“Situated at the corner of Orange and Columbus streets, on one of Macon’s highest hills, Mount de Sales commands a widespread view of the beautiful country around.”
– Sister M. A. McKervey, RSM, 1923
Founded in 1876, Mount de Sales Academy is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory, co-educational school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. The story of the founding of MDS begins in Dublin where Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy (est. 1831), an organization of religious women whose ministry was and is to educate and provide services for poor and disadvantaged youth and women.
Mount de Sales history is unique and spans post-Civil War Reconstruction, the invention of electricity, the arrival of the first automobiles, two World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the advent of space exploration, the assassination of President Kennedy, and 9/11. Through it all, Mount de Sales has been a beacon of light for so many. Take a look at some important milestones in our history.
Five Sisters of Mercy arrived in Macon from Columbus, Georgia. Sisters Mary Philomena Usina (Fl.), Mary Stanislaus Andreau (Fl.), Mary de Sales Wall (Pa.), Mary Genevieve Gibbs (Conn.), and Mary Frances McCabe (Ireland) were initially stationed in St. Augustine, Florida, where the Civil War threatened their mission. For safety, they relocated to Columbus. After nine years, the Sisters moved to Macon where they opened a small school called the Academy of the Sacred Heart Jesus on the corner of Walnut and Fourth streets. They taught Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish children while also operating a free school to serve the poor in the basement of the old Saint Joseph Church.
Catholic education in Macon under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy preceded the Bibb County Public School system, which was established in 1872. The Board of Education invited the Sisters to form part of the teaching corps. The free school operated by the Sisters was incorporated as a public school. Two of the sisters, Sister Mary Gertrude and Sister Mary Bernard, were among the first teachers in the Macon public schools and taught there for thirty years.
The mother house of the Sisters was moved from Columbus to Macon. To accommodate all the Sisters, novices, and boarding students, the former home of Governor Towns, on Beall’s Hill at the corner of Orange and Columbus was purchased by the united efforts of the Sisters, Catholics in the city, and other friends. The school’s name was changed to Mount de Sales Academy in honor of Saint Francis de Sales.
The school was chartered February 28, 1876 as a junior college for women, a boarding school, with the right to confer degrees under the laws of the state of Georgia.
The first graduation exercises took place with three graduates: Margaret V. McKervey, Mary McCreary, and Annie Mahoney. All three graduates became Sisters of Mercy; Sister Mary Aquin McKervy (Margaret McKervey’s religious name) taught at Mount de Sales for 55 years. At this time, the school had three divisions: primary, preparatory, and senior.
To accommodate the growing number of students, additions were made to the original building several times before the entire structure, with the exception of one wing, was demolished in 1910 and replaced by a new structure, the Convent Academy Building, occupied in 1911.
The Golden Jubilee Celebration was held May 31, 1926 for the Sister Genevieve Gibbs and Sister Mary Alphonsus Doyle in honor of their fifty years of service to education.
The Mount de Sales boarding school for girls in grades one through twelve existed from 1882 until 1936 when the grade school was discontinued. The school continued as a secondary school for day students and boarding students who came from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Cuba.
Mercy Hall was completed in 1955 and included five classrooms, science laboratory, home economics laboratory, and principal’s office. The continued growth of the boarding and day school, together with rising standards for accreditation of high schools, made this new classroom building necessary.
Mount de Sales Academy became co-educational in 1959 with the acceptance of freshman boys. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Thomas J. McDonough, the bishop of the Savannah Diocese, requested this change in order to provide a Catholic high school education for Catholic boys in Macon.
St. Joseph Hall was built to accommodate the growing number of students and to provide more classrooms and laboratories.
The first co-ed class graduated with 28 girls and 16 boys.
The boarding school was officially closed, with the exception of four girls of the class of ‘64.
Mount de Sales is the first school in Middle Georgia to integrate.
The first two African-American students graduate: Eileen Williams and Cheryl Odom.
McAuley Hall gym and cafeteria is dedicated.
The Warren Roberts property at 744 College Street was purchased in 1967 in order to build a new residence for the Sisters. The Sisters occupied the building in 1970, at which time the convent/boarding school, in disrepair, was razed.
The old convent laundry building on Columbus Street was renovated for use as the football team’s storage/locker/shower facility.
De Sales Hall building opened and included a new library, administrative areas, and two classrooms.
The Middle School was reopened when grade eight was reinstated.
Grade seven returned to Mount de Sales in the fall of 1987.
August of 1990 marked the dedication of Sheridan Hall, which houses classrooms, a chapel, science and computer labs, and administrative offices. Sheridan Hall sits on the spot where the original convent and boarding school once stood.
The Academy was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 1991, the first and only private high school in Middle Georgia to receive this designation.
Seventy acres of land were acquired on which the Academy’s first athletic complex would be completed.
Cavalier Fields was dedicated. The fields included a football stadium and practice field, soccer field and practice field, baseball field, softball field, a state-of-the-art rubberized track, tennis courts, concession house and patio.
The first lay principal of Mount de Sales was hired.
Through the generous support of friends and families, the Academy officially completed construction of the field house with weightlifting and conditioning room, fully equipped athletic training facility, multiple locker rooms, conference room, and coaches’ office.
The David J. Zuver Performing Arts Center, a complex where students’ intellectual, physical, and spiritual development is realized, was opened in 2004. This multi-purpose facility includes a 650-seat theater, practice rooms for chorus, band, and music, two art rooms, a dark room, and five classrooms.
Mount de Sales welcomed back younger students and reopened the sixth grade in 2004.
Mount de Sales became one of a select group of schools holding dual accreditation from both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS).
With grant funds from the Dorothy V. and N. Logan Lewis Foundation, Mount de Sales launches its 1:1 iPad initiative. Students in grades six and twelve are the first to receive iPads.
Mount de Sales Academy is accepted as a charter member in the Cum Laude Society, the only private school in Middle Georgia to have membership.
Bonaventure Hall was demolished. It was previously the home of the Sisters at 744 College Street and followed as a classroom building for Mount de Sales students.
Father John Cuddy Hall, the middle school building, was completed and houses grades 6-8, The facility includes classrooms, laboratories, administrative offices, and an academic support suite.
The 1:1 iPad initiative reached its goal of providing an iPad to each student in grades 6 through 12.
Through the generous support of donors, Mount de Sales begins a $1M campus transformation. The plan includes student spaces, plazas, brick walls to define the campus boundaries, a new road through campus, and marked entrances.
Mount de Sales Academy, with Historic Macon Foundation, dedicated a marker commemorating the Academy’s historical significance to the Macon community. The Academy also held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the unveiling of an 18-month transformation of its main campus. These improvements were made possible by the Phil J. and Alice S. Sheridan Foundation and have enriched the Academy’s beauty while preserving its history.