Archbishop Riordan High School was opened in September of 1949 (read more about the history of the school in the below ebook, Young Men Dream Dreams). The school was entrusted to the direction of the Society of Mary (The Marianists). The Society of Mary is an international religious congregation of men in the service of the Catholic Church.
The Society was founded by Father William Joseph Chaminade in 1817 at Bordeaux, France. This society has a unique characteristic in the Church. It’s members — Brothers and priests, teachers and non-teachers — belong to it on a plane of absolute equality; there are differences in function, but none of rank, privilege, or prerogative.
Education is the principal work of the Society, though a large number of religious are in other works of the apostolate such as preaching, parish work, orphanages, missions, and directing lay groups.
The Early Years – St. James Boys School
The Brothers of Mary (Marianists) were invited to California in 1884 by Archbishop Patrick Riordan whose many accomplishments include the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s seminary in Menlo Park. His devotion to Christ and the people of San Francisco was evident in a speech he gave to the people of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake.
“We shall rebuild. I am a citizen of no mean city, although it is in ashes. Almighty God has fixed this as the location of a great city. The past is gone, and there is no lamenting over it. Let us look to the future and without regard to creed or place of birth, work together in harmony for the up building of a greater San Francisco.”
In the summer of 1886, five Marianists from Saint Mary’s Stockton began the many years of service in San Francisco. At St. Joseph’s Parish, in the downtown district of the City, they began a grammar school for boys. In 1906, the Brothers opened a high school department at St. James in temporary quarters while also conducting St. James Grammar School in the Mission District.
In April of 1907, St. James Boys School (affectionately known as “The Brickpile”) opened at 23rd and Fair Oaks Streets. The girls were taught by the Dominican Sisters at Immaculate Conception Academy.
Soon the enrollment reached 223 boys with a staff of seven Brothers. In 1918, they celebrated the Centennial of the founding of the Society of Mary by Father William Joseph Chaminade. During the influenza epidemic of the same year, the Brothers assisted the Daughters of Charity caring for the sick at Mary’s Help Hospital. Starting in 1920 a high school program was added to the school a year at a time with the first graduation in 1924.
A tribute to the Brothers appeared in the May 17, 1930 issue of The Monitor:
“St. James School has been the most liberal in directing vocations to the diocesan seminary and to other religious orders. Many of the priests in this archdiocese who are most successful are proud to count themselves as alumni of St. James. Great credit for this truly flowering of our youth is due to the untiring labors of the Brothers of Mary. It is the unanimous opinion of the various seminary authorities that the boys of St. James come to them well-ground in the elements of education and with dispositions of mind and character which make them readily amenable to the strict requirements of seminary life.”
1949: Archbishop Riordan High School Opens
With the increasing demands for another and still larger boys high school in San Francisco, the Marianists closed the high school department at St. James in 1949 and moved to the newly constructed Archbishop Riordan High School, a monument to the memory of Archbishop Patrick William Riordan, D.D., second Archbishop of San Francisco, 1884-1914.
In the years since, Archbishop Riordan High School has educated and graduated more than 10,000 young men, many continuing on to the nations finest universities and eventually assuming prominent roles in their communities and influencing the lives of many.
In 2011, Archbishop Riordan opened a boarding program on campus, one of only a handful in major US cities. The program has hosted students from every continent (with the exception of Antarctica).
History of Archbishop Riordan High School adapted from Young Men Dream Dreams, 50 Years of Archbishop Riordan High School by Bro. William Bolts, SM ’53.
Archbishop Riordan Presidents
Father Thomas J. French, SM, 2004 – 2010
Mr. Patrick W. Daly 2010 – 2012
Mr. Joseph M. Conti 2012 – 2016
Mr. Andrew Currier, Ph.D. 2017 –
Archbishop Riordan Principals
Bro. John McCluskey, SM, M.A. 1949 – 1952
Fr. Paul G. Kelley, SM, M.A. 1952 – 1955
Bro. Maurice W. Miller, SM, M.A. 1955 – 1961
Bro. Herman J. Gerber, SM, M.A. 1961 – 1965
Bro. Maurice W. Miller, SM, M.A. 1965 – 1966
Bro. Harold R. Hammond, SM, M.A. 1966 – 1969
Fr. John E. McEnhill, SM, M.A. 1969 – 1976
Bro. John J. Haster, SM, M.A. 1976 – 1985
Fr. William A. O’Connell, SM, M.A. 1985 – 1992
Fr. Timothy M. Kenney, SM, M.A., M.Div. 1992 – 2001
Bro. James Dods, SM 2001 – 2003
Mr. Gabriel Crotti 2004 – 2007
Mr. Kevin Asbra 2008 – 2013
Mr. Vittorio Anastasio ’84 2013 – 2017
Mr. Timothy A. Reardon 2017 –
Young Men Dream Dreams, A History Book of Riordan
by Bro. Bill Bolts, SM ’53
About the Author
Brother William Bolts, SM, ’53 is a third generation San Franciscan who entered Riordan in 1949. He holds degrees from St. Mary’s College (bachelor), University of California, Los Angeles (master) and Carnegie-Mellon University (doctorate). He has done doctoral and post-doctoral research at the University of Notre Dame.
As a Marianist Bro. Bolts served as teacher and administrator at Junipero Serra High School, St. Louis School, and Riordan High School where he currently sits on the Board. Between 1982-1990 he served as the Assistant Provincial / Director of Education of the Province of the Pacific. Bro. Bolts is also the author of The Catholic Experience in America and St. John’s Parish on St. Mary’s Avenue in the City of Saint Francis, 1893 – 1993.