Educating the minds and souls of our students in the spirit of the gentleman saint, St. Francis de Sales

School History

Father Judge High School was established in 1954 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as a school for young men in the Holmesburg area of Northeast Philadelphia. It was entrusted to the administration of the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales and a dedicated faculty of lay men and women. The school is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The school is an institutional member of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Our goal is to provide a quality Catholic education to the young men of the Northeast Philadelphia area through the dissemination and infusion of spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social values instilled with the spirituality of Saint Francis de Sales. Since that time, Father Judge has continued to teach young men Salesian Spirit and Crusader Pride.

After World War II, a great population growth began in Northeast Philadelphia.  This growth was so dramatic that the need for a diocesan Catholic high school for boys became apparent.  The Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity graciously donated part of their Motherhouse and Noviate grounds to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to realize this need.  To acknowledge the sisters' generosity, the new school was named after their founder, the Reverend Thomas A. Judge, C.M.  The school, surrounded by Pennypack Park, was placed under the direction of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

A mass was offered in the auditorium at Northeast Catholic High School on September 8, 1954, which signified the official opening of Father Judge High School. The celebrant was the Reverend Thomas O'Connell, O.S.F.S., soon to become the first principal of Father Judge. In the congregation were the students and faculty of the new school. The faculty consisted of 23 religious. Twenty were Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and three were Franciscan Fathers of the Third Order Regular. The original enrollment consisted of 1,015 freshmen and sophomores.

On September 13, 1954, the new school opened its doors for the first time at Solly and Rowland Avenues. The school building was still under construction and the stories of those days were centered largely on mud and building problems.

The school seal, which is essentially Salesian, was selected in October of 1954. The letters "VJ" which mean "Live Jesus" from a motto that appears often in the writings of St. Francis de Sales. The school colors of blue and red were chosen through an essay contest held among the first students in 1954. Blue was symbolic of the Marian Year, 1954, in which the school was founded. Fr. Thomas O'Connell, OSFS, the first principal, recalled that the students selected the red as a symbol of our brotherhood with North Catholic since we had sprung from it. He combined the colors himself, making them the unique and respected symbol of Father Judge High School. The school motto, non excidet, is taken from the episcopal coat of arms of St. Francis de Sales. The translation reads "he will not fall away."

The school newspaper came into existence on October 11, 1954. It was named The Crusader which was additionally selected as the school mascot. The first play, Jenny Kissed Me, was presented in the fall of 1955 and also our first dance with the melodious Crusaders furnishing the music.

On September 10, 1955, John Francis O'Hara, C.S.C., Archbishop of Philadelphia, dedicated the school building. This was the start of Judge's second year that would continue to see many firsts.

The football team entered interscholastic competition on September 13, 1955 against Reading Central Catholic High School. Jack Lawn coached the team. Sports quickly became a vital part of Father Judge High School. Students, without a coach, organized the first soccer team. The first Catholic League title won by the Crusaders was in 1956 in swimming. In 1957, the swim team captured the city title as well.

The first senior prom at Father Judge was held at Melrose Country Club on May 3, 1957. A breakfast at the Boulevard Ballroom was part of the evening's activities. The first edition of the yearbook, the Quest appeared in 1957. It was awarded three national awards. The Quest continues publishing to the present. Father Judge was formally accredited by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education in 1957.

In September of 1960, the school's enrollment reached 3,475 students. Changes were made in the course of instruction with the introduction of a four-year program in Latin and a three-year program in modern languages. The National Honor Society to recognize student achievement and service to the school community was also begun at this time.

Mr. Joseph Zingrone directed the school's music program during these early years. Under Mr. Zingrone's direction, the dance band received four first place and two second place finishes in the Catholic Dance Band Competition over a six-year period. On March 7, 1964 Father Judge's marching band placed first in the Catholic League Marching Band Championship. The band was invited to play that year at the convention of the National Catholic Music Educators Association.

At the start of the 1966 school year the administration instituted a dual assistant principal system, dividing the position with one vice-principal for studies and one for activities. An Administrative Council to be consultative to the principal was also begun. At this time grades 11 and 12 were rostered for the first time using the "track" system instead of "block rostering." Sports also made the news at this time when the baseball team of Father Judge won both the Catholic League and City Titles for 1967.

