The forgotten ‘seniors’ of St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s school
Gazette readers were treated last year to a full-page reminiscence about the 1961 St. Columba’s-St. Joseph’s graduating class. The two schools had been merged for their senior year and former basketball rivals became schoolmates and teammates and friends.
On June 25 readers learned about the pioneering 1962 class at Bishop Gibbons, the first graduates of a new all-boys high school, and next year these same readers will no doubt be presented with the memories of the 1963 graduates of Notre Dame, the first at their all-girls school.
“So what about the girls of 1962?” you might ask. Well, we’re alive, all 33 of us, and about to celebrate our 50th reunion Sept. 7-9, coincidentally on the same weekend as those stalwart BG [Bishop Gibbons] men.
While our junior high male classmates removed to blaze new trails with the Christian Brothers and the girls just behind us repaired to the bright shiny corridors of the Notre Dame sisters, it was ordained that we become the last senior class of the combined St. Joseph’s and St. Columba’s, 19 girls from one, 14 from the other.
It was different for us than for those who’d gone before: St. Joseph’s girls never got their third year of German, as there apparently was no teacher available for a class of 19 or fewer. (French III was available for former St. Columba’s students.) Both schools’ social seasons had centered around basketball, but there were no more away-game bus trips and our cheerleaders had to stow their pompoms once senior year rolled around.
We all had to invite dates to our proms, something unheard of when the school was co-educational. (Some of the girls balked at the Sadie Hawkins of it all and so missed out on “Crystal Twilight” in junior year and “Fleur de l’Amour” when seniors.) We put on a play, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” with all the male roles taken, more or less convincingly, by us females. We had Class Day with no juniors stepping forward to claim their place.
Although the Sisters who taught us did their best, many of us felt a bit neglected through the whole experience. We formed close friendships and have good memories, but every class reunion brings to mind the fact that we were the first and only all-girl graduating class from either school.
Separate education for Catholic boys and girls in Schenectady was short-lived. In 1961, recognizing that many families could not afford the tuition at Bishop Gibbons or Notre Dame, St. Columba’s admitted a freshman class of girls and boys. It continued co-educational until its closing in 1969. Bishop Gibbons and Notre Dame were combined in 1975.