History

Founded in 1868 by the Sisters of St. Joseph

A sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph, St. Joseph’s Academy is one of the largest all-girls high schools in the country and the oldest high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Founded in 1868 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, this premier Catholic secondary school is dedicated to providing an environment of excellence, where relationships are strengthened and young girls become women of faith, hope and love. The Academy has been a symbol for educational excellence in Louisiana’s capital city for 151 years.

SJA is guided by the spirit and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph, providing opportunities that ensure balance among its mission statement’s three pillars: faith development, academic excellence and personal growth. 

In 1941, SJA moved from downtown Baton Rouge to its present location on 15 beautiful, residential acres. The campus lies in closeproximity to the downtown business and governmental district and is near Catholic High School, the Academy’s brother school. With arched walkways literally transitioning students between the Academy’s historic buildings and its new, state-of-the-art facilities, the school’s wireless campus demonstrates a strong commitment to innovation and tradition. In recognition of its time-honored presence in the community, St. Joseph’s Academy was designated by the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council as the city’s first local historic landmark.

Integral to the Academy tradition is a strong belief in the value of a single-gender education for girls. Research affirms that adolescent girls perform better academically, feel more positive about school, have greater educational aspirations and hold more favorable attitudes toward academic study in an all-girl environment. Students can question, challenge and take risks associated with learning while enhancing the supportive qualities of nurturing and caring. 

SJA has identified STEM as an area of focus. To address the reality that women have traditionally been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the Academy has a state-of-the-art STEM lab to provide cross-curricular, hands-on learning opportunities in a laboratory setting. 

Placing a premium on 21st-century learning, SJA's Innovation and Design Lab offers cutting-edge, project-based learning to equip young women for success in college and beyond. The Innovation and Design model helps students develop critical-thinking, collaboration, creating and problem-solving skills. They are able to design projects to solve real-world problems and impact their communities, taking learning far beyond the classroom.

 

Historical Timeline

1650

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was founded by Father Jean Pierre Medaille, SJ, in LePuy, France.

1868

Four Sisters arrived by boat in Baton Rouge. The first school and the orphanage were located on what is today Seventh Street and was later moved to a location that is presently Fourth and Florida streets.

1877

    
St. Joseph's Academy was granted a charter under the laws of the State of Louisiana.

Miss Josephine Bahlinger became the first graduate.

1926

SJA was accredited by the State of Louisiana.

1931

Membership was achieved in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. SJA continues to be certified by SACS.

1941

Campus was relocated to Broussard Street.

1947

Medaille Hall was built.

1964

Construction was completed of the convent, children's home, chapel and cafeteria. SJA integrated its student body with four African-American students enrolled in the junior class.

1966

The Sisters appointed lay advisors to serve on the SJA Advisory Board.

1968

    
The SJA Foundation of Baton Rouge, Inc. was established.

1970

Kindergarten was closed after 1969-70 school year. Plans were made to phase out elementary grades.

1977

SJA became a high school, grades 9-12 only.

1986

SJA's first capital campaign for building and renovation, "A Season of Excellence," was announced.

1988

Dedication ceremonies marked the completion of the Activity Center and the renovation of the former gym and stage areas into the library/media center and foreign language department.

1990

 The Sisters dissolved SJA's Lay Advisory Board and established the SJA Board of Directors, a policy-making board responsible for the viability of the school. Corporate members were charged with ensuring faithfulness to the mission.

1991

SJA was named a Blue Ribbon National School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

1992

Two firsts for SJA seniors: one was named a Presidential Scholar and another received appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

1993

The mathematics center opened in the library as a result of a grant received from the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

1994

SJA celebrated its 125th anniversary. As part of the celebration, a bronze plaque was dedicated and placed on the original site of SJA, now the site of Bank One/Albemarle. Through the work of the SJA Dads' Club, a memorial entrance was added for the main building. The iron sign that welcomed visitors to the Church Street entrance in the late 1800s and early 1900s continues that tradition today.

1995

SJA Board of Directors approved an academic audit to ensure the continuing quality of the academic program. Drew Lamonica, class of 1991, was named a Rhodes Scholar. SJA's swim team and golf team both won the state championship.

1996

 SJA was again named a Blue Ribbon National School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. A record 10 percent of seniors were recognized in the 1996 National Merit Scholarship Program.

1997

SJA announced its Campaign for Advancement, a capital campaign to build a science center. The walkway between Medaille Hall and the main building was rebuilt, covered and expanded.
 

1998

The laptop computer program was introduced. Construction began on the Irene W. Pennington Science Center. Wireless access to the Internet was installed campus-wide. The SJA volleyball team won the state championship. Blake Ives, PhD, wrote the SJA Case study.

1999

Irene W. Pennington Science Center was completed for the beginning of school. Compaq approved SJA as the first high school to maintain its own help desk.

2001

LSU and SJA partnered to receive a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the impact that technology immersion has on career choices.

