GREENVILLE—The first classes at St. Joseph’s Catholic School took place in August of 1993, in the living room of a borrowed house off Augusta Road.
The principal’s office was in the dining room. The student body of 13 did their science experiments in the kitchen.
Twenty-five years later, the school has more than 600 youth in grades 6-12, has won numerous awards and is a mainstay of Catholic education for families in the Upstate.
Students and their parents, staff members and alumni toasted the milestone anniversary on Feb. 3, beginning with a 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, followed by a gathering featuring food trucks, live music and alumni awards.
The school that became St. Joseph’s was founded by nine people determined to make the dream a reality: Louis Beck, Mary Cotter, Janelle Malone, Barbara McGrath, Nancy and John McGrath, Tom McPartland, Margaret Ann Moon and Bradley Van Name.
Barbara McGrath, who now serves as admissions director, was one of four women who first began planning for the school while sitting around a kitchen table.
In 1989, she and her husband Doug were planning to move to the area from Ohio. There was only one problem: Both were products of 16 years of Catholic education and they were determined that their two daughters would have the same. The lack of a high school was the one thing holding them back, so Mr. McGrath challenged his wife to help open a Catholic high school in the Upstate.
Over the next few years, the group of four grew to nine people who put in countless hours getting the school off the ground.
They turned to churches in Greenville to see if anyone would lend them space during the week to hold classes and eventually leased a house owned by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church for $1.
When classes started, many of the teachers were volunteers who held other jobs. On that first day, the school had only $800 in the bank.
“It was very simple, but it worked,” Mrs. McGrath said.
The student body slowly grew over the next several years and the school became more established, eventually moving to a site on Washington Street in 1994 and then to its current campus on St. Joseph’s Drive in 1998. The first senior class graduated in 1996.
Mrs. McGrath said that for her, the most important date in their history was Aug. 15, 2000, when Bishop Robert J. Baker came to Greenville to formally endorse the school as a Catholic institution.
Keith Kiser, who has been headmaster for 18 years, said he is proud of the impact St. Joseph’s has had in the lives of its students and on the surrounding community. He likes to cite a frequent quote by the late Margaret Ann Moon, who served as chair of the school’s board, “Our graduates are destined to change the world.”
Kiser said the school’s alumni are all still under the age of 40 but have already made significant contributions in the business community, athletics, medicine, the arts, and on the life of the Church. Father Andrew Fryml, who was ordained in 2017, is a member of the class of 2009. Two other alumni are currently seminarians for the Diocese of Charleston, and another is serving as a Benedictine monk in Italy.
“One of the beautiful things about St. Joseph’s is that it did grow from a grass roots desire to have a Catholic high school here, and people invested time, talent and treasure to get us where we are now,” Kiser said.
Top photo, provided: Members of the student body at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville sign their names to a beam in a new three-story building on the campus that will be finished in March.