Regis High School photos A straight line for junior varsity cheerleaders of 1965.  
Regis High School photos
A straight line for junior varsity cheerleaders of 1965.  

STAYTON — As a freshman at brand-new Regis High School in September 1963, David Schumacher cleared away a lot of stones left over from construction. Everyone did.
The spirit of pitching in for the common good has been a theme from start at this small-town Catholic high school, which is marking its 50th anniversary. Serving others is still part of the culture here. Here's an example: Connor West, a Regis sophomore, last year created a cement porch with benches — a place for reflection — at St. Mary School in town.  

Back in 1963, Schumacher recalls that crews were still pushing dirt around during the first days of classes. The lockers were on order and the gym was not quite ready. After school, the football team would walk across town to St. Mary's, gear up in the gym there, and then jog back to Regis to practice in a grassy field. The Rams played games on the field at adjacent Stayton High.

That first class of freshman were 42 strong and the school was co-educational from the start, a revolution of sorts.

Schumacher lived in nearby Sublimity, and would have gone on to St. Boniface High. But officials wanted a regional high school, so St. Boniface and Immaculate Conception in Stayton closed their secondary schools and sent youngsters to the sparkling new campus on the site of old cherry and hazelnut orchards. Regis sits on the edge of Stayton closest to Sublimity. Students came from all over the Santiam Canyon and Salem areas.

"It was great — all brand new," Schumacher recalls.

The principal was Father Frank Campbell, then a stern former U.S. Marine who did not stand for hijinks. Schumacher later served in the National Guard with Msgr. Campbell and saw a lighter side.  

On staff at Regis at the start were three priests, a handful of nuns and a team of young laymen who taught and coached.

Schumacher, still a member of St. Boniface Parish, says the discipline and faith-filled college prep atmosphere helped him in life. He would go on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Oregon University and work for the Oregon Department of Corrections for 32 years. He started as a counselor and ended as an administrator.

In recent years, he helped Regis establish its ASPIRE program, which pairs students with mentors from the workaday world.

Schumacher and wife Sue were both members of the Regis class of 1968. They sent three children to Regis and have two grandchildren enrolled, with five more just waiting to get old enough.

"Regis is very important and we need to see it survive in the long term," Schumacher says.  

This year, the school begins its 50th year with an early Homecoming on Sept. 13. Alumni, family, friends and community members are invited to partake in the festivities, which begin at 5 p.m. with a barbecue followed by a parade walk on the newly surfaced track, led by former cheerleaders, homecoming queens and football players. The Regis Rams vs. Portland Christian Royals football game begins at 7 p.m.

When the school’s founders opened Regis 50 years ago, they had planned to begin with freshmen and sophomores the first year, followed by juniors and seniors in 1964 and 1965, with the first graduating class in June 1966. But there was vibrant community support for Regis, and when school began that fall, all four classes were in attendance and the first graduating class was held two years earlier than expected—in June 1964.
The school’s 1964 handbook identified its philosophy on education: “Regis will strive for an education that is more than simply the transfer of knowledge, more than hobbycraft, more than merely keeping youngsters off the street.”

Now, the school's mission is to be “a welcoming community where faith enhances academic excellence as we prepare students to become servant leaders in their families, schools, churches and communities.”

In 1962, a financial campaign committee led by chairman A.J. Frank and co-chair John Mackie began to lay the financial groundwork for the school. Once the pledges reached $440,000, the project got the go-ahead, and on Oct. 27, 1963, the school was dedicated.
"It was an exciting time," said Jim Frank, A.J. Frank’s son and a 1966 Regis graduate. “My father thought the school was tremendously important.”

The library and chapel building would be round domes despite the fact that the building committee has dismissed the idea as too expensive. The total contract cost for the 14,100 square foot project was $526,570; the cost of construction was $12.80 per square foot.

“Fifty years for Regis means that there’s been great support in the local vicariate," says Dennis Frank, president of Frank Lumber Company and Secretary of the A.J. Frank Family Foundation. "It’s a testament to the product Regis has turned out; the quality of education their students receive.”

Joni Gilles, the principal, enters her fourth year as the school’s leader and Regis’s enrollment is growing. There are 176 students this year, up from 134 four years ago.