History of Galen Catholic College
People often comment on the beautiful setting surrounding the present day buildings of Galen Catholic College, situated in College St. Wangaratta.
However, the story of this college is really the story of three colleges; St. Joseph’s College, Champagnat College and Galen College, named after the first Parish Priest of Wangaratta.
In 1888 four Brigidine sisters from Ireland opened Brigidine Convent Wangaratta. The secondary school was known as St. Joseph’s High School, later referred to as ‘The Convent’ and in 1955 it became St. Joseph’s College. By then it had 240 girls from prep. to matriculation and was situated in Riley St, directly behind St. Patrick’s Church.
The dream of a boys’ school had long been cherished and in 1940 the Marist Brothers were asked to undertake and control the building of a boys’ college. However, it was not until 1950 that the Brothers bought 27 acres and the permit was issued. The new college was to have an agricultural basis.
The school known as Champagnat College was opened in 1955. It was a day and boarding school as well as a Juniorate for the Marist Brothers. The school prospered and the Brothers continued their ministry in Wangaratta until the end of 1982 when they donated the titles to the Diocese of Sandhurst.
In 1974 the availability of a Commonwealth Capital Grant led to the decision to establish a regional co-educational college for years 11-12, to be known as Galen Catholic College and in 1975 the Wangaratta Catholic Secondary Schools Board was formed. The college operated in St. Patrick’s Hall for one semester before moving into the new brown and cream brick buildings on the same site as Champagnat College. As well as Wangaratta and district, students came from Rutherglen, Corowa, Benalla, Beechworth, Yarrawonga and other areas.
Finally in 1983 St. Josephs’ College, Champagnat College and Galen College amalgamated to form Galen Catholic College, with Sr. Anne Boyd as the first principal. From 1983-1989 the years 7-8 students were on the Riley St. campus and the years 9-12 were at College St. Mr. Max Fletcher was appointed as the first lay principal in 1987 and the students finally came together on the College St. campus in 1990.
Over the last 10-15 years the school has grown in both student numbers and through a building program that included new libraries, auditorium, stadium, hospitality, trade and art centres as well as a complete refurbishment and extension of the original red brick Champagnat College. In 2013 there are 1069 students and 132 full and part time staff. Mr. Bernard Neal is the current principal. Galen Catholic College has rejoined Marist Schools Australia and proudly celebrates our combined Brigidine and Marist charisms.
Written by Joan Ellis
August 14, 2013
Galen’s Historical Timeline
- 1887 – Dr. Crane, Bishop of Sandhurst, requests Brigidine Sisters from Goresbridge, Ireland to come to Wangaratta.
- 1888 – “The (four) Sisters formally took charge of the Primary School and opened at the Convent a select day and boarding school for children in the middle and higher ranks of life.” Lay teachers had been providing some education before the arrival of the sisters.
- 1907 – St. Joseph’s High School, (Brigidine Convent Wangaratta) reg. no. 736, has five teachers.
- 1915 – Patrick Naughton left estate of approx. £14,000 for church and educational purposes.
- 1931 – St. Joseph’s Past Pupil’s Association formed.
- 1940 – Marist Bros. asked to undertake and control building of a boys’ college.
- Diocese of Sandhurst acquires 70 acres on Ovens River; Brothers buy 27 acres. Permit 1950.
- 1953 – College was to have an agricultural basis. 1954 – Foundation stone laid.
- 1955 – Champagnat College boys boarding (31) and day school (153) begins. 54 Juniors.
- 1955 – St. Joseph’s becomes an all girls’ school from prep to matriculation. 240 students.
- 1956 – Bishop Stewart officially opens Champagnat College, crowd of 3000-4000.
- 1967 – Blessed Marcellin Champagnat statue erected. Marcellin canonized April 18, 1999.
- 1974 – Commonwealth Capital Grant led to decision to establish regional co-educational college for years 11-12
- 1975 – Galen College established for senior students beside Champagnat College. Students come from Benalla, Beechworth, Yarrawonga and other areas. At first in St. Pat’s Hall. Brown/camel/white uniform. Wangaratta Catholic Secondary Schools Board formed.
- Galen named after Rev. George Devitt Galen, priest in charge of Wangaratta and district when St. Patrick’s Church was built. He died Nov. 11, 1869, aged 32 years. Buried in church.
- 1982- Marist Bros. leave Wangaratta. Donate titles of entire property to Diocese of Sandhurst.
- 1983 – St. Joseph’s, Champagnat and Galen Colleges amalgamate to form Galen Catholic College. Sr. Anne Boyd, first Principal.
- 1983-89 – Yrs. 7-8 at Riley St. (BCW site), Yrs. 9-12 at College St.
- 1987 – Mr. Max Fletcher appointed as first lay principal of Galen Catholic College.
- 1990 – Yrs. 7-12 at College St.
- 1995 – All students wearing the new maroon/blue/white/grey uniform.
Sr. Maureen O’Reilly leaves Galen as the last religious teaching staff member.
- 2005 – Celebrations for 50 years of Catholic Education at College St. Campus
- 2009 – Champagnat /Galen College recognised as one of the 50 icons for 50 years for RCOW
- 2013 – Galen Catholic College again becomes full member of Marist Schools Association. Galen has 1069 students, 132 staff.
Compiled by Joan Ellis – Updated May 13, 2013