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Heritage and History

Saint John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719) opened his first school in Reims, his birthplace in northeastern France, in 1679. He was convinced that without Christian schools some poor children would be lost both to the Church and to civil society. His initial efforts led him to organize the teachers whose services he had secured into a religious community called the Brothers of the Christian Schools. De La Salle inspired these teachers with the following principle: “You should therefore have a great tenderness towards them and supply their spiritual needs to the best of your ability, looking upon these children as members of Jesus Christ and as his much loved ones” (Meditation for the feast of St. Nicholas). Over a period of thirty years, he opened schools in several French cities and towns and worked with numerous teachers and students from various socio-economic levels. By the time of his death he had founded different types of educational institutions: primary schools, teacher training centers, boarding schools, and homes for delinquents.

Alert to the needs of his time, he was an innovator in the development of teacher training programs and in curricular and pedagogical practices. Teachers ranked with servants in seventeenth century France. De La Salle, however, recognized that teachers stand in a providential and grace-filled relationship to children. Because of the special dignity of this calling, he provided teachers with extensive pedagogical preparation and on-going supervision. In consultation with his teachers, de La Salle designed a curriculum and wrote practical and effective textbooks infused with gospel values. De La Salle was one of the early Catholic proponents of universal education. Although de La Salle’s schools were primarily for the poor, they attracted children from families of differing economic backgrounds. However, he tolerated nothing of the social segregating which was the practice of the day. He prescribed uniform management procedures for the classroom instruction of students from different social and academic levels.

De La Salle regarded a school as a community of believers working cooperatively to achieve a shared vision. De La Salle envisioned teachers as ministers of grace who exercise their vocation daily by instructing youth in the principles of the gospel as well as in the various academic and vocational subjects. His teachers thus helped young people to commit themselves to the teachings of the gospel, to develop loyalty to the Catholic Church, and to prepare themselves for productive citizenship.

De La Salle was a prolific writer and his educational ideas are embodied in several major works: Rule of the Brothers of the Christian schools, Meditations for the Time of Retreat, and the Conduct of Schools, as well as in the textbooks he wrote for students. His contributions to Catholic education led Pope Pius XII in 1950 to proclaim him the Patron of Teachers.

Today, nearly 80,000 students in more than 80 countries throughout the world receive their education in Lasallian Schools which differ greatly in terms of clientele, curriculum and methodology as well as in social and cultural conditions. These schools are unified in the Lasallian heritage.

Lasallian spirituality is rooted in De La Salle’s “double contemplation” of our aspiration to be with God for eternity and the challenge faced by the poor and marginalized to achieve that end.  Thus, Lasallian spirituality is:

•    rooted in the school as an instrument of Divine Grace
•    focused on the relationship between the teacher and the student
•    inspired by the salvific potential of a human and Christian  education

In harmony with Lasallian Spirituality, three essential characteristics form the core of the Lasallian School: 
(1) Teaching viewed as a ministry of grace;
(2) Association, that is, the achievement of the school’s goals through the collaborative efforts of teachers sharing the same vision and values of the gospel;
(3) The effective management of the schools so as to achieve the intellectual, cultural, religious, and vocational formation of the students through a curriculum suited to their needs and based on Christian values.

La Salle High School was founded in 1956 at the request of His Eminence James Francis Cardinal McIntyre to the San Francisco District of the Brothers of the Christian Schools for construction and operation of a Catholic boys high school to serve the northern and eastern sections of the San Gabriel Valley. Today, La Salle High School continues to function as a private Catholic, co-educational, college preparatory high school. It is a Lasallian School - an educational institution that draws its philosophy and inspiration from the Christian Brothers whose reputation for excellence in education extends back to 1680. The Christian Brothers, assisted by more than 84,000 lay colleagues worldwide, educate nearly one million students in 80 countries. These schools serve nearly every ethnic group and religion around the world. In addition to providing strong academics, each Lasallian school creates a community of persons deeply conscious of their responsibilities to each other, which is central to their success.
La Salle High School is dedicated to excellent student performance in academics, arts and athletics. Of particular importance is La Salle High School’s call to carry out the Mission established by its founder, Saint John Baptist De La Salle, “to give a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor.” Lancer athletics, Student Life, visual and performing arts, honors and service societies, student clubs and organizations, and student television broadcasts and publication provide a healthy and warm community atmosphere for all La Salle students.

