The Cardinal Gibbons Institute
“The mission of the Institute is to educate ourselves and the greater community at large of the important role Cardinal Gibbons Institute had in not just the community but the United States”
The Cardinal Gibbons Institute was St. Mary’s County’s first high school built to educate Blacks. Located in Ridge, Maryland, it provided academic, vocational and religious instructions to black students from across the United States.
In May 1917, land was acquired for the school. Archbishop James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland donated $8,000 towards the purchase of the land. Consequently, the new school was named after the Archbishop – Cardinal Gibbons Institute.
The Knights of Columbus National Board of Directors donated $38,000 towards the erection of the school building. In February 1922, Archbishop Michael J.Curley of Baltimore, Maryland approved the general plans of the Institute.
Cardinal Gibbons Institute was opened in September 1924 and dedicated in October 1924. Victor and Constance Daniels were hired as the Institute’s first principal and assistant principal. The Institue’s first graduating class held its commencement in June 1929.
Financial difficulties resulting from the Great Depression reportedly caused the closing of Cardinal Gibbons in 1933. Cardinal Gibbons was reopened by Father Horace B. McKenna in 1936. Nathan A. Pitts was hired as the Institute’s principal in 1936. In September 1952, the Oblate Sisters of Providence began their instruction at Cardinal Gibbons Institute under the direction of Mother Mary Anselm Bentley.
In June 1967, the last graduating class held it’s commencement, The school was closed due to new Maryland state laws regarding segregated education. In April 1972, Cardinal Gibbons Institute, also known as the Cardinal Gibbons High School, long abandoned and vandalized, was torn down. In June 1997, the first Cardinal Gibbons Institute/High School class reunion was held.
On May 28, 1988, at the 50th Anniversary of St. Peter Claver Church, Sister Mary Paul Lee proposed the idea of erecting a memorial in honor of Cardinal Gibbons Institute. James B. Forrest, Sr. donated the first $100.00 towards the erection of this memorial. In September 1988, the first meeting of the Cardinal Gibbons Institute Memorial Committee was held at St. Peter Claver Church’s McKenna Hall. In December 1988, work began on the renovation of the Institute’s original cupola.
Generous donatrions, successful fundraisers and hard work on the part of the committee members and community supporters resulted in the completion of the memorial during the summer of 1990. On September 1, 1990, the Cardinal Gibbons Institute Memorial was dedicated on the grounds where the education facility once stood.
Historical related pictures may be seen in the Musuem Photo Galley.