The decade of the 1950s saw a period of stability at both SI and in the nation. Fr. William Finnegan, SJ, took over from Fr. Ralph Tichenor, SJ, as principal, and under his five-year tenure the school finally built its gymnasium. He was succeeded in 1955 by Fr. Robert Leonard, SJ, who had served the school as vice principal for four years.
Another institutional change occurred at SI when the high school and USF formally parted ways by the end of the decade, incorporating as separate institutions. Despite the new gymnasium, administrators felt pressure to move — pressure from USF, which wanted the Stanyan Street structure for its own plans to expand, and pressure from a growing student body eager for a modern campus.
The decade was marked by a string of athletic victories that made SI the athletic powerhouse of the city. The baseball team brought home league crowns in 1954, 1958 and 1959; the basketball team won the league in 1951 and then followed with league and Tournament of Champion wins in 1954 and 1955 (with another league victory in 1956); the swimmers won the AAA in 1953, 1958 and 1959; the golf team dominated the AAA with league victories in 1951, 1952 and 1957–59; and the football team triumphed in 1956, 1958 and 1959. Coaches such as Jim Keating, Rene Herrerias and Pat Malley were the heroes of the day.
SI strove to be an island of tranquility in this decade, as world events, such as the Korean War and the Communist witch-hunts, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, swirled outside the school’s walls. However, many young people in this decade felt a growing unease with the established institutions, and that unease surfaced at SI from time to time.
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