School History

BECKMAN CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL HISTORY

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            The formation of Beckman Catholic High School was a result of five area parishes considering consolidation of their individual parish high schools.  On September 24, 1962, five local pastors met in Dyersville to consider inter-parochial possibilities. Present were Msgr. John H. Mayer, St. Francis Xavier Basilica, Dyersville; Father Herman J. Dietz, St. Joseph, Earlville; Father Nicholas Krull, St. Boniface, New Vienna; Father Charles Steinlage, Sts. Peter and Paul, Petersburg; and Father Donald G. Peters, St. Paul, Worthington.  Archdiocesan Superintendent Msgr. Justin Driscoll was the secretary.  This meeting and ensuing meetings revealed that a consolidated central high school was the most viable alternative for the future of secondary Catholic education in the area.

In September of 1963, representatives of the five parishes and pastors met and agreed on the following percentages for financing the school: St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville, sixty-six percent; St. Joseph’s, Earlville, seven percent, and St. Boniface, New Vienna, Sts. Peter & Paul, Petersburg; and St. Paul, Worthington nine percent each.  The first lay board members for the new civil corporation were Urban Herbers of New Vienna and Ben Kern of Dyersville.

The following year, 17.8 acres in the southeast quadrant of Dyersville was purchased for $41,000.  Groundbreaking was May 16, 1965, with the dedicatory address given by Reverend Nicholas Krull.  Construction of the physical structure commenced on August 31, 1965. Donald P. McGinn and Associates was the Architect and Engineer.  Ed Wedewer was named the General Contractor.  The total cost of the entire project was projected at $1.6 million.

            The building was designed with 3 academic corridors directly north of the main corridor and the auditorium, chapel, and library in line on the south side of the main corridor.  The layout provided a buffer between the main academic area; and the gym, music, and industrial arts area, which are strategically located at the south perimeter of the building. 

The overall design was to have the chapel located in the center of the school, symbolizing Christ as the center of the institution.  Sliding doors were installed on the east and west walls of the chapel to accommodate larger Mass attendance.  The chapel altar was donated by Ed Wedewer, the General Contractor of the new school.  The tabernacle was donated by Mr.  & Mrs. Peter Hentges.  The sanctuary lamp was donated by Dr. & Mrs. R. J. Henkels.  The ciboria were donated by William McGowan.  The chalice was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Jerome Kramer.  The first Mass was celebrated on Friday January 27, 1967, with Monsignor Mayer the main celebrant. 

            The dedication and blessing of the building was held on May 7, 1967 with Most Reverend James J. Byrne, Archbishop of Dubuque, presiding.  Ministers of the Blessing were Rt. Rev. Msgr. John H. Mayer, Pastor, Basilica of St. Francis; Rev. Charles Steinlage, Pastor, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish; Rev. Herman Dietz, Pastor, St. Joseph Parish; Rev. Nicholas Krull, Pastor, St. Boniface Parish; and Rev. Donald Peters, Pastor, St. Paul Parish.  The program was held in the Beckman High School gymnasium with Carol Thier ’67 as Mistress of Ceremonies.  Addresses were given by Wayne Drexler, Superintendent of Western Dubuque schools, Roger Platton ’67, Rt. Rev. Msgr. and Most Reverend James J. Byrne, Archbishop of Dubuque.

     The air-conditioned school with 33 windowless classrooms has a capacity of 1000.  Four of the classrooms have dividing walls, allowing for larger classroom space.  The gymnasium allows seating for 1800.  The 520 capacity auditorium has a folding wall that opens up to the chapel to allow additional seating during Liturgy.  The band room was built with acoustical ceiling and a four-tiered floor in a surround pattern.  Located just off the band room are four soundproof individual practice rooms, each having a sound reflecting surface and sound absorbing surface on opposite sides.  Four complete kitchen units highlight the Home Economics room.  The Industrial Arts area was built complete with welding shop, electric shop, wood shop, and ham radio station for students interested in communications.  The academic wing highlights a physics lab, chemistry lab with over $10,000 of equipment, biology lab, as well as a three room commercial department equipped for secretarial science.  A forty booth language lab facilitated students in foreign languages.

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A patio flanks the south corridor, allowing students to enjoy the outdoors during their free time.  Also, the original design of the complex had an attached annex to be used as a residence for the Christian Brothers to the northeast of the school, and a convent on the southeast side. The annex was not completed when the school was opened.  The Brothers resided in an old farmhouse near the south entrance of the parking lot for the first few years.  The convent was completely dropped because of financial constraints.

