The Grosse Pointe Academy Celebrates 50 Years of Academic Excellence

The Grosse Pointe Academy will celebrate 50 years as an academic institution on September 3, 2019. On September 3, 1969, the Academy officially began operating as a coeducational independent day school.

A Brief History

The school property on 171 Lake Shore Road was the site of the first grand mansion in the Grosse Pointes. In the late 1800s, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, an order of nuns, purchased the property, along with several nearby acres. In 1955, they bought an adjoining parcel of land, completing the campus as it is known today.

On September 3, 1885, the Academy of the Sacred Heart opened as a day and boarding school for girls. Over the years, the school would undergo many facelifts and upgrades, including the addition in 1899 of the French Gothic chapel, the 1929 construction of a new Tudor-Gothic building, the implementation of the Montessori Method in 1962 and the 1990 addition of the Tracy Fieldhouse, which received a new gym floor this summer.

A letter dated January 1, 1969 was sent to school constituents, announcing the institution’s impending closure due to a recommendation by the governing Province of The Academy of the Sacred Heart. Plans were already in place to tear down all buildings, including the beloved chapel, and subdivide the land into 62 home sites.

The community was devastated. A group of parents, alumnae and students called a meeting, and the Campau Committee, made up of individuals determined to save the school, was formed. In an unexpected move, the committee filed a class action suit against the nuns in residence in order to buy time. During that 90-day waiting period, a Michigan law was discovered that made it illegal for the Province to sell and demolish the property as planned, without first offering it to an entity who intended to use it for a like purpose.

Toni Robinson, a Sacred Heart alumnae and parent who helped spearhead the school’s preservation, recalls the evening when an agreement was reached with the Province. “We wanted to show the Religious that this school had become important to the metropolitan Detroit area,” Robinson said. “By the end of that meeting, the treasurer of the Province, Sister Ann O’Neil, was in tears. She said, ‘I don’t know why it wouldn’t work. Let’s give it a try.’”

Robinson and others on the Campau Committee formed a Board of Trustees. A headmaster was hired, new faculty and staff were put in place, and on September 3, 1969, the building on 171 Lake Shore Road opened its doors as The Grosse Pointe Academy for the first time.

Carole Peabody, founding Board of Trustees member who also sits on this year’s Board, reflects with pride on the school’s past 50 years. “How great to be celebrating 50 years! The Grosse Pointe Academy has been blessed with wonderful leaders throughout those many years, but our biggest blessings are our graduates and students who carry on the mission of our school.”

Celebrating 50

Exactly fifty years after the school’s opening date, Academy students, parents, faculty and staff, will gather on September 3, 2019 for orientation and the annual back-to-school picnic, which will this year include a celebratory 50th anniversary cake-cutting.

Head of School, Tommy Adams, says he is proud to be a part of the Academy’s leadership on such an important day in the school’s history. “It is a testament to the hard work and commitment of faculty and staff, families, alumni and Board of Trustees that The Grosse Pointe Academy is celebrating 50 years of educating the hearts and minds of young people,” he said. “It has been a pleasure and honor to lead such a special school community that’s dedicated to making sure we provide a strong learning foundation for our students during their most formative years. I look forward to honoring GPA’s legacy during the coming school year.”

The school’s official 50th Anniversary celebration week begins on Monday, September 30, with an all-school Nuns’ Walk. After morning Chapel, faculty, staff and students from Early School through 8th grade will walk the same double-lined tree path that the nuns strolled daily in reverent silence. The celebration will continue on Wednesday with Spirit Night and will conclude with a cocktail party on Friday, October 4, at which a commemorative Pewabic tile will be unveiled and made available for purchase for $50 each.

The Academy’s golden anniversary will continue to be a running theme throughout the school year during annual events like Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day, student art projects and the use of a special 50th anniversary crest, which will be used in place of the traditional GPA crest on the school’s logo.

For more information on The Grosse Pointe Academy’s history, 50th anniversary celebration events or commemorative Pewabic tiles, please contact the Development Office at 313.886.1221 or email mmcdermott@gpacademy.org.

*Historical excerpts taken directly from “Academy Magazine” published in December 1994.