The Big 50 for St. Joseph High School turned out to be really big.
The private Catholic high school celebrated the opening of the Robert and Maureen O'Keefe Academic Center recently. The $5 million wing contains a library, meeting rooms, classrooms, art rooms and a 240-seat auditorium.
Former SJH teachers, supporters and First Selectman Tim Herbst toured the new wing Dec. 2, before school President William Fitzgerald addressed a full house in the auditorium.
"On the original drawings, this was a barren room," he said regarding the auditorium. "We had to dig a little bit to get level with the first floor. And someone said as long as we have to dig, let's build an auditorium - and an art room, and some classrooms and Holy Joe's Cafe and an elevator so we are finally handicapped accessible."
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"That has been the story of the O'Keefe Center. People came along and looked and said 'I would like to help.'"
The O'Keefe Center "will change the way we teach, it will improve the way students learn and it will enhance the contribution St. Joseph High School makes to Catholic College Preparatory education in the Diocese of Bridgeport," Fitzgerald said.
William Lori, formerly the bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, said in a letter that he rejoiced with the St. Joseph community.
Herbst, a Trumbull High School graduate, said "such wonderful things are going on" at St. Joseph.
"We are proud to say that St. Joseph High School is in Trumbull," Herbst said.
The addition's look came from Interior Designer Deborah Ludorf, of Paradise Hill Design in Southbury. The auditorium was the biggest challenge, she said.
"I wanted to provide a space that felt collegiate and looked toward the future," she said.