East St. Louis St. Teresa Academy

East St. Louis St. Teresa Academy Building – 1894
A picture containing text, outdoor, building, old

Description automatically generated
Submitted by Rita Russell

The History of St. Teresa Academy

East St. Louis (population 31,542) is located in southwestern Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River in northwest St. Clair County.  The town sits across the river from its namesake, St. Louis, Missouri.  Several roadways lead to and from East St. Louis including Interstate Highways 55 and 64, as well as several Illinois Routes including 3, 111, 157, and 203.  Several railroads also travel through town including the Norfolk Southern and Illinois Central Gulf.  East St. Louis was first settled as “Illinoistown” in 1818 (http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/la/LA437-F95/reports/History/timeline.html), however it was not platted officially until 1859.

An all-girls catholic high school, St. Teresa Academy, was established in the late 1920s.  According to the web address of http://www.eco-absence.org/esl/parsons/petraitis.htm (created by Thomas Petraitis), the history of this school is as follows:

“St. Teresa (Catholic Girls) Academy opened in 1894 as an elementary boarding school for Catholic girls and developed into a four year secondary school during the late 1920’s. It offered college prep courses but was also much like a “finishing school” with outstanding art and drama departments. Located at 25th and Ridge Ave., it closed in 1974.”

(Information written by Thomas Petraitis)

St. Teresa Academy was named after St. Teresa of Avila, according to 1964 alum

Marci Stephens (Marcella A Harper ’64).  Marci goes on to state: ” I graduated from STA in 1964 — and it was the best four years of my young adult life. Thanks for support the history and legacy of a wonderful institution.”

The fate of the original St. Teresa Academy building is being sought.

St. Teresa Academy Quick Facts

Year opened:                                1894

Year became 4-year HS:                late 1920s

Year closed:                                 1974

Consolidated to:                            East St. Louis Assumption High School

St. Teresa Academy Fight Song:   “We’re Loyal to You STA”

Athletics and Extra-Curriculars

We are in need of assistance from an alumnae or area fan of St. Teresa Academy.  The school merged with Assumption before it was required by the IHSA that girls be offered competitive athletics.  We are not sure of the St. Teresa competed in sports.

There was apparently a great deal of extra-curricular activities and studies offered at the school.  Art, drama, music, all were a part of the St. Teresa experience.  As an alum, Janet Corcoran (Class of 1967) wrote to us:

    “I have fond memories of St. Teresa Academy in East St. Louis.  How many people have a plate from their high school hanging in the kitchen?  Mine is engraved with the letters “STA”. 

     I remember eating dinner at school when I stayed for play rehearsal.  My Latin teacher, Sister Sylvanna, broke her arm bowling in the hallway of the nun’s upstairs residence.  She used to fine us “25 cents for the missions” for cussing.

     Ambrose Hall of Davenport’s St. Ambrose University looks exactly like St. Teresa’s.  When I did graduate work there it felt like my old high school. I believe the architect of St. Ambrose was named “Huot”.  

     My class, the class of 1967, will have it’s 40th reunion at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.  It has all been planned through the Classmates website. I believe my sister who graduated in 1974 was in the next-to-last class to graduate.  “We’re Loyal to You STA…” ( To the tune of the University of Illinois fight song.  Also an alma mater of mine.)”


From Joanie Smith (Mary Joan Harper):

“My mother attended STA all four years.  She was born in 1912 & graduated in 1930.  The school was open at least by 1926.  In fact, I was told my grandmother attended there for a couple of years, before she had to leave school to care for her ailing mother.  My grandmother was born in 1892.  That would mean the school opened before the late ’20s.  I was told that the school was originally a boarding (finishing) school for girls.  My mother said some of her classmates were from the “East” — maybe Cleveland?  I am not sure.  Local girls lived at home & commuted.  I attended STA from 1964 to 1968.  To my knowledge STA never participated in any interscholastic athletics.

The “all-boys” high school, Assumption, was like a brother school to STA.  Students from both schools were High School Band members.  The STA girls were the cheerleaders for Assumption’s basketball & football teams (the Pioneer’s).  Students from both schools performed in the annual plays/musicals.

