Friday, February 23, 2018


The 1950’s began the next major phase in the life of the parish.  For one, the population in West Akron was growing considerably.  The number of students in the school was beginning to demand more space.  This year would see the foundation of the convent laid.  It would eventually house more nuns than their temporary quarters in the school, space that was needed since more students would require more teachers.  Their living space on the top floor of the school would now be turned into additional classroom space allowing the school to expand without having to build.

It must have been about this time that the dream of having a parochial high school had faded, though the parish still owned property on the other side of South Hawkins Avenue.  At one time the whole area west of Hawkins Avenue at the Mull intersection was envisioned by the city as a cultural center.  Already located not too far from this location was Good Park Golf Course.  Known as being among the finest municipal golf courses in the United States, the 18-hole J. Edward Good Course, designed by Bertie Way, opened in 1926, two years before the parish was founded.

The vision for the rest of the area was much different from what we see today.  The plan shows gridded streets much like the rest of West Akron. Behind Byrider Hall was to be a broad parkway.  All around the parish property was to be housing lots.  What is now Byrider Hall would have been on a city block virtually by itself.  Further, it was thought for a while that on the corner to the north, the Akron Board of Education would be built.  In the late twenties there was talk of moving the University of Akron, the art museum, and the library here.  This would make West Akron (then known as Maple Valley - which is why we still have Maple Valley Cleaners) an ideal spot for a Catholic high school.  Then the Great Depression brought all these grand plans to a screeching halt.  

By 1950 it was clear that none of this would take place.  A remnant of this one time dream can be found by taking a walk in the woods behind the former Perkins Middle School.  Hidden amongst the trees is a cement street sign marking the dreamed of intersection of Sunset View Blvd West and Good Park Avenue.  With those dreams permanently changed, new plans for use of the parish land was formulating.  It would not be until 75 years later and the closing of the public school that the possibility of creating these roads once again would be revisited.


This series is focused on the history of the parish up to when the founding pastor, Msgr. Zwislwer, dies.  But there are two developments that have since taken place that seem interesting enough to put this stricture aside for the moment.

FIRST UPDATE:  Last week there was the story of the ordination of Fr. Dannemiller SS at St. Sebastian Parish.  As it turns out we still have Dannemillers in the area and thanks to some inquiries made by one of our industrious workers here we found out that Fr. Dannemiller eventually left the priesthood, got married, and was eventually a father Dannemiller of a different sort.

SECOND UPDATE:  As it ironically turns out, the land reported above which eventual became Perkins Middle School and a number of football and baseball fields is once again being re-envisioned into a developed neighborhood.  Once planned streets and housing lots are being proposed by the city to be begun sometime in the next year or two.  It won't be the cultural center once proposed but families will hopefully be moving into the dream houses thought of almost a century ago.


Anonymous said...

Father -

I was the secretary for the Akron School of Practical Nursing until a couple of weeks ago, when I retired. The nursing school, which is under the Akron Public Schools, is currently housed in the old Perkins Middle School.

The outstanding nursing instructors, students, and I are devastated by the decision of Akron Public Schools to close and discontinue the 67 year-old nursing school after the final class graduates in June. We serve the underprivileged, those who need training after losing their jobs, and the local immigrant community, which is far more sizable than I realized.

I was privileged to see single parents, the very poor, and other selfless students with nursing vocations graduate after 10 months of training and intensive study to become LPNs.

Immigrants from Nepal, Serbia, Bhutan, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Thailand, and many countries of Latin and South America also took advantage of the opportunity to train for their nursing career. Many of these students grew up in refugee camps and intend to return to serve their countrymen. These particular students universally have impeccable manners and expect to work very hard to attain their dreams. They were extremely grateful to be at our school and are determined not to waste their opportunities.

None of our students were Catholic, and some were Buddhist and Muslim. But they knew I am Catholic and they often asked me to pray with them for success in their studies or for family and personal troubles, which I did with pleasure.

It may interest you, Father, to know that in the cultures of Africa and Asia, the most respected and honorable vocations are the following: 1) Religious Ministry; 2) Education; and 3) Healthcare. I am certain that you and Fr. Simone would be treated with great dignity by our students.

I am sorry to know our school has been abandoned by Akron Pubic Schools. But I know I will be blessed, if I am ever hospitalized or in a nursing home, to be cared for by any of these fine nurses.

I know this isn't the subject of your very interesting article, Father. But the picture of our school and sign made me remember, and I thank you.

God bless and protect everyone at St. Sebastian - Susan, ofs

Anonymous said...

It seems like a huge mistake to close the School of Practical Nursing! I assumed that it would just be relocated. This type of vocational training is so important and beneficial to the community. Rather than closing them, we should be opening more and of all types. Really bad decision.

Fr. V said...

This I did not know! It just goes to show you that there is always more to the story.

Does anybody know why this program is ending?

Fr. V said...

I guess the reason I am asking is what if there was a building available . . . .

Anonymous said...

