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Black and white photograph of a classroom with students at desks working.

Excerpt from House on the Hill by Mary Schaller ’61 Page 67–68 

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND

1959 – 1969

Though they didn’t know it at the time, the Class of 1958 was the last of the “old school” Sacred Heart. The changes that would rock the Stone Ridge’s equilibrium a decade later started with the first spade of dirt dug for the foundation of the next “new” building during the summer of 1958. The twenty-one seniors of the Class of 1958 prided themselves in being not only the last class from old 1719 Massachusetts Avenue, but also the last class to graduate from the “old” building. Their graduation marked the end of an era.

The first notable change was apparent on September 17, 1958, the opening day of the new school year. Bulldozers, steam shovels a mountain of earth and a huge hole in the ground marked the on-going progress of the “new” building. In giddy anticipation of completion by Spring, the student enrollment grew by a third. Three hundred and twelve students squeezed into the classrooms of the 1947 building. The incoming freshmen class numbered a record forty-four. They were immediately dubbed the “Mammoth Mob.” On September 25th eleven boarders were welcomed into the Cottage with a picnic and songs. 

October 13, 1958 started as another ordinary school day, punctuated by rounds of dynamite blasting, as the construction crew hit yet another level of the bedrock that gave Stone Ridge its name. Shortly after eleven o’clock that morning, it was announced that the aged Pope Pius XII had died in Rome. Classes stopped in mid-sentence and prayers were said for the repose of his soul. Pope Pius had reigned for so long that he was the only pope that everyone of the student body knew. For the girls of Stone Ridge, this sudden disruption of the status quo was shocking. The teachers shelved their lesson plans in order to explain the unique and age-old election process of a successor to the Throne of Peter. For the first time in nearly two thousand years, the funeral rites for a pope and the opening of the Conclave of Cardinals were televised around the world. It made this change all the more immediate to everyone.

Two weeks later on October 28th, an elderly Cardinal named Giuseppe Roncalli was elected pope, taking the seventy-eight-year-old man by surprise. He had his return ticket to Venice in his pocket. Because of his advanced age, John XXIII was expected to be a “stop gap” pope. However, within his heart, this warm, gentle man carried a plan of ushering in a new era of the Catholic Church.