In 1913, Father Phillip L. Keller purchased an 84 acre farm outside the city limits of Lafayette, which had once been the property of the sister of the King of France, and was dedicated to the Mother of the King of Heaven and Earth, Our Lady, Queen of the Holy Rosary. In August of 1913, Father Keller, Mother Sacred Heart SSF (The Sisters of the Holy Father that had been recruited in 1898 to staff the industrial school in Galveston) and 14 girls arrived at the farm with its oak lined avenue and two small buildings. With a donation from Sister Katherine Drexel (well known benefactress of colored and Indian missions in America), a large three storied building which housed the convent, dormitory, and classrooms was completed in March 1914 and dedicated to archbishop Bleck in April of the same year. In June of 1915 the school awarded its first diploma to Veronica Matteo (Linden).
A Dream Deferred
In 1974, due to a decline in enrollment and astronomical costs the boarding department was closed ending an era that had begun more than fifty years before. With the closing of the boarding department Holy Rosary began a period of decline. The enrollment that a few years before had been in excess of 400 now declined to below 200.
The financial difficulties caused by decreasing revenues caused the elimination and restructure of many of the services provided by the school. The needs of the school prompted an all out effort on the part of the alumni and friends to “Keep Rosary Alive.”
In September of 1976, Fr. Elmer Powel SVD became the 5th director of the institute. Through his efforts an advisory board consisting of alumni, supporters, and benefactors continued to keep the troubled school afloat, serving until 1979.
The period from 1979-1988 was a period of restructure and financial rebuilding, with the administration of the school becoming the shared responsibility of the School Board, Board of Trustees, and the principal. Continuing its philosophy of superior educational development, the eighties saw a slight rise in enrollment and a serious recommitment to the vision of its founder.
In 1980 Holy Rosary Institute (the girl’s building) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After 75 years of service to Black America, the tree is bent but not broken; the warriors are tired and bruised but not defeated; the vision is blurred but not lost. In spite of trials and tribulations, the Eagle still stirreth her nest.