Academic, Social, and Physical Education for Boys
by Mary Jane Maloney Leone and Joseph M. Lalley
“Gibbons Hall is more than a boys’ school whose graduates enjoy academic success. Every day a dedicated faculty seeks to enhance each boy’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical growth. Although academic standards are high, the faculty makes every effort to recognize the special needs of each boy and to help him realize his potential. The Headmaster is personally acquainted with each boy and his parents. Classes are small enough so that each member of the faculty knows his students intimately,” declared a school brochure in the 1960s.
In the early 1900’s the Religious of Christian Education purchased Victoria Inn on Victoria Road in Asheville. There they established St. Genevieve of the Pines. The school for girls grew through decades to an all-inclusive academy for grades one through twelve and a college program.
In 1949, when the nuns purchased the adjacent Memminger estate on Oakland Road, the campus expanded to a total of 28 acres. With the additional property and buildings, the school established Gibbons Hall as a separate school for boys in grades one through eight. When Gibbons Hall opened, Dan Pinto joined the faculty as headmaster of the boys’ school, and in 1950, Joe Lalley was hired as a teacher and assistant headmaster. In 1960, Mr. Pinto left Gibbons Hall and Mr. Lalley became headmaster.
CAMPUS AND BUILDINGS
The acquisition of the adjoining Memminger estate added classroom space and 14 acres to St. Genevieve’s campus; the brick-and-stucco 14-room home housed the School for Secretaries and Gibbons Hall School for Boys. The original home became Deplanck Hall in honor of the school’s founder, Mother Suzanne Deplanck; there the office of the headmaster, classrooms for eighth grade, and space for showers and locker rooms were located. In the adjoining carriage house, classes for grades 4-7 were held. On upper floors of Gibbons Hall, the School for Secretaries, directed by Mother Ann Zeleznik, held classes, and the headmaster, Mr. Pinto, and his family lived in a spacious apartment.
In 1957, Gibbons Hall added a newly constructed building for grades 1 – 3. It was later named Pinto Hall, in memory of former Headmaster Dan Pinto.
The Religious of Christian Education, who also owned the property adjacent to Deplanck Hall, created a large playing field for Gibbons Hall, making abundant space for football and baseball games and for the annual Field Day each spring
As St. Genevieve carried the name of the patron saint of Paris, Gibbons Hall drew its name from Cardinal James Gibbons, vicar apostolic of North Carolina, who traveled throughout the state after the Civil War, laying the foundation for development of the Catholic Church in the area. Father Gibbons became the second American to be named a cardinal; Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh also honors his work.
In addition to a departmental system for grades 4-8, the boys’ grammar school featured social and co-curricular opportunities for individual development. The strong and extensive education was based on Christian principles. Early introduction to foreign languages, music appreciation, supervised study and guidance were integrated into the lives of these young students.
Academic studies included English literature (Grade 8 students read Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare), grammar and spelling, science, mathematics taught by Joe Lalley in the 60’s, history and social studies. Religion was taught to Catholic students and moral guidance to all. After lunch in the SGP cafeteria, a special period was set aside each day for reading non-fiction and fiction books in order to foster a lifetime habit of daily reading. The training for leadership included an active dramatics group in grade 8, glee club, student council, student newspaper and a wide athletic program.
Participating in the annual science fairs, seventh- and eighth-grade students delved into multiple aspects of biology, physics, nature studies, nascent technology, medical and health research, such as dangers of smoking, etc. They set up their projects in the SGP gym. Judges selected winners not only from great displays but from those who could clearly explain their research and share what they personally learned from their work.
With the creation of Gibbons Hall in 1949, Mr. Pinto established House Teams to promote healthy athletic competition. Following the choice of an eminent cardinal’s designation for the school, these House Teams were named after other distinguished priests. NEWMAN was named after the prominent English educator and cardinal, John Henry Newman (1801-1890); LAFOSSE bore the name of Father Louis Lafosse (1772-1839), who had founded the small community of French sisters in 1817, which grew internationally and became the Religious of Christian Education, founding St. Genevieve of the Pines.
