 school year, Bishop Bosco appointed Father Curci to direct the diocesan Office of Education, and Thomas Daugherty, who previously held the position of assistant principal, was named acting principal. Enrollment at this time was 406 students. Tuition cost $1,390 per year, with parishes contributing additional monies.
Geibel’s first-ever marching band was organized in fall 1991. Forty-one students, under the direction of Anne Behary, performed at football games, parades and pep rallies. That same year, Daugherty was officially named principal, and Mr. Joseph Shigle was named assistant principal.
During the 1993-94 school year, Geibel underwent its first evaluation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The self-study began in 1992, and in February 1994, a visiting committee from across the state validated the self-evaluation.
Reynold Peduzzi, diocesan coordinator of secondary schools, was interim principal for the first semester, and Steve Fusco became the eighth principal of Geibiel in January 1994.
In the fall of 1996, the computer lab was moved to the second floor, and 26 TATUNG computers and workstations were installed. Ninth and tenth grade students took keyboard instruction and eleventh and twelfth grade students learned word processing.
Enrollment during the 1996-97 school year was 412 students. In 1997, Geibel initiated its Alumni Annual Giving program. In 1997-98, the actual cost per pupil was $4,500. Parents paid $2,750, and the balance was paid by the parishes and the diocese.
Father Greg Premoshis, Geibel chaplain and religion teacher for 19 years, was named president of Geibel in summer 1998. Science teacher Vince Mascia assumed the role of vice principal in the 1998-99 school year.
Faculty members Arlene Severin, Ken Misiak, Robert Fedorko, Kathy Hillen, Larry Orlando, Leo Lowney, and Carl Rossi were honored for 25 years or more of service in 2000.
In August 2000, John Beck, diocesan associate superintendent of schools, was named acting principal. The college in high school program was introduced this year, with three courses taught in cooperation with Seton Hill College, Greensburg. Nick Bell, music/drama teacher, began to direct the annual musical in 2000. His first production was Grease.
Vince Mascia became the ninth principal of Geibel in summer 2001.
Thomasine Rose and Marian Cadwallader were honored for 25 years of service in fall 2001.
In 2002, Father Daniel Blout was named president of Geibel. During this school year, teachers began using an electronic grading program.
In March 2003, the SCRIP program was implemented to help Geibel parents offset the cost of tuition. The football team played its first home game on the new Geibel football field on September 6 of that year.
The 40th anniversary of the school was celebrated November 26, 2004, with Mass, followed by dinner at Lakeside Party Center in McClellandtown.
Misiak, athletic director and 46-year coach, recorded his 700th career win during a basketball game against West Greene January 28, 2005.
During the 2004-05 school year, in-line hockey was added as a club sport.
On December 15, 2005, Bishop Lawrence Brandt announced the future opening of the Geibel Catholic Middle-Senior High School. Forty-five students enrolled in the new seventh and eighth grade classes in August 2006.
In the spring of 2006, Geibel Catholic held its first auction, a major fundraiser for the school. Power School, a web-based student information system, was also launched during the 2006-07 school year.
Father Robert Lubic, a 1984 graduate of the school, became chaplain of Geibel in September 2008, and John Lipchik was named principal in July 2009.
In March 2011, Nick Bell directed 81 students in the spring musical, Phantom of the Opera. Nearly 2,000 people attended the sell-out performances.
In the summer of 2011, Don Favero became the eleventh principal of Geibel Catholic. The school witnessed major physical changes during that time, with Conn-Area Catholic School moving to the Geibel campus. With help from a $1.25 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, a new entrance for Conn-Area was constructed, and renovations were made to classrooms, including advanced technology, Wi-Fi capability, new science labs, a media resource center, and a playground. Upgrades were made to the heating and ventilation system, and new windows were installed.
Actual per student tuition cost in 2011-12 was $11,200, with most parents receiving aid and paying $5,800.
In the fall of 2012, under the leadership of principal Don Favero and diocesan superintendent Trent Bocan, Geibel Catholic was named one of the top fifty Catholic high schools in the nation by the prestigious Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization that recognizes excellence in Catholic identity, academics, and civic education. This honor helped boost the school’s enrollment by nearly 30 percent, including an increase in the number of foreign exchange students from South Korea and China.
In 2012, the school was renamed Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School.
In March 2012, Nick Bell staged another blockbuster musical, CATS, followed by Les Miserables in 2013.
The newly-renovated chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, was blessed by Bishop Brandt in May 2013, during a Mass concelebrated with Father Lubic. Father Lubic had obtained the funding necessary to install new flooring, ceiling, and lighting. The chapel features stained glass windows, mosaic Stations of the Cross, plaques, statues and altar furnishings from the former Holy Trinity Parish in Connellsville.
On January 6, 2014, Geibel Catholic celebrated its 50-year anniversary with a Mass, assembly and opening of the locker Time Capsule. Several members of the class of 1964 attended the event.
In the fall 2014, Geibel Catholic was again honored as a “School of Excellence” by the Cardinal Newman Society. Less than five percent of the Catholic high schools in the nation receive this distinction. Bishop Brandt and Maureen Marsteller, diocesan superintendent, addressed the students at a school-wide assembly for the occasion.
In the spring 2015, Geibel Catholic ended a two-year self-study with a visit by members of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools evaluation team. The team did a diocesan-wide evaluation and Geibel received the approval of the team.
The building interior received a facelift in the summer of 2018 when the gymnasium, cafeteria, lockers, and hallways were painted and the front lobby became a welcoming space for students, parents, and visitors to gather.
The school hosted a well-attended press conference in August of 2019 to unveil the new branding for Geibel Catholic. The Office of Communications and Evangelization designed a Gator mascot and logo for the school. All classrooms were now equipped with a Smartboard and each student received an upgraded laptop in the expanded 1:1 device environment during the 2019-2020 school year. In sports, both the girls volleyball team and boys basketball team advanced to the PIAA State Tournament.
In March/April of 2020 the coronavirus (COVID-19) caused PA Governor Tom Wolf to order schools closed through the end of the academic year. The Geibel Catholic community did not miss a beat and were ahead of the curve with remote learning for students. Teachers, students, parents, staff, and administration all worked together to continue providing a rigorous, faith-based education for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Commencement ceremonies were delayed until July of 2020 and held in-person on the soccer field behind the school.
As the coronavirus pandemic continued to plague the world, the Geibel Catholic community enacted several safety precautions to enable the teachers, students, and administration to conduct school face-to-face in the school building. Many activities were curtailed due to physical distancing restrictions, like the annual school musical and some sporting events.