In the late 1950’s, the only Catholic high school in Sioux Falls, St. Joseph Cathedral, was bursting at the seams. Most families from parishes other than the Cathedral could not enroll their high school students at St. Joseph Cathedral because there wasn’t room. Bishop Lambert Hoch, wanting to make it possible for all students to attend a Catholic high school, launched a campaign to build a new centralized high school on a 40 acre site in the middle of an alfalfa field in the southwestern edge of Sioux Falls. Many questioned the Bishop’s judgement, some calling it “Hoch’s Folly”, but the Catholic community supported the $1.5 million project and on September 7th, 1961, O’Gorman High School, opened its doors to about 550 students. With the opening of the new high school, all secondary students from the Catholic schools in Sioux Falls were transferred to the new building.
The school was named after Bishop Thomas O’Gorman, noted educator and second Bishop of Sioux Falls. O’Gorman’s first principal was Fr. Howard Carroll. The original staff consisted of five priests, 18 nuns, and six lay teachers. Boys in the 1960’s were primarily taught by priests and laymen, while the girls were mostly taught by Dominican, Presentation and Benedictine Sisters.
O’Gorman worked with other private schools in the state to gain admission to the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Their bid was originally rejected by the public school superintendents, but the courts ruled against the SD High School Activities Association. Private schools were then allowed to compete in state tournaments. They were previously only allowed to play other Catholic high schools in the state.
In the fall of 1970 O’Gorman had 43 full time faculty members, half of whom were lay teachers. In the spring of 1971, Fr. Howard Carroll announced his resignation and Fr. Victor Ramaeker was assigned to take his place. In 1976, Fr. Ramaeker resigned as principal and Fr. Joseph Wagner was named his successor. After serving just three years as principal of O’Gorman, Fr. Wagner resigned as principal and Tom Lorang, a vice-principal at the time, was chosen as the school’s first ever lay principal.
In 1991, O’Gorman became part of the larger Catholic school system in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls Catholic Schools (SFCS) was formed in cooperation with all the parishes of the city, which allowed the schools to coordinate curriculums, purchasing, library services, lunch programs, guidance services and other programs. The consolidation of the six schools was an effort to assure the strengthening of the schools and their strong existence far into the future. Dr. Tom Lorang was named Superintendent (and still serves as such today).
O’Gorman saw much change in the 2000’s as well, and received many accolades. The school was once again honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. Even though a school can traditionally only receive this award once, O’Gorman received it again in 2005. New, more stringent criteria had been put into place through the U.S. Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act, which allowed O’Gorman to apply for the award again. O’Gorman is one of only three high schools in the entire state to ever receive that distinction and the only one to have received it twice. O’Gorman was honored initially by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1984-1985 Exemplary School Recognition Project, later termed a “Blue Ribbon School”. In addition to the NCLB Blue Ribbon, O’Gorman was recognized as a Top 50 Catholic High School on the “Catholic Honor Roll” for their Catholic identity, academic excellence and civic education. The national award has been given in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008-2009, 2010-2011 and 2012-2013. O’Gorman is one of only three schools in the entire nation that has been named to the Catholic Honor Roll every year the award has been given.
In 2005, the SFCS community was challenged to meet the needs of updating the 45 year old O’Gorman High School. After much research and prayer, the Building on Excellence Capital Campaign established three main goals: O’Gorman High School classrooms and core area, Endowments for teacher salaries and tuition, and a Performing Arts Center and Activities Space. A brand new O’Gorman High School was unveiled in 2009. McEneaney Field was replaced with new turf, an eight lane track, additional seating and another concession stand. O’Gorman’s 1000 seat Performing Art Center opened in the fall of 2011. Work on converting the original auditorium into a wrestling and weight room began in the spring of 2012 and is nearing completion. Presently, the endowment for teacher salaries and tuition assistance is at $7M and growing.