St. John Vianney High School

Vianney History

Growing and changing for more than 60 years

By the late 1950s, the first wave of Baby Boom babies was starting to crowd Eugene Coyle High School in Kirkwood. It was clear that Coyle High, founded in 1939 as the parish school of St. Peter's Catholic Church, would soon outgrow its facilities. In addition, the migration of families to South County was increasing demand for more educational options for the area's many Catholics.

And so St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter proposed a new private, Catholic high school for boys in south St. Louis County. (With Ursuline Academy just a few miles to the east, there was already a logical alternative for girls.) At the request of the Archbishop, the Society of Mary, an order of priests and brothers known as Marianists, agreed to sponsor the school. The school would be built on the grounds Maryhurst, the Marianist's novitiate on South Kirkwood Road.

Construction on the school began with the laying of the cornerstone by Archbishop Ritter on a cold day in January 1960. Classes began that fall with 19 seniors, 35 juniors, 35 sophomores, 215 freshmen and a faculty comprised of 13 Marianists and two lay teachers.

As expected, enrollment grew steadily in the ensuing years. Soon, around 200 freshmen were entering Vianney each fall. The school added faculty and staff, and made curriculum changes to keep pace with education trends.

The fall of 1973 welcomed a significant innovation at Vianney - female teachers! Two joined the staff that year. In 1977, Vianney became the first South County high school to light its football field, and soon Friday night football became a staple of fall weekends.

In 1980, the Marianist order sold a large section of the campus to the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. In 1982, a striking glass-and-granite structure arose on what had been Vianney athletic fields. Vianney and the Lutherans share a main entrance and coexist comfortably as neighbors.

Vianney has continued to blend old and new. A new art room was added to campus in 1983. Separate from the main school building, it adjoins a former chicken coop that is one of the vestiges of when the property was a working farm. The coop now serves as a gallery for student art. In 1986, Vianney was incorporated and a board of directors was established. The board approved a master plan that upgraded Vianney's sports facilities, renovated the student cafeteria and improved traffic flow on campus.

In 2007, following an intensive capital campaign, Vianney opened the doors to an impressive new main entrance, commons area, media center, administrative offices and new state-of-the-art classrooms.

Vianney's eagerness to grow and adapt, coupled with the financial support of many long-time supporters, has enabled the school to thrive over the decades. In 2013, more change came to Vianney as the school updated the HVAC systems and installed new windows to enhance the classroom learning experience and bring the building up-to-date. In 2014, work was completed on a major renovation of Don Heeb Field, which was updated to include a new synthetic turf playing surface, construction of a fan plaza area, other stadium enhancements, and the resurfacing of the track. In the fall of 2014, Vianney announced a major milestone.

Thanks to the generosity of Emerson executive Pat Sly, a 1968 Vianney grad, and his wife, Peggy, the school embarked on a $1 million upgrade to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) labs. In 2015, plans were announced to redevelop the Vianney baseball fields and surrounding grounds to build a stadium complex that would be used primarily for baseball, but can accommodate lower-level football, lacrosse and soccer games and practices.

Vianney exterior May 2012

Our Marianist Heritage

The Society of Mary, through serious research, consultation, and discussion involving lay and religious educators who work in Marianist educational ministries throughout the world, has developed five educational characteristics it pledges to uphold and promote in its institutions.


These five characteristics are:

Educate for formation in faith.
Marianist schools will help students to bear witness with a personal and committed faith that touches the heart. They will help promote a faith-and-culture dialogue and form students in the gospel's values and Christian attitudes. In addition, Marianist schools will pledge to educate in a free and responsible style which elicits a personal response to faith and they will make present the example and influence of Mary as the first disciple.

Provide an integral, quality education.

Marianist schools will promote quality education of the whole person, providing a coherent curricula and a well-formed professional staff and administration equipped with adequate supplies and finances. Marianist schools will develop respect for the dignity of the person who has interior spirit and self-knowledge. In addition, Marianist schools will develop in the students a concern for global and local issues of culture, ecology, and technology and they will foster a diverse faculty, staff, and student body while continuing to offer Mary as a model of integrity in relation to the realities of the world.

Educate in family spirit.
Marianist schools will create a favorable environment for education by helping to cultivate interpersonal relationships characterized by openness, respect, integrity, and dialogue. They will form an educational community characterized by collaborative structures and processes and one which expresses authority as a loving and dedicated service. In addition, Marianist schools will influence others by exhibiting the Marian traits of openness, hospitality, graciousness and faith.

Educate for service, justice, and peace.
Marianist schools will promote a missionary spirit and educate for solidarity as well as justice and peace. They will attend to the poor, promote the dignity and rights of women, encourage the formation of Christian service groups, announce justice and denounce oppression.