The name Beckman was selected by students, parents, and pastors at a meeting held on February 24, 1965.  The school was named after Archbishop Francis J. L. Beckman, 6th bishop of the Dubuque diocese (1930-1946).  Archbishop was noted for his strong devotion to the Sacred Heart, and for his support of parochial education.  The Board of Trustees chose ‘Mary, Seat of Wisdom’ as the patron saint of Beckman.

The nickname ‘Trailblazers’ was selected from a survey given to students and faculty on August 4, 1966.  Senior Emmitt Omar commented that every Trailblazer needs an ‘Outpost’ thus naming the school newspaper.  Sister Mary Claudine, first grade teacher, designed the official school emblem, resembling a Bishop’s Mitre, and a large ‘B’ with the words Beckman H.S. signifying the Bishop for whom the school was named.  Students chose kelly green and gold as their school colors.

Beckman opened its doors in September of 1966 to 522 students, grades 9-12.  The first Executive Coordinator of Beckman High School was Monsignor Mayer, and principal was Brother Michael Palmer, FSC.  The initial staff of 27 included 4 Priests, 12 Sisters, 3 Christian Brothers, and 8 Lay members.  The Christian Brothers from Winona, Minnesota instructed the boys, and Franciscan Sisters from LaCrosse and Dubuque, as well as 3 Visitation sisters, instructed the girls.

When the school year started in the fall of 1966, the commons and library were still dirt floors.  The gymnasium had concrete footings and steel beams skyward.  Additionally, there were no student lockers in the academic corridors.  The library and commons were finished in the course of a year (Brother Pat and the Industrial Arts students installed the lockers).  On May 7, 1967 Archbishop Byrne officiated at the solemn blessing and dedication of Beckman High School.  Ministers of the Blessing were the five pastors of the affiliated parishes.

In August of 1970, the five parish elementary schools consolidated their seventh and eighth grades, sending them to Beckman.  A shared time arrangement with the Western Dubuque school district allowed the 278 seventh and eighth graders to be taught part-time at Warning Hall and Kortenkamp Hall.  The cost was approximately $100,000.  Six teachers and a principal employed by WD were assigned to the campus adjacent to Xavier Basilica.  In the fall of 1970, the school went to a synchronized schedule, in lieu of the original ‘modular’ scheduling that was implemented since the inception of the school.  This was in an effort to coordinate scheduling with the new junior high and shared time with the public school district. 

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The enrollment in 1970-71 was 560, grades 9-12 and an additional 278 in the new junior high.  That same school year, a day care center for special education students was established at BHS.  Seven students from ages 4-7 enrolled in the program, which was sponsored by Area Residential Care.  The day care program continued for approximately four years. 

In September of 1970 the new bleachers were installed in the gym, and the scoreboard was donated by the Lions and Jaycees, thus completing the gymnasium. 

On November 5, 1973 due to a financial crisis, the Archdiocesan board and the Beckman Inter-parochial board voted to close Beckman. The motion was rescinded on November 19, 1973.  This was due to an effort by lay leaders of the community to save the school.  In two weeks, the committee collected $570,655 in cash and pledges, with an overall goal of $750,000.  Spearheading the efforts were Joe Ertl and Linus Showalter.

Chairman of the fund drive committee was Bud Domeyer.  Co-Chairs were Leon Bagge, Bill Bonert, Bill Domeyer, Bob Engelken, John Kruse, Martin Kruse, Phil Kruse ’68, Dave Lueck, Red Loesche, Laverne Mensen, Mark Peckham and John Witte.  On December 3, 1973 a final report of the first Capital Campaign conducted by Beckman Catholic.  The Endowment Fund Committee reported 817 cash donations and pledges totaling $717,626.  Archbishop Byrne of Dubuque offered an additional $60,000.00 interest free loan to be used for operating capital.  The committee respectfully declined this.  As a result of the financial crisis and ensuing fund drive, the Beckman Endowment board was established.

            In June of 1973, Br. Michael said goodbye to Beckman, resigning as principal.  He had been principal since the school opened, as well as previously overseeing the organization of the new structure, curriculum, and staffing.  Br. Mark Lamont replaced Br. Michael Palmer.

The first Annual Appeal Fund-drive was started in 1980 as an effort to raise funds for the operating budget.  The funds are used to offset the per student cost.  A new campaign commences each January, in conjunction with Catholic Schools' week.  The appeal generates approximately $140,000 from alumni, parents, and benefactors of Beckman High School.

