1960 In September 1960, St. Thomas Aquinas High School opened its doors to 295 wide-eyed, pioneer freshmen. Seven School Sisters of Notre Dame, two Diocesan Priests and one coach made up the first faculty ready to carry out St. Thomas’ mission. These students, faculty and staff were participants of all the “firsts” that took place during the first four years. While the school’s founders may never have imagined today’s classrooms would be equipped with Smart Boards and computers, they were certainly guided by the same principles as we are today: to transform the lives of our students through a rigorous Catholic education guided by the light of the Gospel, offering them the opportunity to develop their unique gifts, strengthening their personal faith and integrity, and fostering within them a commitment to justice, service, and moral leadership.
During the early years, there were plenty of activities and clubs to be involved with including Student Council, National Honor Society, Drama, Chorus, A Capella Choir, Aquinews, Glee Club and Debate Team. Championships in athletics demonstrated the skill and determination of our athletic teams. Penny sales, operettas and bikeathons not only benefited the school financially, but promoted class unity and school spirit as well.
1961 Richard Cardinal Cushing blessed the school at a Dedication Ceremony April 22, 1961.
For the first few years the School Sisters of Notre Dame made their home on the top floor of the school. The school was at capacity and the need to move the Sisters out of the main building and into their own space became clear. December 14 marked the groundbreaking for the new convent. Over an eleven month period the Sisters and students alike watched the structure grow brick by brick. Their dreams also grew!
1963 The Notre Dame convent was built and dedicated in September 1963. The Sisters went from cooking in the chemistry lab to preparing meals in the well-equipped kitchen of the new convent. The living space in the main building was converted back to teaching space. Today, the convent is used for additional classrooms and office space for Admissions, Advancement, Alumni and Guidance.
1964 The first Commencement at St. Thomas Aquinas High School was June 10, 1964, graduating 219 from the charter class. The senior class sang a newly-written school song with lyrics by Roland Labrie ’64 and Lawrence McGarrell ’65. This significant celebration also included the first-ever St. Thomas Aquinas Senior Prom themed “Viennese Waltze”.
When school opened in September of 1964, the students numbered almost 900!
1971 Bishop Primeau announced that due to declining enrollment and rising expenses, St. Thomas was to close unless a viable solution could be found. The City of Dover assumed financial responsibility for providing a few teachers and books for one year during which time St. Thomas was able to resolve some of the financial difficulties. The seventies proved to be very lean years at St. Thomas with philanthropy from many generous donors spearheading the effort to sustain St. Thomas.
1980 St. Thomas celebrated 20 years! Enrollment continued to climb during the 1980s.
1985 The St. Thomas Aquinas Fund was created, giving alumni, parents and friends the opportunity to invest in the future of Catholic education.
1988 St. Thomas was accredited by the New England Association for Schools and Colleges.
1990 The multi-purpose room in the cafeteria was completed. St. Thomas celebrated 25 years!
1991 More than 470 students attended class on the first day of school. The largest 9th grade class since the early 1970s boosted enrollment. Amid a recessionary economy, past enrollment concerns were long past and St. Thomas was thriving with students once again.
1994 October 1, 1994 St. Thomas dedicated a new elevator and new entrance to the school in memory of Kristen E. Marcotte ’90. The new elevator made the main building fully handicapped accessible.
1996 The fourth floor of Notre Dame Hall was renovated into four new classrooms.
2002 In the summer of 2000, a significant facility improvement was completed; the renovation of the outdated and ‘tired’ St. Thomas athletic fields. Through the generosity of the school community, St. Thomas raised the funds necessary to build the Field of Dreams. In September 2002, the new and improved Aquinas Field was dedicated on Homecoming Day.
2004 Outside under a big tent and blue skies, St. Thomas held its first outdoor Graduation. Jean Beliveau retired after 39 years at St. Thomas
2008 Until recently, the exterior of the school hadn’t seen many changes. To continue its tradition of excellence in education, St. Thomas continually finds ways to reinforce strengths and identify areas that can benefit from change and innovation. This process involves significant review of programming and a strong recommitment to mission. In conjunction with the strategic planning process, a campus master plan identified three needs; 1) academic space, including classrooms, media center and science labs, 2) new athletic space and 3) a performing arts auditorium. Coinciding with the strategic plan of 2002-2007, St. Thomas embarked on the initial phase in summer of 2008 with a campus reconfiguration – creating not only safer sidewalks, reconfigured parking lots and curb appeal, but the foundation for the future of St. Thomas.
Capping off the campus reconfiguration was the rededication of the school Cornerstone which was moved to accommodate the new traffic pattern. Festivities included Superintendant of Schools Mary Morin, Principal Jeff Quinn, School Sisters Georganne Pearson and Catherine Goodell.