Lisette Nash, Maureen Page and Cathy Viseman were all members of the Saint Patrick School class of 1969, and have remained close friends through the decades because of the education they received at the Catholic elementary and middle school located on Austin Street.
“We were close. There were 700 kids in this school. There were 40 per class with one nun teaching each class. They’re nuns, you didn’t need more than one,” Nash said. “I was probably on the poorer end of students but you would never know it because we all wore the same uniforms and we grew to respect one another. I’ve met some of my best friends from going to school here.”
The three classmates were on hand along with more than 150 additional alumni, to say goodbye to the 149 year-old St. Patrick Academy School building on Thursday night with its “Catch the Spirit: Now and Then” farewell party before moving to its new campus at 315 Banfield Road for the final few weeks of school in May. The school will be renamed Saint Patrick Academy.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the alumni who have come back tonight. This was our 149th year here and it’s made such an impact here on the Seacoast,” Saint Patrick’s Head of School Mark Schwerdt said. “The move to Banfield Road is a continuation of the outstanding Catholic faith-based education for years to come. We’ve made our mark and we’re going to continue.” Schwerdt is in his first year as the head of school and said the school was no longer a diocesan Catholic school administered by the New Hampshire Catholic Church based in Manchester at the Diocese of Manchester.
Jim Broom is a chairman of the school’s board of directors and said saying goodbye to the old school brought on mixed-emotions but he was excited for the possibilities the new school would bring.
“Some of my older kids went here and a couple of my kids are still in school here but there’s a lot of excitement around the move and keeping the history alive at Saint Pat’s,” Broom said. “We’ll have a lot more space and be able to offer a lot more programming on the campus and the way the school is designed. We’re going to be able to do a lot of fun things with the kids and continue to innovate.”
Portsmouth’s Ed Beevers was a member of Saint Patrick’s class of 1959, and since he was raised Catholic, he said there was no question where he would attend primary and middle school.
“My mother was Irish-Catholic and back then, this was the school we went to,” he said. “It was hard, and it was strict but we all got a great education.”
While the Class of 2018 will not get a full experience of what the new Saint Patrick’s will have to offer, they will get to spend the last few weeks of the current school year in the new building and see the younger students take it all in.
“They’re going to love the new school, but it’s pretty cool to make history and be the last class to go through here,” Sam Philbrick, an eighth grader, said. “This place is special.”