2002

An SJA student received the school's first appointment to West Point. For the third time, SJA was named a Blue Ribbon National School of Excellence and was one of three schools in the nation recognized by the United Stated Department of Education for excellence in technology.

2003

The Mission Effectiveness Team was established to ensure a balance between the three pillars of the SJA mission statement: faith development, academic excellence and personal growth.

2004

SJA implemented a new president/principal administrative model, with Sister Adele Lambert, CSJ, a 1954 graduate, becoming SJA’s first president and Linda Fryoux Harvison, class of 1966, becoming the first lay principal.

2005

The school’s enrollment grew to more than 1,000 students as SJA accepted 250 New Orleans-area students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Nearly all returned to their homes and schools for the start of the spring 2006 semester.

The Academy began to build upon its fine arts program by adding new electives in the visual and performing arts as a complement to the academic core curriculum.

SJA was designated as Baton Rouge's first Local Historic Landmark by the Metropolitan Council of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge.

2006

The SJA Foundation Board was reestablished.

A full-time campus minister was hired for the 2006-07 school year.

SJA was reaccredited as a member of the Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SJA has been a continuously accredited member since 1931.

2007

SJA moved to DyKnow software, the new Office 2007 Suite and the Toshiba Tablet personal computer to enhance the effectiveness of technology in the expanding curriculum.

The Mother St. Jean Fontbonne Prayer Garden was dedicated on the SJA campus to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the refounding of the Congregation of Saint Joseph in Lyon, France.

2008

Academy students, faculty and staff contributed more than 28,500 hours of service to the community. These hours were pledged in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States and in honor of his birthday.

SJA is the 2007-2008 winner of the Southern Quality Ford Cup as the most outstanding overall athletic program in Class 5A. SJA is the first all-girls school to win the competition. 

SJA celebrates its 140th anniversary this year.

2009

SJA celebrated the 10th year of its laptop computer program and student-run Help Desk.

Science teacher Linda Messina was the recipient of three national awards: the U.S. Department of Education’s American Star of Teaching; the National Catholic Educational Association’s Catholic Secondary Education Award; and the National Association of Biology Teachers’ Outstanding Biology Teacher for Louisiana.

The Academy announced and kicked off the public phase of the Always the Academy Capital Campaign to build an Academic Performing Arts Center and specialty classrooms for choral music, dance, drama and performance.

2010

Students, faculty and staff dedicated more than 35,000 hours of service. SJA continued its 10-year tradition of sponsoring summer service immersion trips both in the United States and abroad.

Renovations to Mother Alice Hall were completed, transforming the Sisters of St. Joseph’s former residence and children’s home into spacious classrooms for theology and visual arts, a cooking lab, sewing lab, art lab and gallery and weight room. The use of Mother Alice Hall is a gift from the Congregation of St. Joseph valued at $6 million.

To honor its patron, St. Joseph, the original Academy building was renamed St. Joseph Hall.

SJA received the 2010 Spotlight School Award from the Lausanne Laptop Institute. The award recognizes schools whose laptop/tablet computer programs serve as international models of innovation and expertise.

In June, SJA rolled out the new T730 Fujitsu tablet computers to students, faculty and staff.

2011

The Academy will continue as an accredited member of the Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), following a two-year process of self-study to assess the academic effectiveness of SJA’s programs. SJA has been continuously accredited by SACS since 1931.

SJA hosted a ground-breaking ceremony for the Academy Arts Center on May 2. The building, which is anticipated to be complete in August 2012, will house a choral studio, dance studio, black box theater, four large classrooms, lobby and gathering spaces to accommodate SJA’s rapidly expanding visual and performing arts curriculum.

The name of the SJA Development Office was changed to Mission Advancement. The change reflects the Academy’s commitment to ensuring that all work is undertaken in support of the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the school.

The Board of Directors challenged its members and committees to design a new Master Plan to address four identified needs: innovative curriculum, mission advancement, campus facilities and enrollment management.

2012

Academy President Sister Adele Lambert, CSJ, retired at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. She became the first president in the school’s history when it moved to the president-principal model of administration in 2004. Jan Rhorer Breen, class of 1969, was named Sr. Adele’s successor. She is the Academy’s first lay president. 

SJA hosted a number of professional writers during the first-annual Writers’ Week celebration. The literary celebration kicked off on February 15 when New York Times bestselling author Cami Walker visited SJA to talk about her book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.
 
The 2012-2013 academic year began with the much-anticipated opening of the Academy Arts Center, a 29,000-square-foot facility that houses SJA’s vibrant visual and performing arts curriculum. A record 804 students were enrolled in an arts elective during the year.

2013

Immaculée Ilibagiza, the New York Times bestselling author of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, was the special guest of SJA on February 22. The genocide survivor-turned-motivational speaker shared her inspirational story of triumph, faith and forgiveness.

The SJA Singers, SJA/Catholic High School Schola Cantorum and SJA/CHS Chamber Choir were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City with Heritage Music Festivals.

