Saint Louis University High School

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Saint Louis University High School (SLUH), a Jesuit Catholic high school for boys, was founded in 1818. It is the oldest secondary educational institution in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, and is one of the largest private high schools in Missouri.


SLUH was founded in 1818 as St. Louis Academy. It quickly grew to include a college division, and the college was granted university status in 1832. The high school retained the identity of St. Louis Academy on the university campus until 1924 when it moved to its own facilities and incorporated separately under the name of St. Louis University High School. The school's new home, on Oakland Avenue, was a gift of Mrs. Anna Backer in memory of her late husband and alumnus George Backer. That facility, also known as Backer Memorial, has grown considerably over the years and remains the school's home. SLUH has been successful in its city location while many other private high schools have followed population moves to the western suburbs.

In 2005 SLUH hired the first lay president, David Laughlin, in its history.


SLUH is known for academic excellence, as recent test scores attest. In the school's class of 2006, four members attained the top score of 36 on the ACT Assessment, the most widely-accepted college entrance exam in the country. Nationwide, fewer than 300 students per year attain this score (out of over 2 million tests administered), so having four from one class at one school is very rare. Two students in the class of 2007 have achieved the top score of 36. According to the figures released in SLUH's 2005 annual report, the average ACT score for SLUH students is over 29 and SAT over 1300, while the national average on the ACT was only 20.9 in 2005. Virtually all graduates immediately enter colleges and universities. Students participate in many extracurriculars ranging from a superior theater department to sports to Missouri's only weekly high school newspaper, the Prep News.

The humanities receive a strong emphasis within SLUH's curriculum, particularly evidenced in the extensive language department, which has offered four year programs in Russian and Chinese for many years. In keeping with its strong Jesuit Catholic heritage, courses in Latin and Greek are offered, as are the popular choices of French and Spanish.


Over the years, SLUH has been forced to expand to meet demands for new facilities and expansions that still keep it in the city. The first major expansion took place in 1956, when a new gym was built to replace the original gym in the main building. The new complex contained the enlarged gym (which is still used today), locker rooms, and several music facilities. A new library was added in 1970 and dedicated to Dr. James Robinson, a long-time history teacher at the school, who endowed it using his winnings from the Irish Sweepstakes. In 1978, the school began soliciting funds for the "E-3" program (standing for "Education, Endowment, Expansion"), which helped to remodel the interior of the school (at the time which was largely unchanged from the 1940s and 50s), build up a large endowment and erect an upper field, faculty parking lot and the current football stadium on the Oakland Avenue side of the school. 1997 brought about a major refresh of the interior (a new paint scheme, new floors, several new offices and classrooms, and air-conditioning), but most importantly built the Joseph Schulte Theater/performing arts wing of the school, extending west on the Oakland side. The purpose-built theater replaced the old auditorium in the main building and is regarded as one of the best theaters in the city. It is named for long-time SLUH drama teacher and St. Louis theatre figure Mr. F. Joseph Schulte. The Schulte Theater has 350 permanent seats, and the capacity is expandable to 600 with the addition of bleacher seating in the balcony-like "loge" section. The theater is often rented to outside groups to perform plays and other functions.

The SLUH Rec Room, built in the basement of the Backer Memorial in the 1940s, is the largest billiards hall west of the Mississippi River. The hall also contains foosball, ping pong, bumper pool, and shuffle board. The Rec Room is a favorite hang out for students, especially freshmen, before school, during Activity Period, and after school. The SLUH Rifle Range is right next door to the Rec Room, and the weight room is across the hall.

Around the year 2000 the most ambitious expansion the school has ever seen began. Called Vision 2000 (V2K), the plan included reducing class sizes, better integrating technology into the curriculum and increasing class options. More resources have been poured into academic enhancements than to any other part of the V2K plan, but the most visible aspects of V2K are the construction projects. Beginning by replacing the natural grass at the football stadium with artificial turf and a new entry boulevard to the west of the campus, which was constructed jointly with the adjacent St. Louis Science Center, and continuing with the soccer/track complex and baseball field, the campus has been transformed. In future years, a "Student Life Center" will be built, housing a new cafeteria, new offices for STUCO, Prep News and the Dauphin yearbook, and a basketball and several racquetball courts for student usage.

