Timeline

Throughout our history, we have been inspired by strong ideals that continue to evolve to meet the needs of our community, to live out our mission, and to form lives of excellence in the Catholic tradition.

Since 1925, our school, campus, and community have grown and evolved along with the city we call home. Originally founded as the Nashville Catholic High School for Boys located on West End, we quickly outgrew our facilities and relocated to Elliston Place in 1929 with our new name, Father Ryan High School.

Over the years, our population changed as we became the first school in Tennessee to integrate in 1954 after Brown v. Board of Education ended school segregation. Later in 1970, our community evolved further when we became co-educational. Our campus expanded in 1991 as we outgrew our facilities on Elliston Place and relocated to our current campus on Norwood Drive. Today, we are focused on providing an accessible Catholic education for all who seek it and cultivating a strong community among our large student body to create a sense of belonging.

Explore our timeline to learn more about the history of Father Ryan.

1925-1928

School Founding

Bishop Thomas Byrne and Catholic Education

Bishop Thomas Byrne and Catholic Education

The arrival of Thomas Sebastian Byrne as the fifth Bishop of Nashville in 1894 brought a revitalization of the idea of a Catholic-based education to the Diocese. In 1914, Bp. Byrne began his plans for The Nashville Catholic High School for Boys, what is considered the roots of Father Ryan.

  • 1914
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Founding Year of Nashville Catholic School for Boys

Founding Year of Nashville Catholic School for Boys

Founder Bishop Alphonse Smith had recognized the need for a Catholic secondary school in the diocese and opened the school, then located at 2015 West End Avenue next to the Cathedral Church and School.

  • 1925
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The First Yearbook

The First Yearbook

The school launched its first yearbook, The Emerald. The title is an early reference to their adopted nickname, “Irish High.” Since Catholic High’s inception, the public had commonly referred to the school as the “Irish” due to its Catholic heritage. The name stuck and has since become part of the school’s identity.

  • 1927
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1929-1953

Move to Elliston

West End to Elliston Place & Renaming the School

West End to Elliston Place & Renaming the School

2300 Elliston Place campus opened after outgrowing its West End facility after only three years. A building campaign in March 1928 raised $300,000 in 10 days for the new school, renamed Father Ryan High School. It opened to the public on May 31, 1929, and was dedicated on September 8, 1929. 1929 also marked the school’s first as the Panthers, as reflected by the first edition of the yearbook entitled The Panther. They would remain the Panthers until the late 1960s when they transitioned to the official Irish name.

  • 1929
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WWII "The Spirit of Father Ryan"

WWII "The Spirit of Father Ryan"

The school answered the call to support World War II’s equipment needs and raised over $598,000 for the Fourth War Loan Drive. They purchased a B-17 Flying Fortress named "The Spirit of Father Ryan."

  • 1944
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1954-1969

Integration

First Tennessee School to Integrate

First Tennessee School to Integrate

Father Ryan was the first of two schools in Tennessee to integrate. In September 1954, four months after Brown v. Board of Education ended school segregation, a group of black students enrolled at Father Ryan. When asked by the media how many black students had enrolled in the school that year, Father Francis Shea, the principal, responded that the school doesn’t have black and white students, just Father Ryan students.

  • 1954
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The Game that Changed the South

The Game that Changed the South

On January 4, 1965, Father Ryan’s basketball team went head-to-head with Pearl High School. Pearl’s powerful Tigers, long an athletic power among state and southern black schools, launched a new era for athletics when they met the Irish at the Municipal Auditorium.

  • 1965
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1970-1990

Coeducation

1991-2008

Move to Norwood

A New Home on Norwood Drive

A New Home on Norwood Drive

Father Ryan again outgrew its facilities and, during the summer of 1991, relocated to its present home at 700 Norwood Drive in the Oak Hill area of Nashville. The 43-acre site includes an Academic Building, an Administrative Cloister Building featuring art rooms, a band room, a Dining Hall, and the Chapel of St. James. The Catignani-Drennan Fieldhouse features three full-size basketball courts, a wrestling room, locker rooms, and coaching offices. The spacious site also has softball, baseball, soccer, football fields, and a track. In an ode to the former Elliston Place campus, the original front doors to the school can be seen on the Neuhoff Library.

  • 1991
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Center for the Arts & Neuhoff Library Open

Center for the Arts & Neuhoff Library Open

The campus opened the Neuhoff Library and Center for the Arts. Tennessean editor emeritus John Seigenthaler, a 1945 alumnus, spoke of the 43-acre campus, “In moving from one part of town to another, in expanding the campus to what looks like a junior college, Father Ryan was ahead of the curve. And now again, with these dramatic changes, Father Ryan is making its students better prepared than ever to live, work, and thrive in a changing world.”

  • 2003
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First School in the Nation to Receive Dual Accreditation

First School in the Nation to Receive Dual Accreditation

Father Ryan became the first school in the nation to receive dual accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). The school first received SACS accreditation in 1928.

  • 2005
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2009-Present

Father Ryan Today

A New Era for Irish Athletics

A New Era for Irish Athletics

The Irish made headlines when the Jim Carell Alumni Athletic Complex opened its gates. The first home game on August 28 welcomed over 4,000 Irish fans to campus, becoming Ryan's largest crowd in decades.

