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Calvert Hall to celebrate 175th anniversary — only later this year

Brother John Kane, Calvert Hall College High School’s president since 2014, said that he has enjoyed the buildup toward the 175th anniversary of Baltimore’s oldest all-boys Catholic high school.

A celebration, called Gala 175, which was to be held March 21 at Towson University’s SECU Arena, has been “rescheduled at a later date when we are confident that this current situation [related to the coronavirus] is no longer a threat,” according to a statement released by the school March 11.

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The event was supposed to be held a couple of months ahead of the actual anniversary date when the school first opened its doors to 100 students on Saratoga Street in downtown Baltimore in September 1845.

Whenever Gala 175 unfolds, it will feature cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, dancing and the induction into the Calvert Hall College Alumni Hall of Fame of John Murtaugh, (Class of 1961, posthumously), John Noppinger Jr., (’64), W. Daniel White, (’65), Kenneth Boehl, (’72), and Francis Smyth, (’78), of Cockeysville.

In addition, Joseph Croteau, a longtime member of the school’s board of trustees and former T. Rowe Price vice president, is slated to be awarded the President’s Medal for outstanding contributions from non-alumni to Calvert Hall.

And while Kane said that he reveres Calvert Hall’s rich history and is still looking forward to Gala 175, it’s the future of the school that has been located in Towson for 60 years that has him most excited.

To that end, the school recently received an anonymous $1 million donation earmarked to support students engaged in the arts.

“One hundred seventy five years is a long time to be in business,” he said. “Now we have to start planning for the next 175 years.”

Kane added that Calvert Hall’s Lasallian tradition — referring to the founder of the Christian Brothers, St. John Baptiste de La Salle — of educating the “whole person” and making education available to those in need of financial aid is still very alive today.

“There’s a special kindred spirit when you go from one Lasallian school to another,” he said, noting that Calvert Hall is the oldest of the 46 high schools in 18 states run by the Christian Brothers.

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With a wide range of socioeconomic, religious, racial and academic backgrounds — 23% of the students are from minority groups — Calvert Hall’s 1,170 students from 106 different ZIP codes in grades nine through 12 check multiple boxes.

“We have always embraced diversity,” Kane said. “The kids have so many different interests. A lot of people know us for our athletics, but we also have strong visual arts, music, robotics and a variety of other programs to offer. We just have so many things we can offers students. We try to develop a curriculum that will help them o more easily acclimate to college.”

To accomplish all of those educational goals, Kane added that “you have to touch the students’ hearts.”

Kane said that the affection for Calvert Hall among its 16,000 alums runs deep in the community.

“Calvert Hall and Baltimore are full of traditions,” he said. “Other schools have traditions, too, but they might be a little stronger here.”

According to a recently published history of Calvert Hall, written by 1976 alumnus Bill Tamulonis, the school was named in honor of Maryland’s founding Catholic family.

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A statue of the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, stood on the corner of the stone building at Cathedral and Mulberry streets after the school moved there in 1891.

A replica of the Calvert statue has graced the Towson campus since relocating to the Goucher Boulevard site 60 years ago.

Tamulonis said that until he wrote the book, he didn’t fully understand that St. John Baptiste de La Salle’s original mission was to provide a high quality Christian education to those who didn’t have access to such a formal learning environment.

“And 300 years later, Calvert Hall is still adhering to that principle,” the Acts Retirement Communities research director said. “While tuition is not free, the school remains fully faithful to the mission of St. John Baptiste de La Salle.”

Tamulonis, who mentors a fatherless young man as a member of the Baltimore Life Coaches program, said that his alma mater’s dedication to that mission “increases my love for the school.”

The school, he said, has pulled off a delicate balancing act.

“Calvert Hall has managed to broaden the breadth of opportunity for students with financial needs while still remaining economically viable,” Tamulonis said. “It’s very difficult to pull that off, and it starts with the leadership from the administration and faculty. Also, it’s the 16,000 alums backing up the people who deliver the [academic] product that keeps the school growing.”

A $150,000 grant designated to create a scholarship endowment from the France-Merrick Foundation for students from Baltimore City and Baltimore County is an example of how Calvert Hall draws funds from other sources to fulfill its mission of welcoming students of modest — or sometimes very few — means.

Two members of the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame, Frank Bramble (’66) and Jerry Geraghty (’68), came from such circumstances before attending Calvert Hall and eventually blossoming in their professional careers — Bramble as a bank executive and Geraghty heading a law firm.

Two of Bramble’s sons are Calvert Hall grads, as are all four of Geraghty’s boys. Both men had brothers who attended the school as well.

Bramble’s longstanding reverence for the Lasallian tradition of providing “an excellent academic Christ-centered environment for boys from diverse backgrounds — particularly from disadvantaged homes” — struck a chord with him that has reverberated throughout his life.

“It has created a melting pot,” said Bramble, who grew up in the Pimlico neighborhood of northwest Baltimore and went on to become the only lay president in the school’s history; he also chaired the board of trustees for two years. “We had no idea at the time (in his student days), but that fact impacted all of us in a significant way. CHC absolutely turns boys into men, and it’s all because of St. John Baptiste de La Salle and his beliefs on how to educate boys.”

Geraghty said that legendary teachers, such as his soccer coach and homeroom teacher Bill Karpovich and math teacher Augie Miceli, inspired him to excel at a school that was “so big and diverse” when he enrolled as a freshman.

“I had heard a lot about Calvert Hall from my brothers, and it was a little bit intimidating at first,” he said. “I was fortunate that I played soccer, and I met a lot of guys from other parishes that I played against in grade school at St. Bernard, and we all became buddies. In fact, the great majority of my friends today are Calvert Hall guys.”

Karpovich and Miceli gave Geraghty an extra sense of self worth.

“Bill Karpovich was the guy who said, ‘I know you can do it,'” he said. “He gave you confidence because he exuded confidence.”

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Miceli, who won six championships coaching the Cardinals’ football team and taught for 60 years at the school before dying last summer, knew Geraghty’s older brothers from their Waverly neighborhood.

“Augie was another guy who gave me a lot of confidence,” Geraghty said. “He told me that he knew I could do the work and he didn’t want to hear any excuses. He was all business — a wonderful mentor and a guy who I became friends with for 50 years after graduating. Both of those guys gave up so much for us. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without Calvert Hall.”

Tom Smyth (Class of 1977), the president and CEO of the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, said that his years at Calvert Hall taught him many life lessons.

“It’s not an ivy-covered place on a hill,” said Smyth, who was raised in Guilford and lives in Towson. “The socioeconomic diversity of Calvert Hall was powerful for me. The Lasallian environment is special, one that proves the meritocracy of education and produces a brotherhood of leaders who are deeply involved in their communities.

"It’s big enough so you can find friends whatever your interests and proclivities, and that’s important in high school. All three of my boys went to the Hall. Through them I have seen that the diversity of today’s Hall has expanded greatly and remains a strong teacher of what real life is about.

"Lasallian ideals remain firmly intact. My sons are still very tight with their buddies. They smile when they think of their time at Calvert Hall. There isn’t a better educational platform for young men anywhere.”

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