Xavier's tradition of academic and athletic excellence began on August 23, 1959, when His Excellency the Most Reverend Stanislaus V. Bona, D.D., blessed the school at the official opening ceremony.
Plans to build a Catholic high school in Appleton began in 1956. A 30 acre tract of land in southwest Appleton had been purchased for the school, and a fund drive was conducted to raise the $2 million needed to build the school. Gus Zuehlke was chairman of the fund drive. He was assisted by co-chairmen F. Joseph Sensenbrenner and Gregory Schulte.
The architect who designed the school was Maury Lee Allen of Appleton. His associates were Caudill, Rowlett, and Scot of Texas. The 94,572 square foot school was designed to provide separate educational facilities for boys and girls. Two staff residence buildings for the teaching Franciscan Sisters and Christian Brothers were also included in the plans. Ground-breaking ceremonies occurred on September 10, 1957.
The school is named for St. Francis Xavier (1503-1550), one of the founders of the Jesuit order. St. Francis Xavier is patron of the diocese of Green Bay.
Xavier High School was the first school in the Green Bay Diocese to be erected through the cooperation of several parishes.
Elected to the board of directors and serving as officers of the corporation were Bishop Stanislaus V.Bona, president; Right Rev. Msgr. Joseph Marx, vice president; Right Rev. Msgr. Matthias Hauch, chairman of the board; Right Rev. Msgr. Emil J. Schmit, third vice president; Rev. Kenneth Barnes. O.F.M. Cap., secretary, and the Very Rev. A. M. Grill, treasurer.
Pastors of the cooperating parishes during the establishment of Xavier were the Rev. Msgr. Emil J. Schmit of Sacred Heart; the Rev. Msgr. A. M. Grill of St. Mary; the Rev. Msgr. Matthias Hauch of St. Therese, and the Rev. Kenneth Barnes, O.F.M. Cap. of St. Joseph; and the Rev. Richard Keller, St. Pius.
The building committee was composed of the pastors and two lay persons from each parish. Serving on that committee were the officers of the corporation Eugene F. Fountain, chairman, and Harry Koller, St. Mary Parish; George Knapstein and E. A. Gilling, St. Joseph Parish; Oliver M. Mathy and Robert Schindhelm, St. Therese Parish; and Paul Neubauer and Al Utschig, Sacred Heart Parish.
In September, 1959, Xavier opened its doors to 450 freshman and sophomore students. Appleton residents paid $75 per semester for tuition, while out of town students paid $150. The school's first principals were Brother L. Peter for the boys and Sister M. Peter for the girls.
Eugene A. Clark was hired as the school's first football and basketball coach. A graduate of St. Mary's, Menasha, and Marquette University, "Torchy" Clark would soon become legendary, as he coached his teams to state-wide prominence. In February, 2004, the Xavier gym was renamed the Gene “Torchy” Clark Gymnasium.
When the students returned for their second year at Xavier, they discovered newly planted lawns and landscaping. The first student newspaper was published, the first Student Council was installed, and a concert band was formed.
The Class of 1962, Xavier's first graduating class, donated the familiar statue of St. Francis Xavier to the school. However, our winter weather had taken its toll and a new statue was erected in the fall of 1990 through the generosity of an anonymous donor. The original statue was used to make a mold for the new one.
In 1963, Governor John Reynolds gave the school's commencement speech. That year was a momentous one in the school's sports history. The football team was ranked number one in the state, and the basketball team, led by high scorer "Kip" Whitlinger, play maker Dick Wiesner, and defensive star Rocky Bleier, defeated Milwaukee Marquette to win the state championship.
In September, 1965, Xavier became co-ed. An article in the student newspaper stated, "Xavier High School is no longer two separate schools divided by rivalry, sex, and glass walled corridors."
In January, 1966, the school celebrated its first Blue and White Week, and in October, 1967, construction began on St. Bernard's Church, which is adjacent to Xavier.
Academics and sports continued to develop in the next five years. In 1970, Xavier became accredited by the North Central Association. By that time, baseball, soccer, gymnastics, and girls' basketball had been added to the school's sports program.
On April 12, 1973, Xavier held its first annual Food Fair, under the direction of George Karras. This annual fund-raiser brings together the Xavier Community of parents, friends, and students to raise funds exclusively for tuition assistance for qualified students. Fine ethnic food, continuous entertainment, a silent auction, raffles, a Children's Fair, an art show, a book sale, flowers and crafts are all part of this Fox Valley tradition.