            In 1985, the first Summerfest was held.  This was a BHS alumni/supporter reunion.  Several hundred supporters gathered for the weekend festival, which included a volleyball tournament, softball tournament, picnic, dance and Sunday liturgy.  A second Summerfest was held the following year.  A third Summerfest was held in 1991, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the opening of the school.  Summerfest is now an annual event during the July 4th weekend, primarily consisting of the Alumni softball tournament, Golf outing, and class reunions.  Also, in 1985, the first edition of the alumni newsletter was printed.  Blazer Daze, currently Blazer Trails, is a periodic newsletter published by BHS, mailed to all alumni.

In 1989, the Western Dubuque School Board of Education voted to withdraw their financial support and discontinue shared time with the parochial schools.  The following classes were absorbed into the Beckman budget: Jr.-High Science, Math, and Language Arts.  In grades 9-12 Beckman absorbed the following courses; Home Economics, Industrial Arts, Business Ed., and Guidance.  The shared time teachers would now have to be employed by BHS causing additional financial strain on the operating budget.  An endowment drive was started to alleviate some of the deficit, as well as shore up the endowment for perpetuity.  A local toy manufacturer, Joe Ertl, donated a series of collector tractors to be sold to the public.  This generated a $300,000 infusion into the endowment.  Mr. Ertl again donated a set of collector tractors in the spring of 1990, which yielded an additional $40,000 into the endowment.  A third set was donated by Mr. Ertl the following year, completing the Collector set, and generating more funds for the Endowment principal. 

As an additional source of revenue, BHS initiated a dinner/auction in 1992.  The annual event has evolved into a semi-formal, yet festive evening of enchantment. Coupled wiimageth a car raffle, in which the winner is announced at the end of the evening, the event raises over $135,000 annually.  The car raffle was changed to a cash raffle in 2006.

In July of 1998, the Beckman Endowment Corporation purchased 22.4 acres directly east of the original campus.  This was in a strategic planning effort for future development of facilities for the school.  The Beckman Booster Club sponsored an architects study for a potential sports complex on the site.  The complex became reality with the construction of a new all weather track and football field in the fall of 2003, through the generosity of major benefactors and various in-kind donations.  The first football game on the new field was in August of 2004.  The football concession stand was built in the summer of 2004. 

            A third Capital Campaign was initiated by the Beckman Endowment Board in October of 2001.  Funds raised were for solidifying the endowment principal and physical improvements.  The most notable improvement was the newly paved parking lot in front of the school.  The five-year campaign raised yielded $1,631,270 from 865 constituents.

The original gym bleachers were replaced in September of 2003 thanks to a generous benefactor.  The gym capacity is approximately 1500. 

The wrestling room was expanded in 2004 and the weight room was moved to the annex and expanded in 2005. 

The library was completely redone in 2004.  Revenue sources were private donations and a DRA grant.  The library shelving units, desk, and furniture were purchased from the Iowa State Men’s Reformatory at Anamosa. 

The auditorium went through a complete renovation in June 2005, with the assistance of a DRA grant, and a specific ‘Chair naming’ fundraiser to generate additional income for the upgrade.  Auditorium seats were sold for $250 each.  New carpet was installed, the stage floor was completely resurfaced, and the walls were painted.  The stage area was extended out approximately 3’, and the first row of seats was removed.  The seating capacity is approximately 500.

Windows were installed in the first corridor classrooms in the summer of 2005, thanks to a grant from the DRA.  The original structure was specifically designed without any windows in the entire building.  In August of 2008, through the donation of a generous benefactor, air conditioning was installed.

The patio was completely renovated in April of 2009.  A new stenciled sidewalk, grade-work and replacement sod, new concrete decorative furniture, and a statue of the Sacred Heart were among the main improvements.  The entire project was paid for by memorials, student government, and private donations.  A recognition plaque at the entrance door near the auditorium lists the renovation donors.

The softball facility became a reality through the generosity of several donors and in-kind contributions.  Construction started in April of 2009, with completion and dedication in May of 2010.  The annual Summerfest alumni softball tourney was moved to this site in 2011. 

The grass surface on the football field was replaced with artificial turf in July of 2010.  The field is also utilized for high school soccer, club football and club soccer.   

Upgrades to the baseball field were completed in 2014 with new dugouts, new sod on the infield, and concrete surface and new bleachers behind the home plate area. 

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Additional upgrades to the plant facility were completed as a result of capital campaign contributions in 2014.  New flooring in the entire building, new academic lockers and an upgrade to the fine arts area were completed during the summer months.  The women’s restroom was completely redone with all new walls, floors, and fixtures.  A complete renovation of both the boys and girls locker rooms was also completed in the summer, with the boys’ locker room being converted into two smaller locker rooms for accommodating two different teams during competition events.  A new roof was placed over the majority of the school in the fall of 2014.

