Our History and Founding
Walsh Jesuit High School was funded by a generous gift from the late Cornelius and Jane Walsh.
Cornelius Walsh was born in 1864 and lived his entire life in Cuyahoga Falls, where he was a prominent industrialist and Catholic layman. He was dedicated to St. Joseph's church and school, which is located on property he purchased and donated. An editorial described him "as a philanthropist, his charitable work was not heralded from the housetops and his good deeds were not generally known. He was a strong supporter of his church and church school and no man was more prompt to offer relief among his own people."
When Cornelius Walsh passed away in 1932, he bequeathed his entire fortune to his wife, who continued to donate generously to the Catholic Church.
In 1943 Jane Walsh worked with her nephew, William A. Walsh, to design her will, which included a large sum of money for a Catholic high school to be built on her estate at 1852 Second Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls.
William Walsh investigated the various high schools in Summit County and concluded there was a real need for an all-boys high school conducted by an order of priests. Having attended St. Xavier High School in New York and earned a law degree from Holy Cross College, William Walsh was partial to the Jesuits. He convinced his Aunt Jane to bequeath to the Society of Jesus her property and $100,000 for the building of an all-boys school that would be a memorial to her husband. Her will included the stipulation that an oil painting of her late husband be prominently displayed in the school, and, in fact, paintings of Cornelius and Jane Walsh hang in the main lobby of Walsh Jesuit even today.
When William Walsh approached the Chicago Province of the Jesuits (the Detroit Province was not founded until 1955) about his aunt's gift, he was told by then-Provincial Fr. Sullivan, S.J., that it was uncertain whether the Jesuits could begin a new school at that time. And so the gift lay dormant in the Chicago files for many years.
In 1958 the Detroit Province decided to begin another apostolate — preferably a high school — and contacted the Bishop of Toledo, Ohio, first. He declined the offer. The following year, the original offer made by the Walsh family was found during a transfer of files from the Chicago Province to the Detroit Province. At almost the same time, Fr. McGrail, Provincial of the Detroit Province, received a phone call from William Walsh who urged him to reconsider the proposal made in his Aunt Jane's will. Under William Walsh's stewardship, her gift had grown to nearly $2 million.
Fr. McGrail (who would become the school's seventh president) took the convergence of all these factors as a sign of Divine Providence in action and decided to set things in motion.
Because the Walsh family's downtown Cuyahoga Falls property was deemed unsuitable for the school, Fr. McGrail and William Walsh began looking for a new location. They settled on farmland owned by Joseph and Louise Conway on Wyoga Lake Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Using the gift from Cornelius and Jane Walsh (to which the Cleveland Catholic Diocese added $1 million) 50 acres were purchased from the Conway family, with an additional 50 acres purchased later.
No sooner had an architect been selected, plans drawn up, and construction begun when the Bishop of Toledo called Fr. McGrail to say he had reconsidered and now was open to the idea of another high school in his area.
Despite the financial risks, the Detroit Province decided to go ahead with two new high schools, though had it not been for the initial refusal of the Toledo Bishop, Walsh Jesuit High School would never have been founded. For this reason, the establishment of Walsh Jesuit has always been considered providential.
Jane Walsh passed away in July 1963 at age 89, about 24 months before Walsh Jesuit opened. She knew, however, that plans were under way for the school because Fr. McGrail visited her often. Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to see the completed memorial to her husband.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Walsh Jesuit took place in 1964, and the school opened its doors to 153 freshmen on September 7, 1965. The school was dedicated in May 1966, and the first class graduated in 1969.