  • 2009
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Marching Band Performs at Macy's Day Parade

Marching Band Performs at Macy's Day Parade

The Father Ryan Marching Band captured the hearts of the nation when they marched in the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and more importantly, brought a smile and a little relief to Far Rockaway, NY, a city recently hit and still reeling from the damage done by Hurricane Sandy. The band's 75-second show included elaborate movements, exceptional musicality, leaps and hurdles and robotic expressions all to the delight of the 3.5 million people lining the streets for the parade and the millions watching on TV. The band's performance was a huge success with Entertainment Weekly declaring Father Ryan's uniforms the best of the parade and the band was trending top on Twitter.

It was a special moment for Father Ryan Band alumni as well - every band member who walked the parade route walked with a photo of one of the bands in Father Ryan's 65-year Marching Band history. Most importantly, Father Ryan students marched for 45 minutes through the streets of Far Rockaway, NY, bringing out homeowners, firefighters, visitors, and police officers out following the sound bringing smiles, appreciation, and tears to all who were there.

  • 2012
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Jim Carell Fitness Center Opens

Jim Carell Fitness Center Opens

The Jim Carell Fitness Center added 15,000 square feet of new space--including a new football locker room; new fitness and strength room that at 4,500 square feet is five times the size of the old one; the Patrick Simpson '74 Wrestling Facility; a sports medicine room and a new team room flanked by trophy cases showcasing the school's rich athletic history. Another 15,000 square feet of existing space was renovated to provide new locker rooms, offices, classroom space, and meeting spaces for the school.

  • 2012
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Worker's Rights Initiative

Worker's Rights Initiative

After much discernment, prayer, and research, Father Ryan instituted the Workers' Rights Initiative on campus, an initiative that speaks to the school's commitment to social justice outreach on a local, national, and international level. With this initiative, Father Ryan made the decision to not knowingly support elements of the garment industry that profit from the unjust treatment of others and attempt not to show any brands whose work practices are not in keeping with Catholic social teaching. When this initiative was first announced, Father Ryan used the Jerusalem cross to cover the offending brands' logo on athletic apparel, and now Father Ryan only contracts with athletic apparel companies that live to the most just treatment of others.

  • 2014
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50th Anniversary of the Game that Changed the South

50th Anniversary of the Game that Changed the South

On January 4, 1965, Pearl High and Father Ryan High School, two of the best basketball teams in the state, met at the Municipal Auditorium in the first athletic event in the South between an integrated team and an all-African-American team. The game brought more than 8,000 fans to the Auditorium for a thrilling game, won by Father Ryan at the buzzer 52-51. But, the significance of the game rebounded far beyond the score, marking a pivotal and powerful moment in the South's Civil Rights history. In 2015, members of both teams, Pearl and Father Ryan, gathered again to be honored on the 50th anniversary of this important game in history. The event was a full day of activities called A Day to Remember: The 50th Anniversary of the Game That Changed the South. The day included a speaker series with players from both teams, including Perry Wallace and Walter Fisher from Pearl, Jesse Porter and Lyn Dempsey from Father Ryan, and author Andrew Maraniss who wrote about this game in his book, Strong Inside, and an exhibit dedication in the civil rights room at the Downtown Public Library. Later that evening, current Father Ryan girls and boys teams competed in honorary games against current Pearl boys and girls teams at the same famed Municipal Auditorium where Father Ryan and Pearl faced each other 50 years ago. 

  • 2015
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Top Student-Led Relay For Life in the World

Top Student-Led Relay For Life in the World

Since 2010, Father Ryan High School has hosted Relay for Life through the leadership and commitment of our students. Inspired by the struggle of classmates who themselves battled cancer, students over the years have run this event with passion and dedication. In October 2016, nearly 50 teams with almost 1,100 total participants raised over $175,000 for the American Cancer Society, shattering our previous record and making us the top fundraising Relay for Life per capita among every high school in the world.

  • 2016
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Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award

Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award

Father Ryan's multi-year commitment to Relay for Life earned it the first-ever Pat Flynn Spirit of Relay Award from the American Cancer Society.

  • 2019
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Inaugural Class of the Athletics Hall of Fame

Inaugural Class of the Athletics Hall of Fame

In 2019, we welcomed our inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame inductees class. This class consisted of 34 athletes, six coaches, three contributors, and seven teams whose legacy and accomplishments embodied the Irish Spirit. 

  • 2019
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Introducing the House System

Introducing the House System

Father Ryan introduced the House System, a model intended to deepen the Father Ryan experience and enhance meaningful relationships through a culture of engagement and involvement. Students, faculty, and staff are divided into one of six Houses to make a large high school feel smaller and increase the level of mentoring and pastoral care provided to students while increasing the number of student leadership opportunities.

Father Ryan’s House System continues to foster a caring and supportive environment where students from all grades have more opportunities to lead, collaborate, and contribute. This model allows for more peer-to-peer mentoring, leadership opportunities, and spiritual development.

  • 2020
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