First racially integrated school in state celebrates 50 years


ROCK HILL — St. Anne School celebrated “50 years of excellence in Catholic education” with a Mass and dinner at St. Anne Church on Sept. 15. Retired Bishop David B. Thompson, representing Bishop Robert J. Baker, was the main celebrant at the liturgy, which was attended by alumni, current and former faculty and staff members, school families, and parishioners.

After the service, guests gathered in the parish life center to view a video on the history of St. Anne School and examine several historical displays featuring pictures, writings, yearbooks, and student uniforms.

Principal Fred McKay welcomed the guests prior to the dinner, which featured entertainment by the St. Anne Middle School Chorus.

McKay said, “We thank those families who enrolled the first 24 students in our school, which was then located in the renovated rectory on Saluda Street. Furthermore, we commend the families from St. Mary’s Parish who trusted in God’s grace by enrolling their children in St. Anne School in 1954, thus enabling St. Anne to become the first racially integrated school in South Carolina. It is with faith that St. Anne School flourished for the next four decades on South Jones Avenue under the guidance of the priests and brothers of The Oratory and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is also with faith as our foundation today that we are fortunate to have this beautiful facility as our school’s new home.”

He added, “Fifty years do not happen by chance. It happens with dedicated teachers, staff, parents, and volunteers working together for our students’ spiritual development and academic learning. We have completed 9,000 school days in our history, and we have faith that St. Anne School will continue moving forward one day at a time.”

McKay also asked for prayers for families who lost loved ones in the recent tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C., and he led the guests in saying the pledge of allegiance.

Other speakers included Congressman John Spratt, who spoke of the early history of Catholicism in York County, and parishioners Irma Dickson and Peggy Williams, who talked about their involvement in the early years of the school, reminding the audience of a Ku Klux Klan cross burning that took place on the property in the 1950s. Early graduates Joan Marie Williams Platt and Donna Simpson talked about their days in the school, which opened in 1951 with 24 students.

Generations of graduates were then recognized. In honor of the occasion, the Knights of Columbus Oratory Council presented the school with a large print of Pope John Paul II. Following the dinner, visitors and families toured the current St. Anne School facility, which opened in 1998.

Guests at the occasion included Oratorian Father William Pentis, pastor of St. Anne’s; Oratorian Brother David Boone and Sister Frances Saring, pastoral administrators of St. Mary Church in Rock Hill; Deacon Jim Hyland, pastoral administrator of St. Joseph Church in Chester; Oratorian Father Joseph Pearce, assistant pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill; Oratorian Deacon Adilson Coelho of St. Anne’s; and Oratorian Brother Joseph Wilkerson of The Oratory.

Several out-of-state guests, including several former faculty members and Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who had planned to come the celebration, were unable to attend due to travel restrictions imposed following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, according to Pat Blaney Bright, St. Anne’s assistant principal.