On October 12, 1973, the Knights of Columbus began developing an athletic field for the Hawks. The track and football field were dedicated on August 30, 1975.
For eight years, Xavier's physical plant remained virtually the same. Then in 1983, with a federal energy grant, the school removed many of its exterior windows and added new siding in order to conserve energy.
Also in 1983, the non-profit Xavier High School Foundation was established to provide supplementary funding for the school. The endowment fund is used to ensure Xavier's ability to keep tuition reasonable, enhance its financial assistance capabilities, and offset rising operational costs. The alumni phone-a-thon for Campaign '86 broke records as it achieved 182% of its goal.
The endowment campaign also provided extensive capital improvements. Gifts received by the Foundation are pooled and invested perpetually. The capital base is never used. Only the annual income generated is allocated to Xavier.
During Xavier's relatively short history, it has established many proud traditions in the areas of academics, spiritual development and athletic accomplishments.
After much study, Xavier made a significant change in its daily schedule in the fall of 1996. Beginning with the 1996-97 school year, Xavier went to a four period block schedule. This schedule allows students to concentrate on only four classes at a time, to be able to take more electives, and to be able to be more involved in their own education by being active learners.
During the 1996-97 school year, students enrolled at Xavier represented 27 parishes from throughout the Fox Valley and beyond. Approximately one-third of the student body were not members of an Appleton parish. Due to this significant percentage of students from outside of Appleton, Xavier is considered a regional high school. Almost all Fox Valley parishes support Xavier financially. There is no additional tuition charged for the students from these parishes.
Construction of a 30,000 square foot performing arts center began in the summer of 1997 and was completed at the end of May, 1998. The addition includes a 749 seat theater plus new rooms for band, chorus, drama and art. The dedication ceremony for the Xavier Fine Arts Center was held on Saturday, September 26 with an open house for the public held the next day.
Xavier and ACES conducted a capital campaign called "Campaign 2000" during the 1997-98 school year. More than $6.5 million was raised in the campaign of which $2 million was designated to be used by Xavier to build new science labs and remodel the rest of the building. New locker rooms were built during the 1998-99 school year and were first used in April. The old locker rooms, kitchen and commons were remodeled during the summer of 1999.
Xavier and ACES consolidated to form one system effective July 1, 2001. This new system established a 17 member Board of Trustees and hired Sister Patrice Hughes as its first president to oversee the education, development and business affairs. Each trustee serves a three-year term and may choose to serve two terms.
During the 2003-04 school year the system instituted a strategic planning process and began to plan for a capital campaign to rebuild the academic wing of Xavier High School, build a practice gym with a weight room attached, refinish the gym floor, replace the gym and football field bleachers and replace the track. The capital campaign would also complete the second phase of the remodeling project at St. Joseph Middle School and add to the endowment funds for the system. A capital campaign titled, “Forward in Faith”, was publicly announced in October 2004. The goal of the campaign was $15 million.
In July 2004, Dr. Joseph Bound became the second president of the ACES/Xavier Educational System. During the 2004-05 school year, a new strategic plan was established for the system that included goals in the areas of People, Prayer, Price, Product, and Promotions.
On Wednesday, June 29, 2005, an official ground breaking ceremony took place that set in motion the construction of a new two-story academic wing at Xavier. Construction continued throughout the 2005-06 school year. At the end of the school year, the original building from the commons to the office were demolished and the new gathering hall that connects the old to the new was built.
The new facility was ready for the first day of school in fall of 2006 at which time Bishop David Zubik blessed the chapel and the school. Bishop Zubik also celebrated Mass with donors to the project on Monday, September 18 and there was an open house for the public on Sunday, September 24.
The new academic wing includes a chapel, five computer labs (four of them tiered), four science labs, a large guidance suite, and an expansive library media center. Each classroom was equipped with the latest in technology including a ceiling-mounted projector that is connected to the Internet, cable television, and a DVD/VCR. The former science department was gutted and converted to the main office across from the commons and the former faculty room was converted to the foods classroom.
The construction of a new practice gym was begun in the spring of 2006 and was ready for the basketball season in the fall of 2006. This new gym relieved the pressure for practice time for a variety of sports and will be the venue for freshman basketball games and wrestling meets.