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St. Ursula Villa marks 50-year milestone

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Friday, September 17, 2010

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES DEANERY — There has been great reason to celebrate in 2010 as St. Ursula Villa marked 50 years of Ursuline education.

The school’s roots actually extend back a century ago with the founding of the Ursulines of Cincinnati and St. Ursula Academy as a co-ed grade school and all-girls high school. From 63 students originally, the school expanded at its McMillan Street location. In 1960, to accommodate the growth of the grade school, the Sisters purchased the former R.K. LeBlond estate in Mt. Lookout which had been willed to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. A magnificent mansion built in 1925, the 40-room English Tudor style structure featured Rookwood tile and lushly landscaped gardens and vineyards.

St. Ursula Villa
St. Ursula Villa’s 50th anniversary homecoming event on Sept. 4 was attended by families, past parents, alumni and friends. (Courtesy photo)

The 20-acre estate has undergone extensive renovation in the past 50 years, enabling the Villa to meet the needs of its students (current enrollment is approximately 485) and educate them in the spirit of St. Angela Merici, the Ursuline foundress. A multipurpose building was added in 1962, and additional classroom space 10 years later. A primary building completed a decade ago added six additional classrooms and a gym. Also featured on campus are a library, science and computer labs, athletic fields and playgrounds. Last year, the school dedicated its Villa Way plaza project, which links the two educational buildings.
Beginning last January, the school featured each decade of its history through special events, curriculum and the newly created “Villa Timeline” display. Events have included a family liturgy and potluck dinner, Disco with Dads, Villabration, the school’s annual auction, and a party for students in May.
One key initiative during the school’s anniversary celebration has been to collect records, photos, mementos and other items from Villa alumni, retired faculty members, past parents and friends to document St. Ursula Villa’s rich history. Thanks to the late Ursuline Sister Rosemary Winkeljohann, who served as Villa principal from 1979-1985, a special committee has been able to gather some of the school’s items, currently housed at St. Ursula Academy, to establish a Villa archives.

The anniversary celebration culminated in a homecoming event on Sept. 4. Families, alumni, past parents and friends were welcomed back to the campus for the all-school reunion. The festivities began with an open house and the opportunity to tour campus, followed by an alumni volleyball tournament and evening cocktail party with live entertainment.
The anniversary has been an opportunity for those with ties to the school to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
“From my perspective, our 50th anniversary gave us the opportunity to explore our heritage and reminded us that our strong sense of community was firmly rooted by the Sisters of St. Ursula when they established the school,” said Sally Hicks, principal. “The Sisters and the Villa parents worked together like a family. Together they molded the culture of this community.  Although the campus and faculty have changed throughout the years, the core values remain the same. We are stronger than ever 50 years later.”

“St. Ursula Villa is a shining example of a school community where the Ursuline charism is the foundation that supports traditions of excellence in education. The family spirit, care of the individual, recognition of the gifts of each child, appreciation of diversity in all its forms and service to others are deeply rooted in life at the Villa,” added Sister Pat Meisner, a former Villa administrator and current member of the board of trustees.

“The Villa’s 50th anniversary has provided many wonderful opportunities to share with the students, staff and others the school’s rich history and its roots in the Ursulines of Cincinnati and their educational traditions,” said Sister Margie Efekeman, school counselor. “It has been a privilege to nurture the school spirit of its founders.”
Past Villa parent Mary Dean Grote recalled the strong sense of family and active parental involvement and said she is grateful for the education her children received there. “We loved our experience there from the very beginning,” she said. “We were one big family. The staff has always been topnotch. My children received an excellent education there and, more importantly, they grew in their Catholic faith.”


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