I’m the sister of Marci Stephens, and I graduated in 1968.  I just attended my 40th reunion (a combined reunion of STA and AHS) a couple of weeks ago and it was great to see many old friends.

STA had a fine reputation for preparing young ladies for office jobs, as well as a good prep for college.”

From Lolita (Class of 1974)

“Re interscholastic sports, besides the cheerleading, etc., for Assumption (the boys’ high school), I do not recall co-ed sports with Assumption. BUT we certainly (at least up until 1966) had interscholastic sports between ourselves and other high schools. We also fared very well (although I greatly lament not recalling the exact titles we won or placed).  I played first string on the Volleyball Team for 2 or 3 years.  We had great rivalries with some of the other schools, such as St. Elizabeth’s which was just across the street, and of course Notre Dame in Bellevillle.


Perhaps you might clarify that the school OPENED in 1894, but its later incarnation as a four-year secondary school was in the 1920s.


S.T.A. surely was, as you indicate, “like a “finishing school”,  and you can be certain that we were academically prepared not only for office jobs with our college preparatory curriculum but also for professions. 


Quite memorable were, as you note, our “outstanding art and drama departments”.   I was a participant in a number of plays, and in interscholastic speech and drama competitions, in which, often, we walked away with numerous prizes (myself included). A special memory is winning first prize for “oral interpretation” of a passage from Sophocles’  Antigone in which she pleads unsuccessfully with King Creon (her would-be future father-in-law) to allow burial of her brother who did not support Creon in battle (while their other brother did so and was to receive a proper interment).  Antigone also pled for her life because Creon had decreed that she should die for her disobedience in burying her brother herself.


These arts-related activities and the interscholastic sports are indeed only two of many areas of extracurricular activites and opportunities.  We often traveled to see operas and plays, and attend bazaars and other events at other schools and venues.  There was also a debate team.  In-school activities such as the Student Council (student government). Community service!  Civic-mindedness — Malcolm X visited S.T.A. and delivered a lecture to our mostly Caucasian student body and faculty.


The campus was beautiful too.  Grassy areas, shrubs, flowers, ringed by trees. 


Some years ago I understood that the building was being used as a treatment center.  I have not been to St. Louis/East St. Louis for 5 years now and am not certain of its present condition or use.


Our gold class ring was an elongated oval in the shape of an artist’s palette with S.T.A. on the front and the year of graduation on the sides.  E.g. “19” on one side and “74” on the other.”

**From Karen Kelly (Class of 1968):

“When my daughter graduated high school (O’Fallon, class of 2001), my sister (Debbie Kelly, class of 1971) and I began talking about going to STA . My future son-in-law’s family was there at the graduation party and his mom, aunt, and maternal grandmother all went to STA too. We looked through my senior yearbook, talking about all our teachers. My son-in-law’s grandmother noted that Sr. Sylvana was old when she had her as a teacher…and we thought she was ancient! One of our driver ed teachers, Miss Spitzer, was my mom’s PE teacher at the old Rock Junior High in E. St. Louis in the 1930s!!!

I really appreciated the wonderful education and friendships that I had at STA…and all the laughs!”

**From Rita Sendejas Russell (Class of 1964):

“I graduated from St. Teresa’s in 1964.  My younger sister, Angela Sendejas Lippert, graduated in 1971.  Our mother, Angela Maldonado Sendejas, graduated from St. Teresa’s in 1936.  My mother was one of the last boarders.  She lived at the school during her freshman and sophomore years, working at the school in exchange for tuition.

St. Teresa’s provided all three of us an excellent education, not only in the basics, but also  in languages, music, art.  I think of my years at STA as something akin to being in the military.  It was hard but made a big difference in my life.  The friends I made there have turned out to be friends for life.  It was a special experience.”

It appears St. Teresa was an excellent place for young ladies to get an education!

Need Your Assistance

If you have ANY further information regarding the programs offered, memories to share, special teachers or events, and especially a photo of the high school building, please drop us a line at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net .  You can also contact us via real mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva Av.

Chicago, Il.   60631

East St. Louis St. Teresa Academy Class of 1936
A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Courtesy of Rita Russell (Rita’s mother, Angela Maldenado Sendejas is in the front row, far left)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: