12/1/11 – Jersey City, NJ – Adapted from an article by Rev. Alexander Santora for the Jersey Journal
Three years ago, Hudson Catholic High School was slated to close.
Parents, alumni, elected officials and the community at large banded together to raise eventually over $1 million to endow the school.
Br. Patrick King, the faculty member with the longest tenure at the school, sent out an e-mail appeal to alumni, according to Larry Basinski, the treasurer of their alumni association.
It simply read, “Heartbroken and soon to be homeless.”
Hugh Donaghue, an alumnus and member of the school’s board of consultors, recalled the story of an alumnus now living in Chicago who responded to King’s appeal with $50,000 because “Br. King saved my life.”
This weekend, King will join three other La Salle Christian Brothers to celebrate their golden anniversary in religious life.
King has spent 32 of those 50 years at Hudson. “I kept coming back. I like it a lot,” said King, 68, who teaches mathematics and heads the alumni association, which he started back in 1983.
King’s reputation gave Hudson not only a renewed lease on life, it also enabled a new chapter in the school’s history by welcoming girls to the student body and now the first woman, Sister of Christian Charity Joann Marie Aumand, is the CEO and principal.
In its third year, Hudson welcomed a 23-year-old King to teach science and mathematics for the next ten years until he became the school’s assistant principal in 1975 for three years.
He returned in 1981 for a second 11-year stint. He served at two other La Salle schools, including his alma mater, St. John’s in D.C., before returning to Hudson again in 2001.
King estimates there are 6,000 Hudson alumni and the school can reach 5,800 of them. He says some 300 to 400 donate regularly about $25,000 annually apart from the special appeal to keep the school open.
He highly recommends parents consider enrolling their children in the school. “It’s a great school with a lot of individual attention by dedicated veteran teachers in an orderly environment.”
The Christian Brothers set that tone. When King first arrived at Hudson, he was living in the residence attached to the school with 14 other Brothers; today they total six with four working in the school.
There is now an eastern province of his order based in Eatontown near Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft. The anniversary dinner will be held this weekend at the Springfield County Club outside of Philadephia. “Brothers boys will be gentlemen,” is the way Donaghue, a Jersey City deputy police chief, describes their impact on the students.
But that statement will have to be revised now that there are 86 girls among the 425 students in the school in its third year of accepting them. And Sr. Aumand has seen the difference girls have brought to one of the youngest high schools in the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Girls have added a level of leadership to challenge the boys,” said Aumand, who has been a nun for 38 years. But she described the transition of all boys to co-ed as “smooth.”
With the arrival of girls, “positive energy entered the building.” Now she said there are students who live in 44 different towns attending the school from as far as Belleville, Newark and even New York City.
Rev. Warren Hall, also an alumnus who preceded Aumand as president and principal, was a key figure in saving the school and helped prepare the faculty for the transition. Aumand is proud of the students’ academic achievements and the relationship with St. Peter’s College right up the street so students can obtain college credits. “There’s a college culture at the school.”