Educate for adaptation and change.
Marianist schools will educate to shape the future. They will educate students to accept and respect differences in a pluralistic society by helping them develop critical thinking skills and by teaching them to be open and adaptable to local and global contexts through enculturation and interdisciplinary education. Finally, Marianist schools will embrace Mary's fiat, "Do whatever he tells you", allowing them to be available to responding to the signs of the times in faith.

Marianist Quotes

"For new times, new methods." Father Chaminade

"Education is a privileged means of formation in faith...we aim to sow, cultivate, and strengthen the Christian spirit..." Marianist Rules of Life

"Do whatever He tells you" Our Mother Mary at the wedding in Cana of Galilee

"True education forms the child from inside, out." Father Kieffer, S.M.

"We don't educate for the school, nor merely for the years one is in school, but for life." Father Armentia, S.M.

"Any school and any educator who wishes to be effective has to cultivate family spirit." Father Armentia, S.M.

"One hopes that everyone will enjoy the material and spiritual advantages of the human community...In that tiny cosmos which is the classroom or the school, the students are progressively initiated into a sensitivity for the common good." Father Paul Hoffer, S.M.

"What pleased Father Chaminade in this method of education is the manner which educators have for forming both the spirit and heart of pupils while at the same time, they teach them to read and write." Father Paul J. Hoffer, S.M.

St. John Vianney

John Mary Vianney was born May 8, 1786, in the small farming town of Dardilly, France. His parents were poor farmers who relied heavily upon John. The French Revolution was a very difficult time for the Catholic Church. Priests were forced to pledge allegiance to the government or be killed. The young Vianney loved prayer and would secretly go to the fields with his parents to pray. He was fascinated by the faith and courage of the priests and began to feel the calling to the priesthood at a young age.

After a long struggle, Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Three years later, the Bishop appointed Vianney as the Curé, or pastor, of the small, faithless town of Ars, France. Like much of France, the people of Ars had fallen away from the Church. St. John Mary Vianney imageWithin eight years, Fr. Vianney's faith and zeal transformed this parish into a strong faith community. He was credited with being skillful at reading consciences, foretelling the future, curing the sick and converting sinners. At times, he heard confessions for 17 hours a day as people traveled great distances to see him.

John Mary Vianney spent 41 years as the spiritual leader of Ars. In 1827, he helped to establish an orphanage for deserted children. Later, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the Emperor; he sold the medallion and gave the money to the orphanage. The last 30 years of his life, Vianney was haunted by voices, thought to be the work of the devil. Despite this condition, he remained persistent in his desire to convert souls to God. He died on August 4, 1859.

The saintly Curé of Ars loved the Society of Mary. In 1855, Bro. Babey, a member of the Society of Mary who was hesitant about his vocation, went to the Curé for guidance.

When Bro. Babey told Fr. Vianney that he was a Brother of Mary, Fr. Vianney exclaimed, "Brother of Mary, a religious of the Society of Mary! Oh what a beautiful vocation; what a beautiful Society! This Society is called to do an immense amount of good in God's Church; it will live until the end of the world, and all the religious who die in this beautiful Society will go to Paradise!"

St. John Vianney's admiration for the Society of Mary makes the order proud to name one of their schools after this wonderful saint.

The Griffin

The griffin is a half-lion, half-eagle creature from ancient mythology. The griffin combines the strength and courage of the lion with the vision of the eagle. Early legends of the griffin date from 3,000 years before Christ.

The eagle and lion are also the symbols of the Gospels of St. John and St. Mark, respectively. As the Vianney mascot, the Griffin is a symbol of the values in these two gospels.

Vianney Griffin statueThe griffins at the entrance to Tower Grove Park in St. Louis provided Bro. Kenneth Nesbit, S.M., Vianney's first principal, with the inspiration to select this mascot.

The combination of strength, courage, vision and gospel values make the Griffin a powerful symbol for all members of the Vianney family.

The massive Griffin statue that dominates the entrance to Vianney was created by reknown local artist Bob Cassilly, a 1968 graduate of Vianney and a member of the Vianney Hall of Fame. Mr. Cassilly died in 2011; Vianney is proud to display the Griffin as a tribute to Mr. Cassilly and as a reminder of the characteristics it embodies.


We are the Black and Gold of Vianney

We are the Golden Griffins of Vianney High

Half lion, half eagle so the Griffin can roar

So the Griffin can soar above the lightening and thunder

We will win, win, win, yeah Vianney.

Oh hear the din din din and our clamor and cheer

We want the world to be told about the Black and the Gold of

Old Vianney, Vianney, Vianney. Hey!