The fourth capital campaign in the school’s history was kicked-off in April 0f 2013.  ‘Blazing Forward’ was designed with a three phase objective.  The primary goal was to enhance Endowment principal to $5 mil. in an effort to infuse additional interest into the operating budget.  This was a direct result of declining parish subsidy.  The second phase was facility upgrade (mentioned in previous paragraph).  A new multi-purpose facility is scheduled to be added in the spring of 2016, as the final phase of the campaign goal.

The Beckman Endowment Corporation implemented the ‘HERITAGE SOCIETY’ in 2013.  Beckman Catholic constituents qualify for membership through ‘Planned Gifts’ to the Endowment.  The intent of the society is to augment the Endowment principal through the promotion of charitable bequests, Life Insurance and IRA proceeds as well as other advanced Charitable giving vehicles.

Ten principals have held the leadership position at BHS. Michael Palmer, FSC 1966-1973; Br. Mark Lamont, FSC 1973-1975; Fr. Lawrence Guter, 1975-1980; Jack Klein, 1980-1993; Br. Roger Betzold 1993-1994, Steve Schute, 1994-2000; Wayne Wilgenbusch, 2000-2001; Mr. Michael Cooper 2001-2006, Carol Trueg 2006-2008, Pat Meade 2008- present.

Curriculum has evolved from 27 course offerings in 1966-67, to 96 courses in 2012-13. Present curriculum includes Post Secondary Options, Honors Program, Advance Placement Courses, Mentoring, Career Planning & resource room, courses offered via the internet & ICN network.  In 2004 Beckman received recognition from the Belin-Blank Center for ranking 35th of 378 Iowa schools in the Advance Placement Course program.  Beckman Catholic was honored as one of the 2010- 12 top 50 Catholic High Schools in the country by the National Catholic HS Honor Roll; which bases recognition on high academic standards, Catholic identity and preparation of students to actively participate in the community.  Beckman Catholic has also received National Catholic Honor Roll honorable mention on three other occasions.  In 2012, Beckman earned a ranking in the top 50 schools in the Iowa AP index.

In 2007-08, the school implemented an honors program, which encompasses 24% of the student body.  The Class of 2011, the first grade to go through the entire program, earned an ACT composite of 23.4, compared to national and state averages of 21.2, and 22.3 respectively.  Eighty-six percent of students taking Advanced Placement courses at Beckman earned a passing score.  This compares to 65% state wide and 60.2% globally. 

Beckman Catholic underwent a significant technology upgrade in 2012.  The wireless infrastructure is receiving major enhancements, allowing for access points in all classrooms.  This was a major step toward a one-to-one environment, which was implemented in 2013-14 with Chromebooks to each student.  A grant to add an Engineering program through ‘Project Lead the Way’ was received in 2012.  Beckman is dual platform with 2 computer labs and a mobile I-pad lab.  image

The Campus ministry program includes weekly celebration of the Eucharist, prayer over the P.A. at the start of each class, Eucharistic Adoration every Tuesday, and reconciliation during Advent and Lent.  Students are required to fulfill 12 hours of service annually.  Students experience spiritual growth through class retreats, National Catholic Youth Conference, Teens Encounter Christ, Fun/Serious/Jesus, and the Archdiocesan Youth Rally.  Theology classes include History of the Church, Apologetics, Old & New Testament, Moral Theology, and vocations.  KAIROS, which was added in 2013, is a Jr. weekend retreat opportunity that focuses on the student’s individual relationship with Christ.

Enrollment has fluctuated throughout the history of the school.  In 1966, there were 522 students in grades 9-12.  The largest enrollment was in 1976-1977 with an enrollment of 962 in grades 7 through 12 (633 in high school).  Beckman's first graduating class was 121.  The largest graduating class was in 1979, with 159 graduates.  The class of 2015 registered 77 graduates.  Almost the entire student body is actively involved in at least one extra curricular activity.  Over half of the students at Beckman High School are involved in four or more extracurricular activities.  This is a significant contributing factor of a strong community atmosphere.  Students extensively participate in the Spiritual Life program, which is one of the most active extracurricular programs at Beckman.

Beckman has a full array of athletic offerings for its students.  Highlighting the team successes include State Baseball championships in 1968, 1986, 2000, 2012, and 2013, State Track championships in 1997 and 1999,  Girls State Golf championships in 1992 and 2012, and Boys Soccer championships in 2015 & 2016.

            Parental commitment and support is very strong as witnessed by the number of parents actively involved in fund raising events, Music Parent Association and Booster Club activities. Another example of parental participation is evidenced by the high percentage of parents who attend the parent/teacher conferences.

            Beckman Catholic High School is accredited by the Archdiocese of Dubuque and the Iowa Department of Education.

Updated: May 6, 2015