Joliet DeLaSalle High School “Irish”

Joliet DeLaSalle High School–opened 1927
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Later Joliet Catholic High School (courtesy of Joe Randles)

                               The History of Joliet DeLaSalle High School

Joliet (population 129,519) is located in northeastern Illinois in west-central Will County. In fact, is the county seat of Will County and spills over into Kendall County to the west. Joliet was platted in 1834 and officially incorporated in 1852.  After much discussion over the town’s early name (it was known as Juliet from 1834 to 1845), the Joliet was settled upon to honor Louis Joliet, famous explorer who first viewed the area in 1673.

According to MapQuest (, Joliet has several major roadways and railways leading to and from it. Interstate Highway 80 is the main thoroughfare leading to Joliet, which is located just east of Interstate Highway 55.  The Illinois Routes of 7, 53, and 171 as well as the U.S. Routes of 6, 30, and 52 all lead to Joliet. The Des Plaines River flows through town as it has for thousands of years. Railroad tracks include Amtrak, the Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe, the Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern, and the Illinois Central Gulf.

Joliet first offered education to students in the mid-1850’s, but parochial education was begun in 1869 with the formation of St. Francis Academy for girls. Boys did not receive the same opportunity until 1918 when DeLaSalle High School was opened by the Christian Brothers order, under the direction of George Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago at the former St. Patrick’s Church Hall.

DeLaSalle started out with 45 boys & grew as an all-boys’ institution as a school was built and opened in 1927. However, due to the growth along with the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Christian Brothers relinquished control to the Carmelite order in August of 1933, who renamed it Joliet Catholic High School. In addition, the Carmelites changed the school colors to brown and white, plus switched the nickname from Irish to Hilltoppers in honor of the school being located on higher ground.

The DeLaSalle building is still in use today as Victory Senior Center Housing, which offers assisted living to senior citizens and is operated by Pathway Senior Living, LLC.


Year opened:                                       1918

Year new building opened:                    1927

Change in name to Joliet Catholic:         1933

School building use today:                    assisted living center for seniors

School colors:                                     Purple & Gold

School nickname:                                Irish


As a member of the Chicago Catholic League since 1920-21, DeLaSalle offered football and basketball as far we have been able to find, but it is could be possible that baseball and track were also offered. More information is needed about these sports at DeLaSalle, so we welcome more input about that sport at the addresses listed below.


In its early days as DeLaSalle, the school built up a great program and won two National Catholic Invitational Basketball Tournaments (hosted by Loyola University) under John Carroll’s guidance, not to mention two Catholic League championships. The tradition continued at Joliet Catholic with another national title, then seven regional titles after they joined the IHSA.

1920-21   7-  3  First season                        Coach Andy McEwan

1921-22  16- 4 Catholic League Champs!!  Coach Andy McEwan

1922-23  14- 5                                            Coach Andy McEwan

1923-24  11- 5                                            Coach Andy McEwan

1924-25  10- 7                                            Coach Barney Grogan

1925-26  15- 5                                            Coach Andy McEwan

1926-27  25- 0 NATIONAL CHAMPS!!         Coach John Carroll

                       Catholic League Champs

1927-28  21- 6 NATIONAL CHAMPS!!         Coach John Carroll

1928-29  16- 5 (good record!)                     Coach John Carroll

1929-30  13- 7                                            Coach John Carroll

1930-31  19- 7                                            Coach John Carroll

1931-32  19- 5 (good record!)                     Coach John Carroll


The Purple and Gold gave their followers some thrills during the fall, including three outstanding seasons in the 1920’s, and eventually it carried over to Joliet Catholic after the change in name and operating order, where the school would win seven state titles and countless conference titles as an all-boys’ school. An excellent source of information about the history of the DeLaSalle and Catholic High football program is, which is operated by JCHS alumnus Mike Menozzi.

1920   First season                     Coach Earl Gilfillan

1924   5-1-1                                Coach Barney Grogan

1926   5-0                                   Coach John Carroll

1927   5-2                                   Coach John Carroll

A good fan of the Glory Days website, Mark Jurenga, has provided the following information on the DLS football program from the book “Hilltopper Pride:  The Triumph & Tradition of Joliet Catholic Football,” 2005. Mojo Media, Inc.

1920, first season opponents Chicago (St. Patrick), Chicago (St. Rita), Chicago???? (DeLaSalle), Lockport.

1921  coach Martin Gleason; First year in the Chicago Catholic League

1922   ”          ”         ”

1923  coach Fred Larson

1924  coach Barney Grogan 5-1-1 (First winning season).

1925  coach Francis Dailey

1926-1934 coach John Carroll 22-39-1 record

-1926 5-0 (First undefeated season). JCHS shut out each of their opponents that season.

-1928 first meeting between JCHS and Chicago (Mt. Carmel), JCHS 12-0 winner.


**From a well-informed local historian who wishes to remain anonymous:

“The Christian Brothers, who founded the boys’ Catholic high school in Joliet in 1918 as De La Salle High School, are an Order of lay, teaching Brothers only; they have no priests in their ranks. They must always bring in a local priest when they want a Mass or the Sacraments performed in their schools and monasteries.

By the 1930s, Joliet had developed into a city with an extremely high Catholic population and many priests were needed. In addition to parish work, chaplains were needed at the prisons, the jail, the police and fire departments, the two hospitals, the three Catholic high schools, teaching and chaplaincy work at what was then called the College of Saint Francis, the orphanage, the two Motherhouses of Sisters and their accompanying novitiates that were in Joliet at the time, and to help the overburdened parish priests in the city’s numerous Catholic churches that were growing larger by the year. The only monastery of priests in Joliet at that time was the Franciscan friary at Saint John’s, and although they filled most of the roles just listed, they too had their limits. The Cardinal needed to find more priests for Joliet.

As a result, he searched for an Order of priests who could take over the high school and in doing so, establish another monastery of priests in Joliet who could join forces with the Franciscans from Saint John’s in assisting in the priestly, sacramental needs of the churches and the other institutions throughout the city. Many of us remember Carmelites from Catholic High saying some of the early morning Masses and helping with the weekend Masses and Confessions at the various Joliet parishes in past years. The Carmelites also assumed responsibility at that time for the pastoring of the parishes of Saint Mary’s Irish (which became known thereafter as Saint Mary’s Carmelite), Mt. Carmel and Saint Bernard’s. The arrival of the Carmelites in Joliet has been a very great thing for the city in many ways.

Unfortunately, in his desperation to find adequate priests for Joliet and in his enthusiasm for this plan, the Cardinal was less than gracious in his treatment of the Christian Brothers, whom he “urged” to leave. The whole process constituted a betrayal of the Brothers after they had served Joliet so generously. The Carmelites were surely unaware of these circumstances or they probably would have resisted getting involved in a dynamic that placed a parallel religious Order at a disadvantage. What is noteworthy (and frankly, surprising) is how loyal and generous the Christian Brothers always remained to Joliet thereafter. While the new co-educational Providence High School eventually opened with a New Lenox address, it was originally planned to be Joliet’s new east side Catholic high school and the Christian Brothers assumed the responsibility for running that school for as long as they could. Also, the Christian Brothers sponsor neighboring Lewis University, which has been an invaluable ingredient in the greater-Joliet community for decades.”


but we’re also interested in stories about the history of Joliet DeLaSalle High School. We’re hopeful that a couple of alumni are still around to provide information about their school days at DLS, and we welcome it by email at or by using the USPS at:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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