Notre Dame Junior/ Senior High School makes renovations
by luke eggleston
Sun staff writer
UTICA — Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School made some much-needed renovations in the past year.
For the first time in 48 years, the school replaced all of its lockers. According to Sister Anna Mae Collins, CSJ, the old lockers were “non-functioning” after nearly five decades of use. The new lockers were financed entirely by private, anonymous donations.
In addition, the New York Power Authority provided a $75,000 grant to Notre Dame to finance repairs on the portion of roof covering the gymnasium and also the soffett, the awning in front of the school. Sister Anna Mae indicated that the school is still seeking more funding for structural repairs to the school’s aging windows and light structures. Ultimately, Sister Anna Mae said, the school hopes to replace its boilers.
Finally, the school conducted extensive upgrades to its athletics facilities. Last year, the football program was unable to play home games because of damages incurred from general wear on its field. In contrast to most football programs, the Notre Dame Jugglers did not have a separate practice field. In order to correct the problem, the school landscaped three new fields for practice use.
Remarkably, Notre Dame has been able to accomplish each of its improvements without a full-time development director, a position that is standard at private institutions. Sister Anna Mae has assumed most of the school’s fund-raising responsibilities, while Margaret Stephenson, a secretary in the alumni office, has been maintaining relations with former students.
Sister Anna Mae said the school intends to find a full time development director in the future.
“Here, I believe it’s a critical position,” she said.
One of the most significant challenges facing Notre Dame is the economic landscape of the Mohawk Valley area.
“It’s tough all over but the economy in Utica is a little tougher,” Sister Anna Mae said.
In the long run, Sister Anna Mae hopes the school will be able to set up an endowment fund that can be used to provide financial assistance to students. Currently, tuition has gone up while tuition assistance has remained level.
Nevertheless, the Notre Dame community has remained strong, according to Sister Anna Mae.
“We’ve really come together. There’s a lot of support in the community for Notre Dame,” she said.
One of the highlights of student life at Notre Dame is a tradition of excellence in its athletics program.
“Sports are an extremely positive part of Notre Dame,” Sister Anna Mae said.
In June, the school also had to fill a vacancy in its athletics department when long-time athletic director John DePerno stepped down. While DePerno remains a teacher in the school, veteran baseball coach Gene Leuthauser, recently retired from Utica National Insurance, will assume the role of administrator.
Leuthauser, a parishioner at St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart Church in Utica, may be new to the athletic director office, but he’s a familiar face on Notre Dame’s athletic fields. Leuthauser has coached Notre Dame baseball in various capacities for 18 years. He has been the head coach for 10 years, leading the Jugglers to five Section 3 championships and two New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships.
All four of Leuthauser’s children attended St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart Elementary School and also Notre Dame.
The coach said his new retired status enabled him to take on the administrator position.
“It just gave me more of an opportunity to serve the school,” Leuthauser said.
Although he did not attend Notre Dame, Leuthauser believes that the nature of Catholic education prepares athletes for superior performance on the baseball field.
“I think you just like the fact that the students handle structure more readily than they do at the public schools,” Leuthauser said. “They’re more disciplined and that lends itself to success in athletics.”
After nearly two decades spent close to both the school and the athletics program, Leuthauser has a vested interest in the Jugglers’ continued success.
“When you’re involved for a length of time you develop friendships and you value what they have to offer,” Leuthauser said. “You realize it’s an institution you want to keep going.”