1950s (The Beginning)

Construction of La Salle's Main Building, 1955

Construction of the Main Building
In February 1955, the construction of La Salle High School was assured when the Pasadena City Planning Commission reinstated a zoning variance that had expired in 1951.

In November 1955, construction began on the School’s main building. The building was described as a contemporary three-story structure of reinforced brick and concrete. The building would include eight classrooms, chemistry and physics laboratories, mechanical drawing and typing rooms, library, book store, audio-visual room, cafeteria, locker room and offices. Facilities would also include an athletic field and track. The Brothers’ residence and chapel were built before the opening of the School.

Brother Wilfrid Menard and Brother Emery LeRoy with members of La Salle's first freshman class in the fall of 1956.

La Salle Opens its Doors
La Salle High School opens its doors in September with Brother Celestine Cormier, FSC, as the first principal. Brother Celestine indicated that at La Salle “We intend to give your son an integrated education which has a purposeful direction worked into it…our educational plan calls for an orientation in which God is the center.”

The new La Salle Catholic High School opened September 11, 1956 with 117 ninth grade students from fourteen nearby communities. The present school building would eventually accommodate 400 students, adding a class each year until the full high school program was offered.

On November 10, 1956 La Salle High School was blessed by Bishop Alden J. Bell. Future plans for the school included a combination auditorium-gymnasium, an additional classroom wing, and additions to the Brothers’ residence. A track, baseball diamond and football field were also under construction at this time.

La Salle's 1959-1960 Varsity Basketball Team

Mark of Distinction
La Salle’s first freshman class (now sophomores) achieved the distinction of winning the freshman division of the statewide Christian Brothers Academic Association. Now in its second year of operation, La Salle sponsored three basketball teams, two baseball teams, a track team and a tennis team with over 70 percent of the student body participating.

Athletics Strive Forward
Athletic Facilities at La Salle continued to expand with the completion of the track curbing which encircles the athletic field.

La Salle is formerly accepted into the Olympic League of the California Interscholastic Federation and began official competition in basketball, baseball, track, and tennis during the 1958-1959 school year.

Completing construction of the dome on top of the Duffy Lewis Gymnasium, 1960.

Construction of the Gymnasium
Construction of the Auditorium-Gymnasium begins. It would include a regulation playing floor, bleacher seating for 750, stage, music room, student council room, showers, and offices. The building would complete La Salle’s approved expansion program allowing the school to accommodate 600 boys.

La Salle becomes a four-year institution with the enrollment of 120 freshmen boys in the fall of 1959 bringing the student body to 400 members. Jim Dirmann ’60 becomes the School’s first Student Body President.

1960s (La Salle Starts to Expand)

La Salle’s First Graduating Class
After one year of construction, the La Salle High School Gymnasium was ready for full use with the beginning of the 1960-1961 school year.

La Salle’s first graduating senior class totaled 92 graduates. The Class of 1960 received their diplomas in the new school auditorium-gymnasium on June 2, 1960. More than 1,200 people witnessed the ceremonies presided over by His Excellency, Bishop Alden J. Bell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.

Having graduated its first class in early June, La Salle reaches its maturity in student enrollment. The incoming freshman class numbered 125 boys and increased the student body to 430. The teaching faculty at this time consisted of 11 Christian Brothers and six lay teachers.

From 1960 until the early nineties, La Salle High School continued to graduate young men instilled with the values and principles of the Christian Brothers tradition.

La Salle is officially accredited by the University of California. The University Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools reviewed the records of graduates in colleges and universities, compared them with their high school records, and granted the accreditation without hesitation. This accreditation would continue indefinitely as long as La Salle graduates designated by the high school as college material performed accordingly.

A CIF Victory
La Salle wins their first CIF Runner-Up Title in Basketball under the leadership of Coach Duffy Lewis. During that same season, the Lancers won their first ever varsity Championship of the Santa Fe League.