In 1967, the school started several major internal improvements in the building. The I.P.S. (Introductory Physical Science) lab was enlarged. The gym was renovated and a wood floor was installed for the first time. The library was expanded with a full-time staff to allow greater student access to an enlarged collection of materials.

In the autumn of 1968, a memorial to 27 Judge graduates killed in the Vietnam conflict was dedicated. The granite memorial stands at the front entrance to the school on Solly Avenue.

In September of 1971, probably the most notable change in the physical structure of the school was the construction of an all-weather track and a regulation soccer field in the area behind the school. In addition to this, a new conference room off the gym was constructed. The audio-visual room, guidance department and library were expanded.

In 1973, the accreditation work was brought to fruition when the Middle States Association accredited the school. Many changes followed this event. The internal structure was revised with an enlarged Administrative Council. A Curriculum Committee was begun and a faculty handbook including job descriptions was issued. A faculty-student committee was formed which resulted in the establishment of an eighth grade orientation program and visits between Father Judge High School and the local Catholic grade schools.

In 1977 Father Judge became associated with Philadelphia's Board of Education Skills Program located at the Swenson School. This program enabled Judge students to receive vocational training while maintaining academic courses.

During these years (1971-78) the Crusaders won 21 sports championships. There were 15 Catholic titles and six city titles.

The 1975-76 sports season was impressive. Judge won the Catholic League in football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis, crew and soccer. The football team and the baseball team went on to achieve the City title in both sports. Popular basketball coach, Charlie Greenberg, who led his teams to eight playoffs in ten years, was appointed one of Father Judge's Vice-Principals.

Reverend John J. Dennis, O.S.F.S. began the 1978-79 school year as new principal. A system of retreats was undertaken with each class having a separate week. Curriculum was enhanced with the addition of honors and advanced placement courses.

The Alumni Association had become an active reality under the spiritual guidance of Father Edward O'Neill, O.S.F.S. who returned to Father Judge as purchasing agent.

In the 80's and 90's, the school's academic, sports, and extracurricular programs continued to be impressive, competitive and challenging. Additions of computer labs; the Development Office; a service program for all students; The Achieve Program, formerly The Esteem Program; improvements to the track and upkeep of the school building have all been done to enhance the quality of services offered at Judge.

Now in a new milennium we have added a computer research center to our modernized McGowan library. We have updated the chemistry labs and recently put in state-of-the-art lighting for the auditorium stage. The participation of Father Judge students in the Model United Nations is very active and we were recently named National Champions in the North American Invitation Model UN for the second year in a row. Another successful program is our Mathletes Program.  Our Community Service Corps continues its toy and food collecting and countless other tasks which aid the community. We have added Wrestling to our impressive list of extracurricular activities. The drama department is active, involving students from other schools in its various ventures. Construction was completed on the William F. Mitchell activity center in 2006. This state-of-the-art activity center includes the McGonigal Fitness Center with a new weightroom, locker rooms, Athletic Director office and a multi-purpose gym.  In recent years, we have added the Father Brisson Center for students with learning challenges.  Also for students that may be experiencing difficulties, we have Our Live Today Well Program.  Other new programs include our Robotics with ties to Drexel University.  We added a new academic course called Construction Technology.  In this course, some of the skill areas covered include masonry, carpentry, drywall and basic electricity.  We are nearing the completion of our premiere sports complex at Ramp Playground.  We are working with corporations and local universities to improve our Science, Technology and Mathematics Departments.  The list could go on and on.

This brief history is the story of people--the people who made Father Judge High School. Because of its brevity, many people are not mentioned who made invaluable contributions to Judge's heritage.


Father Thomas Augustine Judge, C.M.(1868 - 1933) Father Judge, born in Boston, Massachusetts, August 23, 1868, and ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Mission on May 27, 1899, pioneered the lay apostolate movement in the United States with the founding of the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate (lay missionaries). He also founded two missionary congregations of religious: Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity (priests and brothers) and Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity (sisters). Outstanding as a preacher of missions and retreats and manifesting an extraordinary zeal for souls, he was widely known and revered.


3301 Solly Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19136 | 215.338.9494