Pius XI. A Pedigree of Heritage and History

A School Rooted in a Rich Tradition

Under the direction of the Pallottine Fathers and the School Sisters of St. Francis, Pius XI Catholic High School had its beginnings in September 1929 in three improvised classrooms above the old St. Anthony of Padua Church.

In 1930, the building – which today serves as St. Vincent Pallotti grade school immediately to the North of Pius XI’s present location – opened its doors to 35 students.

Only the first three years of high school curriculum were offered until 1937. (Seniors spent their last year at Messmer, Mercy or Juneau High School.)

On June 7, 1937, the University of Wisconsin placed Pius XI on the accredited list of state high schools. The charter class of eight seniors was graduated on June 13, 1937. Further accreditation was given to Pius XI in April of 1953 when the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools added Pius XI to their list of accredited high schools.

Landmarks of Growth and Success

As years passed, an ever-increasing student population necessitated larger facilities. The original section of the current building opened in September 1949. A six-story addition was completed in the spring of 1957.

In fall of 1998, construction and renovation of the existing space yielded a new library media center, chapel, office space, and multi-purpose lobby area. Plus a new home for family and consumer education classes emerged along with an enhanced audio-visual center (complete with a recording studio), and 11 new science labs/classrooms.

Pius XI added a state-of-the-art field house in the fall of 2003, including a 1,600-seat gymnasium with practice, teaching and training space to accommodate 57 teams playing 23 sports; fitness and training space for students, staff, families and alumni; and community access for competitions and events.

When the Father Robert V. Carney Performing Arts Center was finished in 2012, it became the permanent home of the Wendy Joy Lindsey Theater. Seating 500 patrons within an intimate setting, the theater is buffeted by a Lares Sound System to ensure acoustic perfection for every style of performance.

Two impressive visual arts galleries anchor the performing arts center, The Joseph and Harriet Kern Gallery and the Carron Family Gallery. The galleries play host to alumni and student art shows throughout the year.

Blessed by Consistent Strong Leadership

The first principal of Pius XI Catholic High School was Sister M. Rita, OSF, who served from 1938 to 1943. Sister M. Loyola, OSF, served from 1942 to 1950, and Sister M. Beatrix, OSF, from 1950 to 1956.

The first Pallottine Father to become principal was Father John Becker, SAC, who served from 1956 to 1964. Father Lawrence W. McCall, SAC, served as principal from 1964 to 1990.

Mr. Edward Drexler served as acting principal for the 1990-’91 school year. Mr. John Halupka followed him from 1991 until his death in 1997. Mr. Richard Pendergast served as principal from 1997 to 2006.

Dr. Melinda Skrade, a social science teacher at Pius for 19 years, was selected to serve as principal in 2006 until she was elevated to the role of President in 2013.

Betty Hunt, Director of Operations from 2007-2013, served as principal from 2013-2015. Paul Geise is the current acting principal of Pius XI Catholic High School.

“What greater work is there than training the minds and forming the habits of the young.”
Pope Pius XI, Quoting St. John Chrysostom in his Encyclical Letter on Christian Education of Youth

About Pope Pius XI

When searching for the name of a new Catholic high school scheduled to open in September, 1930, it was only natural to think of Pope Pius XI, a scholar who championed the cause of Christian education and who had just celebrated his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood.

Pius XI Catholic High School was founded to honor this great leader, and our sports teams have been called the “Popes” in honor of the school’s namesake ever since.

A Man of Great Faith and Integrity

Born Achille Ratti in Desio, Italy in 1857 the future pope would became a priest at the age of 22. He served for many years in the Vatican Library before being named a cardinal in 1921.

In 1922, Ratti was elected Pope and became the 11th leader of the Catholic church and chose Pius as his papal name.

A Scholar in His Own Right

Pope Pius XI was a man of simple character and strong integrity. Ever a scholar, he was also a firm believer in physical exercise and was an excellent mountain climber.

Pius XI’s 17 years as pope are distinguished by achieving peace and reordering the Catholic Church. He improved the Church’s international relations, gave vigor to foreign missions, and signed the Lateran Treaty establishing the present Vatican City.

Pope Pius XI also authored many encyclicals including “Divini Illus Magistri,” which laid the foundation for a truly Christian theory of education.