The V2K plans have caused some controversy. Some students have complained that the new parking lot is considerably further from the entrance than before, and felt that they were not sufficiently consulted on the matter. Some in the SLUH community have voiced the opinion that the new athletic facilities are excessive. There is also concern in the SLUH community that the expansion of the school will disrupt the atmosphere that has been established by keeping classes, extracurriculars, students, and teachers in close proximity. Currently students do not need to move between buildings to participate in a variety of activities during and after school hours. Others have expressed enthusiasm for the new facilities.


Some of the most popular student organizations are: Community Service Program (CSP), which sends students to sites across the area to work with the poor, disabled and aged; the Sisyphus literary magazine, offered twice a year in February and April; Student Council, which chairs the seniors-only "Blue Crew" cheering section at games; and Intramurals, which runs all year and includes events such as Music Trivia, Film Making, basketball, and "bashball", a sport popular among students at SLUH that is best described as a mix of rugby, ice hockey, water polo, team handball and Australian rules football. Many students at SLUH participate in the fine arts, including chorus, dance, band, drawing, and its exceptional theatre program, the Dauphin Players, who put on four professional-level productions each year (one musical, a straight play and two "studio productions", which are usually edgier plays performed in front of a smaller audience created by putting seating tiers on the stage), known among many in the St. Louis area for their high quality.

The school is also noted for the Senior Service Project (or Senior Project). Seniors are given three weeks away from their studies at the start of the Spring semester and work full time on a service project with a non-for-profit agency. Most projects serve in and around the St. Louis area, but also offered are projects in New Mexico and Honduras. SLUH is one of the few schools that provides time away from studies for this type of activity, which the school sees as critical to its Jesuit mission of educating "men for others". SLUH was among the first Jesuit schools to introduce this program, doing so in 1970.

Sports and Rivalries

SLUH's athletic teams are known as the Junior Billikens, or Jr. Bills. They are very competitive in the Metro Catholic Conference and are the current holders of the All Sports Trophy for that conference. The school's teams have won Missouri state titles in football (1970), cross country ('61 and '99), soccer ('71, '91 and 2003), basketball (4 times, most notably beating Bill Bradley and his Crystal City team in '60), tennis ('70 and 2006), track (2006), water polo (7 times, most recently 2005), swimming (twice as a team, most recently 2003, with numerous individual champions) and volleyball (twice, most recently in 2003). They have also won the national racquetball title three times, most recently in 2004. Before the inaguaration of a state-wide Missouri football title in the late 1960s, the Jr. Bills football squad won ten city championships, retiring the St. Louis Globe Democrat City/County trophy, which sits proudly in one of the many trophy cases by the school's switchboard. Moreover, its soccer team is currently ranked second in the NSCAA national high school rankings.

Its biggest rivals in athletics are two other all-male Catholic schools, De Smet Jesuit High School and Christian Brothers College High School (CBC). The De Smet rivalry is a relatively recent development, since De Smet has only been open since 1967. The fact that both schools are operated by the Jesuits, however, brings a special fervor to their competitions. The rivalry with CBC dates back to the early 20th century. For years the schools were located just two miles apart along Oakland Avenue/Clayton Road. The intensity of the rivalry was showcased for years at an annual football game played in Busch Memorial Stadium rather than on either school's home field. That practice ended in 1995 when Busch Stadium was remodelled into a baseball-only facility. The soccer rivalry has heated up in the last decade. In 2003, when both schools had nationally-ranked soccer teams, the district playoff between them was attended by over 6,000 fans, no mean feat considering that CBC's new stadium was unfinished at the time and also barred people from standing on the track.

SLUH also competitively participates in many academic sports, such as math contests, Math League, Speech Team, Mock Trial and Quizbowl (Academic Team). SLUH has placed as the top scoring high school in the Missouri chapter of Math League for four years running. The Quizbowl team of 2005-2006 won the title for SLUH's district, and won an individual medal at the state level.

Notable Alumni

See Also

Contact Information

4970 Oakland Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110
Phone: (314) 531-0330


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External Links