Unless you’ve graduated from a particular school, you may not know how or why it got its name. We delve into the history behind some local schools and the meanings of their monikers.

Cor Jesu Academy

Next year, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will celebrate 100 years in St. Louis. In 1913, Archbishop John Glennon welcomed four religious sisters from Connecticut to town to help staff a new Catholic school downtown—Our Lady Help of Christians—with a focus on helping Italian immigrants.

Founded in 1894 in Italy by Mother Clelia Merloni, the order’s presence grew in St. Louis; and in 1956, the sisters started Cor Jesu Academy. The Latin phrase ‘Cor Jesu’ means ‘heart of Jesus,’ echoing the order’s name. Originally located on Macklind Avenue on The Hill, Cor Jesu moved to its present location in Affton in 1965.

Today, the history and meaning behind Cor Jesu’s name is perpetuated through the students, with its motto, ‘sharing the love of the heart of Christ.’ Freshman theology includes a unit on Mother Clelia and the beliefs behind the Apostles.

John Burroughs School

When a group of local parents came together in the 1920s to form a new secondary school in St. Louis, they established the intentions, concept and even the land the institution would stand on, but they didn’t have a name.

After founding the elementary Community School several years earlier, the group came together again to build another school for the next level of education. While the school was initially intended to be an all-girls institution, the committee reconsidered after several school founders traveled to the East Coast to visit Bryn Mawr College, where they were informed that co-education was the future.

An ideal site for the institution was found off of Price Road, available for $35,000, but the school still was missing a name. According to legend, after a long night of haggling, committee member Ernest Stix awoke from a nap in the corner and yelled, “Call it John Burroughs and let’s go home!” Burroughs, a well-known naturalist who had recently died, evoked the ideals that the group wanted for their children: appreciation of beauty, combined with spiritual sturdiness, self-reliance and leadership based on high motive. John Burroughs School opened in 1923.

Rossman School

When Smith Academy closed in the spring of 1917, an educational vacuum was left behind in St. Louis city. Mary B. Rossman and fellow teacher Helen Schwaner recognized the need for basic elementary education for boys and girls in the city; and after being encouraged by friends and parents of prospective students, they opened their own school in the fall of the same year.

Rossman School was originally located on Delmar Boulevard, with Rossman and Schwaner assuming some of the teaching duties and following the tenet, Do not attempt more than you can achieve and do what you attempt thoroughly and well.

Schwaner passed away in 1956 at age 87, continuing to come to the school for a few hours every day up until her death. In 1957, Rossman stepped down from her role as head of the school after 40 years, but maintained her role as consultant and president for a few years before passing away in her mid-90s in 1967. Rossman School relocated to its present location on Conway Road in Creve Coeur in 1962.

Nerinx Hall

Nerinx Hall is named in tribute to the Rev. Charles Nerinckx, a Catholic missionary priest from Belgium who helped found the Sisters of Loretto religious order in 1812. After learning English, Nerinckx was sent to Kentucky in 1805 to assist Rev. Stephen Badin, a fellow missionary priest. While there, he assisted in the formation of a new teaching order with a focus on Catholic education, alongside three women: Mary Rhodes, Ann Havern and Christina Stuart.

After the sisters came to St. Louis, they established Loretto College in 1915. Changing its name to Webster College (now Webster University) in 1924, the school also applied for affiliation with the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. To receive that affiliation, the sisters were required to conduct their college and high school courses in separate buildings. While they were inclined to discontinue the high school, Webster Groves residents fought to keep the program, and it was moved into the Lockwood family mansion. Nerinx Hall graduated its first class in May 1925, 100 years after Rev. Nerinckx’s death.

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School

After founding the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800 in France, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat sent her protégé, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, to the U.S. in 1818. She arrived in New Orleans and traveled to St. Louis after learning the city needed teachers, establishing the first location of the religious order outside of France. Today, there are 22 Sacred Heart schools in the U.S., and Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School pays tribute to Duchesne’s work.

Villa Duchesne was founded in 1929 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. The elementary school followed in 1973, the name of Oak Hill stemming from the French word ‘Duchesne,’ or ‘of the oak.’ The stories of Barat and Duchesne are part of the school’s history, and students are reminded of that connection with the image of the oak leaf present in many parts of the campus.

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