Father -

The program is ending because APS does not want to invest in adult education any longer. The nursing program is the *last* adult education program offered by Akron Public Schools. When I was in high school (nearly 40 years ago), the offerings for adults filled at least 2 pages, from nursing to auto mechanics to foreign language, and many other useful skills. It comes down to money - the property in that neighborhood is worth far more to the school board than our school and what we provide the community.

There are plenty of buildings available, Father, from what I can see. We have been located at Perkins for 2 years, and were previously at Erie Island on Peckham near Copley Rd. Before that, in the basement of the old Leggett Elementary School on Sumner Street near UA for decades, since 1951. We are a small school, and do not take up a lot of room - 80 students max, although there are far fewer at this point. We only used half of the first floor of Perkins. The rest was used by a couple of programs for troubled children. It was the absolutely ideal for us, even though it is an older school.

I have seen dozens of students enter, unpolished and with chips on their shoulders. Most do not know better because they have poor family lives and many responsibilities. Most are starting over, and now with the influx of refugees listed above (I forgot a student from Myanmar, where the Pope visited recently!), our school did a great deal of good.

By the time they finish our 10 month program, our graduates are conducting themselves with dignity and professionalism. For far less than the cost of a car ($14,950), which covers tuition, all books, all testing fees, lab supplies, and 2 sets of scrubs, the students are prepared to enter healthcare starting at $18.50 to $24 per hour in the Akron area. They are in high demand and have no trouble finding work, since our school has a fine reputation and our grads share that reputation. They can support their children/spouses/parents. They are not a drain on society, but enrich it and give back.

Our students who finish the program have had a 100% pass rate on the Ohio Board of Nursing licensing exam (NCLEX) for the last 7 years. And we were ranked #7 in Ohio, out of 60 nursing schools.

Sorry to take over your blog, Father. I do so enjoy reading whatever you have to say every day. It was so nice being your neighbor - I enjoyed taking walks around the St. Seb's campus at lunch when it was nice, and visiting Jesus when the church was open. You do so much for not only your parish, but your entire community. Thank you for letting me explain.

Susan, ofs

Cyndy said...

Thank you Sharon, for posting this. Like I stated earlier, this seems like a huge mistake. I feel like this information should be shared with the Akron School Board!

Anonymous said...

Cyndy - the Akron School Board knows what is going on. They made the decisions to eliminate our school and to sell off the property to developers. As a matter of fact, there is very little money involved. Some kind of "trade" is in the works.

Our teaching staff (all RNs), our Administrator (Master of Science, Nursing), our students, several graduates, and I all attended a school board meeting several months ago, hoping to persuade the Board to change their plans. To our surprise, several of the Board members seemed to be unaware our school exists, and that we are the very last adult educational offering in the system. They politely listened, and then went ahead with their plans.

It comes down to politics and money, sadly. Thank you for listening, and God bless all here - Susan, ofs

Fr. V said...

Good morning everybody,

Somebody told me this morning (I haven't checked it out yet) that Stark State is taking over the program. If anybody has any further information I would appreciate it.

God bless,

Fr. V

Anonymous said...

Father, that is true. However, the costs will rise for the students. The current instructors have been offered only part-time work, which does not include benefits.

Stark State is for profit. The Akron School of Practical Nursing is not. Other LPN schools in our area average $30k+ as opposed to $14,950 for our program, which includes tuition, books, scrubs, testing fees, and lab supplies. Our school is a 10 month program - other schools are nearly 2 years. An LPN certification will not be nearly so affordable or attainable for our low-income, disadvantaged, and refugee students.

Additionally, from what I understand, the developer plans on building 90 homes costing between $100k to $200k on 11 acres of land. My math is not great, but that sounds like postage-stamp lots with micro-mansions. I hope it will add to your parish, and I am sure you and the neighbors will adjust, but I think it will not have a great effect on the neighborhood, which is lovely.

I think the decision of APS to abandon our school is shortsighted and ill-considered. They should be investing in our community. Not every high school grad is college material, nor is every high school grad armed forces material. What is left is working at McDonalds and not much else, with not a lot of money left over to pay $30,000 or more for tuition for practical, useful employment training.

Again, Father, thank you for the forum. Since I am retired, I have no stake in this except that I think our school made a difference for the better in Akron. I know this was not the subject of your posting, and it is kind of you to accommodate this discussion.

Susan, ofs

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to preserve the three baseball fields that W.A.B.L uses at the old Simon Perkins Building. I played on those fields in the 70's and 80's. My children also played on them. W.A.B.L. has a long and historical member ship that has served Akron Families for quite a while. I hope W.A.B.L's future is considered if new houses are built...

Fr. V said...

There are two things with that: The first is that the city is aware that the one place in Akron that baseball continues to grow is in West Akron. Bearing that in mind, the second thing is that they are are planning to keep those fields for the present (It will be a couple of years before a building would appear over what is now ball fields) and are actively looking for a place to put new fields in West Akron. I know that there are a couple of sites at which they are looking. Pray for our city and its officials that all of the right moves are made. (And that they find the resources to pull it all off!)