Gibbons Hall boys and their brothers in grades 4-8 were chosen by team captains each year. Team loyalty became strong in families and fostered great competition, enthusiasm and daily anticipation of team activities. The development of the whole person was a commitment incorporated into academics as well as in sports. Each boy was assigned to an A, B, or C team placement according to his height and weight for sports activities.
From the beginning, the boys’ athletic program included football, basketball, baseball, tumbling, boxing, and track. A highlight of the school year was Field Day, an annual event in which teams from Newman and Lafosse competed for honors in 60-yard dashes, four-man relay races, and low-hurdle races. The grand finale was a softball game that pitted dads versus their sons.
Besides athletic activities from 2:30-3:45 each afternoon, other co-curricular classes were provided for the boys. Music chorus, taught by Mr. Hendren in the early ‘60s, was led by Mrs. Lou McAfoos when he retired. Fall and spring concerts were held with all boys from grades 4-8 participating. Classical and current musical selections were chosen such as The Messiah by Handel at Christmas as well as movie themes such as “Exodus” and “Born Free” in the spring. The annual spring play featured major productions, including Treasure Island, Brother Orchid, and The Seven Keys to Bald Pate Inn.
Beginning in 1949, art classes were offered each day in the basement of Deplanck Hall. Mother Geoffrion and later Mother Mary Jane Maloney taught many and varied art techniques, preparing for art classes while the athletes were suiting up in the adjoining locker room. All students’ best art pieces were prepared for an annual art exhibition in SGP’s gymnasium. Judges awarded prizes for creativity and talent. Each spring the eighth grade boys presented a theater production. Aladdin’s Lamp, among others, was a spectacular success. All of these extra-curricular activities helped to create a joyful and happy atmosphere to develop talents.
Fund-raisers were important events during the year. Each fall, students sold magazines to increase monies available for programs. Several years saw selling chocolate bars as a way to gain funds. The Parents’ Association sponsored a variety of annual events, including the spring carnival. With their incomparable involvement in their sons’ educations, they helped support Gibbons Hall’s commitment to full experiences for the boys.
One event stands out which was student initiated with parent-teacher support. A letter arrived from a Korean orphanage asking for help. An eighth grader, Lee Barnhardt SG/GH ‘72, studied the letter, and asked if he could plan and execute a fair with games and great prizes for the whole school community, including SGP. His hope was to reach out beyond Asheville to help those in need and to use the whole project to obtain his Eagle Scout badge. For everyone, the project was wonderful fun and a huge success, especially because a student initiated and completed an inspired plan for a fund-raiser.
GIBBONS HALL FACULTY
The graduates of Gibbons Hall School for Boys speak almost reverently of Mother Elizabeth Farragher’s English classes. They remember how Tina Hutton insisted that they master the fundamentals of English grammar and composition. They recall with fondness the kind but businesslike Colonel Duncan Sinclair, a retired West Pointer who taught social studies and science. They speak with gratitude when they talk of Mother Maloney (now Mary Jane Leone), a gifted classroom teacher, who knew how to reach her students, remembering Cardinal Newman’s coat of arms, “heart speaks unto heart.” They always ask about William Culbreth, social studies and Latin teacher, who became Assistant Headmaster in the mid-1960s.
Alumni remember with obvious affection the other nuns who taught them in their first experiences in school – Mother Anna Joubert (Grade 1), Mother Marie Day (Grade 2), Mother Yvonne Haché (Grade 3), Mother Elizabeth Landry (Grade 4), who later became Superior of St. Genevieve’s, and Mother Helen Latour, an outstanding English and Latin scholar, par excellence.
They recollect the elaborate and well-conceived music productions and the efforts of Lou McAfoos and Kitty Johnson, whose skill, stamina, and generosity made them possible. Mrs. Johnson, a graduate of Peabody Conservatory of Music and an accomplished musician, taught piano lessons to generations of students and for many years continued to contribute hours of her personal time to a wide range of musical activities in the Asheville community.
The legacy of Gibbons Hall for parents, students and teachers lives today through personal and professional accomplishments, which have emerged from the treasured and enhanced atmosphere of learning and growing together.