More Sports Teams
La Salle becomes one of the first Catholic high schools in the CIF to embrace a comprehensive water polo program. The Santa Fe League sponsors cross country competition for the first time and La Salle’s runners were ready to run.

Construction of the Michillinda wing, 1964.

La Salle Expands
Construction of the Michillinda wing takes place. This addition to the School included a library, biology lab, five classrooms, assembly hall, student bookstore, seminar room, and faculty offices.

Alumni Return Home
For the first time, two members of La Salle’s faculty are alumni. Brother Donald Dewper, FSC ’60 returned as the English Department Chair and Michael Dooling ’63 returned as an instructor in math and social studies.

The graduating class of 1969 brings the alumni population to over 1,000.

Brother James Riordan, FSC, and Father August Moretti present William Cash '75 with his diploma at La Salle's 16th Annual Commencement

1970s (A Decade of Growth)

A Decade of Growth
Open for over a decade, the School enjoys a thriving enrollment, competitive athletics, comprehensive visual and performing arts program, and a rich tradition of brotherhood.

The graduating class of 1978 increases the alumni population to over 2,000.

A CIF Championship

La Salle wins their first CIF Championship in Cross Country under the direction of Coach Don Blair.

On June 2, 1979 the Gymnasium was dedicated to Dr. Phillip J. “Duffy” Lewis, beloved teacher, coach, and administrator of La Salle High School for his years of commitment and friendship to the students, faculty, and parents.

Brother Timothy Mayworm, FSC, and the Campus Ministry Team in 1980.

1980s (Coeducation on the Horizon)

La Salle Celebrates its 25th Anniversary
La Salle has its 25th Anniversary during the same occasion of the 300th Anniversary of the Founding of the Christian Brothers in France and the 10th Anniversary of the Lasallian Ambassadors support organization composed of parents, alumni, and friends of the School.

Alumnus Rules the School
Brother Robert Mizia, FSC ’71 becomes La Salle’s first alumni principal. While in this position, he decided to organize some focus groups to better discuss the possibilities of coeducation at La Salle. From 1986 to 1988, groups of parents, alumni and students began addressing the advantages of admitting women to La Salle.

Coeducation on the Horizon
With one year under his belt, La Salle’s new principal, Brother Philip Clarke FSC, continued the study and discussion of the possibility of coeducation at La Salle. He even went as far as looking into the merger of La Salle and Alverno as a viable option. Ultimately, the two schools were not able to come to terms on the merger and it was decided that La Salle would offer enrollment to women on its own. However, there were some things that needed to be completed before the actual enrollment of women could take place - like proper restroom and locker room facilities.

After the commencement exercises in May 1989, the alumni population reached 3,000.

Construction of the girls' locker room, 1990.

1990s (Coeducation and Football)

Coeducation Preparations and Enhancements
As preparations for coeducation were moving along, construction of a girls’ locker room began adjacent to the east wall of the gym. In addition, Brother Philip Clarke, FSC, wanted to enhance the band facility by moving them out of the corner classroom in the gym. The new Band room would be located on top of the girls’ locker room allowing for a larger performance area and an area for instrument storage.

La Salle Makes Plans for Football
In early 1990, Principal Brother Philip Clark, FSC, and La Salle’s Board of Regents established a committee comprised of regents, parents, alumni, faculty, and students to examine the issue of football at La Salle. This committee explored ways to gauge parental, alumni and student support for a football program and made detailed estimates of costs for equipment and facilities. The consensus of this committee was that La Salle should move forward and add football to the athletic program. This proposal went onto be approved by La Salle’s trustees, the provincial council of Christian Brothers.

Women Arrive on Campus
Even though the School intended to offer enrollment to women one grade level at a time, a brave group of ladies (thirteen in all) convinced Brother Philip Clarke, FSC, that they should be admitted into the junior class. Cautiously, he gave the stamp of approval to these young ladies and they took the School by storm. Not to be outdone, there was an ambitious group of twenty-seven young ladies who were also admitted that year into the sophomore class and they wasted no time letting people know they were here to stay. The freshman class that year (the Class of 1995) was the first full coeducational class at La Salle. Young women immediately got involved in all aspects of student life ranging from student government to clubs to athletics to performing arts.

