St. Mary's Academy (Portland, Oregon)

St. Mary's Academy is a Roman Catholic all-girls high school located in Portland, Oregon, United States. It was founded by twelve sisters from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1859. It is an all-girls school with approximately 680 students from northern Oregon and southwestern Washington. Since its founding, over 10,000 women have graduated from St. Mary's Academy, the oldest continuously-operating secondary school in Oregon.

St. Mary's Academy
St. Mary's Academy in Portland (2014).jpg
1615 SW 5th Avenue

, ,

United States
Coordinates45°30′45″N 122°40′53″W / 45.51250°N 122.68139°W / 45.51250; -122.68139Coordinates: 45°30′45″N 122°40′53″W / 45.51250°N 122.68139°W / 45.51250; -122.68139
TypePrivate, All-Girls
MottoWe Believe[1]
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
PresidentChristina Friedhoff[3]
PrincipalNicole Foran
Enrollment680 (2019-2020)
Average class size21
Student to teacher ratio13:1
Color(s)Blue and white   [3]
Athletics conferenceOSAA Three Rivers League 6A-5[3]
AccreditationNorthwest Accreditation Commission[2]
PublicationEscribe Maria (literary magazine), The Ms. Print (student newspaper), and Imprint (alumnae magazine)


St. Mary's was founded by twelve sisters from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1859, at the request of archbishop François Norbert Blanchet. Only two of the sisters spoke English; the others spoke French. They traveled from Montreal via ship and rail to Fort Vancouver where Blanchet had established a school on property he purchased from Daniel H. Lownsdale in 1857. The property had a two-story house, which became the school. St. Mary's opened in the same location with six female students (three Catholic, two Jewish, one Protestant) on Monday, November 7, 1859, 17 days after they reached Portland.[4]

In 1867, the first two graduates received their diplomas. The school had 250 girls in attendance by 1871. In 1889, the Lownsdale house was demolished and a four-story building designed by Otto Kleeman was built. In 1893, St. Mary's received a charter to grant college diplomas. It was the first women's liberal arts college in the Northwest and was known until 1930 as St. Mary's Academy and College.[5] Marylhurst University, originally part of the downtown school, moved out in 1930.[4]

The Kleeman building was inadequate for the students by the 1960s. The school expanded across 5th avenue, one block to the north, building a two-story brick building that is "strictly functional.... [with] no architectural pretensions". The Kleeman building was sold to a developer for $705,000 and demolished in 1970.[4] A public parking lot currently is on that site, although the original stone wall surrounding the building was demolished by the current owner in 2010. The school bought the old PSU postal office in 2013 for $7.6 million to allow the school to expand.[6]

In August 2015, St. Mary's rescinded a job offer it made to Lauren Brown in April to work as a college guidance counselor. School officials said she had told them she intended to enter into a same-sex marriage, while Brown said she asked if doing so would affect her employment. The school quickly rescinded their employment offer, and offered Brown half a year's salary in exchange for not going forward to the media. When Brown rejected the offer and the school's action became public on August 26, Archbishop Alexander Sample supported the school's position.[7] A statement was released by the school to parents and alumnae, stating that the hiring reversal was "due to a conflict with current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage."[8] The next day, the school announced that it was adding sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.[9] It did not renew its employment offer to Brown, officials said, because another person had already accepted the position.[10]


In 1984, 1989, and 1998, St. Mary's Academy was honored in the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, the highest honor a school can receive in the United States.[11] It also received the KATU Super School of the Year Award in 2006.[citation needed]

St. Mary's has been accredited through the Northwest Accreditation Commission since 1955.[2]

The school was named an Apple Distinguished School in 2016, the only high school in Oregon to have received the honor.[citation needed]

Notable alumnaeEdit


  1. ^ "Mission Statement - St. Mary's Academy". Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d "St. Mary's Academy". Oregon School Activities Association. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Snyder, Eugene E. (1991). Portland Potpourri. Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort. pp. 73–79. ISBN 0-8323-0493-X.
  5. ^ Bunting, Robert. "St. Mary's Academy". The Oregon Encyclopedia. The Oregon Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  6. ^ Culverwell, Wendy (September 27, 2013). "St. Mary's completes $7.6M land purchase". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  7. ^ Mesh, Aaron. "Vow of Silence - St. Mary's Academy hired a rising star. She says they fired her for being gay". Willamette Week. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  8. ^ Manning, Rob. "Same-Sex Marriage Concerns Lead To Hiring Reversal At Portland Catholic School". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  9. ^ "Important announcement from St. Mary's Academy President Christina Friedhoff and the Board of Directors". St. Mary's Academy. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Manning, Rob; Sepulvado, John (August 27, 2015). "St. Mary's Academy Stuck Between Church Doctrine, Community Outrage". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  11. ^ Archived: Blue Ribbon Schools Program, Schools Recognized 1982-1983 Through 1999-2002 (PDF)
  12. ^ "2003 St. Mary's Academy Awards Recipients". St. Mary's Academy. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
  13. ^ "Oregon Folk Are Screen Stars; Portland Training Is Valuable". The Oregon Daily Journal. Portland, Oregon. June 6, 1920 – via  
  14. ^ "The High School Years". Karen Gaffney Foundation. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  15. ^ "School Notes". Portland Tribune. Pamplin Media Group. April 4, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  16. ^ "Judi Meredith Nelson (1936-2014)". The Oregonian. May 9–11, 2014. Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "Mary Sammons to step down as Rite Aid CEO, will stay chair". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  18. ^ "Basketball player creates a league of her own". Portland Tribune. Pamplin Media Group. June 18, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2017.