CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side Catholic high school which has served as alma mater for five Chicago mayors celebrated its 125th anniversary on Friday.
De La Salle Institute opened in 1889 at the corner of 35th Street and Wabash Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Fr. Paul Novak, the school’s president, said it started out as a three-year business school. At the time, the school was only for young men, “in order to take the young men from the Back of the Yards, and give them an opportunity to get out of the meat-packing industry, and get into the business community downtown.”
Since 2002, De La Salle has educated young men and women, but at separate campuses — the boys’ campus on 35th Street, and the girls’ campus about two miles away, in neighboring Bridgeport, at 32nd Place and Aberdeen Street.
Novak said there are plans to build a new main campus in the coming years across the street from the main campus.
“For the future, I see expansion, I see growth, I see a new campus for our student body,” he said. “I’m hoping for a couple of state championships with our athletics.”
The 1,000-student body comes mainly from the three zip codes nearest the school, but Novak said some students come from as far away as Irving Park Road to the north, the Indiana-Illinois border on the southeast, and Oak Lawn on the southwest.
“We’re serviced by two ‘L’ lines – both the Green and the Red ‘L’ lines – so it’s easy access around the city to get here, as well as now the Metra [Rock Island] Line going south,” he said.
Francis Cardinal George celebrated the 125th anniversary mass of De La Salle Friday morning. He choked up a bit when talking about his father, after being given an honorary diploma.
The five mayors who have attended De La Salle include both Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. Daley, Frank Corr, Martin Kennelly and Michael Bilandic. Other notable alums include the late Cook County Board Presidents George Dunne and Dan Ryan, and broadcasting brothers Bryant and Greg Gumbel.