Football Kicks Off at La Salle
With the approval of La Salle’s trustees, the search was on for an individual who had the experience and drive to create La Salle’s football program from the ground up. Lucky for the search committee, one candidate by the name of Lew Stueck came highly recommended. With Coach Stueck in place he took the reigns and built La Salle’s football program from the ground up. Everything from scheduling, to equipment, uniforms, strategies, etc., had to be created because La Salle had nothing other than a few actual footballs that were used during P.E. classes. It was a modest beginning for a program that would later flourish. On September 14, 1991 La Salle kicked-off its football program with its first Junior Varsity “Home” Football game at La Canada High School. The following year La Salle fielded both a Junior Varsity and Varsity team.

Separately Incorporated and the Board of Trustees
Under the direction of the De La Salle Institute in Napa, La Salle became separately incorporated with its own Board of Trustees who worked closely with the Brothers’ Lasallian Education Corporation to ensure that La Salle follows its mission and purpose while preparing for a new century.

Christian Brothers make Strategic Decision
Due to the declining number of Novices entering the Institute and the great number of Brothers retiring, the Christian Brothers decide to close the Brothers Residence in Pasadena and reassign those living there to schools in greater need. A handful of Brothers remained on staff but lived at Cathedral High School or in the neighboring communities.

The raising of the walls for the Dining Hall in 1996.

Expansion takes on a Whole New Meaning
In an effort to meet the growing needs of La Salle students, the School’s Board of Trustees approved a campus expansion project that would include: the relocation and renovation of the Blakeslee Library, a 10,000 square foot freestanding Dining Hall, a 200 seat amphitheater, expanded weight room, and a three-story wing that would extend down Michillinda and include four state of the art science labs, general classrooms, campus ministry room, chapel, dance studio, faculty center and administrative offices.

The graduation of the Class of 1998 increased the alumni population to over 4,000 men and women.

2000s (La Salle Prepares for the Next Generation)

Mission Statement Clarification
La Salle High School formed focus groups consisting of alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and volunteers in order to assess the School’s Mission Statement. After collecting input from all constituencies, the School adopted a revised Mission Statement that better defined the School’s values.

Planning for the Future
In March 2002, over the course of two days, eighty members of the La Salle community (trustees, regents, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, students and friends) came together to discuss and prioritize the goals for the School. As a result, the School developed eight strategic goals with four overarching principles. The Strategic Plan will guide La Salle as the School makes plans for the next ten years.

Alumni Population hits 5,000

Aerial Shot of Lancer Field, 2004.

Celebrating Excellence
After a one year self-evaluation process, La Salle received a full six year accreditation from both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Western Catholic Education Association through 2010.

Thanks to the generosity of several donors, La Salle completely renovated all of the old science labs on the fourth floor to make room for the new art studios. The expanding visual arts program needed a second art studio to meet the demand for student participation. There are twelve different visual arts courses offered at La Salle for all grade levels.

In addition to the fourth floor renovation, the main floor (3rd level) counseling center was moved and completely renovated allowing space for both of the full-time college counselors, the learning specialist, the San Miguel program moderator, and the Director of Guidance and Counseling.

The admissions center is relocated and completely renovated in order to offer a more aesthetically appealing environment for our prospective students and their families. Each year over 625 applications are received for less than 185 spots.

Brother De Sales Benning and students celebrate La Salle's 50th Birthday, September 11, 2006.

La Salle's 50th Anniversary Celebration

Friday Night Lights

The La Salle Lancers celebrate their first football season after dark on Friday nights courtesy of the lights that were installed to illuminate Lancer Field.  The lights would also be used to illuminate soccer games and other athletic activities that continue after sunset.

Technology Campaign
La Salle is successful in raising $450,000 for classroom-based technology. By June 2010 all classrooms were equipped with SMARTBoard technology and all teachers had laptop computers that were able to interact with the SMARTBoards; three sets of Senteo Interactive Response Systems were in use in the classrooms; teachers have direct access to three Document Cameras; Computer Lab was outfitted with flat screen monitors; and over 500 technology-friendly desks and chairs were purchased.  

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