SJA received the Golden Achievement Award for the 24th consecutive year as one of the top high schools to earn the most college credits at LSU’s Spring Invitational.

2014

SJA partnered with St. Vincent de Paul during 2013-2014 to help fight hunger in the Baton Rouge community. Over the course of the year, students, faculty and staff provided approximately 5,000 brown bag lunches, called Sticker Sacks, for distribution each Tuesday.

Technology continued to play an integral role in SJA’s educational philosophy. When icy roads closed school for three days in January, SJA held a virtual school day, utilizing a full array of technology tools to enable students to learn from home.

SJA dedicated the Mother Thollot House, the newest addition to campus, in an afternoon ceremony on August 4, 2014. Located next to Mother Alice Hall on Kleinert Avenue, the new property houses the Finance Office and provides an additional three dozen parking spaces. The house was named for Sister Albina Thollot, one of the four Sisters of St. Joseph who came from France in 1868 to establish St. Joseph's Academy in downtown Baton Rouge. In one short year, she was named superior and became Mother Albina Thollot.

2015

Principal Linda Fryoux Harvison ’66 retired at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year. She became the first lay principal in SJA’s history when the school moved to the president-principal model of administration in 2004. She spent 34 years as a faculty member, administrator and then principal for 12 years. Dr. Michele Lambert has been named Mrs. Harvison’s successor. Dr. Lambert has taught on the middle school, high school and collegiate levels and has more than 14 years’ experience as a school administrator.

As part of the 11th annual Challenge Day competition between SJA and Catholic High, the schools joined forces in a food drive to benefit the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Students collected more than 95,000 pounds of nonperishable food items, topping last year’s combined total of 5,564. Adding to the excitement was the involvement of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who tweeted her support of SJA’s efforts.

2016

The Andrea Clesi McMakin ’74 STEM Lab was dedicated in June, and the academic year began with students utilizing the lab to explore cross-curricular, hands-on learning opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Among the tools in the STEM lab are 20 3D printers.

As part of SJA’s initiative to establish an Innovation and Design Studio to open in August of 2016, the faculty was challenged to redesign an existing space to create a 21st-century classroom. Each academic department was charged with creating student-centered spaces that would allow for collaboration and project-based learning as well as independent work. The social studies and foreign language departments submitted the winning designs and were each awarded $10,000 to create the new classrooms.

2017

SJA was named a National Blue Ribbon School for the fourth time in school history. The Academy was among just 50 private schools in the country to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School this year by the U.S. Department of Education. SJA is one of only nine schools in the country to have achieved Blue Ribbon status four times. 

The new Innovation and Design Lab provided project-based learning opportunities that emphasize 21st century skills, including collaboration, communication and creativity. Design thinking draws on methods from engineering and design and combines them with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences and insights from the business world. 
 
Stacia Andricain was named principal of St. Joseph's Academy in September. She began her career at SJA in 1996 and became a member of the school's administration in 2002. 

2018

Construction continued throughout the year on the Academy Student Center, which will be dedicated on August 8, 2018, to kick off the year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of SJA’s founding in 1868 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The state-of-the-art complex will enable SJA to enhance its health and wellness curriculum; expand its intramural athletic program; continue its outstanding interscholastic athletic program; further the wellbeing of each student through exercise, conditioning and learning opportunities focused on healthy lifestyles; and create much-needed space to celebrate masses and other school events with extended families, grandparents and friends. 

SJA was the winner of the 12th annual Louisiana High School Online Technology Challenge. SJA has competed in the state-wide event since its inception, and this year marks the first time an Academy team finished first.

The Academy is one of five schools in the state to confer the Seal of Biliteracy upon graduating seniors. This recognition provides universities with a method of giving credit to applicants for attaining high-level skills in multiple languages and allows employers to identify those with important 21st century language skills.

The SJA Cheerleaders won the 2018 National High School Cheerleading Championship in the Super Varsity Division.

2019

During 2018-2019, St. Joseph's Academy celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1868 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. A year's worth of activities commemorated the milestone year, including the dedication and blessing of the new Academy Student Center; a mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters in Baton Rouge; a Day of Service for students, alumnae, parents and friends; and a speaker series featuring internationally known author and death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean; New York Times bestselling author Laura Schroff; Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Mary Lou Retton; the Catholic Institute's Dr. Allen Hunt; and political strategists James Carville and Mary Matalin. The year culminated on April 27, 2019, with the 150th Anniversary Gala at Raising Cane's River Center.

Congregation of St. Joseph

On October 22, 1868, four Sisters arrived in Baton Rouge. They had been sent to take over an orphanage that cared for 11 little girls left parentless by the Civil War. Within two weeks, they opened St. Joseph’s Day School in a small, four-room house on what today is known as Seventh Street.


Today
151 years later, St. Joseph’s Academy is a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, where students are educated to be responsible and unifying members of the world community. Here, relationships are formed, bonds are strengthened and knowledge is shared. Faith and wisdom find a home in each young woman all the days of her life.